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Four Australian couples who started dating during COVID tell us their stories

WORDS BY CAIT EMMA BURKE

Love in the time of COVID.

Dating during a pandemic is tough. Restrictions, border closures, the absence of bars and restaurants, and the ever-present horror of catching a highly infectious disease doesn’t make it a walk in the park (although a walk in the park is exactly what you’ll be doing if you are dating right now). As someone who has been single and casually dating for quite some time, corona has really dampened my desire to get out there and meet new people.

The prospect of having to decide whether the guy I’ve met a few times for a socially-distanced walk is my chosen ‘intimate partner’ feels a little too stressful for my frazzled brain. But at my core, I am a bleeding-heart romantic, and more than anything, I love hearing about how other couples met. With this in mind, I asked four Australian couples how they started dating during COVID and made it work, despite all the hurdles. I hope their stories warm your heart as much as they thawed mine.


Sharon and Juju

Sharon: In this modern era I guess it’s no surprise that I met Juju, my partner, through Instagram as mutuals. They’re from Sydney so the timing was a bit funny when they moved down to Melbourne and [there was] just a whole snowball of events leading up to our meeting in person. First off, Melbourne was in stage three and bordering on the yet-to-be-announced stage four restrictions. Second, the place they were going to stay at turned out to be a nightmare the first day in so I offered my place even though we’d never met before. I’d openly invite this turn of events again because I was able to meet my partner.

Knowing how Instagram really just portrays whatever curated version of yourself, I didn’t hold any particular expectations. I guess I didn’t care too much anyway because even though I was interested, we were just meeting as friends. When we met in person though, I felt like I was seeing a taller me – another goth E-girl archetype with tattoos all over and I was like “Wow, a mirror image, huh.”

I guess we just got along really well and I felt so comfortable and safe being with them. The first couple of nights I was trying to cram an assignment but I was so distracted talking with Juju because it was just so fun and easy. I think just that feeling of really enjoying spending time with someone, and feeling safe and being able to communicate openly with them, that was when I realised this could be something serious. That aside, we were already literally living together right off the bat, and that’s a pretty good test for how well we can get along.

God, I think COVID and the social restrictions really placed how our relationship could have turned out into a game of Russian roulette. Like, if we never met that day before stage four was announced, then it would probably have been ages until we could and intermittently at that. And the idea of spending so much time together because of the lockdown would normally have had me feeling deranged and a bit stir crazy! But I guess when it’s with someone you love… it’s so cheesy, but every day feels fun even when we don’t do anything the entire day.


Mon and Alex

Mon: Melbourne was heading into the second wave of lockdown when Alex and I matched on Hinge. Because restrictions only allowed for you to leave your home for one hour per day with only one other person who isn’t from your home, we decided that a socially distanced walk through the park was a perfect, COVID-appropriate first ‘date’. On the day, it was raining so we decided to raincheck the walk. An hour or so after rescheduling we both ditched the raincheck and just went for a walk in the rain anyway. Best decision we made!

I was totally smitten, to be honest. I’ve never felt so instantly attracted to someone’s voice, mannerisms and physical features before like I did with Alex. The conversation was so fluid that we literally walked in the rain for three hours because neither of us wanted to part ways. My dog was soaked and totally over it (sorry Beau!). It also never dulled, felt awkward or needed typical topics brought up to gap-fill the conversation. When we finished the walk and (finally) parted ways, I was on the biggest high so naturally – I called my closest girlfriend and wouldn’t shut up about it.

After the fourth long, socially-distanced, mask-wearing date (three weeks since originally meeting), we were pretty keen to take our masks off and take it to the next level. But we also knew that entering each other’s physical space meant that we were ultimately choosing one another as our one ‘intimate partner’ as per restrictions. So we arranged a dinner at my place – in the time of COVID and stage four lockdown, that’s a pretty serious move! It was so nice to spend time with Alex in those three weeks prior knowing there was no room for physical agendas or expectations which allowed so much room for an emotional connection first.

When you date (responsibly) during COVID, your relationship moves a lot faster than it would normally. Essentially you enter this unspoken agreement to not sleep/date anyone else once you’ve entered someone’s home because, well, you can’t due to restrictions. That alone puts a bit of pressure on it to ‘work out’ since you go from this incredibly casual, socially-distanced dating scene to incredibly exclusive in a matter of moments.

I also didn’t want just anyone entering my home and physical space, I wanted to make sure I chose someone I genuinely wanted to spend a lot of time with, knowing our relationship interactions were going to be confined to just two places (our homes). And whilst it’s super isolating, it’s actually the most honest way to fast track your relationship into a vulnerable yet safe and loving realm where you learn to spend quality time together. He told me he loved me a few weeks ago and I honestly couldn’t be more in love either.


Gemma and Liam

Gemma: After many years of being single and multiple short-lived casual relationships I was pretty exhausted and fed up and decided to quit putting effort into dating and rather focus on my relationship with myself. At the beginning of 2020, I was feeling it was time to seriously ‘get back out there’. Like many who are single and dating, I decided to give the apps another shot, even though my attitude was that of an eye roll.

After a few connections and meetups with nothing really having much ‘spark’ the COVID-19 pandemic started to escalate in Australia. As the nation started to lockdown I matched with one particular guy who I instantly had a great conversation with. However, I was in northern NSW and he was in Brisbane. My first impression, based purely on photos from his profile, was that he was going to be another emotionally unavailable ‘cool’ guy.

We instantly had good banter but I didn’t think anything would progress further. However, after a day of back and forth messaging I thought to myself ‘Fuck it I am going to give this guy my number.’ Our first FaceTime conversation lasted until the early hours of the morning. I knew this was something special because the level of openness and honesty we had already developed in a short space of time was something I had never experienced prior.

This continued for almost a month, never actually meeting in the flesh but feeling so drawn to him, until border restrictions changed allowing us to finally meet in real life. Before meeting Liam there was a lot of anticipation and some fear that our connection and attraction wouldn’t translate to real life. However, much to my delight it completely did. Seeing him and getting to just be in his physical presence I felt so at ease and even more drawn to him. We continued to date in real life and decided that we wanted to progress our relationship and become exclusive.

COVID has definitely slowed down the progression of our relationship. The past two months with not being able to spend time together [due to the Queensland border closing] as you normally would at the beginning of a new relationship has at times been difficult but also has some merits in the fact that our connection hasn’t just been driven by physical or emotional need. While we are still getting to know each other we have been forced to continue to communicate and be open with each other.

I know when I do get to see Liam I won’t take it for granted and in these uncertain times, I am realising it’s important to remain in the moment rather than jumping ahead. I am hopeful for the future and regardless of what that looks like I am so thankful for this experience and that I have been able to develop a friendship and intimacy with someone so special who I may never have met if circumstances were different.


Charlie and Erin


Charlie: Erin and I first ‘clocked’ each other at Golden Plains in 2019 via a very hungover introduction by mutual friends. Fast forward a few months and Erin very luckily happened to be working with one of my best friends which opened the door for more slightly awkward encounters (when she reads this, she’ll know which one I’m specifically thinking of. Read: Thursgay).

Our first kiss which sealed the deal – after much subtle flirting via replying to Instagram stories, talking about conspiracy theories and complete nonsense over the space of a few months – was at her 30th in January this year. My very first impression of Erin was that she was very loud, but not at all obnoxious. She’s hilarious and was able to command a room with any story she told. She was comfortable enough within herself to be silly as entertainment and I found that really attractive.

I found myself really wanting to be around her. On our third date, she performed some of her comedy routine in front of my friends after a very small amount of persuasion (she’ll 100 per cent contend this by blaming the wine) which backs up my first two points. Of course, I thought she was absolutely gorgeous but I also witnessed how much of a dork she truly was and that simply melted me.

There wasn’t a particular moment where I realised [that this could be something serious]; it was a steady progression of understanding how compatible we were the more time we spent together. It was in the little things: becoming friends with her friends and her with mine, knowing that she would probably eat hot chips at any time of the day, having Erin make me a coffee in the morning even though she’s not a morning person.

It was in seeing the sacrifices we were both making to build the foundation of our relationship and the way we both so willingly invited the other person into each other’s lives. At the start of COVID, Erin was living in a house with a person who suffered from asthma and was at high risk which unfortunately meant we couldn’t see each other.

We weren’t in a relationship ‘officially’ at this point, and yet we opted for a very bold and potentially risky outcome which was to have Erin move out of her house and into my place for a month until she found somewhere new to live. High risk = high reward in this case. The past six months we have worked really hard at establishing some very intentional communication around our boundaries which have shifted regularly as the months progressed.

Some weeks are harder than others and we have had times of feeling exhausted from the pandemic, but because we have had more time together than we probably would have had otherwise, we’ve been able to spend a lot of time understanding each other in a really essential way. I hate the pandemic, but I’m grateful it’s given me the opportunity to get to know Erin in this way.

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