NEW YORK — If there’s one thing the pandemic hasn’t canceled, it’s the search for love.
Throughout the health emergency, daters have taken to apps, websites and matchmaking services in search of connection, with more meeting in person as the crisis drags on at a time when every touch is calculated and fraught.
Some daters insist on safety precautions before leaping into offline meetups. Others take no precautions, relying on mutual trust. A lucky few are on the ultimate step, marriage.
In March, the popular dating app Hinge experienced a 30% increase over January and February in messages sent among users. In June, compared to the same month last year, there was a 13% increase in the number of dates — virtual and in person — in the U.S. and U.K., said Logan Ury, chief researcher for the app.
Ury said the resolve to reach out amid coronavirus chaos is strong.
“Daters are feeling creative. They’re feeling resilient, and they’re not willing to put a year of their love life on hold because of the global pandemic,” Ury said.
Look no further than Jordan and Brittany Tyler in Allegan, Michigan, as evidence of that.
Jordan, an adjunct professor of communications at Western Michigan University, and Brittany, who supervises a program for autistic youth, had both been divorced about a year when the pandemic hit. Neither had dated online before they signed up for Match.com.
“When the lockdown happened an alert went off on my phone and it sounded liked `The Purge’ or something,” Brittany laughed. “I thought, `I’m going to die alone.’”
Both had dated their exes for several years before marrying. Not this time.
The two started texting March 18. They were wed by July after spending much of quarantine together after a romantic date March 24 at Jordan’s place. He made gluten-free pasta from scratch and threw steaks on the grill. They watched the movie “P.S. I Love You” and shared a kiss less than two hours after meeting in person for the first time.
Jordan’s winning line when they hopped from text to the physical world?
“I said, `Hey, if you come have dinner with me I’m stocked up on toilet paper. I’ll give you a free roll,” he joked. “It was worth the risk.”
Alina Mayes, senior matchmaker for the luxury firm Selective Search, said that at the beginning of the pandemic, the idea among affluent, older core users was to find someone to quarantine with. Most were used to vetting prospective mates offline with a one-on-one matchmaker, and had to settle in to virtual matchmaking, she said.
“But we’ve been busier than ever,” Mayes said.
Selective Search charges an average of $50,000 to $150,000 per client. The average age of clients hovers in the mid-50s.
Meeting up in person is back on for many, Mayes said, with a shift against “gauging physical chemistry right away towards more concern over mutual interests, shared experiences and stronger emotional connections.”
As for breaking social distance to hug, kiss or have sex, Mayes laughed:
“There’s been some of that. It’s just taking longer. This pandemic and lockdown has really put things into perspective.”