Finding love despite the difficulties of dating during a pandemic

Two new local couples call themselves lucky — “If we hadn't gone on that immediate first date, we probably never would have because the world shut down a couple of days later."
Chloe Louise and her boyfriend
Photo courtesy of Chloe Louise
Chloe Louise (right) and boyfriend Thomas Gerard met in-person for the first time just days before the COVID-19 shut down.

Madison-area locals Chloe Louise and Thomas Gerard met on the popular dating app Hinge on March 6. They decided to go on a first date the very next night, and Louise says it was pretty much love at first sight.

“When Thomas walked into the restaurant … I saw him and immediately thought, ‘That is my future husband,’” Louise says. 

It was the beginning of a modern love story. 

But then COVID-19 hit, forcing Louise and Gerard to navigate dating in the time of quarantine, lockdowns and health and safety restrictions. You could call Louise and Gerard one of the lucky ones, as they were able to meet face-to-face ahead of the health crisis. One can surmise that post-pandemic first date conversation is dampened when you’re “surrounded by disease, death, and financial instability,” as Vox reported in a November 2020 article titled “How Covid-19 has upended dating for singles.” 

“If we hadn’t gone on that immediate first date, we probably never would have because the world shut down a couple of days later,” Louise says.

After their first date, the couple never separated. They quarantined together and spent every day at Gerard’s apartment working, playing board games, taking pictures and they even launched a small business together, GerardWorks.

While Louise knows this isn’t the typical way to spend the first few months of a relationship, she says she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“We actually felt very lucky throughout the whole pandemic, because even though the world was a dumpster fire, we were able to lean on each other and support each other,” Louise says.

COVID-19 further complicates dating today. More millennials are deciding not to pursue marriage or have children, while others are feeling pressured to meet personal milestones without opportunities to potentially find a life partner. According to a Pew Research report based on a survey conducted among 4,860 U.S. adults in October 2019, three in 10 U.S. adults say dating is harder now than it was 10 years ago. Add in a health crisis that has closed many places to socialize and meet new people, and dating opportunities become more limited.

For Dane County resident Rebecca Schmidt, quarantine wasn’t about meeting someone new — it actually turned out to be a chance to reconnect with an old flame. 

Schmidt first met her now-fiancé Cody more than six years ago and found him again on Tinder in May, right in the thick of Wisconsin’s Safer at Home order. The pair went from chatting on Tinder to texting to talking over the phone to meeting in person. 

“I was single for almost four years before reconnecting with Cody, and normally you go to dinner, the movies, out for drinks with friends, but none of that was possible,” Schmidt says. “We first bonded over a Netflix series we were both into that had a new season coming out, spent about two to three weeks watching that together, then tried to find things to do outside.”

Schmidt and her significant other had the right idea, according to Ahn-Toan Do, a Madison-based certified coach who provides wisdom to clients regarding their careers, family or love through Ready for Change Coaching.

Do says finding the full potential in a relationship during a global pandemic is all about making the best out of a unique situation. 

“Being out in nature when the weather is cooperative is a great way to get exercise, enjoy nature, and gives people a chance to get to know each other,” Do says. A lot of his clients spent time biking, kayaking, jet skiing and hiking. 

Schmidt credits having to think outside the box for bringing her and her fiancé so close together. 

“It was challenging at first, finding things to do outside of normal dates, but I feel like that was also the most rewarding,” she says. “We both had to be creative when thinking about things we could do with half of Dane County shut down.”

Schmidt and Louise represent the success stories in a sea of struggling singles. The women-first social networking app Bumble reported that 40% of daters say they aren’t confident they know how to date anymore. Bumble even published a dating guide taking into account COVID-19 to help dazed daters.

But if we know anything about singles who often lean into optimism when looking for love — they have hope. Bumble reports that the majority of daters (55%) have a dating-related resolution this year and more than 50% say they think 2021 is “their” year for love. Even if it means having a virtual first date, which 46% of daters reported preferring, according to Bumble.

“People always told me I would find someone when I would least expect it, and I was not expecting to meet the love of my life — now fiancé — during a pandemic!” says Schmidt.

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