Locked down and looking for love: How romance found a way during the COVID-19 pandemic

Courtney Courier and her now fiancé, Cameron
Courtney Courier and her now fiancé, Cameron. Photo credit Photo credit Courtney Courier
By , WWJ Newsradio 950

OAKLAND COUNTY (WWJ) Finding love during the pandemic? It's not that far-fetched.

As cases soared, lockdowns sheltered us inside and smartphones became our best friends, some people still navigated their way to romance despite coronavirus roadblocks these past two years.

Once pandemic boredom overcame Elise Schmitt, an Oakland University student, she downloaded the dating app, Hinge, where she happened upon Ryan, also an OU student.

After about two months of texting and FaceTiming, the two decided it was time for an in-person meeting.

During this time, Schmitt and Ryan were childcare workers, so they were among the first people to receive the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. This, along with checking for symptoms or exposure, made them feel safe enough to meet maskless.

“I think the pandemic gave me a new view on dating in terms of ‘hell, why not?'" said Schmitt.

Every Friday, the two would use Disney+ GroupWatch and FaceTime so they could enjoy a movie together, even when apart.

And when the weather warmed, she said they challenged each other to find outdoor activities so they wouldn't have to worry about exposure to the virus while on dates.

A man and woman hugging each other in front of flower mural
Photo credit Elise Schmitt

For Schmitt, she said this was her first long-distance relationship with someone she never knew beforehand -- and it worked for her.

“It honestly made the relationship so much more interesting and fun because we had to be creative with our date ideas and find the time to spend together, whether it was virtually or in person," said Schmitt.

But dating during a pandemic wasn't something that just fell into place for some. Cassie from Farmington Hills said the logistics of dating during this time were tricky.

“It was hard to meet up with a date because restaurants changed their hours, and oftentimes they were closed,” she said. “And you don’t want to meet some random dude at his house.”

Ryan Glumm from Bay City knew his current girlfriend for four years before things turned romantic during lockdown. He said a lot of their time spent together was outside or online, since going out to eat wasn't really an option.

A man and woman in front of neon lights
Photo credit Ryan Glumm

“We played Pokemon Go, shared music we both liked, went for walks and rode bikes,” said Glumm.

Michigan-native Courtney Courier, who now lives in Portland, Oregon, entered lockdown in a relationship that she said was essentially on its way out.

So she decided to adopt a cat and figure things out on her own.

“During the pandemic, things were still uncertain, so the last thing I wanted to do was enter into a relationship," said Courier.

She said that she didn’t know if she would even be able to keep living in her apartment, or if she would have to go all the way back home to Bay City.

But in the meantime of trying to figure out this unknown, she met up with a friend who recommended a social app called Clubhouse. Courier said that this friend knew how she was struggling during the lockdown as she is a people person who loves to talk.

Courier said she got onto the app because she was so deprived of social interaction that all she wanted was to just talk to people.

Courier likened the app to a school cafeteria, where everyone finds their own table. And once you do, you talk with those same people every day.

Courier was excited to find a room called “Come hang out with us," that was filled with people from Michigan, so she said she felt right at home.

“Out of that little rat pack of Michigan kids -- and some L.A. and New York people -- there was one Australian.”

It was that Australian, a young man named Cameron, who caught her attention.

Both of them were in the same boat: locked inside their homes and longing for interaction.

They left the group to start a private chat and eventually they traded numbers.

“We called each other and we never hung up the phone," Courier said. “I've never experienced this with somebody, nor have I ever dated somebody online in my life.”

For six months, they talked and got to know one another. Courier said the relationship felt very organic. She said they'd wake up and fall asleep together through FaceTime -- virtually hanging out 24/7.

“We would grocery shop together, we would cook together -- one time I saw him almost set his house on fire,” Courier laughed. “We would do little bath days. It was like we were doing things that you would do together -- but virtually.”

A man and woman FaceTiming
Photo credit Courtney Courier

She said it was more involved than any relationship she had in person.

Fast-forward to today, now they're engaged.

“Prior to the pandemic, in dating, you meet somebody, you sleep with them and you move in -- like that was normal,” said Courier. “And I love that this felt more like a courtship. We genuinely understood that we were giving each other our time. Because it's all we had.”

Courier noted this relationship helped her realize that time is the most important aspect of a relationship — not sex or gifts.

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Up until meeting her fiancé, Courier said she was against meeting people online, but now she said her ideas on it have completely changed.

"I think it's a great tool to get to know somebody; especially if you're somebody that struggles with setting boundaries in dating," said Courier.

But those virtual boundaries would soon turn into in-person ones, once the two of them took the step to bring him to the U.S.

A woman kissing a man on the cheek, both are wearing masks
Photo credit Courtney Courier

Because Australia wasn't allowing anyone to enter or exit, they both had to write an exemption letter to convince the government on compassionate and compelling grounds that he needed to leave the country so they could meet.

“We put our souls on the line for everything, for each other and for the process.”

And it worked. WWJ spoke with Courier, as her fiancé was sitting right next to her.

Their wedding is planned for March 20 in Portland, which she said will be small and attended by a couple friends.

“As cliché as it is, I thought that I was going to be alone forever, and the pandemic was going to last forever,” said Courier. “Be prepared to be surprised and you just might find your soulmate...just keep hope. Keep faith.”

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