Will Quarantine Make Casual Dating Deeper, or Non-Existent?

Stephen Hussey


It’s hard to know exactly what the long-term effects of COVID-19 will be on…well, everything.

But we do know one thing: behaviour will change.

Even after lockdown ends, until people feel 100% safe, risk-free, and back to “normal”, that uneasy feeling will affect every decision about where we go and about how to spend our time. One article in the WSJ this week even talks about how New Yorkers are fleeing the city.

And cities, of course, are where a lot of the casual dating happens.

So what now?

Will we still meet up with total strangers for drinks, conversations, and gulp…actual touching this summer? It’s hard to imagine it being quite business as usual. Even if casual dating returns in some form, it won’t be the same.

I’m sure for some people, the end of lockdown will create a “snap-back” effect, causing them to dive headfirst with abandon into pubs, clubs, and casual sex, having felt like a caged animal for the last couple of months.

But for the rest of us? Not so much.

I tried to ask myself: If lockdown were over, would I go on a date tomorrow?


If lockdown were over, would I want to quickly sleep with a stranger I had only spoken to on Tinder/Bumble/etc.?


What about after 2 dates? 3? 4?

It gets tricky. It gets even trickier if you have vulnerable people in your life already that you want to keep seeing and spending time with. How do you balance having a dating life vs. keeping the people around you safe?

These are questions we’ll all have to face when the choice is in our own hands.

Let’s get to the point: what does this all mean for single people?

Have they missed the boat and now have to consign themselves to a life alone, quarantined, in a dystopian future where all our connections are relegated to windows on our phones, taunting us, always there but always out of physical reach?

I doubt it.

These are red-blooded humans we’re talking about. So a future of voluntary celibacy seems unlikely. Like life, sex will find a way. But it might not be the way it was from 2010-2019.

That delirious decade may come in retrospect to epitomise the apex of casual dating. A heady time when one could meet within hours, with no immunity checks or corona-safe socially-distanced dates before getting intimate – when one could hop from a bar after introductory cocktails with lots of casual kissing, without even needing to wash their hands afterwards.

I’m not saying we’ll never go back to how things were. But it may be a bumpy road to get there.

As we should expect, there will be a bunch of people who don’t care. If you’re young and foolhardy, you may decide to take your chances, rather than risk an extended pause, or mere slowdown, to a previously rampant sex life.

But what about those who don’t feel…you know…like they want to contract coronavirus anytime soon?

For those people there will need to be more courtship. We will look for greater certainty – about a clean bill of health, about what we want, and frankly, about whether this person is worth risking our health for.

That has consequences.

And we’ve lived in a world for a long time that glorifies dating without consequences. There has been freedom in this. There have also been tears. The experiment of dating apps has been a mixed bag to say the least, even if it has led to plenty of weddings and long-term partnerships.

But now…

Everything seems like a higher stakes game.

Do I know where my prospective date is going every day? Do they have a high-risk job? Are they touching other infected people in between our dates?

Yes, people will get less and less scared. But knowing that a date could lead to an infection (not that kind) will make a lot of people think twice about whether constant partner-hopping is worth the trouble. It may make relationship-phobic players reconsider whether they would prefer to hunker down and give monogamy another spin now that it’s premium has risen in a less safe world.

Casual hook-ups have always come with risks: Who is this person? What do they really want? Are they going to call afterwards? Are they going to go nuts if I decide not to call afterwards?

Now there is an new risk on the table.

The game has changed. And now it has more rules. But will as many people want to play?

So I want to know, what are your answers to these two questions:

(1) If lockdown ends tomorrow, would you be willing to go on an in-person date with a stranger you met on a dating app?

(2) Has the quarantine situation increased your desire for a long-term relationship/monogamous courtship?

(3) If the answer to (1) is no, when would you be willing to return to going on casual dates in person again? 

9 Texts No Man Can Resist

28 Responses to Will Quarantine Make Casual Dating Deeper, or Non-Existent?

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  1. Heather says:

    Now that we have been Facetiming for months, during the quarantine, that’s all he wants to do! How do I get hime to ask me out on a date instead of just continuing to Facetime? We’ve seen each other in person about 5 times, but unless I initiate a meetup, he won’t ask me out on a proper date. He calls, texts or Facetimes me 2 to 3 times/day. I’ve been very direct about wanting him to take me on a proper date. Said things like “how’s my favorite Penpal?” “Are we not meant to have one of those weird phone-only relationships?”, etc. He’s just not taking the hint. What else can I specifically say? I feel like we’re a good fit other than that.

  2. Aneesha says:

    Hi Stephen,
    Great blog. I activated my online dating profile when the lockdown began, as a way to practice the flirting/dating skills I learnt from Matt’s videos and programs. I hit it off with one guy and we graduated to texts, phone calls and even video dates. This went on for 3 weeks until I asked him to plan a video date for us. Turns out, planning the date was so tough for him that it frustrated him that we couldn’t meet and he decided to end things. He said it was going to get monotonous and we would run out of things to say. He said we should take a break and pick it up when lockdown ends.

    I refused to wait because I felt like that would be a waste of time. But I’m quite confused because I felt it had been going great until then. I understand the frustration of not being able to meet. But does it explain giving up so close to the finish line?

  3. Angie says:

    Yes you are right .some of the things you have said I have done.In this profile I have told him I like the way you dress.Also I have told him if I am out and I see some wearing some thing nice .I will go up to him or her and competent them .You look nice , I have learned some things from you that is very helpfull.I would love to hear more .I have a first skp date tonight .I will say hello to him with a big smile.His mum not well so I will ask him how she getting on.I am stuck for more to say .I hope he look like his profile.and I look like mine.Thankyou for your comment you have help me .I hope to hear from you .Tonight I am going to wear a yellow top off the shoulder,I love dressing up and wearing dresses,But I would like to save my dress for a date when I can see him in person .Thankyou for reading this

  4. SophieT says:

    Yes to 1. for me, and right away after May 18th.(i live in Europe). It will be like Russian Roulette but so will be going back to transportations, Dr’s office, market, movies etc. Ultimately I don’t think we can control that. If anything, people may be more safe right out of their quarantine because less exposed.. For2. Yes as well, there would have been a sense of caring and comfort to face this together, though friends and family were the ones I had felt connected the most during this time.

  5. laura says:

    1. yes, provided Ive already been talking to them.
    2. Long term and monogamy have always been something Ive been looking for.this pandemic has definitely tested my patience and my communications skills, asking the right questions.

    non existent. lots of people were already scared to label “dating” and just call it “hanging out”.

  6. Courtney Greger says:

    So much uncertainty. I’ve been looking for a LTR for a year now. In my town it’s almost impossible as men in Scottsdale AZ prefer the flavor of the month. During Corona men have come out of the woodwork to get me to see them. The answer is NO. I have an 18 year old son and 78 year old Father I need to protect. I don’t plan on dating anytime soon although I may need to turn my phone off to do that because men have become crazy!

  7. Marissa says:

    1. Yes, provided i have been getting to know them for the past couple of weeks.
    2. I always have had but i am hoping this leads to more conscious dating overall. More integrity in getting to know your date and vetting out if this person is worth the risk. And if so, the the increase in likely-hood of it becoming a relationship.

  8. Niki says:

    1. Yes-my idea of a 1st date is an hour or less and I’m not kissing them.
    2. It’s the same. As a single parent I’ don’t go out with every invitation -there’s probably already been days or weeks of text/phone/FaceTime
    3. I’m never interested in casual dating, I protect my time and myself. And even still, you can find out ppl aren’t who they say they are. Lunch dates are great if it works for your schedule.

  9. Jennifer says:

    1) yes- but less likely to sleep with them on the first or second date. Everyone is not a walking virus. I refuse to live in fear.
    2)no, same as before

  10. Kathy says:

    1. No
    2. Not really as that’s what I’ve wanted before as well
    3. Difficult to say, depends on how the situation develops

    However, womens opinions seem to be quite close. What I’d like to understand is how men might think.
    Where I live the culture of casual dating and one night stands is normally very high. I haven’t been on dating apps too much during the quarantine but when I have, I notice people just disappear after some time much like they would disappear in real life before the quarantine because of the dating culture here.
    How would the current situation affect men, if at all? Would more men think of something else other than casual stuff?

  11. Biz says:

    It seems to me that like everything else, dating will take its cues from the overarching attitudes of the day, which is not a new thing. Casual or intimate connections are not immune to to these influences which promises to be an unfolding adventure. So, here we are here, the question is where do we want to go and how do we get there? Processes will evolve, dating apps will evolve and so will the masses. Great ideas will prosper and expand but it’s still it boils down to the same common denominator, what is our personal desire and personal point of attraction. That will always be the determining factor in the quality of our dating, casual or otherwise.

  12. Anja says:

    (1) If lockdown ends tomorrow, would you be willing to go on an in-person date with a stranger you met on a dating app?
    No. I think it´s more about how the situation and infection numbers develop. Currently, I am still not meeting a lot of friends and I wouldn´t want to meet a stranger from whom I don´t know to how many people he is exposed too and how he handles social distancing. It would be different if I would know the person better with time but then I wouldn´t want to wait until the lockdown is over because that doesn´t say so much about the person´s behaviour. Anyhow, the lockdown itself is not so restricted in my area (Germany).

    (2) Has the quarantine situation increased your desire for a long-term relationship/monogamous courtship?
    Yes. As spring is coming I feel more and more that I would like to meet someone or have someone to share this time with.

    (3) If the answer to (1) is no, when would you be willing to return to going on casual dates in person again?
    I think I would be fine if I would the know the person well enough. Or when numbers of infections have decreased to a very low number and it would be more or less safe to meet someone. But it stays weird if I wouldn´t come close to my friends but might considering dating someone. It´s difficult.

  13. Katjes says:

    Yes I would go on a date but it will be an activity where you can keep your 1.5 m distance at all times like a walk. It won’t be over a drink or dinner.
    It’s worth noting that I don’t have vulnerable people around me or anywhere close.

  14. An says:

    Hi Stephen,

    Love your article (as always).

    I began dating someone at the beginning of February. He stood out as he would ask me on another date before each date ended. I loved his confidence and decisiveness. He’s lovely and our in person connection was amazing.

    Interestingly during covid it’s helped me see things I wouldn’t have in normal pre-dating covid. Especially since he’s a journalist covering the covid issues.

    I am risk averse and he is more of a rule bender. I took science like microbial diseases and pathogenesis for fun. He doesn’t like science.

    It also means I don’t get lost in his smile or eyes and I truly see what conversation is.

    He can’t wait for quarantine to end. He does tons of social distant hang outs. He goes to stores tons. Meanwhile I’ve confirmed my more introverted preference, as I’m enjoying the time to focus and reflect. And my caution with unknown viruses. I have kids so I won’t want to risk meeting then bring it to them, or any family they contact once quarantine ends.

    So I am not in a rush to see him, in person. He has been respectful of that. I don’t know if we will survive covid, because it’s hard to know ´if covid wasn’t going on, would this work?’ But I am grateful COVID let’s me know him more deeply, and assess compatibility without the physical distraction.

  15. Audra says:

    1. Heck no
    2. Yes
    3. I would be willing to return to causal dates when there is a vaccine

    I completely welcome this change. What an idea to be intentional and get to know someone before getting physical! And you’re no longer an oddball for taking things slow physically. I think a lot of solid relationships will come out of this.

  16. Shilpa Thomas says:

    (1) If lockdown ends tomorrow, would you be willing to go on an in-person date with a stranger you met on a dating app?
    No. Matter of fact, due to this lockdown it has allowed me to have a better and extended filter system. Back in the normal days, we would jump the gun, go on a date which might then ultimately lead to a one night stand. This time the focus is on quality and long term connections.

    (2) Has the quarantine situation increased your desire for a long-term relationship/monogamous courtship?
    Yes, indeed. This has been a reality check for me. Prior to this, I was going on numerous dates which usually ended up being purely about physical intimacy because that is what the majority gave first priority. Now that it isn’t an option, emotional connection has taken the front seat and if that isn’t what the guy is into, I don’t take it further. This period has been a time of reflection and it has helped put the brakes on incessant dating.

  17. isobel says:

    If lockdown ends tomorrow, I will totally date myself. lol

  18. Plami says:

    Very interesting article Stephen! The questions you are giving are really important, I was thinking about it as well!
    The answers to your questions:
    1. I would go on a date with a person from dating app. Normally my standart is first I want to get to know the person well before we go intimate which takes some time. Now it will take longer period of time. This is going to be the difference with me.
    2. I care for serious relationship yes, but that was even before this situation.
    My concerns now are that before when we were so free it was difficult for me to establish a relationship and now with these barriers it’s even more difficult! But I’m optimist and I believe that somehow the right person will meet me soon :) ( not that I don’t enjoy being single, but my doors are open for someone interesting )

    P.S. Stephen I tried the dating apps, / I have never tried them before/ ooohh it’s not my thing, I mean the guys there are very pushy. I want to have a normal conversation, but they are so straight asking questions like I’m on a interview and we getting married tomorrow and the other thing is that the apps are taking my location and it propose only locals which I don’t like. I want to meet someone interesting from a different culture and country, that has been always my standard and also my weakness ☺️I get along way better with people from other countries that from my own, because I am not the typical local and often stay misunderstood from local men and I don’t like them as well.
    So no dating apps for me, have to be more creative and find other solutions in these times!
    Stephen if I succeed to find someone under these circumstances I’m telling you this is will be a big achievement!! Feel free to send me some ideas!

    Thank you for your article, as always so thoughtful,
    so meaningful and deep!
    Have a lovely weekend and I will see you on 1greathour on Monday
    Plami xxx

  19. Anto says:

    1. No
    2. Yea
    3. I struggle to define this but my bottom line is ‘will there be a second wave as in previous pandemics’

    Matt, I took your queue and tried to go online, thinking I would try to do virtual dates, talk deem stuff etc. But the reality is not like that. All guys I met there expect you to go on dates, albeit respecting the 1.5 m distance. I have not done that with my friends, why would I do that with a stranger? Will the guy really repect the 1,5 and try yo come closer to you? In any case, it all made me feel extreme insecure at a physical level.

    What shocked me further is that I see here as I imagine girls who are ready for hookups and casual dating in these times and this further blows up the level playing field.

    So will all respect and excuses, trying to date and create deep connection in a time when everyone is so desperate, ain’t gonna work..

  20. Julie says:

    #1 yes I would meet face to face. After all the texting and talking on the phone. I need human contact. Being alone during covid19 and isolation.. makes me realize how much I want to have someone who is there for me. A longterm relationship. I have always wanted one but my work always came first. To me.. covid19 isn’t any more of an issue than cold and flu season is every year. I don’t jump into bed right off. But I don’t like wasting time on texting, prefer to meet and see if there is attraction or connection between us.

  21. Johanna says:

    1. No.
    2. No, but I’ve got more back-up from the current situation to justify my stance on casual dating.
    3. Never. I’m not that kind of woman. Period. And I’m sorry, but you should be worried about “that” kind of infections too. The dozens of people your casual partner was sleeping with, the more more chance you have to get an STD from him and there are illnesses that you can transmit even though you use a condom. Maybe he cares and using protection, but you don’t know whether his partners in the past and their partners. This is one of the main reasons I don’t do this casual dating thing, next to the fact that I’m not wired for being able to deal with it emotionally, so in my case it’s also preserving my mental health.

  22. Lisa says:

    1. No
    2. I am selective and don’t really believe in casual sexual relationships anyway. We only have so much time on this Earth. Spend it with those who really love you :)
    3. I think it is nice people are shifting to courting each other more then straight to naked wrestling ;)

  23. Janna says:

    (1) If lockdown ends tomorrow, would you be willing to go on an in-person date with a stranger you met on a dating app?


    (2) Has the quarantine situation increased your desire for a long-term relationship/monogamous courtship?

    I have tried to arrange a casual monogamous sexual relationship with one of my previous casual lovers. I picked the safest option in terms of how exposed to other people they would be. While we have not caught up yet, AU numbers are low enough that it should be safe to do so soon.
    It kind of made me reconsider seeking a proper relationship but I dont really want one so I should just wait it out.

    (3) If the answer to (1) is no, when would you be willing to return to going on casual dates in person again?

    Probably when I feel it is safe enough for my teenage son to go back to school.
    But would opt for a walk on my local beach, with 1.5m distance kept until I decide if the connection is worth the risk.

  24. Charlene says:

    (1) NO (2) NO (3) I’m not one to actively seek if someone is interested and I’m attracted to them then I chat and get to know them.It not that I dont want to settle down but being a single parent my main priority is my child.

  25. Theresa says:

    I rekindled a relationship while in isolation and we’re both healthy and invested in a relationship, so yes, and I can’t wait!

  26. Eria Moschos says:

    Answer to #1 is no
    Answer to # 2 is yes but I always wanted a deeper committed relationship. As far as meeting face to face I actually like to get to know the person a little before hand via texting and phone calls so that won’t change. I can’t really give a time frame as to an actual physical meeting. We’re still in quarantine and I have a feeling once it lifts there will be a new spike in covid-19 patients. Maybe Sept/Oct for me would feasible

  27. Rachel says:

    1)Yes I would go on an in person date with someone and I’m talking to a few potentials at the moment.
    2)No it hasn’t made me want a relationship anymore…I did before lockdown so still want it but lockdown has given me time to pause and reflect what I want more and what I don’t want…I guess I’m seeing higher/better standards for myself. And I’m enjoying getting to talk to people and getting to know them, it’s more like making a friendship first before anything else which is quite nice.

  28. Corinne says:

    I don’t have any vulnerable people physically close to my life (all my family live on the opposite side of the world) so
    1) I would go on a date tomorrow
    2) I’ve always had the desire for a long term / monogamous relationship so no change here for me.

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