Pandemic dating fast-tracks love connections

Finding the silver lining--love--during COVID

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Lisa Gould and Raj Sharma are planning a June wedding at Ravinia Green Country Club, where this photo was taken.

Lisa Gould felt so distressed about her love life at the age of 32 that she stood in tears, pouring out her heart to a friend at a now-closed River North restaurant.  "I was crying, and I was like, 'I'm never gonna meet someone,'" she recalled. Three years later, the pandemic hit just after she'd just gone through a breakup, and Gould decided it was time to freeze her eggs. In the midst of that process, she met her match on Tinder, and the two are getting married in June.

"I'm the kind of person planning my wedding since I was like three years old, and I dated a million people. I've been on so many dates," she said. "It took this terrible thing in the world to happen for me to find someone."

Gould is not alone in finding love during the pandemic.  Despite the isolation and social distancing of COVID-19, people made romantic connections and often appreciated the efficiency of it all.

Carrie Seleman, of Lakeview met her boyfriend on the dating app, Hinge. Before getting together in person, they spent a month chatting virtually, a common strategy among her circle of friends.  "We filtered out those sort of time wasters, the people who you can already tell they're not going to be a forever person.  So, you took the time to make sure that the person that you were going to be breathing the same air as was someone worth that risk, and we all ended up in serious relationships during the pandemic."

Video chatting became such a popular form of dating during the pandemic that the apps took note.

"All of the dating apps built video into their interfaces," said Bela Gandhi, founder of Chicago-based Smart Dating Academy, where she and her team coach their clients through the dating experience.  "That's been a game changer in a good way.  It kept people connected.  We had people meet and fall in love by video chatting on a daily basis," she said.

All of that talking helped couples get to know each other on a granular level.  "It's almost like writing letters to each other during war time," Gandhi observed.

Once people moved from virtual chatting to in-person dating, they often found that the limitations of the pandemic led to stronger relationships.

"Because there was so little going on, I feel like it helped us focus on each other and focus on the relationship and make it a priority, and taught us how to just hang out and do nothing together," Gould said.

Stefanie Groner first met her fiancé at a Shabbat dinner on the porch of Moishe House Wrigleyville in the fall of 2020.  The two ran into each other again at a virtual Talmud class and began a COVID courtship of daily texts and outdoor dates.  "Sam and I went on many walks, and we really had to talk and hear each other."  

Dating coach Gandhi said those active dates, in particular, made a difference.  "When people are walking and when you're active, you've got adrenaline flowing through your system, which also builds attraction. So, it was all this amazing stuff that was happening during the pandemic that now we can look back on it and go, 'oh my gosh, this was amazing.'" 

And now that Gould is getting married, she looks back on that tearful conversation about her love life with a bit of irony, noting that she and her fiancé now live in the exact building above the restaurant where she once wondered if she would meet her match.  You might say it's beshert.

Julie Mangurten Weinberg is a Northbrook-based journalist with more than 20 years of experience in broadcast, print, and digital media.  


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