After Years Of Heartbreak, Why The Coronavirus Pandemic Was The Best Thing To Happen To My Love Life

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Couple watching sunset

Dating in modern times is hard.

Between dating apps, social media, the fact that everyone seems to always be looking for “the next best thing” — which is now incredibly accessible because of technology — dating is freakin’ hard, man.

Throw in a worldwide pandemic where the closest contact you’re supposed to make with a human should be (at the very least) six-feet away, and you’ve now found yourself in quite the dating predicament. 

Before the pandemic, my dating track record was … bad. Sure, I’d go on a ton of dates with guys from dating apps, dudes my bestie’s work friends would set me up with, etc., but nothing ever lasted more than a couple weeks. 

Although, there was that one year-long, rocky situationship with a comedian I met on Tinder who ultimately “broke up with me” because I stopped liking his Instagram posts after we filmed an MTV show together, but we’ll get to that later.

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Anyway, being the idealistic, romantic Pisces that I am, I would be crushed every time something with a potential partner didn’t work out. Of course, this was well after I had already fantasized about what our relationship would look like 3 months, 6 months, a year down the road (everyone does that, right?), which definitely didn’t help the healing process.

I can trace my terrible dating history back to my teens. 

Maybe it was the fact that I was obsessed with teen soap operas like One Tree Hill in the early to mid-2000s, and thought that every relationship was supposed to be dramatic, painful, and full of the highest highs and lowest lows.

My first boyfriend and I dated for 2.5 years throughout my senior year of high school and up until halfway through my sophomore year of college. It ended badly, and I didn’t date anyone until I was out of college. 

My first serious relationship after college was painful. He never referred to me as his girlfriend to other people, broke up with me via text message, and the only time he said “I love you” after nearly a year together was when I gave him lip balm at a bar and in between sips of Cadillac margaritas, he slurred, “I love you,” while taking the small tube from me, then added, “But not like not.” 

A couple years later, I dated a guy who bragged about being Valedictorian of the high school his parents built on their farm for him and three other kids in the middle of Texas. He only drank White Russians (his drink of choice being alcoholic milk should’ve been a red flag from the get-go) and played video games for approximately 8 hours a day. He broke up with me via text message while I was stuck on the top of a ferris wheel at Disneyland. 

A year or so after that catastrophe, I started dating an actual sociopath who, after we broke up, tried to break into my apartment multiple times to “get his stuff back,” even though I didn’t have anything of his and he regularly wore the clothes I left at his place for months after we split.

In January 2019, I met a comedian on Tinder who I was convinced would be endgame. We’re both Polish, share a wickedly dark sense of humor and cynical outlook on life, and even freelanced for the same publication at the same time and were apparently in pitch meetings together. 

I thought it was fate. 

He broke up with me two days before Valentine’s Day, literally hours after we had made plans for the special day. In his text sent after I went to sleep, he told me that one of his circus instructors admitted she had feelings for him. Three months later, they broke up, and we continued our very on-again, off-again relationship until October, and when I started to pull away from our toxic relationship, he ended up blowing up at me for not liking his Instagram posts. 

I’ve been ghosted by dates, stood up by potential partners, broken up with completely out of nowhere — you name it, it’s happened to me. In retrospect, though, every terrible date and crappy relationship led me to where I needed to be.

I met my current boyfriend in January last year  right as COVID was hitting the U.S. 

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We met on a dating app a few days after I had sworn off men for the year after my best friend’s co-worker set me up with a dude in her band. 

By the end of the night, the guy had locked my dog in my bathroom from the outside, and I had to break my poor pup out by climbing through the small bathroom window. Approximately 3.7 seconds after my date left, I dramatically told myself that if this was the best I could do, I might as well just be alone for the rest of my life.

A few days later, I decided to try Hinge, a dating app that my best guy friend swore by. I came across my now-boyfriend’s profile and was intrigued. He was four years younger than me, looked like the lead singer in a boy band, and wrote about his love for buttery popcorn in his bio. 

2020-me said, “Screw it,” and liked the buttery popcorn comment on his profile, which opened up the door for messaging one another on the app.

A day later, we went on our first date at my favorite local pub. He walked in an hour late in a full suit and fed me the line, “You are the most beautiful woman I’ve ever been on a date with.” I immediately rolled my eyes and thought to myself, “Why am I putting myself through this — again?”

Fast forward 6 hours later — there we were, making out in a 7-Eleven parking lot while holding a bottle of white wine and a large bag Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, waiting for our Lyft driver to take us back to my house. 

I did that thing where I played our entire future relationship through my head, carefully crafting our love story through rose-colored Pisces lenses, unaware of the looming worldwide health crisis that would soon plague the globe and upend life as we knew it for good.

We went on a weekend-long trip to Solvang, Calif. for our fourth date, and as we were walking out of a Starbucks in Santa Barbara, I got the news alert on my phone: “First case of Coronavirus reported in the U.S.” Immediately, I knew our world was going to change, and wondered how it would affect my new relationship.

My boyfriend is an extrovert, and I’m not. 

We’re a classic case of opposites attract. 

When we met, he had countless friend groups and partied all the time. Whether it was going snowboarding for a few days with his sports-loving surface-level friends, going out to clubs with his work friends, or staying up until 6 a.m. in the studio with his main group of guy friends, it was seemingly impossible to lock him down.

On the other hand, I’m a 73 year old trapped in a 30-something year old’s body. I’m content with leaving my house to run errands once a week. I like hanging out on the couch with my dog and a good book, and I basically only wear pants with an elastic waistband.

Long story short, I was made for a pandemic. My boyfriend wasn’t.

But like any couple navigating the pandemic, we soon settled into the new normal. In March, when everything across the country shut down, it forced the two of us to put what mattered into perspective. 

Frankly, I was terrified that a new relationship at the start of a pandemic would be too much for anyone to handle, and like my exes, my new guy wouldn’t even attempt to stick it out at the first sign of conflict.

I hate being wrong about anything, but thankfully, I was dead wrong about that. 

While we definitely had some hiccups during those first few pandemic months, it also forced us to prioritize what mattered in our lives — and we were each at the top of our “what matters most” lists. 

The pandemic forced us to have more difficult and serious conversations that might’ve otherwise not been had if we weren’t locked in my tiny, one-room house for days and weeks on end. 

It forced me to stray away from the pattern of going out to bars and getting drunk with my dates or boyfriends as a way to avoid getting emotionally deep with them. Without the filter of dim lighting and beer-soaked countertops, my fears and insecurities stemming from my past relationships were soberly laid out in broad daylight for my partner to see. 

Not only did the pandemic force me to confront so many things from my past that I had not-so-gently swept under the rug, it gave me the relationship I had always yearned for, but was convinced was an intangible pipe dream only achieved in movies or TV.

Overall, the pandemic has been a chaotic whirlwind of tragedy, uncertainty, and at times, hope. It’s forced not only myself, but millions of Americans, to prioritize what truly matters in one’s life, as well as address the self-sabotaging, toxic patterns that may have never been confronted pre-pandemic. 

And although COVID has taken so much and will likely continue to do so, it’s also given me what I’ve always wanted and needed. 

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Olivia Jakiel is an editor and writer who covers celebrity and entertainment news. Follow her on Instagram and keep up with her zingers on Twitter