How I Met My Fiance on OkCupid: My Online Dating Love Story
I had been married..and divorced--twice--before I met the man who would become my future husband.
The "twice" part still mortifies me, especially the circumstances of the second go-round. The first marriage should have worked--on paper. We had met just as I was transferring to Northeastern University in Boston and he was moving to a Boston suburb to take a new job. When the company folded, he temporarily moved in with me while looking for work, which morphed into living together for 7 years before getting married. As a naive 26 year old, I used to tell people that after 7 years, we had already survived any challenges a couple could experience (religious differences, infidelity, death of loved ones, serious injury, etc), and therefore felt confident that the marriage would last.
Fast forward through 5 years of insurmountable stress, including infertility issues, his substance abuse, crippling depression and resulting unemployment, capped off by a surprise (and welcomed, by me) pregnancy--and we were done. Cooked.
Dating in the Dark Ages
Like countless other single parents, I learned how to juggle it all, and as my son entered pre-K, I woke from my parental fugue state with the suspicion that I might still be a woman underneath my mom jeans. I began to allow myself to dream about meeting someone amazing, and bought some new jeans.
Back in the day, personal computers weren't yet widely available or affordable. My scene wasn't trolling bars for the guy of my dreams, but I met men through friends of friends, and happily spent time with people in a music scene I was involved with. I had a couple of long-term relationships, but in the end, as great as they were, neither of them felt like someone I could envision myself spending the rest of my life with.
"So Why Don't YOU Try Online Dating??"
In about 2007, one of my favorite work colleagues had her head buried in her computer, and it was obvious that something interesting was going on by the way she kept minimizing her screen every time anyone walked past her desk. Laughingly, I confronted her about her suspicious behavior, and abashed, she confessed that had joined Match, and was now caught in a loop of obsessive browsing of the possibilities and checking for responses to her messages.
Intrigued, I hovered over her shoulder, fascinated by the cross-section of potential dates. However, as I read over the introductory messages she was sending out to potential dates, I cringed, and offered to do some quick editing. Within a week, we had re-done her profile narrative, and taken new photos under a cherry blossom tree behind our office, to better reflect the colorful, beautiful person she was. After some false starts, and many hilarious war stories, my friend did eventually meet her future husband and father of her children online, and told the story at her wedding.
Meanwhile, though, my now-married girlfriend kept urging me to try online dating myself. I knew myself well enough to know that it was all about the chemistry factor for me, and begged out.
Enter Pinot Noir
One Friday night, however, in a unexpected fit of self-pity and and maybe a bit too much red wine, I decided it might be okay to create a bare-bones dating profile so I could "just look". As I scrolled JDate, I was shocked out of my wine reverie as a small instant-message window zoomed into the corner of my screen, and began flashing an invitation to connect. It was there that I started communicating with a charming and handsome guy from Washington D.C (I lived in New York, only a couple of hours away), only...it turns out that I skimmed his profile incorrectly: Washington..as in Washington State...not D.C. But by the time I figured this out, I was already laughing at his jokes, and engaged in conversation with this smart, educated, self-employed father of two. Every day for weeks, the two of us would talk--first online, and later by phone, and finally on Skype, (time differences be damned) and in this way the initial chemistry issue was taken off the table.
Months later, as summer break was approaching at the school where I worked, he asked if I were feeling intrepid, and suggested that I come visit. Never one to turn down a trifecta of adventure, romance, and travel, I flew out to SeaTac and was swooped up by none other than the bi-coastal love interest. He was as vibrant in person as he was long-distance, and we both felt a strong connection. The next week flew by, and by the time he dropped me off at the departure gate, we knew that this could be a Thing.
Long Distance Romance and Mileage Plans
Long story short, fast-forward to many Alaska Airline miles accrued, as we took turns over the next year traversing the country, drinking far too many plastic cups of tomato juice in flight. In love, we (too soon) made the monumental decision to marry and to blend our families. Since he had a shared custody situation and a small business to contend with, it seemed to make the most sense for me to be the one to relocate to the West coast with my 14 year-old son and start the next chapter of our lives.
Never having lived together for more than 2 weeks at a time, mind you, it was a rude awakening over the next 3 years, as the many, many differences and problems between us emerged--and without going into details-- the marriage sadly failed. My now high-school aged youngster and I moved out of his home, and over the next two years I did an enormous amount of soul-searching, with a fair amount of self-flagellation. I chose to stay in Washington so my son could have some consistency, and so I could regroup. It would be an understatement to say I was embarrassed by my seeming lack of judgement.
Getting Back On the Horse
Never one to sit around and mope, I changed jobs, solidified some friendships, rebuilt my support system, got active, and explored the Puget Sound. During this time, the online dating world had practically exploded with options, as people got more technologically savvy and comfortable with the idea of meeting someone online. I started hearing from my single friends, one after the other, about a strange-sounding free dating site called Plenty of Fish, and another equally oddly named site called Okcupid. My friend Sara and I went out for coffee with our laptops, and on the spur of the moment, signed up for free accounts.
We tried Plenty of Fish, which seemed exciting until it seemed horrifying. We experimented with eHarmony (couldn't actually see any of the matches until you connected..uh..NO), and eventually tried a paid website, Match, and a free website with the strange sounding name of OKCupid. People, believe me when I tell you that the two of us have had every possible dating scenario play out for us, in both hysterical as well as devastating ways. We learned the hard way, on the front lines, how to protect ourselves, take charge of our dating lives, and recognize what was worth pursuing and when we needed to shut it down. We laughed a lot, and cried sometimes.
His profile photos: backyard, with a brown T-shirt and jeans, holding a steaming mug of coffee, and then another, with his young son, seated on the living room floor, with a slight, knowing smile on his face. I knew that face somehow, although we had never met. The profile narrative itself-- well..let's just say he is a writer. It was different than all the rest I had read. Funny, dry, snippets of interesting quotes and very honest. Not desperate. Not hungry. None of the typical, "I just want to find the woman to complete me" junk. A strong man who knew himself and his worth.
Some snippets of our first email exchange:
...Sounds like you will be in Seattle this weekend. Ocho in Ballard on Sunday, 3pm. Great place to knock back a few. Should you find me reprehensible, Ocho has no bathroom window for you to desperately wriggle out of. You have been warned.
Let me know.
And I responded:
I will indeed be in Seattle this weekend, and I will make my way to Ocho in Ballard, 3 pm. I could knock back a few for sure. If it is raining, I may wear my psychedelic rain boots. I may however, opt for my old kick-ass cowboy boots.
Sunday seems like a perfect day for this. You have been warned.
The Slow Burn
From the moment I walked into Ocho, and he stood to greet me, our eyes locked and loaded. Afternoon cocktails turned Into a walk to the Ballard Locks, to sushi dinner...to coffee. It was an amazing evening and the best date I ever had.
We had both been dating others, and continued to do so, but he had ruined me for "regular" guys. I decided that I would continue to date until he asked me for the sophomoric online equivalent of going steady: being exclusive. After I let him know that I couldn't meet him the following Friday, because I had been asked to go to Portland for the weekend by a guy I'd been dating, he invited me to meet up, saying he had something he wanted to talk to me about. I braced myself for the "I'm not ready to commit" talk. Instead, he told me that he wanted me to be his girlfriend, to date only me, and asked me if I would think about it and get back to him. Smiling, I told him I didn't need to think about it, that I accepted his offer, and that nothing could have made me happier.
It took longer than 6 months for him to tell me he loved me, although he confessed that he knew earlier. I respected and appreciated the fact that he was taking this seriously enough to let things really grow, and to be sure. We saw each other mainly every other weekend for a long while, which was simultaneously maddening and beneficial, giving us both time to really get to know each other and to also have our own lives. We took amazing trips, to Paris, British Columbia via ferry, California via romantic sleeper train, Tennessee to see Jack White play with the White Stripes, Key West, touring the Hemingway Estate, and so on. Eventually, we were able to live closer and see each other much more frequently when my contractor job for a military base ended.
The Dating Gurus Are Born
Somewhere in the middle of it all, we realized we were an OKCupid success story. He's a professional online writer, and I'm a clinical social worker who writes. We realized that the majority of online dating advice websites were complete schlock--junk, written and run by people just looking for commissions from advertisers, instead of real people who were passionate about relationships. We created TheDatingGurus.com in 2012, and have watched it grow. Every day we hear from people who are frustrated and looking for help, and nothing gives us more satisfaction than helping our readers negotiate the online and offline world of dating and relationships.
Real Life Happens
I have a young adult with special needs who lives with me full time for now, and he has a pre-teen who lives with him half the week. We each own our own homes about a mile from each other. We find that our arrangement works just fine for us.
We are deeply, madly in love. We don't have bills or underwear left on the floor to bicker about. We see our friends or have quiet time when the other has kid obligations. We speak in terms of "when we can eventually live together" instead of making plans to do so.
Today is our 6 year anniversary together. Happy Anniversary, baby!
Last month, in a complete surprise move, he proposed on the beach in Waikiki, lights sparkling from the surrounding vintage hotels, waves gently rolling in.
We've never been conventional, and will likely be living separately for the foreseeable future, which is just fine with me. One day, we will share space and time in a lovely home, but until that day comes, we're content with this love story.