6 Women Share How They Approach Dating in a COVID Vaccinated World
Nationwide lockdowns as a result of the pandemic left many single people feeling a whirlwind of emotions. Dating––at least in person––was at a standstill, leaving them to navigate endless messaging loops and Zoom dates if they chose to date at all. So, as the world opens back up and the majority of the population becomes fully vaccinated, most people are not only flaunting their vaccination statuses on their dating profiles but are also anxious to get back into the regular dating scene.
But even though many people are going back to pre-pandemic dating activities, dating may have changed forever. More than ever before, single people are prioritizing meaningful connections rather than entertaining casual, one-sided relationships. According to a dating report published by OkCupid in May of this year, 84% of their users are seeking a steady partner after the pandemic, and 27% of those people have changed their relationship goals as a result of last year's experiences. And Tinder's "The Future of Dating Is Fluid" report that surveyed 5,000 Tinder members in 2020, said that its daters have become more truthful and transparent about who they are and what they're going through, as well as they are more firm when it comes to setting personal boundaries.
However, to say that all singles are looking to settle down after the pandemic would be inaccurate. In the same report, Tinder said that its users are more willing to "see where things go" in an uncertain, ever-shifting world, so perhaps we may see a rise in casual dating and hookups. And after a harrowing year where everyone dealt with a great deal of loss, some people may not want to focus on romantic relationships at all, instead, opting to grow as individuals before they can pursue a life with someone else.
So what will the future of dating look like? No one really knows. Nevertheless, in order to get an idea of what people are looking for in a relationship post-vaccine, I asked six women about how the pandemic changed their approach to dating and what their relationship goals are for the future. Here's what they had to say.
Mikayla Rivera, 24, Los Angeles, CA
HelloGiggles (HG): Before the pandemic, how did you approach dating?
Mikayla Rivera (MR): I went about dating a lot more casually. I'm still very much pro-casual dating, but I think dating with intention is what really matters to me now.
The pandemic has forced us all to evaluate what's truly important to us, and I've realized just how draining serial dating with no clear intentions can be. I think I was a little guilty of partaking in this kind of dating pre-pandemic. I've had to learn the importance of setting boundaries and communicating one's intentions early on, the hard way.
HG: Have certain events or experiences during the pandemic changed what you look for in a potential partner?
MR: I began dating someone a couple of months right before the pandemic and we were in a long-distance "situationship" for the bulk of it. By August 2020, I had moved to the same city as him, but he immediately ghosted me after I finished moving into my new apartment. I was obviously hurt, but I was ultimately relieved because I realized we were both looking for completely different things.
That experience, in conjunction with the pandemic-induced realization that our existence on this planet is fragile and fleeting, has made me recognize that life is too short to waste my time and energy dating people who don't want the same things or share the same values as me. Dating now, I am much more cognizant of whether my values align with those of a potential romantic partner, and I no longer attempt to force connections when those values don't align.
HG: How did you approach dating once things started to open back up?
MR: Once the city "opened up," there wasn't much hesitancy in dating again on my end. I think this mainly stemmed from a dire need to meet new people, socialize, and explore the city I've lived in for almost a year now, but haven't truly experienced because of the pandemic.
While the past year has made me realize I want to connect more deeply with a romantic partner, I'm not necessarily opposed to going out on casual dates with people for the sake of socializing, especially since I haven't really done much of that in over a year. I just think it's important to take the lessons I learned throughout the pandemic into consideration when dating now.
HG: What are you now looking for in a partner?
MR: I just want to find a partner who I genuinely enjoy spending time with and is as equally excited to be with me as I am to be with them. The pandemic allowed me to become more comfortable with myself and, in turn, I feel more confident in myself and now know I'm worthy of a partnership where I'm valued and appreciated.
Erika Martinez, 23, USA
HG: How did you approach dating when the pandemic began?
Erika Martinez (EM): At the beginning of lockdown, I completely shut everyone out except for my inner circle and kept interactions masked only. However, as the lockdown dragged on, I found myself missing past crushes, feeling more and more lonely, and craving emotional intimacy. In hindsight, I lowered my standards when selecting dates––not with COVID safety, but in terms of companionship.
HG: What did you learn about yourself and relationships during the lockdown?
EM: This time alone with myself helped me center on my value, my truth, and what I want out of life. I've learned to listen and trust myself and became highly attuned to my wants, desires, and goals to figure out what I wanted. I often still struggle, as perfection is unattainable, but the work you put into yourself will only nourish and cause your relationships to thrive.
It put into perspective that I don't have time to waste on anything or anyone that doesn't meet my dating standards. It took me a long time to confidently admit that, but ultimately setting those expectations pays off each and every day.
Rather than focusing on what I wanted in a partner, I focused on what I wanted for myself and who I wanted to be. By truly––and sometimes painfully––connecting with myself, it helped me become crystal clear on what I'm looking for in someone else. For example, by dating myself––and yes, I do mean taking myself on dates––I found that instead of seeking a vague, respectable, funny, "woke" guy who is emotionally unavailable, I subconsciously started to manifest my dream man.
HG: Have you experienced heartache during the pandemic and what did that experience teach you about relationships?
EM: When I found out that I was being cheated on in my past relationship [during the lockdown], not only was the betrayal and mistrust hurtful, but the possibility of contracting COVID also impacted me. I thought I was upholding the utmost level of safety, but that was not the case. I developed trust issues and anxiety so fierce I thought I was having a heart attack and started losing hair from the stress.
It was the wake-up call that I needed to stop being nice to guys who automatically received the benefit of the doubt. I started to refuse to accept anything less than I deserved and didn't care if I offended or upset men by asking them to wear a mask or strictly date virtually.
My boundaries became uncomfortably rock solid and it left me alone with myself for about nine months. I also have a better relationship with myself than I've ever had before. If you stick to your boundaries and honor yourself, it will definitely pay off in the dating game.
HG: What are your current relationship goals?
EM: I thought I wanted to be alone and later craved "hot girl summer," but unexpectedly met someone in April 2021 who I've fallen in love with and am now transitioning into a serious relationship with them. If I hadn't suffered such an emotional loss last year and done the work in therapy to heal and connect with myself, I wouldn't have been able to feel, give, and accept love the way that I do today. Every day is a gift and I try, in vain, to remember that.
Alana Schwartz, 26, Atlanta, GA
HG: How did you approach dating prior to the pandemic?
Alana Schwartz (AS): Before the pandemic engulfed our lives, I was very relaxed about dating. I was open to it, but I wasn't really on the apps or intentionally trying to meet people when I was out.
HG: Did you date during the pandemic and if yes, what did that experience teach you?
I started dating someone I met through mutual friends the fall before the pandemic. It was interesting navigating our newly formed "bubble" and hierarchy of needs together. Thankfully, we were in the same headspace! But with many people either getting married or divorced during this time, it made me realize that I didn't want to be with him long-term, so I broke up with him.
I went to school in Boston and stayed for work, but the pandemic allowed me to realize my priorities and they didn't involve being in Boston any longer. So, I moved down to Atlanta because I knew it would be a place with more like-minded people and more opportunities to date outside of the small, highly-educated, mostly white Boston.
The pandemic reassured me that life is precious and short! I want to do things that make me happy and give me time to myself, so I have really dove into the hook-up culture more after realizing that I wasn't doing that in Boston. If another lockdown happens, I would rather be by myself with the comfort of great friends than a "nice for now" boyfriend.
HG: Did a specific event or experience during the pandemic help you realize what you want out of a partner?
AS: I would say that the roller coaster of existential fear, caution, and survival mode really helped me figure out what I want out of a partner. I am pretty extroverted and love being social, yet I have Virgo "mommy" responsible vibes––AKA I'm a fun, cool mom. In the past, I've dated introverted "sad boys" and thought that's just how "opposites attract," but what a prison that phrase is.
Post-pandemic, I want a future partner to meet me at my extroversion and be more of my "partner-in-crime." And as much as I love being a fun mom, I would love to relinquish that quality sometimes in a partner I can trust!
HG: How would you say you're approaching dating today?
AS: I'm dating to explore my options in terms of gender, background, community, and career. Casual dating definitely allows for more "me" time, I think. When I was seriously dating someone, though, alone time seemed like a treat, and now it's just more normal, which I love.
HG: What are your short-term relationship goals post-pandemic?
AS: My short-term goals are to discover qualities in people that I like that I did not notice before. I also want to amp up my confidence in communication by being bolder with people about what I am looking for.
Kaiulani Lee, 22, Brooklyn, NY
HG: How has the pandemic changed your perspective on dating?
Kaiulani Lee (KL): To be honest, I've found my focus has shifted much farther away from dating than it was previously. I've personally never been very into going out on dates often to begin with, but after witnessing our entire world reckon with the loss of so many people, my focus has turned much more towards simply living a life full of things that make me feel happy and good, and if a romantic partner becomes a part of that then I'm open to it.
HG: Are there certain qualities you're currently looking for in a partner now?
KL: Absolutely! Finding someone who I know I can be truly comfortable with through the mundane moments of everyday life is extremely important, as is making sure it's someone who is a very good communicator.
I used to let poor communication slide a lot, but over the past year, I've realized how much communication is needed within any form of a relationship. Every single person I knew was struggling last year, and because of that, a lot of people's relationships with others started to struggle as well. I realized how important it was for me to be upfront and open with the people I care about when it came to what was important to me and what I was feeling.
Someone who is patient and kind towards me and everyone in our [global] community is my biggest priority now when seeking a potential partner.
However, I'm much less focused on relationships in general now. I would say that I'm open to a relationship if it comes into my life, but I have absolutely zero interest in casually dating now, which was not always the case. I think because of the pandemic, I've really realized the importance of my relationships and because of that, I want to be fully involved with everyone I care about. Having casual relationships of any sort feels a bit taxing.
HG: How are you approaching dating right now?
KL: Absolutely dating less! I'm spending a lot more time focusing on my work, the things I'm passionate about, my mental health, my friendships, and fostering an environment that is mentally healthy for me and my loved ones to be in.
HG: What are your short-term relationship goals post-pandemic?
KL: I don't have any specific goals in mind in terms of romantic relationships really. The only thing I'm focused on is growing into the best version of myself so that I can approach my relationships with the kindness and maturity that they deserve.
Russia Boles, 22, Bronx, NY
HG: How did you approach dating before the pandemic?
Russia Boles (RB): Prior to the pandemic, I was honestly the type of person who would just go with the flow and not prioritize what I really needed from another person in a relationship. I would tell myself things like, "I may not like this about them but that can't last forever––they'll change," which is usually never the case. This always left me confused, sad, and heartbroken after things didn't work out when the red flags were in front of my face the whole time––I just chose to ignore them. I wanted to be the "perfect" partner, but that always left me altering my reactions and who I was to please the other person.
Now, I am a very no-nonsense type of dater. If the person I am dating and/or getting to know isn't respecting me or my time, I don't waste my energy on them. I also learned that I am happiest in clearly committed relationships where both people are equally excited to be in the relationship.
HG: How has your perspective about dating changed these past two years?
RB: My focus has definitely shifted to wanting my future partner to feel like a best friend––someone who is going to support me, love me, and be there for me no matter what, but who is also silly and always up for some healthy debate! I was never someone who obsessed over looks. I just want a partner who I truly align with, enjoy spending time with, and who has ambition and big goals for their life.
HG: Would you say that you are more interested in a serious or a casual relationship post-pandemic?
RB: Serious relationship! I truly don't have the energy for casual relationships anymore. I also feel like from my own experience when I wasn't 100 percent clear with people on what I was looking for, they took advantage of the situation.
HG: How are you currently approaching dating?
RB: I'm definitely dating more now than I ever was before. When we were in lockdown, I spent that time focusing on myself, so when things started opening back up again and I was vaccinated, I wanted to get myself out there again.
HG: What are your relationship goals post-pandemic?
RB: I want to explore my options and not rush into becoming exclusive with someone unless I am absolutely sure I want to be with them. I also want to really stand my ground when it comes to not accepting behavior that I won't tolerate.
Wandy Ortiz, 26, New York, NY
HG: How did you approach dating before the pandemic?
Wandy Ortiz (WO): Prior to the pandemic, I was someone who took advantage of on- and offline dating opportunities. I would strike up conversations with the guy next to me at the bar if I thought he was cute, but also would be on dating apps to see if there were people outside of my neighborhood who might be an interesting match.
In the way that I had approached dating, I thought that when you met someone you "just knew," and that that initial attraction was a sure-fire indicator of future relationship success. However, when I entered a serious relationship at the beginning of the pandemic, my views changed. Getting serious with someone during lockdown really allowed for me to experience the broadness of their personality, and understand the depth of my own, by spending days on end together.
HG: Did you learn anything while dating your partner this past year?
WO: Those inner qualities are so much more important than the outer, or even that initial "spark" or the idea of "when you know, you know."
The things that I've learned about my partner over the past year, and the way that our relationship has grown in-depth, are things that I think are valuable to any relationship. Being a good problem-solver, having humility, knowing how and when to set boundaries, being able to give the other person space, working on being patient, having compassion for someone during a hard workday, valuing harmony over being right––all are important traits.
HG: What are you looking forward to relationship-wise post-pandemic?
WO: Post-pandemic, I am excited to see how this serious relationship grows through our "next normal" of COVID. If anything, the pandemic has made me realize the value of a serious relationship with the right person––being inside for a year and a half with the wrong person would have, for me, been a disaster. We know how our relationship works between ourselves, but the process of relearning how our work lives, family lives, and interpersonal relationships outside of romance also influence and impact the romantic relationship is a new venture!
HG: Do you have any relationship goals?
WO: To re-know myself in this new post-pandemic world, so that I can show up as the best version of myself in this relationship!