By Ashley Zarcone
ROCHESTER, NY- Finding and maintaining a relationship is a challenge for everyone, but with an ongoing pandemic it seems as if love has become even more of a struggle. COVID-19 has tested many individuals’ love lives, making social interaction a distant memory. With parties, bar crawls, and other social gatherings being limited in capacity, sparking new relationships and dating have become difficult tasks for many in the time of this pandemic.
Couples are finding COVID-19 to be an unwanted third-party in their relationship that has added pressure and limitations onto one of the most important aspects of dating: face to face interaction. Mackenzie Zerniak, 27, and Cris Vela , 27, started dating in July of 2018 and are currently dating long-distance — Vela being in Texas while Zerniak is in New York.
“Before the pandemic we were planning to move myself to Texas during the Spring. But, due to COVID-19 we were postponed,” Zerniak says, “it made us learn to be patient and brought us closer together…since our relationship has never been challenged in this way.”
The pandemic, for the couple, has increased the need for creativity and strength in their relationship — preserving excitement and loyalty during this time of separation.
“With the pandemic we have to be supportive of one another. The pandemic has caused us both a lot of anxiety and it’s nice to have someone there I can always talk to…spending even more time apart alone has its challenges…we set time aside daily to talk to each other over FaceTime or on the phone…but we also think that this time apart is great to focus on ourselves, to become better as individuals,” Zerniak said.
With their relationship being entirely aided by technology, the couple has found new ways to bond and connect through virtual dates.
“We really enjoy having intellectual talks and getting to know each other on a deeper level. The pandemic has encouraged us both to explore new topics we are interested in and share our findings with each other…we also have date nights where we watch movies or YouTube together…it’s our favorite,” Zerniak says.
Despite the efforts to maintain date night, technology sometimes fails — leaving the long distance couple, sometimes, at a loss.
“Communication is the most important thing in a relationship. The pandemic continues to challenge communication because communicating through devices has flaws and it’s not always as effective as communicating in person…It has made me appreciate the time we do spend together that much more. Time is more limited and we don’t want to waste it,” Zerniak said.
Long distance couples, like Zerniak and Vela, keep the faith despite time zone differences and spotty internet connections in order to push through the difficulties that COVID-19 present to them. However, long distance couples are not the only ones feeling the pressures of a pandemic on their love life.
Erin Ingalls, 20, and Dan Bosch, 24, met on the dating app, Bumble, and started dating in January — only a few weeks before the US saw its first big wave of the COVID-19 virus.
“Our relationship was very new when the pandemic hit…we couldn’t really go out to dinner or go to the movies, and both of our immediate families had immunocompromised conditions, so we couldn’t spend time at each other’s houses…we just did a lot of sitting, driving around, and talking. We got to know each other really fast because of it,” Ingalls said.
COVID-19 kept Ingalls and Bosch on their feet, battling their full-time jobs as essential employees all while making time for one another.
“We both understood the importance of making time for each other and having our own alone time…we were very much on the same page, but we knew to communicate with each other about when we were feeling overwhelmed or lacking affection from one another,” Ingalls says.
With their relationship flourishing during the start of the global pandemic, Ingalls and Bosch’s excitement went up as the number of cases and restrictions went down.
“We were always home bodies at the start of our relationship, but with restaurants, malls, and even drive-in’s reopening we found that those dates and outings were so much more special and exciting,” Ingalls said, “It was the little things like getting take out from The Cheesecake Factory and watching Back to the Future at The Vintage Drive-in that are some of my most fondest memories.”
In August of this year, Ingalls moved into her own apartment in Fairport which allowed herself and Bosch to have not only more time for one another, but also their own space to insure their family’s safety.
“We understand the stakes of this pandemic and are in it together. We are partially living together and are truly understanding what it would be like to live with each other while ensuring that our social circle is safe,” Ingalls says.
With their relationship being tested by a pandemic, they make sure to remember the importance of their relationship.
“When on a dating app, you don’t really think to yourself, ‘who would I want to endure a pandemic with’. So for Dan and I to be placed into these irregular circumstances, we definitely learned to be emotionally closer to each other much rather than just physically,” Ingalls said.
Similarly to couples battling the pandemic, singles who are looking for love are finding COVID-19 to be an obstacle. Alexandria Hutton, 24, has been utilizing dating apps during the pandemic in hopes to find a relationship, however it is a whole new experience for users.
Dating apps, alongside uploaded photos of the user, usually answer questions to some major deal-breakers — such as education level, height, political affiliations, religion, etc. To make dating during COVID-19 more realistic, dating apps have added a new question for their users to answer.
“I’ve been on and off different dating apps for around two years now…Tinder, Hinge, Bumble…Now, during the pandemic, it asks if you were to meet would you prefer just socially distanced or distanced with masks,” Hutton says.
For Hutton, dating during a pandemic has become the opposite from what she is used to — adapting to the new realities of COVID-19 and social distant dating.
“Pre-Covid I was more casual about dating apps. I used to go on dates and meet people at bars and coffee shops. I’ve had my fair share of relationships from apps! But now, it doesn’t feel worth it,” Hutton says, “It takes more trust now to meet someone from a dating app. I don’t feel comfortable…especially knowing that I’m being safe and taking precautions but I don’t know that they are…I’m not trying to get myself and others sick from going on a date with someone from Tinder.”
Hutton, in response to the pandemic, has placed her love-life on hold and chose to focus on herself — hoping that in the end it will benefit her and ultimately keep her safe.
“I’m using dating apps less now than I was in the past…because I haven’t felt comfortable enough to meet someone in person. FaceTime isn’t my thing and long-term texting just feels like you have a penpal. I’m not opposed to dating during the pandemic, but I haven’t found anyone that I trust or like enough to meet in person,” Hutton said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made dating a major hassle for lovers alike, putting another reason onto the long list of complications finding love. Despite the tribulation these partners and singles face during COVID-19, those involved are receiving valuable lessons in self-love, communication, trust, and patience — making the search for the perfect match worth the wait.