By Dawn Duncan

Love.

It’s exhilarating, challenging, uplifting, unpredictable and sometimes right in front of us. In essence, it’s that one thing that humans strive for and will weather the highs and lows of in order to find contentment.

This past year, COVID-19 changed everything in terms of how we live and interact, and the impact on the dating scene has been epic. With online dating being the number one method for meeting and interacting with new prospective partners, COVID-19 altered the outcomes for those seeking meetups and companionship. After all, what do you do when there is nowhere to go and all of the personal contact rules have been changed?

For many Northern Colorado residents, their dating habits and go-to adventures shifted unexpectedly, with a variety of results for the participants in search of love. From breakups and makeups to new ways to date to nding true love during the pandemic, singles are keeping the dating course open and moving forward, one unique date at a time.

Tony, age 42, was coming out of a long- term relationship in the last part of 2019. He hadn’t re-entered the world of online dating yet when the pandemic hit.

“It was mid-March when we saw everything get shut down,” he says. “That was about the time when I was getting ready to date again, so it was shocking to be stopped and have to rethink what I wanted to do.”

In the beginning of COVID-19, Tony didn’t think too extensively about the dating world. But, after a month of quarantine, he began to feel compelled to explore again. “I looked around at my coupled friends. Honestly, I was jealous. I wanted to start the search again to hopefully nd the right person.” It was back to Bumble, Match and Tinder, three of the most popular dating sites currently, each with its unique offerings and methods.

“I prefer Bumble,” Tony says. “The reason is that when you express interest in a woman and she reciprocates, you have a potential match and from there, the woman has to initiate further connection. She has 24 hours to do this or the match expires. I like this protocol and think it sets the stage for a successful initial conversation.”

Typically, Tony says, once two people “swipe right,” creating the introduction phase, from there it usually moves to texting and direct messaging as they get to know each other. With the pandemic, he feels that a bit more than the usual initial conversation online is happening since going out like normal hasn’t been an option.

For him, dates that do happen in person occur after getting to know someone a bit online then doing activities outdoors such as hiking, skiing, biking or, weather permitting, visiting a brewery or restaurant and dining on a patio. Now that restaurants are opened with limited capacity, this allows for more traditional dining.

“It’s a strange time to be dating. Some people are more cautious than others and I have tried to respect each person’s own boundaries,” Tony says. On some dates, masks have been worn while initially conversing; others haven’t shown concern about this. “Overall, I think we’re doing what we did before, but leading into it more slowly and with some caution, just to be safe.”

Polly, age 52, unexpectedly found love during COVID-19. As a divorced single mom, she has been an active online dater since her last serious relationship ended a few years ago. She has met numerous men online but had not found one she wanted to pursue a long-term connection with until meeting Ted this fall.

“We are close in age and he has been married, has kids. We have that in common, but also we just connected instantly; we met on Match,” she says. From the start, Polly and Ted bantered back and forth. Their conversations were fun and lively, and Polly says that what initially attracted her to Ted was his humorous pro le. His quote was, “I take being silly very seriously!” She liked the lightheartedness and initiated connection.

Eventually, after several messages over the rst week, the two decided to chat by phone. “We talked for ve hours,” Polly laughed. “He is a jokester and made me laugh constantly. We found out we have the same favorite joke, and we had a good time telling each other stories about our online dating experiences.”

For their first date, Polly and Ted went to the Rio and dined on their patio. It snowed that night and the two were bundled up in coats and hats, dining in a popup tent with a heater next to them.

“We sat in 25-degree weather, snow coming down, and it was 15 degrees by the end of the dinner,” Polly says. “We ended at 8 pm, right in time for curfew.”

Not having the option to go to another bar or coffeeshop, the two hit 7-11, bought drinks and snacks, and sat in Polly’s vehicle until 4 a.m. talking and laughing.

“We just took time to really know each other. We didn’t want to jump in physically or mentally this time around; we gave it attention and that has worked.” For Polly, who in the past sometimes went on two dates in one day, COVID-19 changed how she views dating, and she is more conscientious.

“I knew I wanted to meet someone. It was lonely in those rst phases of COVID-19, being a single person and sometimes not having my kids with me. I wanted someone to talk to and have fun with and that is, thankfully, what I eventually found.”

Andrew, age 47, is also a divorced, single parent. He is a regular dater online and uses Bumble, Match and Tinder. He entered the world of online dating two years ago after his divorce and, like Tony, has pursued companionship mainly through Bumble, stating that he also prefers the format where women initiate further conversation.

“I’ve met really interesting people during COVID,” Andrew says. “It is a tough time for so many people and I have noticed that, in general, people are more stressed, edgy and not as resilient. Certainly, COVID has changed how we talk to each other and the world has been chaotic, so that has brought up some different conversations and challenges,” he adds.

Before, he said, he would text a few times with a woman and they would go out from there. Typically, this meant drinks at a bar or dinner. Now that this has become a bit more difficult off and on due to restrictions, he has resorted to more outdoor dates when possible. Grabbing coffee, going for a walk, hiking, or, in summer months, paddleboarding, have all been activities Andrew has engaged in with dates.

Although his experiences have not all been positive, he feels that is just the way of the world when dating, whether online or not.

“All single people can probably attest to the fact that dating at times is a bit strange. I’ve had women
talk marriage on the second date and want to take me to meet their parents. I’ve heard long, emotional stories about past relationships and I also learned what ‘poly’ means by being on a date with someone who lives a polyamorous lifestyle. I was shocked when she told me she’s married and has, with permission, multiple partners. It was eye opening,” he laughs. “I had been married 16 years, so I guess I needed to catch up to what is going on in the world.”

Not all relationships survived the pandemic. Caroline, 39, and her boyfriend of three years broke up
in summer 2020. Although she doesn’t blame COVID entirely for sparking the dissolution of their relationship, she says that it added “fuel” to already brewing problems. “Being in quarantine didn’t help our issues that we had been dealing with for a long time. It shed light on them and brought them front and center, because we were then under more stress and spending every day together,” she says. “Close proximity 24/7 isn’t good if you’re already struggling to get along with each other.” The two had lived together for the majority of their relationship and neither have been married or have children. “It was a breakup that was coming anyway, I am sure,” she adds, “but COVID pushed it forward faster than expected.”

As challenging as the current times are in the world of dating, Gretchen and Jeff managed to fall deeply in love, the coronavirus serving as a catalyst to fast forward their relationship.

Gretchen is the voice of the LIFT FM for AMT Radio, an entertainment journalist, TV show host and model. She is divorced, as is her new love, who used to be a radio DJ. Gretchen says their rst meeting was a “love at rst sight” meeting that had instant sparks. The two learned quickly that they had lived in Boulder at the same time as well as stayed in Hawaii on the same end of the island during the same time period.

In fact, they had so much in common that Jeff, who is also a divorcee, immediately asked Gretchen on a date. At the time, Gretchen was in a relationship and she declined. That relationship ended a month later and the two reconnected. From there, they went on a six-hour dinner date and it was clear to both of them that they had a special connection.

However, life threw a curveball and Gretchen paused their kindling romance to deal with the grief from the loss of some close friends. “Once I had time to heal and re ect, I reached back out to him and then, a few dates later, COVID hit the world,” says Gretchen. Rather than putting off their relationship any longer, the two agreed that the pandemic actually pushed them to move a bit more quickly.

Shortly into their relationship, they moved in with one another. Now there is talk of marriage and a life together permanently. “It’s funny how life works during a time of fear and uncertainty, but we found love in the strangest way and at the most bizarre time. I can truly say that I found my love during COVID—and I am grateful.”

Despite a worldwide pandemic and shutdowns, most people admit that they prefer companionship. Some seek multiple connections, some are only interested in casual encounters, others want lasting love with marriage and a family.

The world of online dating continues to provide a pathway for communication, whether people can choose to meet in person or not. Zoom dates and FaceTime interactions are common now in the dating world for those who prefer to meet without in- person contact. This, our daters agree, does allow for a new type of “vetting,” where it’s not as high pressure as being on a date in person.

“You can get to know someone before committing to a date, where you’re at dinner or doing an activity for several hours,” Tony comments. “If it’s not going anywhere, it’s easy to politely end the connection and avoid awkwardness.” In the end, the Internet seems to pave, and save, the day.

A FEW TIPS FOR ONLINE DATING:

  1. Feature a clear profile photo that is a year old or less and make sure the lighting is good and your photos are not overly filtered; people want what they see in that first photo to be the person they meet on a date. No surprises!
  2. Use up to six photos and try to show your lifestyle (animals, activities, hobbies, etc.).
  3. Put out what you want to attract and know that your photos and words create your vibe.
  4. Fill out your profile fully; be willing to share details of who you are and what you are seeking.
  5. Be honest; your dates shouldn’t see or hear conflicting information when they meet you in person.
  6. Before you online date, be sure you are mentally and physically ready, having closure from past relationships. Start with a fresh, clean slate and attitude, ready to attract a positive connection.

Dawn Duncan is a writer, editor and marketing agency owner. To comment on this article, email letters@nocostyle.com.