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The importance of companionship

In this article, Anne Mayer looks at how online dating can help in times of coronavirus lockdown.

by Anne Mayer

With coronavirus lockdown in full force, online dating sites are apparently booming. People are lonely, even lonelier than usual, so why not look for a new mate? In the whole range of relationships, straight, gay, or other, when people seek to meet people they do not know and find someone immediately tempting; sex is usually part one of the package. Whether it grows into a fully-fledged relationship or dies quickly, the normal understanding, in times where people are allowed physical contact, is that you will have sex even before getting to know each other at all well.

What about companionship? We lonely widows and widowers and singletons of all ages are often looking for a new friend who is similarly alone. We want to meet that person with whom we can share trips to the theatre, meals out in restaurants, or ask to be our date at parties, someone on our wavelength who would like our friends and who shares our tastes. If we are over 70, we are not necessarily keen to display our bodies or our skills in the sack, but would love to share conversations and thoughts and ideas and a really good laugh.

These evenings out are not without risk. How will I tell my date that I am claustrophobic and have to sit on an aisle, that I have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and need to know where the ladies loo is located, that I am vegetarian and don’t drive – all those things that one’s husband, wife or partner knew all too well.

Even riskier than a one-night date, we would like to meet someone with whom we might travel, as travel is one of the most forbidding and scary of all aspects of life, when one suddenly finds oneself alone. Travel isn’t easy even with someone you know well. The first time my late husband and I went on a serious two-week holiday, not yet married but living together after years with other people, he seriously threatened suicide in front of a startled audience at a waterside restaurant in Cyprus after just one row too many.

Much more recently, when on holiday in Croatia, we met a couple who had met on a dating site and too quickly had gone off on a holiday together. We could see they were at serious odds in the way we had been all those many years earlier – because we did marry and settle down to be wonderfully good travelling companions – and she apparently threatened several times to take the next plane back to London (he told us in confidence when he took to going on day trips with us on days she refused to leave their hotel). We had dinner once with them back in London after what we had enjoyed as an amazing look at Dubrovnik and places of interest in Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia, and they were still together, so who knows

Of course, when you travel you cannot just go home in a huff and not meet again. You are stuck for one or two weeks and must make the best fist of it. But at least it provides a way you might want to travel. I, for one, most certainly would not like to land in Dubrovnik or anywhere else as an elderly, lone woman sightseer. I am not brave and have spent all but six months of my life as part of a family or half of a couple, and I am sure I speak for many.

Like a garden, companionship is something that grows slowly and must be nurtured. If that is your aim in forming a new relationship and the other person agrees, at least you are both heading in the same direction. Being a great friend and companion is a highly prized attribute whereas, to be honest, anybody can achieve a quick roll in the hay.

So maybe we should devise new dating websites for companions. Like-minded lonely people wanting friends for outings of all kinds, telephone conversations, email exchanges and sessions on Zoom. Now, so used are we to lockdown, these relationships could remain virtual and still work. But when/if we meet face to face, instead of physical chemistry there may well be attraction of a different nature. If, as the friendship develops and deepens you suddenly end up in bed, it’s just the icing on the cake.

Photo: by Carole Railton (copyright). "We lonely widows and widowers and singletons of all ages are often looking for a new friend who is similarly alone."

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