Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to treat yourself — opt for dark chocolate and get those happy endorphins flowing — fire up your keyboard and locate some love.

We asked three professional Maine matchmakers their advice on dating during the pandemic.

To Zoom or not to Zoom? Maybe.

Bumble? Hinge? Yes and yes.

Give up? Don’t even think about it.


“First of all, I just want to go on record as saying that, boy this has been hard for single people,” said Jill Hinckley, founder of Hinckley Introductions.

Between which platform to choose and staying safe, it’s tough out there.

She remains, though, a romantic optimist: “I’ve heard amazing stories, lots of love stories, about people meeting each other online right now.”

Which gets to the first bit of advice . . .


When it comes to meeting strangers, bars, gyms, grocery stores and the usual “Hey, could you reach that volume of Proust for me?” are out.


But there’s good news in the bad.

“People who wouldn’t normally be online are online now, so it’s a really good time to learn how to use those sites,” said Hinckley.

She pointed to the Match.coms, Bumbles and Hinges of the world. You’ve got the time on your hands to learn how to navigate dating apps and time to brush up your pics — unexpected silver linings, she said.

Breaking out in hives at the mere thought?


Ron Cater, owner of Matchmaker of Maine, said to think of his service as “a friend with hundreds and hundreds of single friends.”


“The professionals, the doctors, the lawyers, the business owners, the people that would never go online are coming to us because we’re very much of a time-saving mechanism for them,” he said. “I think a lot of them feel they’ve been cooped up the last six or nine months and they’re finally saying this is enough. (They) are very, very serious about wanting a committed relationship, it isn’t casual dating.”

His clients appreciate that someone has already been asked about their background, education, finances and politics (“which is a real buzz word these days,” he said of the latter).

Cater, Hinckley and Noreen Rochester, founder of Cara Matchmaking, all said that last March, April and May were very quiet for business — you could hear a single pin drop.

June brought a dating explosion.

“When the governor said personal services could reopen, my phone started ringing that day and I couldn’t believe it, because I was so scared that it was never going to pick up again,” said Rochester. “It was so busy and I’ve continued to be busy. December was my busiest December I’ve ever had.”



COVID-19 put a damper on do-I-kiss-him-or-her-at-the-end-of-our-date dilemmas and seems to have more daters wanting to take it slow as well as inviting a little introspection.

“It’s so different now,” said Rochester. “People are less and less inclined to say, ‘Oh, who’s next? Who’s next?’ They don’t necessarily want to get out there and meet 20 or 30 or 40 people. They’re letting me do my job, the way I want to do it, which is find their match.”

So more second dates than a string of firsts.

Also more soul-searching: What am I really after?

“What they’re telling me is, ‘Look, I want to find somebody that I enjoy, that I’m compatible with, that I can have a conversation with, because I’m in this house alone all day long,'” she said. “The emotional stuff, and the kindness and the decency, sense of humor, all those things are super important, more so, I think, than does a person ski every single Saturday or what’s their favorite restaurant. Sometimes those are criteria, but that’s kind of gone out the window in the last year. Everything’s changed.”

Dating coaches can be good for sorting that out before you even start dating, Hinckley said. “You might have been looking for a really masculine man who’s an extrovert and now you’re in a part of your life you may be looking for someone who’s more introverted and spends more time with you.”


Or maybe he or she had to be a perfect 10 before. Now, maybe, a 9 would be pretty great.

“I think people are getting a bit more — thankfully — realistic and realizing that there’s no perfect person out there,” Cater said. “People are being a little bit more flexible. . . . They’re being cautious, they’re spending maybe a little bit more time on the phone with each other, chatting a little bit. ‘How are you feeling? Do you have a fever? Have you had your COVID shot?'”


Walk your dogs six feet apart. Hike six feet apart. Cross-country ski six feet apart.

You get the picture.

“In the warmer weather, I had more picnics happening than I’ve ever heard, it was amazing,” said Rochester. “People that had never been on picnics before in their lives, which I can’t even imagine.”


She and Hinckley are split on Zoom dating: Rochester’s liked it for speed dating events but less so for one-on-one.

Hinckley, though, has seen people use it successfully, for instance buying the same ingredients and then cooking the same meal for a romantic, distanced dinner, or watching the same show and talking to each other during commercial breaks.

“A lot of people know how to use Zoom for work, but they don’t know how to use Zoom for their personal life,” she said. “You’ve got to really make sure you put a different hat on. You don’t want to sit there and interview somebody like you’ve been doing all day.”

Think relaxed. Think glass of wine.

Think, I can do this.



The consistent, parting advice from each expert: Keep putting yourself out there.

“I think that there’s tons of people looking for love right now,” said Hinckley. “People are in and out of relationships and meeting new people and looking for ways to meet new people. The next few months, it’s going to be so fun, because we will be outside again, some people will be vaccinated. I just think it’s going to be such a celebration when we’re all together again.”

And from Rochester: “I don’t think people should give up hope. It’s important to get out there and do something outdoors, have fun. Approach dating carefully and cautiously, but open your heart. People seem to be doing that more now than I’ve ever seen.”

Cater said January tends to be his first- or second-busiest month of the year with singles reaching out after weathering Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s solo.

“Valentine’s Day and the holidays are especially a time of year when people are more sensitive to being alone versus with someone,” he said. “It’s a good time to wade in when you’re mentally and exceptionally available to have somebody in your life.”

Comments are no longer available on this story

filed under: