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Romance through COVID-19 proves difficult, worthwhile for many

Dating during the pandemic is no easy task, and the same can be said for those in committed relationships.

Whether someone is looking to date or has been married for decades, COVID-19 has presented unique challenges. Quarantine and isolation can be stressful on a relationship, but that has not stopped many from kindling new relationships, and for others, rekindling their love for one another.

Friends become partners

Desiree Regillo and Ryan Alexander, both graduates of WVU, had been friends for a while before they started officially dating in July.

Alexander said he didn’t have a lot of hesitation when it came to meeting up with Regillo, because he felt that she was being safe during the pandemic. 

The two always made sure to hang out in their own apartments when they did meet up, where they would get takeout and watch horror movies.

Desiree Regillo and Ryan Alexander, WVU graduates.

Regillo said she feels the pandemic has made her relationship with Alexander different from others she has had. They have to come up with unique ways to safely replicate dates.

“To put it in perspective, there hasn’t been a time in our relationship where we could go to the grocery store without wearing a mask,” Alexander said.

Regillo said the two see each other every weekend because Regillo doesn’t live in Morgantown, and during the week they are able to have time to themselves and give each other space. This allows Alexander to stay up late and play Xbox, which he enjoys, and Regillo to spend time with her family.

“I know tempers can flare when you’re cooped up with someone, a significant other. You have to take pauses wherever you can find them,” Alexander said.

Regillo and Alexander both said they are fortunate to have one another during the pandemic. They provide support for each other through good times and bad, such as neither of them were able to have a proper graduation from WVU, and Regillo started a new job and applied for graduate school.

“I didn’t expect to find a boyfriend during all this, but I’m glad I did, because I couldn’t imagine passing these huge milestones without [him],” Regillo said.

Falling in love all over again

María Pérez found a silver lining in quarantine — it allowed her to fall in love with her husband, Erik Rader, all over again.  

“It has helped highlight aspects of who he is that really make him the perfect partner for the challenges of the quarantine and the pandemic,” said Pérez, a Morgantown resident. 

(Left to right) Bianca Lucía, Carmen Elena, María Pérez, Andrea Sofía, Erik Rader and their dog, Gunner, hike the Rock City Trail at Coopers Rock State Forest. Pérez and her family uses the additional time they have in to explore new places.

Pérez and Rader met in 1994 in a calculus class at the University of Michigan. She said she was attracted to him the first day they met.

“He was sitting a few rows in front of me and he corrected the teacher,” she said. “He just came off as a total nerd in a good way.”

She later learned they lived in the same residence hall, and chatted with him occasionally. She started to think he was not as interested in her, and started dating someone else.

After graduating, Pérez and Rader got back into contact. It didn’t take long for them to start a relationship.

On one of their first dates, Rader told Pérez he thrives through structure and balance. This includes making time for family, work, exercising and relaxing every day. Pérez said the pandemic has highlighted how powerful that mindset can be.

Time spent together in quarantine has also taught Pérez new things about Rader, including his ability to teach. She said he always steps in to help their three children, Bianca Lucía, Carmen Elena and Andrea Sofía, with schoolwork. 

“Oftentimes, he does it with humor and he makes Bianca laugh while doing math,” Pérez said. “Just me observing that makes me very thankful.”

Pérez said she recognizes the privileges her family has had throughout the pandemic, including job and housing security. She said those safeguards have played an important role in keeping her marriage strong.

“Don’t get me wrong, we have days that are very tough,” Pérez said. “I don’t want to deny in any way that it has been an incredible challenge and a horrible tragedy for millions of people around the world, but there are also silver-linings.”

Learning to love herself

Elizabeth White, a Morgantown resident, said she didn’t use dating apps much before the COVID-19 pandemic, and not much has changed since it started. 

However, she said when does use dating apps – Tinder is her go-to – she finds herself matching with other users and not responding to their initial messages.

“I feel like I don’t know what to say anymore,” White said.

White said she thinks the pandemic has made it much harder to reach out to other people and socialize. She said she feels like she has lost some of her social skills, she criticizes herself more and she experiences more anxiety regarding social interaction.

“I know it’s not just a me thing,” White said. “I know a lot of people that have done it.”

White said navigating dating apps is difficult now because of social anxiety, but also because she thinks there isn’t much to talk about anymore since everyone is supposed to be staying home to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

 “[COVID-19] impacts it because you can’t really go on dates – well, you could, but you shouldn’t go on dates,” White said.

White said the pandemic has taught her to be independent and she doesn’t believe she needs a significant other, but she has still found herself feeling lonely at times.

White said she also believes many people her age are struggling with not being where society has dictated they should be at this point in their romantic lives because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“[A lot of us] feel kind of cheated,” White said. “I’m supposed to find the love of my life right now, and I’m not able to do that.”

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