Love in a time of COVID
Dating, marriage look different
DURING A NORMAL summer, Honey Goodenough, a puppeteer, clown, and educator, would be busy teaching and performing, with little time to spend online dating. And in 2019, Goodenough, having given up on finding a life partner, was trying to get pregnant on her own through fertility treatments.
As the pandemic shut down Goodenough’s in-person work and the fertility clinic, a friend set her up with the dating app Coffee Meets Bagel. There, she met Kenneth Dyer. Their first date: a seven-hour Zoom conversation.
After a week of video chats, they had their first in-person date at the puppet theater where Goodenough works. Goodenough was attracted to Dyer’s old-world gentlemanly vibes, and the way he carried a cloth handkerchief and pocket knife.
Within one year, during a global pandemic, the couple met, fell in love, got engaged, had a baby, and got married.
“I just thought I love the very poetic [idea] to get married exactly a year later at the place that you met at the time that you met and that we would be standing there holding our six-week-old. It felt really special to me,” Goodenough said of their wedding.
The couple told their story on Mass Reboot, a Codcast series examining how COVID-19 affected Massachusetts, in an episode focused on love. With in-person dating options seriously curtailed by the pandemic, the podcast found that COVID-19 has drastically changed how people meet, date, and break up.
Meredith Goldstein, the Love Letters advice columnist for the Boston Globe, said some people had entire relationships in the context of a pandemic. The new partner never met the person’s friends, the couple never saw a movie together. “This was like if I meet someone and break up with them and no one ever saw this, no one was ever a witness to this, how do I process what happened?” Goldstein said.
Goldstein said the pandemic changed relationship dynamics. If a couple had been on three or four dates pre-pandemic, they had to decide if they were serious enough to bubble together.
“That was for some people a real load off, the idea that just by staying home and not going out and not trying to be in the face of someone else, they were helping the world,” Goldstein said.
But for people seeking a life partner, Zoom dating is complicated. Goldstein said there were some advantages for people working from home and used to communicating online, and for people who wanted to meet someone in a home setting without having to pay for a date. But people worried that they had never seen their partner in certain situations – like at family gatherings.
“Everybody was sort of like, well, am I making this decision because of a global pandemic and how it feels like? What would this feel like in normal times?” Goldstein said.
Even for those who met their match, love was not without complications – like wedding planning.
Eden Heller and Dan Hopkins got engaged in May 2019 and planned a July 2020 wedding. By May 2020, it became clear their guests would not be able to travel.
“It was a really traumatic time. And it just felt like during all of this trauma, we really wanted to be married,” Heller said.
The couple decided to keep their wedding date but get married in a park with 25 people attending. Their Provincetown honeymoon was stressful.“It was one of the most stressful three to four day periods of our lives because we were concerned that we had just killed everyone that we love,” Hopkins said.
Luckily, there was no COVID at their wedding. And like so many other couples comprising this summer’s wedding boom, they threw a big party this July, with caterers, music, and all their original guests, once people were vaccinated.