Coronavirus is icebreaker for online daters – but meeting has to wait

The Guardian-10 months before

“We were talking [on the app] for a few days and planning to meet up,” said David, who is 29 and lives in Manchester. “But over the weekend the coronavirus situation was getting progressively worse and everything started getting cancelled.”

Like many others who have found their lives upended by an international crisis, they decided to work out an alternative. Elin, 33, from Calderdale, West Yorkshire, had an idea: she suggested that they Skype each other while cooking the same dish.

David found them a Nigel Slater recipe from the Guardian to try: slow-cooked spiced ...ubergine. “Part steam, part fry,” the instructions said. It seemed promising. It wasn’t exactly Channel 4’s First Dates, but it was something.

When the evening arrived, the quality of the video wasn’t good enough, so they switched to speaking on the phone. Despite the technical difficulties, though, it seemed to go well.

“We got to talk loads and find out about each other,” said David. “There were a couple of moments when we just went quiet because we were concentrating on cooking, chopping the vegetables or something,” said Elin. “Then I took it to the bedroom, in that I just sat on my bed.”

Elin and David are not the only ones to be persevering with dating as the global pandemic turns people’s lives upside down. OKCupid said 50m messages were sent on its dating service in the past month by people talking for the first time, with still more expected to do so this month. The dating app Tinder also noted that as an area becomes affected by isolation measures, new conversations are taking place and they last longer.

persevering with dating

Two spiced aubergine dishes Facebook Twitter Pinterest A spokesperson for Tinder said: “This epidemic is also changing the tenor of connection in the hardest hit places. More people are using Tinder bios to show their concern for others. For example, asking ‘how is everyone’ instead of putting their life motto.”

using Tinder bios One online dater, Pete, 34, said everyone now has an easy icebreaker: “I would say there is an easy opening chat subject at the moment. How are you surviving? Are you working from home? There is a good reason to start talking.”

“I was supposed to be going on a date with a doctor tonight but she has been treating those with coronavirus ... We have taken the view it is not a good idea to meet but we will do a FaceTime call over the weekend. However, it is not the same.”

For those at a more advanced stage in their relationships, the prospects are ambiguous. Divorce lawyers suggest that marriages may be tested by the exceptional circumstances, but that time together could in the end help iron out more problems than it creates.

Karin Walker, family lawyer at KGW divorce law, said: “Sadly divorce rates go up at Christmas when people spend too much time together.

“But I think this is very different. It will cause people to look at family and relationship and relationship breakdown in a different way. I have noticed more people out walking together early in the morning. Normally it’s just me and my dog and no one else but couples are out walking together ... Maybe we will go back to games and talking to each other, which we do far too little of in our rush around lives.”

Mandy Rimmer, a partner at the family department of Stephensons Solicitors, said: “Shortly after world war two there was a peak in divorce rates. I do think when people go through something like this, with so much uncertainty and idea of what will happen and how long it will go on for they think life’s too short.”

David and Elin’s date might have been an unusual one, but David is hoping for a repeat, virtual or otherwise. He did say, though, that he hoped to find a tastier recipe next time. “It’s good for people to know that life is carrying on, people are still finding ways to do things like dating,” he added.

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