In the past, dating options were mostly limited to people you knew from your school, work, and social circle. Now, in the age of the Internet, you can connect a lot faster. A study published in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reveals that more than a third of marriages begin online. While there isn’t that chance of knowing if there is physical chemistry right away, online dating allows people to go at their own pace, rule out people whose views and values are not a good match, and get to know each other before agreeing to meet.
I don’t have personal experience with online dating, but I did have a hand in helping my mother-in-law, Lori, with her online experience. I was surprised when she approached me because she had been divorced for over 20 years and never expressed interest in dating. Secondly, aside from e-mailing, Lori didn’t do much online, so it was definitely outside of her comfort zone. I happily accepted the challenge.
The thing about putting yourself out there is being comfortable with who you are. I noticed in photos that Lori didn’t smile and I asked her why. “I don’t like my smile,” she replied. I laughed and told her that wouldn’t do, because your online profiles is the first impression you present to visitors to your site. You have to give people the opportunity to want to know more. We agreed that I would be in charge of the photos. Lori got her hair done and I snapped photos in the back yard on a clear day. Yes, I made her smile. I just made sure it was in the right angle.
It turns out that taking chances on things, even when you’re not entirely comfortable, pays off. Within a few weeks, Lori went on dates. It was a whole new world for my mother-in-law. Suddenly, she had choices and different people interested in her and I think it boosted her confidence. Ultimately, the pay-off was meeting Chuck, her future husband. Within two years of her online adventure, she was ready for a new in-person one.
Although I was one that recommended the site, PlentyOfFish (www.POF.com), and Lori credited me with helping her with her love life, I never got the full story, so they both agreed to sit down for an interview about their experience. What I like about it is they are both reserved and not as into the online scene as some others, but they managed to use it to their advantage.
Chuck: I’d been doing it on and off for a few years. It’s convenient.
I look at my mother-in-law and realized I never asked her why she wanted to start dating after all those years.
Lori: The children were all out of the house, I had all this extra time. I guess I just got to a certain point where you realize, you want to share your life with someone.
Were either of you nervous about it being “online” dating?
Lori: Once I got settled in and you showed me how it worked, I was okay.
Chuck: I wasn’t nervous about using online sites, I was nervous about meeting people.
We laugh. Lori can be outgoing, but Chuck is quiet and thoughtful. I can see the anxiety as he recollects the earlier days of online dating.
Lori: Well there was that one scammer. That guy that wanted me to send money. I didn’t, of course. You have to be careful when you’re out there. But I don’t regret that experience, because when I was talking to him, before I knew he was a scammer, I started to regain some confidence. I learned to navigate and flirt again.
Chuck: to be honest, it was harder to find women my age who wanted to date a man with young children. Women my age want-
Lori: Money and freedom.
Chuck:… and I only have a little of both.
Lori: It’s funny, because all of the things Chuck was afraid to admit were his good qualities were all of the things I was looking for: Responsible person. Good father.
So? Who e-mailed first?
Lori: He messaged me with just one line.
He gets up to put his dishes in the sink, but Lori stops him with excitement.
Lori: Oh wait, you tell this story, I’ll get the dishes later.
She settles in to listen to the story again.
Chuck: I saw her picture and thought, I felt this electric shock, and thought-
Lori: This could be it.
Chuck: No, this could be good. I waited three days and couldn’t think of anything to say. My stomach was in knots and I thought if I didn’t send the right thing, I could blow it. So then finally, I sent an e-mail with just one line-
Lori: You seem like a very nice person.
They eye each other from across the table. I shoot glances from one to the other waiting for someone to say something.
So then what?
Lori: Well, I looked at his profile and it was very simple. It said very little. That he liked to go to used book stores, walking, and fishing. I thought, ‘What kind of puzzle is this?’
What did you think of his picture?
Lori: It was okay; kind of stodgy?
Chuck: Stodgy? I thought I looked cool and manly, no?
But they messaged each other back and forth for a month. Finally Chuck worked up the nerve to ask Lori to meet for coffee and she agreed. He asked if she’d like to talk on the phone first and she said, “No.”
She didn't want to ruin what they had with their back and forth on e-mail.
He replied by e-mail, “I know how you feel. I look forward to getting your e-mails. They’re like a gift.”
I pretended to be occupied with my tea as they stared into each other’s eyes while reminiscing. Chuck reminded Lori that he snagged all of their exchanges on PlentyOfFish and saved it before cancelling the account.
They decided to get married in a practical way. On a drive, Chuck said he was looking to buy a new home and he casually mentioned he was considering buying a home near Lori’s neighborhood. She knew what he was hinting. That evening, Chuck said, “I feel like you’re not my girlfriend. I feel like you’re my spouse.”
Lori wrapped one arm around him and said, “I like the sound of that.”
Not wanting to jinx their plans, neither one would say the word or phrase “engaged" or “getting married.” Instead they had a secret hand signal whenever they wanted to discuss wedding plans. For their special day, they decided it would be just the two of them. They knew they couldn’t invite some of the family without inviting everyone and they also knew that it would be a delicate situation because Lori is Jewish and Chuck is Catholic. A few months after the ceremony, they threw a reception for everyone to celebrate their union.
So how is it merging your lives together?
Chuck: It’s not bad.
Lori: We’re very similar. And we travel well together.
The two of them have been to California, New York, London, and Prague. They call their trips, “bohemian vacations.”
So it looks like online dating worked out for you.
Lori: When you want to meet someone you’ll try anything.
Chuck: You know a lot faster if you found the right person.
Lori: There’s a lot of luck to it.
Chuck: Online allows you to meet all sorts of people you wouldn’t meet otherwise. It’s all a chance. It’s happenstance.
Lori: A happenstance fluke.
Chuck: And I recommend it.