‘When Eric first suggested that we move in together, I thought it was crazy’, Sarah*, 29, said ‘but I knew that if we didn’t live together I might not be able to see him again.’
Sarah, who recently moved from Tanzania to her home country Canada, found herself in a predicament after she began dating her now-boyfriend,Eric, who she met on Tinder in early March. Fast forward just two weeks later and Eric and Sarah found themselves living and working together in Toronto - their relationship fast-tracked due to the lockdown announced in Canada to curb the spread of coronavirus. Their decision to move in together came about due to Eric’s job, as he is an ER nurse and is at constant risk of being exposed to the virus. They realized that they wouldn’t be able to carry on seeing each other if they lived separately, as there was a chance they could pass on the virus to others if one of them became sick.
As Eric was looking into getting a new short-term apartment, he suggested to Sarah that they live and quarantine together for a few months: ‘we spoke about the risk of living together, as he could get the virus because of his job and then give it to me. It was a hard decision to make, but the thought of not being able to see him again was sad. As we are both young and healthy, the risk of us getting seriously ill is low. There is so much unknown at the moment, but what we did both know is that we liked each other and made each other happy.’
The coronavirus has transformed many aspects of our lives, and with the majority of countries practicing social distancing or lockdown rules, this has also meant a big change for dating and relationships. For some, it has meant doing long-distance, for others, it has sped up the dating process, and for those who are single, it has changed the way online dating and dating apps are used.
Sarah shared: ‘It’s been unlike any other dating experience I’ve had before. It’s the first time I have lived with a boyfriend, but it has been great so far. We are finding a lot of security in being together as there is so much uncertainty right now. Having someone to lean on emotionally when I can’t spend time with my friends has been important.’
While some have found love during this time, other couples have faced challenges, moving their usual face to face dates to online interactions. Sekela, 26, has been with her boyfriend for two years. And while they both live in Dar es Salaam, due to the coronavirus, they haven’t been able to see each other for weeks. As Sekela’s boyfriend is still going to work, they have decided not to meet until the situation has calmed down. Instead, they are keeping in touch through regular phone calls, watching the same films and reading the same books. ‘I miss our dates! Every Friday we would watch the sunset at Coco Beach, and go to different restaurants during the week. Now we communicate on the phone, we usually talk during the day and in the evening we pray together. It gives us both strength.’
Despite its challenges, Sekela shares how the new situation they find themselves in has brought them closer: ‘Now that we are both going through a difficult time, we can see that we can rely on each other, it has given us an opportunity to build the relationship and make it stronger. It has changed us, but I think for the better.’
The pandemic has similarly caused couples to put their plans on hold. Lydia Charles, 26, and Yemurai Nyoni, 30, have postponed their wedding, which was supposed to take place in early May, in Zimbabwe, where the groom is from. Due to the travel restrictions in place, it is impossible for their wedding to go ahead, and they are now doing long-distance from Zimbabwe to Tanzania, not knowing when they may see each other again.
‘I last saw my fiancé at the end of March. I went to visit him in Zimbabwe for two weeks, and towards the end of the trip, the number of cases of coronavirus was increasing and countries were announcing lockdowns. My flight got cancelled back to Tanzania. I thought about staying with my fiancé, but I had to come back to Dar es Salaam as my business is here.’
‘It was a difficult decision. Now I don’t know when I will see him again with the travel restrictions and safety measures in place. We had been planning the wedding for months; it has been stressful adjusting everything with the vendors – the photographer, the caterers and the venue. I can’t give them a new date for the wedding because we don’t know when this is ending.’
Having already been in a long-distance relationship with her fiancé for several years, Lydia and Yemurai say that communication is key: ‘We speak regularly, and try to be part of each other’s day. Sometimes you have less to talk about because every day is similar during lockdown, so we try to be more creative and find other ways to have dates.’
In a matter of weeks, the global pandemic has transformed relationships and dating, with couples navigating the new social distancing and lockdown rules. One thing is for sure, in this time of uncertainty, human connection has become ever more important. Sekela muses: ‘We need to use this positively, we have to make sure we are there for each other, and use the opportunity to build our relationships. Staying home is difficult, but by doing that we are protecting ourselves for the people we love.’
*Not her real name.