Dating becomes another casualty of coronavirus

‘It's too hard to just meet strangers when you don't know where they've been… or if they have the virus,’ says one Israeli single

A PHOTO DEPICTS the ‘I Love You Wall,’ in Montmartre, Paris.  (photo credit: BEN G. FRANK)
A PHOTO DEPICTS the ‘I Love You Wall,’ in Montmartre, Paris.
(photo credit: BEN G. FRANK)
Along with most aspects of daily life in Israel, dating has changed drastically over the past two weeks as the government increasingly tightens regulations to slow the spread of coronavirus by forcing much of the country to stay at home.
What’s more, singles are becoming additionally anxious.
“People are asking more questions about your recent health,” Yehoshua Jacobs, the director of five Jewish dating pages on Facebook, told The Media Line.  “There is less touching and intimacy.”
As a matchmaker, the Shilo-based Jacobs is himself cautious with clients.
“I ask if they have a cold or something, or if anyone in the family is sick,” he said.
Keren, from Tel Aviv, told The Media Line: “Ironically, I met someone right before everything started closing.” The relationship, she said, seems stuck given the inability to go out, which “makes things a bit more stagnant.”
It’s also a matter of trust.
“It's too hard to just meet strangers when you don't know where they've been… or if they have the virus,” she explained.
Micki Lavin-Pell, a marriage therapist and relationship coach in Jerusalem, says social-media platforms are an asset right now.
“People should be dating over Skype and Zoom and [platforms] like that,” Lavin-Pell told The Media Line. “We are blessed to be living in a time when we have the technology to do that.”
Indeed, online social contact is crucial for people who are isolated at home.  
“People need to continue to connect and meet [virtually],” she noted. “The worst thing in this whole corona thing is being alone.”
Religious Jews, who tend not to have physical contact with partners before marriage, have also changed their dating habits.
“Even though I am an Orthodox Jew [and] I don't touch or have premarital sex, I would not like to take a chance,” Jacobs said. “This can be deadly.” 
On the other hand, coronavirus has brought some people together.  
“I started dating someone new just as the first cases showed up in Israel,” Erik Dergel told The Media Line. “After a few dates, her mother's boyfriend was taken to the hospital with a high fever, so we quarantined together until his test came back negative.”
The two of them got along well, said Dergel, who lives in northern Israel.
“And that,” he says, “is how corona gave me a girlfriend.”
For some people already in relationships, this can be a difficult time, Lavin-Pell says.
“It’s a killer for people who have abandonment issues,” she explains, recommending constant communication and joint activities like jogging or yoga, even if only virtually.
“Ghosting is not acceptable,” she said, using the term for ending a relationship by cutting off all communication. “It’s the worst thing anyone can do right now.”
Singles events have been moved online, and more people appear to be open to virtual dating. 
“I've been added to a Zoom-dating Facebook group geared toward Jewish 20-somethings,” Dergel said. “I think more of my friends will start online dating until this is all over.”
The pandemic is also teaching people more about themselves, according to Lavin-Pell.
“Corona is showing us who we really are,” she said. “It’s a bit of a mixed blessing.”
She advises couples not to get upset at the same time, but to take turns.
“Ultimately, we’ll see who the strong are and who isn’t equipped to deal with this – which is an important thing to be aware of when we are dating,” she noted.
She hopes that some of the changes she’s seen in dating will last even after the virus is gone.
“I’d like to think it would make people more mindful… and focused less on superficial things in a relationship,” she said, adding that her greatest hope was for people to become less reluctant about expressing their feelings.
There are other lessons, too.
“One of the things that coronavirus is showing us? How hard it is to be alone and separated,” Lavin-Pell said.
She believes that one way to feel less isolated is to help others, perhaps by dropping off food for the elderly.
“Go beyond yourself,” she advised, “to stave off loneliness.”
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