Albertans looking for love again after pandemic isolation

Marni Panas is back on the market.

Panas recently ended a long-term relationship and now, at 50 years old, she’s navigating a dating scene that has drastically changed over the past two decades.

“The dating world is kind of new for me,” she said. 

“We didn’t have the Tinder, and we weren’t swiping and all these kinds of things. So that whole world is fun.”

More than two years’ worth of COVID-19 restrictions has made it tough for some single people to get a date, and strained many relationships.

But as society moves toward normality, many are seeking new love in various ways.

Many single people, including Panas, are using dating apps to try to find that special someone.

But with so much variety — from Tinder, to Bumble, to Hinge, among others — it can be difficult navigating the space.

“Some people are looking for casual fun and hookups, some people [are] wanting … companionship like friendship, and some people [are] looking for more intimacy in the long term,” Panas said. 

Some matchmakers told CBC News that clients are re-evaluating what they want out of their romantic relationships, and are focusing more on self-improvement.

“They say don’t go grocery shopping when you’re hungry — don’t date when you’re lonely,” said Krystal Walter, a matchmaker who works in Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto.

“It’s really more about finding somebody who they can just enjoy their time with rather than go through a checklist.”

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Susan Semeniw, president of Divine Intervention, a matchmaking service, predicts dating is going to evolve.

People are — and will likely continue — using dating apps, Semeniw said. But during the pandemic people either became more picky, or more open minded toward potential partners, and many across Canada, including in Edmonton, are eager for in-person events.

“Online is not going anywhere, especially for the younger generation, and it’s always going to be a tool or a resource,” she said.

“But real life is where chemistry and magic happens… It’s going to be a hybrid for dating going forward.”

Single and ready to mingle

In Edmonton, an old staple to the dating game is coming back: speed dating. 

Date n’ Dash Speed Dating Events runs speed dating and other singles events in the city. It started bringing back events in March; they’ve had many participants and have sold out some events. 

Many singles who show up appear frustrated by online dating disasters, said organizer Connie O’Boyle

“Every time you say online, they all shake their heads,” she said with a laugh. 

“They thank me very much for putting events together, and they’re just so happy to do this again.”

Many event-goers have had bad experiences online dating, including no-shows, catfishes — using fake photos or untrue information on a dating profile — and getting asked for money, O’Boyle said.

More divorces happening: lawyer

More people are getting out of the house — and out of relationships.

Jordan Crerar, a family lawyer with Crerar Badejo Hagen Family Law Group in Edmonton, said her firm is the busiest it has ever been, handling clients’ separations and divorces. 

In 2020, Alberta saw its fewest divorces in more than 40 years. Crerar partially credits this to the courts being closed. 

“The bottom line was that we could get no access to the courts,” she said. “Now, it seems to me that since there is access to the courts, things are moving much more quickly.”

Her firm is handling a mix of newer divorces, along with some that were put on hold amid the pandemic, she added.

“We had people who were kind of on a break from pursuing their whole divorce package during COVID. Now they’re like, ‘Let’s get going.””

The firm has recently started resolving issues outside of court through arbitration, to keep many divorce and separation processes moving forward.

Meanwhile, Panas is focusing on making herself happy.

“I love myself first, and that allows me to see the world in a different way,” she said.

But she isn’t closing the door on potential romantic connections.

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