Six years ago I had just been broken up with and cheated on, and half a year before that I had done the breaking up with, both in relationships I saw lasting forever. I’m not just talking about having a wedding-related Pinterest board I spent all my time pinning to, I’m talking about the physical act of going ring shopping with a guy. I was serious, and I found myself doing serious things like that with men that were wrong for me because in truth, I was desperate to find a man I could marry instead of finding the man I should marry. Even though I was only 22 I had never wanted an immature, uncommitted relationship. Instead I had visions of a lifelong commitment and I didn’t want to wait until I was 30 to be granted that kind of stability. Unfortunately I was finding and falling in love with jerks that were completely wasting my time and giving me the exact opposite of what I wanted. So what did I do? I hired the internet to be my matchmaker, of course.
Ha! Sounds crazy when worded like that, but that is what millions of people are doing these days, and let me tell you, the internet isn’t doing too shabby of a job! I believed in it. I was this hopeless romantic that made up my mind one day that I was going to find my husband on a dating site. I was fresh out of college with a Bachelors in Visual Art but I didn’t end up with my M.R.S. degree like 75% of women from my college did (that percentage is not a real statistic, but I’m fairly certain it’s a close guess). I also didn’t go to bars, I already knew everyone at my church, and I figured there was no possibility of meeting new men in my social circles at that point in my life. The internet was like this whole new world of men I could look at, read about, analyze, and talk to before I had to risk wasting my time meeting them or falling for them. I thought, “What better way is there to filter out all of the types of guys I don’t want to marry and narrow it down to the type of guy I do want to marry?”
I still feel that way about online dating. It’s kind of like the difference between online shopping and store shopping. Store shopping is fun and all, but the one major aspect of shopping online is that handy-dandy filter option. You want a gray cardigan sweater in a size small? You can filter by type (sweater) style (cardigan) color (gray) size (small) and suddenly, all your options appear in front of you and all the clothes you aren’t shopping for disappear so as not to distract you. You don’t have that option in brick and mortar stores. It’s the same with dating. I think you get the analogy, right?
So once I decided this was my new method of husband shopping —it sounds bad but it’s accurate— I signed up for three different dating sites. I chose match.com, christianmingle.com, and eHarmony.com. I know most people just pick one, but I suppose I am a ‘go big or go home’ kind of person and in this case I went big by spending an embarrassing amount of time creating an account and answering very detailed questions about myself on all three different websites. Each one is pretty unique in terms of what they ask and how the matchmaking process is done. I didn’t pay for a subscription to match.com, but I paid for the other two because I decided I liked those two better. Annoyingly, Match would still send me e-mails with information about the men I was matched with, the annoying part being that I couldn’t message any of my matches unless I paid money. The truth is, I did not have an interest in paying for that site because there was literally only one match that caught my eye, and I figured paying money to message one man was putting quite a bit of pressure on that potential relationship before it even began. I did the only thing the site would let me do which was “wink” at him. How embarrassing. It’s like the match.com equivalent to Facebook’s “poke button” which everyone knows is only used by creeps. You get poked on Facebook and you usually either block the poker or just silently judge them, so I figured me winking at this cute guy was okay only because of the fact that we would never actually talk or meet; it was like getting a free pass to be a creeper and then run away without leaving a footprint. I never got back on the site. Over the course of the next 2 months I spent time dating and talking to men from the other two sites I was on but not getting anywhere meaningful with them. Come February of 2012, a whirlwind of life-changing events happened.
At this point five men were vying for my attention simultaneously and I went on a first date with four of them in the course of two weeks. Before you start judging me about how easy I sound, I’ll have you know that I never even kissed a single one; I met these guys at a mall restaurant or at coffee shops and the dates were nothing more than a couple hours of face to face conversation to gauge what might come of it. But honestly, dating in that manner started feeling like conducting interviews. Even though my original draw toward online dating was the amount of options I would have, I was realizing there were too many options. Too many guys were interested in meeting me and in order to give them each a chance, I was going on first dates frequently, essentially speed-dating, trying to determine after the first date whether I could see a future with them.
That is also when I started to get emotionally exhausted from this online method of dating. I am not someone who has ever dated multiple guys at one time, because in the “real world” (as in, not online) I had always met the guys I dated in a natural way that organically led to dating them exclusively. Online dating proved to be much different and more exhausting than organic dating because you get matched with dozens of suitors, which means you start to message back and forth with many people at the same time, it becomes this step by step process of messaging someone, meeting someone for a date, meeting someone for a second date, and so forth, but you may find yourself at step one (messaging) or step two (first date) with a handful of different people all at once. Which feels far weirder than it may sound. My best friend and I joked how similar my life was to the show The Bachelorette. “Who are you going to give your rose to this week?” she would ask. And we’d laugh about it but I didn’t genuinely enjoy what was happening. I liked all four of these guys after our first dates, but I couldn’t say I was really feeling a chemistry with any of them. Then a random Facebook message came through that surprised me. That guy who I had winked at on match.com a couple of months prior had tried to find me on Facebook and sure enough he lucked out when he saw a Bridget with rainbow colored hair who lived in his area and even had a few mutual friends with. When he messaged me and told me who he was, I remembered his photos right away. We chatted back and forth briefly but decided to meet in person the very next day. That evening, I showed his photo to a friend of mine, along with photos of the other four men I had just recently had dates with. I didn’t tell her any other details, just showed her pictures of five men and said, “Which one can you see me marrying?” And without even the slightest hesitation, she pointed to Jamey’s picture and said, “This one. He looks made for you.” I agreed.
I met Jamey the following day and I knew the minute we locked eyes that my dreams of marriage would come true with this man. I realize there is not much I could say that is any cheesier than that sentence, but I also am being entirely truthful. I was sold on him instantaneously and I made that very clear to him within hours after that meeting. In fact, I made my feelings so clear to him that he claims that is what peaked his interest in me the most; a woman had never been straightforward with their feelings to him, and the fact that I wasn’t playing mind games or “hard to get” made me all the more attractive to him.
I could continue writing our story and it would end up a novel, so the happy ending is that 6 months after we met, we got engaged; 8 months after that, we got married. We will celebrate our 5 year wedding anniversary in a few months. Now to counter how sickeningly beautiful my online love story is, I know that not all online dating stories will sound like mine. I know women who have gotten loads of inappropriate sexual messages from men that I would never think a man would say to a woman, let alone as a pickup line or a first introduction. I know women who have gone on first dates with men they met online only to be stood up, or to have their date pass out drunk before they could even wrap up the evening cordially. I know men who have gone on first dates only to realize the girl in the photos is the same girl he’s meeting, but she doesn’t have an Instagram filter on her face in real life. Shocker, right? If you’re considering online dating, I would highly recommend actual websites that match you with people based on your qualities and the qualities you are looking for, as opposed to relying on apps where it is all physical appearance-based. Either way, if you date online you will not be guaranteed a perfect love story. You may get overwhelmed, you may get messages that make you consider lifelong celibacy, you may meet some great men or women that check all the boxes but don’t give you butterflies, you may have to try several websites, you may meet a catfish, you may get stood up, you may get ghosted, you may have to be persistent and patient, but you may just find your soulmate on the internet. I did!
Bridget is an artist and professional photo editor living in South Bend with her husband, Jamey and her cat, Theo. So if you like looking at pictures of rainbow hair and fluffy felines, you should follow her on Instagram.