'Isolating together after two dates – but we don't have a future'
Quarantine is changing how people date – from moving in together quicker than planned, to relationships being put on hold
Since lockdown began, the idea of quarantine dating has become a popular talking point online.
From dates taking place over the phone or Zoom, to couples fast-forwarding their plans to move in together so they're not apart during the lockdown period, quarantine dating – and how it's changed our love lives – is one of the more light-hearted and unexpected results of us all having to stay inside.
This is something I know about first hand. On Friday 13 March, just before lockdown was officially announced, I went on a date with a man I met on the dating app Hinge. We already followed each other and chatted on Twitter, so despite never having met in person, I felt like I knew him a bit already.
We met up again over the weekend. On Monday morning, when he turned to me and asked if I wanted to quarantine with him at his flat, I thought he was joking. The journalist part of my brain also thought it would make a great story.
Almost a month later, we're still living together, in a set-up I jokingly christened #isolationandchill. It feels like we've lived a six-month relationship over four weeks.
We've talked about things that would never usually come up this early, had arguments that feel way too intense for the short time we've been together, and seen each other's less-than-appealing personal habits as we get more comfortable around each other.
We're not the only ones. My situation led me to wonder how quarantine was affecting other people's love lives, for better or worse.
I spoke to three women navigating this strange new world of dating.
Kellyn, 33: 'I don't think we have a future'
"I'm from the US – I quit my job in December to go travelling. I was in east Asia but when the coronavirus started to get worse in China in early February, I decided it would be more sensible to go to Europe. I went to Malaga, as I wanted to try and brush up on my Spanish.
"I went on two dates with this guy, and I was due to move on to Madrid. He told me, 'You can't go to Madrid right now, it's starting to quarantine. I have two bedrooms, two bathrooms, just come move in with me.' I thought he was joking at first, but things had gone pretty well on our dates.
"Since moving in together, things have moved very fast. We've learned a lot about each other and our families and it feels like we've been in a three-month relationship already. But we've been really kind and respectful to each other, and being more like really dear friends than romantic partners.
"It feels like when the romantic partner stuff comes in, it gets a little bit rockier – there was a weird moment where I was talking to another guy I'd met in Madrid, and he was like, 'Oh, how's the guy in Madrid?' We've known each other two weeks!
"But at the same time, when he's on WhatsApp, I wonder who he's talking to.
"We had a fight, and when we argued I could hear us both bringing baggage from past relationships. I was saying, 'You never listen!' and he was saying, 'Why are you always like this?' But it isn't really about us – it's about how we've been hurt in the past.
"He's a little less careful hygiene-wise than me – both times that we've been to the shop, I've seen him touch his face, and he didn't wash the groceries properly. I think he's less neurotic than I am!
"We have been dancing and hugging, but as far as the long-term goes, I don't think we have a future. He wants to have children and is more traditional than I am – I've never wanted to have kids. But it is going to be weird when the lockdown stops and we're apart."
BBC Three spoke to Kellyn in late March. Since then, the relationship has broken down and she's moved out.
Molly, 22: 'I’ll come out of this disowned or engaged'
"I met my boyfriend, Stu, in May last year, through friends. We were living separately in different flat-shares in east London, but had planned to move in together in the middle of the year. That was brought forward by the quarantine – we thought it was best to move all our stuff out of our flats and to his parents' in Essex.
"We were both in flat-shares with creative people who'd all be working from home, so when we heard the lockdown was coming we decided it made sense to go to a bigger place.
"We're lucky Stu's parents have got a big attic room to store our stuff, and a lovely garden for when it gets warmer. The hardest thing has been being away from my family – I'm from New Zealand.
"Usually I know I can hop on a plane to see them and be there within 24 hours, but with that option taken away, my family feel a lot further away.
"I have a tendency to shut down a bit when I'm stressed or frustrated so I've had to learn to turn that off, but so far it's going really well and Stu is making me laugh a lot. His parents are lovely – I've only ever spent a night or two here before, so his mum says she feels like she's learning a lot about me very quickly.
"I love cooking but his dad doesn't like half the stuff that I like cooking, so that's funny to work around as well. I joked that by the end of this I'd have forced him to like aubergine!
"I also joke that I'm going to come out of this either disowned or engaged. I had a bit of a moment with Stu when he wouldn’t let me go and buy vegetables, and I had to remind him I'm still legally allowed to do that!"
Rosie, 24: 'I don't know where I stand'
"I started seeing a girl a couple of months ago. We were taking things very slowly because we didn't want to rush into anything.
"We were on the cusp of having the conversation about taking it to the next step before the lockdown – we were seeing each other regularly, and I'm sure the conversation would have come up. But now we can't see each other, I'm not sure where I stand.
"Normally we'd see each other once or twice a week but now we can't have in-person hangout time, it's got a bit more intense with the messaging and we've been having video calls.
"We've talked about making plans after this is over but we haven't discussed a relationship status.
"I don't think either of us are too concerned with that, because we're happy with how it is and how it was progressing, but now there's a sense of stasis – can it keep progressing if we can't see each other for possibly months on end?
"It's keeping me on my toes, but I'm trying not to worry. The whole situation is so surreal, and I'm trying to wrap my head around the way the world is right now, so dating feels like less of a priority."