How the Pandemic Fueled the Rise of ‘Intentional’ Dating

Blake Crist and Zach Mazerov never intended to have a relationship. Both were eagerly anticipating a summer filled with carefree flirtations and nights at newly opened bars. Their initial flirtation was supposed to be one of many for each of them during 2021’s “shot girl summer?.”

Mazerov, who is 33 and Crist, 29 respectively, both worked in advertising. They began dating exclusively after a few months. Going out to bars wasn’t quite the thrill they’d remembered—in their nostalgia, they’d conveniently forgotten about expensive tabs, overwhelming crowds and long lines. After a year of loneliness as singles, they didn’t want to give up on meaningful connections.

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“One of the first things that Zach and I ever said to each other was that we were not looking for boyfriends,” Crist told TIME. “But that quickly went out the window, and here we are.”

The couple isn’t alone in reconsidering what dating looks like after the pandemic changed our daily reality. After COVID-19 socially dispersed meet-ups, video dates, and informal hook-ups were commonplace. However, new safety guidelines meant that casual relationships and the engaging with multiple sexual partners needed to be reviewed. While intimacy in the digital age already presented unique challenges with the rise of social media and dating apps, it’s never been put to the test quite like it has during the pandemic. With the advent of a vaccine and the promise of safe in-person dating, media outlets preemptively predicted that 2021 would yield a “summer of love”—a redux of the “Roaring 20s,” the Bacchanalian time that took place after another devastating pandemic—with horny singles across the nation making up for lost time.

Singles are more focused on monogamy than casual sex, as evidenced by the Post-Vaccination Dating Boom. According to Match’s 2021 Singles in America study, which surveyed 5,000 single people in the U.S. in August, 53% of app daters are now “prioritizing their search for a relationship more than before the pandemic.” The same study also found that 58% of app daters have shifted toward “intentional dating,” and 69% of users are being more honest with their potential partners. After a year and half of anxiety and uncertainty, it’s no surprise that people are now very committed.

Zach Mazerov and Blake Crist photographed at Zach's apartment in Park Slope Brooklyn in October of 2021.
Matthew Leifheit for TIME‘One of the first things that Zach and I ever said to each other was that we were not looking for boyfriends,’ says Crist (right), sitting with Mazerov in Brooklyn. ‘But that quickly went out the window, and here we are.’

Mazerov felt that the change in priorities brought on by the pandemic was the reason he decided to start a relationship. “Things changed when Blake came into the picture—I just completely abandoned my original plan for 2021,” he said, noting that the past year made him value his close relationships and friendships much more—now rendering rowdy nights out less diverting than they once were. “I feel so much more ready to be in a monogamous relationship.”

Continue readingYou can find this link: This Coronavirus is Changing the Way We Date. Experts believe the shifts may be permanent

Michael J. Rosenfeld is a Stanford University sociology professor who studied online dating over ten years. He believes that the trend towards intentional dating following COVID-19 has been building. This shift can clearly be seen in recent online dating trends, when more people are using dating apps for serious relationships, rather than hookups.

“Online dating is the number one way Americans meet partners, and it has been for some years,” Rosenfeld told TIME, pointing out that a new feature that allows dating app users to show vaccination status, which was implemented in May 2021 on most platforms as part of an initiative from the White House to encourage vaccinations, may make using those programs even more attractive to users. On Tinder, a brightly colored “vaccinated” or “I’m vaccinated” badge appears on a user’s photo. Hinge lets users filter matches with additional information, such as their vaccination status and details like age. And vaccination status has impacted results—when OKCupid launched its badge, the company reported that users who had said on their profiles that they had been or were planning to be vaccinated got 15% more likes and 14% more matches.

“I do think that pandemics have a way of taking some of the steam and fun out of the ‘playing the field’ strategy,” Rosenfeld said. Because many adults are choosing not to get vaccinated—and with the rise of variants like Delta—people who aim to hook up with strangers on a regular basis are still facing a major health risk. “There’s going to be some friction for the people whose strategy is to have as many partners as they can.”

Rosenfeld observed that dating trends in the period before the arrival of vaccines revealed this increased risk. While conducting interviews in March 2020 for a survey, “How Couples Meet and Stay Together,” Rosenfeld found that some singles chose to fast-track or pursue relationships ahead of or during lockdown, in part to minimize the exposure that comes with multiple partners. He found that although the proportion of those who found their partners was small in comparison to those who were unsuccessfully searching for them, Rosenfeld did find a slight increase in relationships formations during the initial pandemic.

The urgency never ceased. For Annie Rauwerda, a 21-year-old University of Michigan graduate student, a first date over Zoom in February with a stranger who DM’d her meme account on Instagram @depthsofwikipedia, turned into a serious relationship after just three weeks. Lucas Spain, now her boyfriend, said that they met because she wanted stability, even though so much of the world seemed out of control.

“Subconsciously, it feels safe,” says Spain, 25, who works as a copywriter. He had been dating casually before the pandemic but now values his relationship with Rauwerda. “In these last two years, it’s been a big help to have that when everything else is going to sh-t.”

Continue readingYou can find this link: Pandemic: The Forever-Online Boyfriends

The pandemic encouraged people to seek out partnership more intentionally, but it also inspired others to think more deeply about what they desire in their relationships and lives. Ellen Lamont, professor of sociology at Appalachian State University. The author of 2020. The Mating Game: Gender still shapes how we date, says that the pandemic has forced many people to more thoughtfully consider what they’re really looking for when they’re dating.

“People got lonely and had this period of time where they reassessed their priorities and what they really wanted from relationships,” Lamont told TIME, suggesting that those who were single during the pandemic may be considering monogamy and partnership more seriously now than before, after not having the option to date casually for a long period of time.

Ryan Lee was 31, and after months of living alone in Brooklyn, Ryan felt that the idea of feigning love or hooking up with someone else as the world opens up to him again was a hollow prospect. Although a casual encounter with Ryan Lee was common in the pre-pandemic days of his life, the COVID-19 constraints made it difficult for him to reconsider.

Lee was about a year into this pandemic and took a five month sabbatical at his software company job. During his time away from work, he also began cutting out friendships, romantic dalliances and hobbies that weren’t serving him. He’s since moved to Los Angeles for a change of environment, explaining that the hard-partying nightlife he participated in while in New York wasn’t a great fit for the changes he made during the pandemic. And while he’s dating again, he’s moved away from using apps like Tinder and Grindr, which he describes as “volume” or “hookup” apps, preferring instead to use Hinge, which is an app generally geared more toward serious dating.

“The pandemic really forced me to rethink what’s important,” he told TIME. “The biggest change with me is that I’m much more mindful of where I’m putting my energies. I’m rethinking what I actually want from my life.”


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