Coronesty: life is too short for awkward dates in a post-pandemic world
In the current dating landscape, people are being more honest and upfront about what they want from potential relationships
words Patrick Heardman
We may be long past the height of the coronavirus pandemic, but the shockwaves of its sudden, and prolonged lockdowns are still being felt across society. It would only be natural to assume that living under unprecedented social restrictions for the best part of two years would have a profound and enduring impact on people’s emotional state, how they perceive themselves, and how they interact with others.
Much has been written about the pitfalls of navigating dating in the midst of the pandemic from going on dreaded Zoom dates, awkward socially-distanced walks, and how to actually hook up with someone when you’re legally obliged to stay two metres apart at all times (unless you are housemates, which opens up a whole different can of worms).
But what is now following the immediate trauma and inconvenience of these bizarre parameters are the longer-term impacts - emerging from a highly-stilted dating environment, people found themselves having moments of mental clarity, where they just wanted things to be more real, to be honest, less contrived.
Introducing the phenomenon of ‘coronesty’, people’s increasing desire for more honesty in interactions with others, with themselves, and what they want from a romantic relationship.
It was widely reported that the pandemic caused spikes in break-ups and divorces as living in close-quarters eventually took its toll on many couples - leading British law firm Stewarts reported a 122 per cent increase in divorce applications between July and October of 2020 compared to the same period the previous year. For others not living in the same household, the distance forced between them during lockdowns became too much to reconcile once restrictions were lifted.
Similar to the ‘Great Resignation’ - where large swathes of the population quit their jobs during lockdown to pursue something more meaningful to them - this sudden influx of recently divorced/recently single people into the dating market are now much more considered and active with their choices, keen to find a true soulmate and not waste any more time with people who are not perfectly compatible.
“Since the pandemic, I’m getting so many clients that have turned their backs on dating the wrong people,” London-based dating and relationships coach Rachel New tells me. “Before, a first date that was only so-so might have led to a second date, but now they’re moving straight onto another first date. And further down the line, life is too short to waste on being in the wrong relationship. They know from bitter experience that once you get into one it can take years to get out again.”
As a result, post-pandemic dating is “more intentional,” New tells me. “People are less likely to take a passive approach: in the past, they might wait around for the other person to message them about whether they want a second date, letting the other person decide. Now they will message themselves and be confident about saying ‘I’d love a second date’ or ‘I enjoyed our date, but I don’t think we’re right for each other’.”
“In the past, women might have been less likely to take the lead, thinking that is what men preferred,” New says. But the current levels of proactivity and intentionality now “apply to both men and women”.
But it’s not simply about analysing the person you’re dating and whether or not they are right for you, New argues, instead, this new approach comes from a renewed appreciation for self-love and self-care. “Research shows that being more mindful of and compassionate towards our own needs is more important than self-esteem. Post-pandemic dating is about knowing what our triggers are and where they come from and being able to soothe ourselves. Then we don’t need to be reliant on others for feeling good and coping with the ups and downs of life, which is a really good basis for relating to others.”
Echoing this focus on the self, the Los Angeles-based certified sex educator Suzannah Weiss believes that the pandemic has made people more comfortable being alone. “Many people have been surprised to realise that they can, in fact, go months and maybe years without any romantic or sexual connection and be absolutely fine. People have found other things to fill their time, like new career-related projects and hobbies. So, they're less willing to sacrifice their time and energy for someone who isn't right for them. Instead, they're wanting to be clear on what they want and limit their interactions to those who can provide it.”
This all sounds very practical, logical, and sensible. There is only so much time you can invest in awkward silences on doomed first dates. Why not, instead, focus on yourself instead of fumbling your way through a difficult conversation. But is it healthy to dismiss other people so quickly? Is it right to think that time spent with someone you don’t immediately connect with is time wasted? Often making connections with people over the long term can be extremely rewarding.
Surely there is a threshold beyond which modern ideas of self-care and self-love become agents for driving people apart, making them feel more isolated and less connected to a community? We’ve all heard of the trend of removing toxic energy from our lives and ‘cutting out toxic people who don’t benefit us’ but surely this approach, in the long term, can help to create a more intolerant society where people are not willing to help friends, family and potential partners through difficult periods.
For Sarah Louise Ryan, international matchmaker and dating and relationship expert, people are simply being more transparent than ever before about what they want in dating, in the bedroom and in their love life, and that’s a good thing. “Singles have felt the fragility of time in dating and I’ve heard so many talk about how disconnected they feel from what they truly desire that they have taken stock of what they do want and aren’t afraid to communicate it.”
“The modern dating landscape before the pandemic was confusing and so many singles complained of dating burnout. I believe, whilst I don’t enjoy the term because “corona” no doubt makes the brain jump to negativity, is actually a good thing so singles can stay on track to attracting what and who they want into their love lives.”
Ultimately, ‘coronesty’ is a good thing, Ryan argues, as people are more easily able to avoid sinking time, energy, emotion into sexual experiences with people who had other interests to them. “Whilst coronesty might feel very cut and dry on the dating landscape it means that both people are clear about what they want and if they don’t align they can continue the search until they connect with someone with whom they have both chemistry and the same intentions as they connect.”