The coronavirus outbreak has quickly changed nearly every facet of American life. As colleges across the country have temporarily closed, moved classes online, and shut dorm doors to residents, many students have been left in a lurch. This experience has been particularly jarring and abrupt for college seniors; the coronavirus outbreak means they're not likely to walk at graduation or enjoy many of the senior spring perks they've been looking forward to for years.
In the midst of a global pandemic, of course, there are far more important things to worry about than dating: your health and the health of your loved ones; the doctors, nurses, grocery store employees, and delivery workers on the front lines of this crisis; the waiters, bartenders, and sales associates, and many more who have lost their jobs; the economy. While stressful, the threat of being indefinitely single or suddenly finding yourself in a long-distance relationship might not feel that pressing in the grand scheme of things.
But the irony of this pandemic is that just when we crave comfort and connection the most, it might be out of reach. The pursuit of love (or just a good time) has long been a thrilling, all-consuming, and formative part of the college experience. For seniors, the stakes feel even higher. I spoke to 15 seniors about how the coronavirus outbreak has affected their love lives. Here's what they had to say.
For Single Students, Flirting Goes Virtual... But Might Fizzle Out
A few weeks ago, I was on a plane to New York to see family. I got lucky with an empty middle seat, and I thought the guy on the other side of the row was cute! About a half hour before we landed, I finally worked up the courage to ask what he was reading, and it was a book I’d been meaning to read for years. We started talking and found out we had a ton in common: I study astronomy and he takes pictures of the Milky Way for fun. We both love sci-fi. We both live in Austin! When we realized we’d be on the same plane back in two days, we rearranged our seats to sit next to each other. We talked for the entire four-hour plane ride and didn't want to say goodbye.
The next time we met up, we talked for hours over ramen, then gelato, and then some drinks. A few days, later he wanted to cook me dinner, but I had to turn down the offer because I’d started social distancing. We had a FaceTime date instead, which felt silly but it wasn’t as awkward as I expected. I flew home to Boston the next day to be with my family, but we’re still FaceTiming each other. Last night, we asked each other the 36 questions that are supposed to make you fall in love. It took us hours to get through them because we kept getting sidetracked telling stories about our lives. When we finished, we both agreed that we definitely aren’t in love, but I do feel closer to him now. Neither of us are intending to start a relationship, especially because I don’t know if I’ll ever live in Austin again, but it’s really nice having somebody to talk to while we’re both stuck in our homes indefinitely.
— Julia, 21, University of Texas at Austin
I was supposed to go on a date with someone a week before everything really went to sh*t. We both agreed not meeting up was for the best, and it kind of fizzled it out. It would’ve been nice to possibly talk in the meantime! Having someone to talk to in a romantic way would definitely be better than scrolling on my phone all day. I’m not on dating apps, but I did fill out that form by the two girls who started Love Over Zoom, though.
— Lauren, 22, University of Connecticut
About a month ago, I went on a date with this guy right when it was starting to become evident a pandemic might happen. We were going to a bar arcade, and he texted me to bring hand sanitizer. We’ve been hanging out since then and enjoying each other’s company, but he doesn’t want a serious relationship and I’m moving in two months. Every time we hang out, we end up in a long conversation about the coronavirus. It’s hard because while I want to continue hanging out with him, I’m hesitant of seeing him because of social distancing.
— Elizabeth, 21, University of Nevada at Reno
Being home indefinitely makes it easier to reach out to flames from the past, since we essentially all moved home in the past two weeks and have an indefinite amount of free time! I’ve been talking to people I’ve had connections with over the past four years.
— Kaitlin, 21, University of Central Florida
I’m very single. I have not been interested in pursuing a relationship because I wanted to accept a job and plan my next move based only on what was right for me. I think this situation has only added to my stress and made even less time to pursue relationships.
— Sam, 22, University of Iowa
I rarely experience a deep attraction to anyone, but after trying to ignore a crush since May, I finally confessed my attraction to the guy I like a few weeks ago. He confessed the same feelings for me, but with graduation looming and plans uncertain, we decided to simply pursue a sort of "intentional friendship" so we can actually get to know one another without the distraction of new romance pulling us from our last two months of school.
Two weeks after this conversation, social distancing measures went into effect, and four days after that, our school became completely remote. I'm the only one with a car, my round trip commute to school is an hour and a half, and I work 30 to 40 hours a week, so it's just not feasible to casually spend time together. And with social distancing measures in place, how do we safely practice physical contact, which is a necessary element of emotional intimacy for me? He is not currently around many people and none of them are high-risk, but I have family at high risk and I work in a high-contact service environment.
Now, there's so much uncertainty. How do I pursue a relationship when I need face-to-face interaction? How do I grow closer to him, while not compromising those I work with or my own family? What if the distance prevents this relationship from ever taking off? What about those few who know of the beginnings of our relationship — how do we deal with the social pressure if this relationship just stops? And finally, how do we find closure in the midst of crisis?
— Julianne, 22, George Fox University
I’m just mad that the guy that ended things with me because of his commitment issues isn’t forced to see me on campus now.
— Davis*, 22, College of Charleston
A Promising Connection Changed This Senior's Quarantine Plans
I’ve been seeing a boy and he’s part of the reason I’ve decided to stay in the area for now! We matched on Tinder about a month ago, went on a few dates, and things were looking good. Then last week, we had spring break where we got the news in the middle of the week that we would have an extended break and online classes for two weeks. Everyone then began practicing social distancing. In the meantime, we’ve texted and kept in contact, and I’ve seen him once at his place after dinner. Then, my university made the decision to remain online for the remainder of the semester. I go to school in Texas but my family is in California. Part of the reason I’ve decided to stay in my apartment in Texas, rather than return home, is him. Things have been progressing well with him, and I don’t want to move away and give up on this potential relationship because we both see it going somewhere. He’s been working from home and practicing social distancing, as well as myself. We haven’t been in contact with many others, so we’re comfortable seeing each other in person still. We’ve been watching shows we have in common and planning nights to cook dinner together!
— Alexa, 22, Texas Christian University
Quarantining With A Partner Changes Relationship Dynamics
My boyfriend and I are quarantining together at his family's home in Philadelphia. Despite the fact that we both have apartments in New York, we thought it would be more comfortable to be in an actual house and with his family while we attempt to manage this chaos. I'm so grateful that his parents have taken me in. They're such generous people.
While we love spending time together, it's definitely a challenge to be together all day, every day. I miss being able to come home after work or school and tell him everything that happened, the good and the bad. There's also less privacy since we're with his parents and sister, so even if we do get into a small disagreement, we don't always have the space to talk it out right away.
That being said, my boyfriend is probably one of the most patient people I know and we read each other very well. We know each other's needs (especially in moments of stress). There's no one else I'd rather quarantine with. I imagine that if I had to be away from him during this time, I'd be even more anxious, more upset than I am now. On the brighter side, we've gotten to indulge in some of our favorite things like reading together, bingeing TV shows, cooking, running and more.
This hasn't impacted much of our future plans. We had to cancel our spring break trip to visit some of his family members in Colombia, but vacationing is the least of people's worries right now.
— Madeline, 22, NYU
This is the situation my relationship is trained for - my boyfriend of four years and I are practically professional homebodies. But since entering social distancing, I’ll be honest, I was worried the confinement would put extreme pressure on us both, coupled with the already heightened of levels of stress brought on by the current crisis. We quickly set up both time and space boundaries in our little apartment: We have a set schedule, and I work in the living room and he works in the bedroom. I realized right away that I cannot stop myself from being a distraction — since he’s “home” I want to show him a funny tweet, a particularly dramatic TikTok, or read him a caption I’m scheduling. I also realized that he likes to report the ever-changing news to me, live — which is really difficult for my focus.
Now we’re heading to separate family homes to enter a more serious shelter in place. It’s a weird situation that I’m sure a lot of people are in — we’re adults, going home, without our partner. It feels like I’m in high school again, but with rent and better developed anxiety.
— Justina, 22, California State University, Fullerton
Quarantining Has Kept Lots Of Couples Apart
I’m Indian, and while my family is progressive and knows about my partner (most Indian kids I know don’t tell their parents out of fear of their anger), they don’t ~love~ that I date. So, it’s not out of the question to see my partner while I’m living at home, but I certainly can’t go away with him, spend overnight dates, or make plans without asking my parents for permission first. My concern is definitely that I won’t be able to see him for a while in person, thanks to the fact that I can’t leave my house for more than a day due to parental restriction, and we can’t go anywhere on dates because everything is closed in Ohio. Therefore, there’s no telling when I’ll see my partner next.
— Lalitha, 22, The Ohio State University
My boyfriend was in Italy studying abroad last semester, so this is the second time this year we’ll be apart for a longer period of time. We’re about an hour and half apart now, which is a lot better than being an ocean apart. When he was in Europe, it was harder to contact him because of the time zone difference. Now that we are back in the same time zone, it is way easier to video chat, text, and make calls. The thought of not knowing when we will see each other again makes this situation seem more grim and dreadful for sure, but we know a quarantine won't change anything between us. We have been through three-and-a-half months of not seeing each other in person, so this is something we are familiar with. It’s still hard, of course, but I know in the end, when this is over, it will all be fine.
— Taylor, 20, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
My boyfriend is a sophomore and I’m a senior. I’ve been studying for the MCAT and stressing about getting a job post-graduation, and he’s been so supportive by bringing me coffee, sitting with me at the library and so much more. We were looking forward to having time after the MCAT to hang out, but last Wednesday, our school sent out an email saying that all underclassmen had to evacuate New Orleans. We had to say bye on our official six-month anniversary. Thankfully, we already talked about the idea of us being long-distance after graduation, but this has made that happen way sooner than we were ready for. We have no idea when we’ll see each other next.
— Juli, 21, Tulane
Long-Distance Couples Face Additional Challenges
I’m in a long-distance relationship, so we’re just still long-distance during this time! We weren’t going to see each other until the end of April or May, anyway, so I’m hoping that’ll just stay the same.
— Molly, 21, La Salle University
I am in a long-distance relationship with someone in Germany. We have been dating for nine months (as of today!) and have been doing long-distance since meeting in Spain in June last year. My plan was to move to Germany to be with him after graduating, but now that our commencement has been postponed until December, I’m not sure when I’ll make it over.
It’s hard having seven hours between us and I have been looking forward to his two planned visits in April and May (which aren’t happening anymore). But now, I don’t know when I’ll see him next. It’s sad and lonely to know that even if I wanted to recklessly buy a ticket to him, I can’t right now. It’s kind of nice to know it’s not our schedules, budgets, or personal lives getting in the way of trips to see each other — it’s something we can’t change personally. It’s made it easier for us to accept. We’ll see each other again soon, I’m sure. I think that I have hope.
— Katie, 21, Colorado State University
*Name has been changed.
If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all Elite Daily's coverage of coronavirus here.