Martina and Tony
For Martina Piercy, 54, an occupational therapist from Wellington in Somerset, going into lockdown at the start of a new relationship was “really upsetting”. “We had been dating for six to eight weeks before the pandemic started, so the idea of either living with Tony or not seeing him was difficult,” she said.
Piercy and her partner Tony Rudd, 63, who works in a school and lives about 14 miles away in Tiverton, Devon, decided not to move in together as it was “way too early” in their relationship. “It was really hard,” she said. “Our relationship was blooming and then all of a sudden we hit a brick wall.” For a few weeks they kept in touch on the phone, but the stress of both of them losing the security of regular work meant planning a way they could see each other again.
In May, under the guise of daily permitted exercise, Piercy walked seven miles along muddy footpaths towards Devon. From Tiverton, Rudd cycled 11 miles along a towpath and the two met halfway. “It was so exciting to see each other and have a well-earned picnic lunch in a field,” said Piercy. “It was quite an adventure. We couldn’t resist having a surreptitious kiss and cuddle before saying our goodbyes. We felt like a couple of naughty teenagers.”
It was the only time the couple met during the first lockdown, but since then they have created a support bubble, meaning they can now see each other every weekend. “I think the pandemic has helped as we’ve had to put a lot of trust in each other very quickly. Our romance has gone from strength to strength and we feel so blessed to have each other.”
Cardiac surgery nurse Jo Woolerton, 48, from Leicester found herself extremely busy at the start of the first lockdown when she was redeployed to the Covid wards. “It was terrifying and crazy,” she said. “I tested positive for Covid and found myself alone, sick and writing a will on my cheap laptop, leaving all my worldly goods to my brother and sister.” She said she “didn’t want to die alone” so started online dating.
Having been single for three years, she found the first few months of dating “disappointing” until she met a man she thinks is “the one”. “I chose him for his strong biceps and beautiful smile,” she said. “ Like me, his working life had been turned upside down.”
They met in October and have since been “completely loved up”. “We had an unforgettable third date at his house, walking his dogs, eating pasta and drinking wine. At Christmas I spent 12 hours with nurses I didn’t know on a ward I’d never worked on with patients with Covid, and on Boxing Day I met his son and best friend.
“We have never been in a restaurant, booked a holiday or a hotel, but on New Year’s Day we told each other ‘I love you’. Covid brought us together and it’s been absolutely magical.”
Georgie and Max
English teacher Georgie Hanif, from Islington in north London, admits to not using a dating app before January last year. “For some reason, I didn’t like the idea of them,” said the 26-year-old. “However, I felt I was ready for a long-term relationship and wanted to meet someone different from the people I already knew, so I downloaded Bumble.”
Hanif spoke to a couple of people on the app before meeting her partner, Max Lowe, 26, who works at an advertising agency. “We ‘met’ in February last year,” she said. “We messaged and FaceTimed throughout the first lockdown for three months, and our first in-person date was a picnic in Hyde Park at the end of May. After that, we went on dates in restaurants and pubs when they were open, and we’ve had more time to get to know each other.”
In September the couple went on their first holiday together to Lake Como in Italy and in November “things were so good” they decided to move in together. “I’ve really enjoyed the experience of dating during lockdown,” said Hanif. “Things have progressed quite quickly, but in a nice way. Having Max by my side I’ve never felt so settled, content and able to face challenges with such fortitude. I can confidently say it’s been a lasting success.”
Isobel, a 32-year-old content marketer from south London, had just come out of an 18-month relationship at the start of the first lockdown. “The pandemic didn’t kill the relationship, but we didn’t live together and so weren’t able to see each other. That really solidified the end of the relationship for me, as I didn’t miss having that person in my life,” said Isobel.
When lockdown began to ease in June, Isobel downloaded the Hinge app and began speaking to a 36-year-old assistant director. “We seemed to have a lot in common – we were both renovating our places so would discuss this and share tips with each other,” she said. “It was really nice.” After a month, the pair went on a couple of socially distanced park dates, but their third date at a pub quickly became what Isobel describes as the worst date she’s ever been on.
“It started badly,” she said. “As soon as he arrived he left me on my own to make a 20-minute work call – one which he could have easily made before he arrived. He was also extremely rude to the staff at the pub, clicking his fingers at the waiters if they didn’t give him attention immediately.
“He was one of those men who just love to play devil’s advocate, and have a contrary point of view just for the sake of it.”
She said he “instigated a conversation about Harvey Weinstein, wrongly claiming the abuse went on for so long ‘simply because no one spoke up’. He also said some horrific things about sexual assault and race. He was too stupid to argue with, but I was able to calmly articulate everything wrong with his point of view.”
Since then, Isobel has been on a couple of dates with other people which she has enjoyed. “It hasn’t put me off dating, but I’m happily single and in no rush to be looking for something right now.”