"No Longer Looking for Love"... Lebanon’s Changing Dating Scene

Thursday 15 July 202101:01 pm
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"لم أعد أكترث للبحث عن الحب"... كيف تبدّل مشهد المواعدة في لبنان؟

This article is published by “Youth22” project, Raseef22’s journalists training program sponsored by D-Jil, a grant from the European Union supervised by CFI.

Carmen sent me more than twenty different photos of guys she’s seen on the Tinder dating app in the past few weeks. One had written under his picture: “A great guy from the day his mother gave birth to him.” Another wrote in his bio: “Your name will go down in history with the names of all the other great women in the world when you go out on a date with me,” while a third chose the phrase: “I am looking for an intelligent young woman/ Be the star of my world, I will keep my identity anonymous until you marry me.

“I lost all hope in dating,” says Carmen, a 21-year-old engineering student from Lebanon. “I completely lost hope because I understood, following many failed attempts, that the type of partner I am now looking for is rare.”

The young woman believes that searching for emotional stability — at a time when the distressed economic and political situation in Lebanon continues to deteriorate even further in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic — is next to impossible. Thus, she prefers to take it slow and postpone any hopes rather than force herself to resort to the available and easily accessible current emotional and romantic options.

“For instance, I now flee from the hasty young man that is indifferent to the deteriorating economic situation in Lebanon and from the young man that belongs to one of the parties in power, and the racist young man, especially after my political awareness evolved since the October 17 uprising.”

Around the world, romantic relationships have been greatly affected by the spread of Coronavirus. The virus changed the way people communicate, the frequency with which they enter new relationships, and the nature of their emotional and romantic choices. In Lebanon, the pandemic coincided with a severe economic and political crisis, which in turn have had a severe effect on relationships.

“I now flee from the hasty young man that is indifferent to the deteriorating economic situation in Lebanon and from the young man that belongs to one of the parties in power…”

Jad (pseudonym) is an Economics student. He says that he lately hasn't been paying attention to anything but a key factor when looking for a partner, and that it is how much he feels secure concerning health safety, “I’d rather meet a superficial person who took the coronavirus vaccine on a date that is located far away, than meet someone who is closer geographically but not safe.”

The 23-year-old gay young man residing in the Chouf region was previously looking for sexual partners that were geographically closer to his place of residence first and foremost, while also taking into account good looks, physical fitness, and age. But today the situation is much more different, “I felt that trying to find a balance between my love life — which I wanted to be stable — and my volatile mental and psychological state due to my anxiety about the virus was a heavy burden on me, so I no longer intend to search for love.”

The Scourge of the Deprivation of Touch and Love

Clinical psychologist Lea Harb believes that it is necessary to distinguish between different emotional personalities when talking about the impact of social isolation as well as the economic crisis that Lebanon is witnessing on the youth’s emotional and romantic choices.

According to Harb, some become more selective in their search for love and even start having heightened social anxiety, while others start acting the complete opposite, as “they feel extremely eager for any kind of romantic relationship or friendship, so much so that they rush towards anyone who shows them even the slightest affection — even if they usually wouldn't be attracted to that person under different circumstances — in order to prove to themselves that there is someone who cares for them even in times of crisis.”

Psychologist Soraya Sarhan agrees with this and points out how reckless emotional decisions have recently spread during the pandemic among individuals due to increasing boredom, emotional and sexual suppression, and of course, in order to feel love.

This semi-instinctive rush towards easily-available emotional and romantic choices is accompanied by an increase in the phenomena known as “emotional hunger” and “touch starvation” in psychology, since the impact that social distancing and lack of physical touch have on people — along with the feeling of inadequacy that they generate within them — cannot be underestimated.

Sarhan says, “A person is always seeking out the sensation of being loved, desired, and appreciated, and thus feels loss if he does not have physical contact with others around him.” She adds that the issue takes on additional dimensions in “a culture that places great importance on touch in the communication of people with one another.”

Elise, a 21-year-old nutritionist, says she doesn’t bother anymore or care about looking for love the way she used to, but that doesn’t mean that she has stopped looking for a partner. Before the pandemic began, she used the Tinder dating app intermittently, but then became much more active on it following the total lockdown.

But the people she meets virtually do not appeal to her enough to commit to a romantic relationship with them. “I threw my criteria when it comes to choosing a partner out the window,” she says with a laugh, “and met some who I liked back on the app, but naturally, I did not end up liking any of them.”

Elise was previously looking for a partner who is “understanding, caring, affectionate, diligent in his work and has the same sense of humor.” “Just like all the clichés,” she says in a sarcastic tone, “and I had very high criteria when it came to emotional attachment, especially since I am a very selective person and do not see myself being able to get along with just anyone if I do not feel that we are compatible when it comes to our energies.” She now however prefers to limit her communication with young men to just “discussing subjects that are superficial without delving into the details of their personal lives.”

She goes on to clarify, “Now I am not saying that I have given up searching for these virtues, but I also do not seek to adequately get to know the virtues of any young man.”

In parallel with the increasing search for momentary and fleeting relationships to compensate and temporarily fill the emotional void in their lives, Harb noticed that some of the ones who visit her clinic are among those who have become afraid of the idea of commitment or staying in a romantic relationship because of the economic hardships that they are going through, which keep them from being able to plan for a stable and sustainable future, especially the youth who are expected by the traditional society in Lebanon to “buy a house, get married and start a family”.

Post-Corona... The Spread of ‘Slow Love’?

Within the increasing analysis in the media about the changing scene of love and relationships post Covid-19, there are those who believe that the rules imposed by the pandemic on relationships will remain in place and that this latest period will have long-term effects on our emotional and romantic relationships, while others suggest that people will gradually return to the old routine when it comes to relationships.

According to Harb, social distancing will have an impact on the romantic lives of some in the long run, “Many will feel more social anxiety when they begin dating again in the post-pandemic period, due to the decrease in their self-love during a period of social isolation and complete dependence on social media exclusively in order to communicate.”

Sex is no longer the priority in the minds of many people emerging from seclusion, but rather their longing for friendships, is.

Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist who studies dating trends and the evolution of the concepts of love and marriage, coined the term “slow love” to express the increasing tendency of contemporary and modern humans to spend more time getting to know a potential partner before engaging in a serious romantic relationship. She expects the Covid-19 pandemic to contribute to a wider spread of this phenomenon, and thus enhance the stability of marriages in the future.

Fisher bases her analysis on a survey that was conducted on users of the well-known American dating site ‘Match.com’, which showed that respondents are spending more time in their conversations with a potential partner, having more meaningful conversations, while 69% of them say that they are now more honest, especially in light of the excess romantic choices available in online dating.

Yet the most interesting change of all is in the increased interest in platonic relationships and friendships — something that dating apps have noticed with their users. According to the founders of Tinder and Bumble, sex is no longer the priority in the minds of many people emerging from seclusion, but rather their longing for friendships, is.

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