Bridget Lee and Brandon Gomez
Bridget Lee and Brandon Gomez on an apple picking date in September. Photo courtesy of Lee.

It may not compare to the ongoing saga of trying to find love in the time of cholera. But dating during COVID-19? 

Certainly a challenge.

For couples like senior Madison Tully, majoring in integrated educational studies, and her boyfriend, Wes Strickland, this meant spending every hour together.

Madison Tully and Wes Strickland
Madison Tully and Wes Strickland went on a weekend getaway to Las Vegas to celebrate their one-year anniversary on September 19. Photo courtesy of Strickland.

“We turned into an old married couple that sits at home and does nothing,” said Tully.

Tully and Strickland continued to try to see each other during the first months of quarantine. They lengthened their nightly calls to make up for spending less time together. Their dates transformed drastically from the Disneyland adventures they used to go on to staying home.

Finally, they decided there was just one way to solve things: They moved in together.

“Now that we live together, the biggest issue is not having anything to do except stay home,” Strickland said. 

They cook together and pack meals to enjoy at drive-in movies.

But here is the upside for Tully and Strickland, as well as other Chapman students dating: The pandemic has strengthened their relationship.

Senior journalism major Breeana Greenberg and her boyfriend, Nic Kuklinski, say they now communicate on a deeper level. The couple were separated when Kuklinski, a junior documentary film major, went home to Seattle in March. 

“The separation wasn’t the challenge, it was getting to know each other in a different way,” Kuklinski said. “We would have really deep conversations every night that I always looked forward to.” 

The couple adapted to their long-distance relationship by frequently FaceTiming and playing Xbox games together.

Now that the couple is reunited, they make efforts to wear masks and socially distance in public and with Greenberg’s roommate. They go to the beach late in the afternoon when the crowds leave and opt for take-out meals.

Breeana Greenberg and Nic Kuklinski
Breaana Greenberg and Nic Kuklinski went hiking in San Francisco while on a road trip to move Kuklinski back to school. Photo courtesy of Greenberg.

Another couple, junior English major Paige Hughes and her boyfriend, Zach Hayes-Handy, found themselves redefining their dates.

“Before the pandemic we used to do a lot of things outdoors and in public. [Now, COVID-19 has] challenged us to do more fun things at home,” Hughes said. 

When they were briefly separated, Hughes said that they FaceTimed nightly in lieu of meeting.

“I did consider it as a date because I made sure I didn’t have any plans at all,” Hughes said. Now that the couple meets daily, their dates have changed. Instead of going out, they find things to do indoors, like DIY painting nights.

Paige Hughes and Zach Hayes-Handy
Paige Hughes and Zach Hayes-Handy challenge themselves to do activities like painting instead of outdoor dates. Photo courtesy of Hughes.

If you didn’t already have a relationship, the pandemic certainly hasn’t made it easier to get one.

Julia Petty, a sophomore English major, stopped dating during the pandemic for a special reason: Her mother, Ann Petty, is immunocompromised.

“I don’t feel comfortable going on dates,” Petty said. “A lot of people I’ve talked to on Tinder have wanted me to come to their house and not social distance,” Petty said. Before the pandemic, Petty never worried about meeting matches in person.

“Once I established a connection and met at a public place that I drove to myself, I felt pretty good,” Petty said. 

Now, to feel safe, Petty said that she would only do so with a mask, keep six feet apart, and do an activity outdoors, like picnicking in a park.

“I’m nervous that I won’t be able to establish a super solid relationship until things go back to normal and I’m not sure how long that’ll be,” Petty said. “I’m nervous about meeting someone over text and not feeling comfortable about how we would establish a relationship six feet apart.”

To combat this worry, dating apps like Bumble have options to indicate that you’re open to social distancing.

Hannah Tempkin, a junior accounting and finance double major, stopped dating.

“Dating during the pandemic is pretty similar to dating before. It’s just a matter of finding someone you actually want to hang out with,” Tempkin said. “It’s hard for me to connect [with dating app matches] when it’s online and virtual.”

Love can be difficult. But, as senior public relations and advertising student, Bridget Lee, found, distance can help couples cherish each other more. Lee and her boyfriend, Brandon Gomez, don’t meet as often due to quarantine.

“We try to see each other at least once a week,” Lee said. “Distance has made us appreciate the time we do get to spend together, whether that be in person or over FaceTime.”

One of their dates: Apple picking.

Like in the time of cholera, the heart grows fonder in the time of COVID-19.

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