To many people, it may seem like common sense to cut back on dating partners during a pandemic. But to evolutionary psychologists, this is the “behavioral immune system” at work — an unconscious set of behaviors that protect us in the face of an infectious disease threat.
A pre-COVID study from Montreal’s McGill University found that people who felt most vulnerable to disease showed lower levels of interest in prospective dates, regardless of how desirable they were.
There are other obvious and expected changes that arose during the pandemic. For example, Kaplan often sees the “I’m vaccinated and ready to go!” mentality, and those same people are also looking for vaccinated partners.
“People want someone who shares their values and shares the appreciation for freedom that comes with being vaccinated,” she says. “So much about dating is exploring together.”
And there will likely be a large dating pool for singles getting back on the scene, says Martie Haselton, PhD, a professor of communication and psychology at UCLA.
“We’ll see a lot of relationship turnover — some people stayed in their relationships because they were in need of somebody to be with while in lockdown,” she says. “Now that things are opening up, people’s options are opening up.”
For Detroit-area resident Kristin Drago, a 37-year-old single mom of two boys, the idea of meeting someone is exciting. Dating, on the other hand, not so much.
“I’m getting to the point where I’ve had my year away from everything, and I’m super lonely when the boys aren’t here,” she says. “I’d love to have a partner, but I don’t know how excited I am about the process. Post-COVID, my social skills are completely gone.”
Once she decides to get back on the apps, though, she says her approach will be different from pre-pandemic days. Rather than run-of-the-mill topical dating questions, she will focus more on how well potential partners dealt with COVID-related stressors like working from home or being furloughed, and what their pandemic practices were.
“Those questions tell you how they were raised and secretly dives into who they really are,” Drago says.