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The Coronavirus Talk I Had To Have With My Boyfriend

My dating life has been turned upside down.

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Alicia Rihko
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I want to see you (insert heart-face emoji).

Butterflies filled my stomach as I read the text. Busy schedules and the lack of pressure to rush into romance kept us apart up until now. We had no idea that a quarantine was just around the corner.

I want to see you, too (no emoji).

I hit send but quickly wished I could unsend it. Did I really want to see him? I mean, yes, technically, I wanted to see him, but what about this COVID-19? Was I allowed to see him? I honestly didn’t know. This was early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, but not before the advisement of social distancing. I was overcome with questions and wondered who could provide me with answers.

Is live, person-to-person dating cancelled? Can I see him if I promise to stay 6 feet away? Can I spend time in his apartment if we were really careful? And what does really careful mean anyway? Can we hold hands and then wash our hands afterward? He wasn’t my boyfriend, either, so does that mean it’s a total no-no altogether? If he was indeed my boyfriend, would an in-home visit during a pandemic be more acceptable?

I turned to Google for answers as I typed into the search bar: “Can I see a guy I am dating during the COVID-19 crisis” and “Are people going to their non-live-in boyfriend’s homes during the quarantine?” I found some funny stories about women moving in with men they barely know just to have a pandemic partner. And there were clever ideas for virtual dating (cooking the same recipe together) over Zoom. But I didn’t find any answers about my unique situation. It appeared that women and men nationwide were buying into this new world of virtual dating.

The truth is, I didn’t want a virtual date. I wanted to find a website that said, “Single women matter and this pandemic just might be hardest on the singles of the world, so if you want to go see that hottie, you can do it and do it guilt-free.” I wanted permission. I wanted no judgment. I wanted to know that if I did go see my hottie, no one would think I was an awful human being risking the safety of others (my kids included) for one night of what I had hoped would be great companionship.

Come over for dinner tonight?

And as I read the words of his text, I knew that there was nothing Google could generate that would take away my anxiety. There were no words that would grant me the permission I needed to say yes. Deep down, I knew this wasn’t at all about what I wanted or deserved. This wasn’t about just my kids or what other people thought, and definitely not about my handsome match from Bumble. This was about something greater. Something scary. Something powerful and out of my control. Something deadly.

My anxiety (or intuition) was my answer. I knew that my dating life had to be put on hold — or, at least, tabled to Zoom for the time being. And I knew that if this guy was worth dating at all, he would understand.

And so, we had the COVID talk. While I was more cautious than he, he understood and respected my decision, and for now we text. I haven’t taken the leap to virtual dates, and I am not sure I ever will. Let’s see how long this crisis lasts, shall we?

Everyone is making unique sacrifices during this crisis — all for the greater good of humanity. And that, my friends, is a wonderful thing. Just as I have put my dating life on hold, my children have put their sports (and social) lives on hold. Friends have put their beloved weekly visits to see their parents on hold. Employers have changed priorities, and small-business owners have put their dreams on hold. We are all making sacrifices and adapting to a new normal that we hope and pray doesn’t last all that long.

As my quest for real life and old-fashioned, romantic love has been put on hold, I have found love at the core of this national pause — a love for life as we knew it and a love so strong for each other that we continue to make sacrifices both big and small for the unforeseeable future. It may not be easy, but it sure is beautiful.