They Fell in Love During the Pandemic. Then Things Changed.

For some people, it wasn’t easy being single during the early days of the pandemic. Many rushed into relationships, seeking company and comfort in another person — even if the match wasn’t quite right.

People moved in with their significant others far too early. Cooking and watching movies with a partner while cloistered indoors helped relieve loneliness.

Others developed online relationships from dating apps, and upon meeting in real life, they discovered that the people they had fallen for were not who they thought they were.

Four years after Covid-19 lockdowns were implemented worldwide, many people have been processing their early pandemic experiences in all areas of their lives, including their love lives. The TikTok star Reesa Teesa, for example, drew wide attention on the app for sharing her whirlwind pandemic relationship saga in a 50-part series.

Now that some time has passed, we invited readers to share their pandemic relationship regrets. Many noted that their feelings of loneliness while quarantining and social distancing prompted them to latch on to a partner — and the romanticized ideas of their partners they said they had contrived to help cope with the uncertainty, isolation and dreariness that came with the pandemic.

“With our housing choices limited, jobs in limbo and a paralyzing sense of existential dread, we drank, cooked and binge-watched television to pass the time,” one reader wrote. “It took half a year to move out and over two years of therapy to sort out the whys and hows of the relationship: why I agreed to move in, why I stayed, why we lived in denial. ‘We were living through a pandemic’ is all I’ve got.”

But some who wrote in indicated that they had no regrets after all: “It was just so comfortable and fun while it lasted,” another reader wrote.

Below are four stories about the challenges and mishaps of pandemic relationships.

Submissions have been edited for length and clarity.

As a U.S. and Australian national, I had been planning to repatriate to my native United States but was then confined to Australia. As a single 51-year-old male, I had been dating. However, due to the strict lockdown restrictions, meeting new people was simply not possible. Using the passport function on Tinder that matches you with people globally, I placed my pin in Budapest. (Budapest was just one of the cities I would like to have spent time in.)

We connected in April 2021. We spoke as friends for years and confided in each other during difficult times.

We planned a trip together to Singapore and Bintan Island. As the trip grew nearer, our relationship became more intense and intimate, and we also began to fight. The WhatsApp threads are difficult to read.

Meeting at the Singapore airport in January 2024, she was not the person I envisioned. She was similar, but I had none of the feelings I had online. I wasn’t attracted to her and felt let down.

We spent two volatile weeks together. Neither of us felt the other was meeting each of our needs. It was a match made in hell.

The last time I saw her was her getting into a taxi early in the morning in Singapore. It was over.

We debriefed a couple of times when we returned home. I realize I had created a fantasy in my mind that began in the pandemic. She was a terrible match for me, and perhaps she would say the same.

So many times I had written in my journal how I wanted her out of my life. Now that has eventuated, and I am contending with a sadness I could never have imagined. I realize it’s not her that I lost, it’s the hope that came from finding a person during the crisis of the pandemic, and creating the idea of a “her” and “us” that never really existed.

Keith Cavalli

I was in a tumultuous relationship that I entered about a year before the pandemic started, with a man 10 years my senior.

I started having doubts right before the pandemic. But we were living together when it struck. I felt trapped and, therefore, determined to make it work. If it wasn’t for the pandemic, I probably would have left him much earlier.

He put me down in some way every single day. He would call me stupid, berate me over messing up small household tasks or tell me I wasn’t good enough. He was also an alcoholic. As our relationship continued, he got more controlling, more volatile and more demanding. I felt like I couldn’t make any decisions on my own for fear of repercussions. I felt unsafe in my own home.

Being in my early 20s, I had no idea what I was supposed to be looking out for and little to no guidance from my close family. We ended up getting engaged, then married — all while I was losing family members to Covid, starting and then completing a graduate degree, getting into a Ph.D. program, buying and later selling a house.

I decided to leave him in April 2022, after I went to a Jacob Collier concert by myself and had the most transcendent experience. I felt more love from the audience and the artist, none of whom I knew, than I had felt in my relationship maybe ever. The space that the artist created allowed me to catch a glimpse of who I could be without him — and I loved what I saw and felt. Three days later, I walked out the door and never looked back. We were officially divorced three months later.

A year and a half ago, I entered a new relationship with a wonderful man. I have my health, and I have my peace back. All is well.

Micaela Seaver

We met in November 2020 and spent the next year and a half hunkered down together. We both had been unceremoniously dumped by long-term partners in late 2019 and were looking for comfort. He revealed that as soon as the pandemic was over he was planning on moving to Chicago — so there was a clear expiration date on an otherwise enjoyable relationship.

Even though we were enjoying ourselves — cooking, watching movies, playing tabletop games, saying we loved each other and eventually going on trips together — I knew in the back of my mind the whole time that this whole thing had an end date. When his moving day was set in 2022, our conversations couldn’t really be about the future beyond Covid.

Ultimately, I don’t really regret it. Our relationship really put my previous relationship in perspective and rebuilt my sense of self, and it was just so comfortable and fun while it lasted.

Medina Clermont

I was in a long-term relationship with my female partner, although not living together. She had pre-existing anxiety before the pandemic. We sheltered in place when the pandemic started. I moved into her house with her 8-year-old daughter.

And then I became the enemy, a significant threat of bringing the coronavirus into her home. Her anxiety blew up, and she became terrified of getting Covid. Despite already being very careful, I could not keep up with her systems of control and safety in and out of the home: Don’t touch the door handle with the clean vs. dirty hand; don’t sit on the newly cleaned bench to put on my shoes; wash the clothing because the zipper hadn’t been disinfected.

Our relationship became irreparably fractured, and we separated at the end of 2020. She continues to live with the same extreme measures of precaution. In 2022, I purchased a home and to date she will not visit for dinner with her daughter despite my having optimal CO2 measures in my 17-foot ceiling loft with lots of open windows and air purifiers.

Janice Bowers

Leave a Comment