They say that you often find love when you’re least expecting it, and there is no truer evidence for that than how I met my girlfriend.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit at the start of 2020 I decided it was time for a period of adjustment in my life.

Understandably it was going to be difficult caring for a vulnerable person, struggling with anxiety, and surviving lockdown, so I used the time to start to focus on myself.

I set out some of the ways I was dealing with my mental health in my last blog, but one of those ways was to delete the dating apps. After all, there seemed no opportunity to meet anyone new for the foreseeable future anyway.

I had been on several dates over the past year, and even tried my hand at speed dating. So I decided this year – or at least the start of it – was going to focus on me.

That seemed to have a positive effect, but it all changed halfway through when one evening I received a direct message on Twitter.

It wasn’t unusual to receive messages checking in with me during the lockdown, particularly as I’d spoken about my struggles before. But normally when a woman slides into my DM it’s someone from America, and they’re there to promote a webcam site.

So when Charis messaged it was different – not least because she was from the UK and her message wasn’t full of links.

I first followed Charis after seeing her witty remarks about Channel 4’s Five Guys A Week television show, a typically trashy dating programme which didn’t have a huge following. We’d engaged over the timeline in the past about shows like that, but we had never really spoken in detail.

We’re both big television fans

Until this point.

I won’t go over all the details, but we started speaking about our experiences of locking down – albeit in different parts of the country – and got talking about our lives which were strangely similar. There were no intentions on either side at this point other than a desire to speak to another human being during a different time.

As the conversations continued over a number of days, it became clear how we had so much in common. We had journalistic backgrounds, we liked the same sort of television, we had similar senses of humour, liked the same foods (very important) and most importantly we were both single and fancied each other.

I noticed she had also become instantly more eager after I mentioned I had a cat.

Heading to second base

Eventually, the conversations moved to Whatsapp – which I believe in the online dating world is like reaching the next base. As we shared more stories and found even more similarities in each other (including our birthdays being very close together and our dads sharing the same date), our strength of feelings towards each other grew.

In the back of my head I was expecting to find a deal breaker, something that went wrong. We bother wondered if the psychological effects of lockdown was simply hyping up the situation.

We started daily phone calls before also making video calls too. It felt like there was always something we could find to talk about, even when the reality was we were spending most of our days at home. We also started to finish each other’s sentences like something a sixth sense.

Being long-distance there was no opportunity for us to realistically meet and stick to the rules. Although plenty seemed to be flouting them for walks, outdoor picnics, or even sex, we wanted to make sure our first date was within the rules.

When we first got talking the bubble system didn’t exist, but we did say if the rules were relaxed we would meet up to see if the mutual attraction existed in the real world.

One of our first dates involved a trip to Cromer beach

First dates

Surprisingly we didn’t have to wait too long, we were able to meet up for a picnic in Norwich on a really hot day, which is when my fears that I’d be featuring on the post-pandemic series of Catfish were put aside.

After the nerves passed (it was her first-ever date) the conversation flowed, and so did the prosecco in the park (unfortunate, as we shortly after realised all of the public toilets were shut). It was a successful first date – helped by my good choice of snacks – and it led to many more weekends together throughout the summer.

As the pubs and restaurants reopened we got to enjoy exploring more of the counties we lived in, taking trips to the Norfolk broads, the Yorkshire coast, and seeing the bits in between.

As our feelings grew stronger, our weekends started to grow longer, and we eventually became official at the end of the summer.

Surviving the lockdowns

We navigated through the lockdown tiers, a second and third lockdown, and spending Christmas and New Year together.

Last month we celebrated our first Valentine’s Day, and a week later celebrate six months together, complete with some gold balloons off Amazon intended for a baby’s six-month birthday.

We celebrated with a French themed evening – complete with ambient music from a French cafe – and then appeared on Colin Murray’s Radio 5 Live programme to share our experiences of dating.

Surviving three lockdowns and celebrating six months together

We joke that in some ways this has all felt more like six years, because the lockdowns and bubble system has forced us to spend a lot of time at each other’s flats, and having to make our own entertainment while everywhere was closed.

It hasn’t always been plain-sailing – one struggle was losing my dad at the end of the year – but the fact we’ve been able to weather the pandemic has shown how strong what it is we’ve got together.

We are now both looking at the future out of lockdown, where we hope we’ll be able to enjoy a holiday, have a place of our own, and who knows what else the future might bring.

So what can singles learn from reading this?

Well, I hope this gives some hope. My advice would be to delete those dating apps and concentrate on yourself – because romance can come when you least expect it.

Read Charis’ account of dating during the lockdown on her blog

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Written by Jono Read
Jono Read is a 32-year-old writer from Norfolk. He is a social media manager and a journalist. He blogs about politics, popular culture, and marketing.