With encouragement from my readers, I’ve been blogging recently about my own positive experience with online dating. I’ll wrap up this saga with this last post.
Last week, I wrote about learning to interact with the men I met on Match.com and how those relationships, however brief, had helped build my self-confidence and clarify my values. Still, I hadn’t met Mr. Right, and I was losing interest in the online dating scene.
What with one thing and another, it had been months since I had paid any attention to Match.com. So I was surprised when, one day, I got an email thanking me for renewing my membership.
I called the customer service line right away to cancel my membership and get my money back. Politely, a young man reminded me that I had set up an automatic re-enrollment plan. I could quit anytime, but I wouldn’t get a refund.
I was not happy about this. Match.com had seen me through a rough patch in my life, it’s true, and we had shared some good times together. But I was ready to move on. Instead, we were thrust together for another awkward interval, unless I just pulled the plug and wasted my membership fee. Without much interest, I logged in one more time to see what was going on.
I scrolled through the photos. Familiar faces looked back at me — smiling, hopeful men posed with their antique cars, cute dogs, fancy sailboats, nice backpacks, prize pumpkins and big ole fish. Some of these guys I had connected with and moved on from; some had become friends. Some I had avoided altogether. Some had completely ignored my overtures and some had dumped me after a couple of email volleys or casual dates. There were some interesting new faces, too. It was all part of the action at the Match.com party, and although it had been fun, I was done.
But there was one new profile that I paused to study. I’m not sure why. He had a nice face, for one thing — kind, open and intelligent. There was an articulate, appealing personal essay. “I am looking for someone to ‘do’ life with,” it said, as though life were a kind of dance, an activity to engage in, not a condition to endure. I sat up, read it again, smiled and sent a short email. He responded promptly.
After a week or so of chatting by email and then on the phone, Douglas and I agreed to meet for a walk on the riverfront path in Bucksport. I remember that when I got out of my car and turned to say hello, time seemed to slow down. When I looked at his face, I felt I already knew him. I don’t believe in the notion of love at first sight, but there was something very different about this man, right away. I was immediately at ease with him.
We met a few times after that: another walk, dinner out, dinner at his house. I was feeling very good about him — curious and intrigued, no reservations, no interest in seeing anyone else, no hurry.
But — and here’s a tricky thing about online dating — he and I were at different points in the process. While I had been stepping in and out of the Match.com party for a couple of years, Douglas had just walked through the door. And though we had a lot in common and clearly enjoyed each other’s company, he wanted to circulate some more.
He suggested we stay in touch, as friends. I was disappointed, to be sure, but I reasoned that Douglas as a friend would be better than no Douglas at all. And over the course of the next year, as I navigated some very big changes in my life, he was there on the sidelines — supportive, interested, funny, encouraging, real. We met a few times for lunch. I gathered he was still online, meeting and dating other women. He didn’t tell me about those relationships, and I didn’t ask. I was still a little wistful about him, but I had let go of the notion that we would get together romantically.
Really. I had.
And then, a full year after we first met, the easy friendship we had been tending blossomed quietly into love. It felt like the truest, most natural thing in the world.
In retrospect, my experience with online dating was about as good as it could be. It got me out of my head and out of my house, brought new people into my life, gave me a safe degree of control over my interactions with them and helped me define what I wanted — and deserved — from a new partner. It boosted my confidence in my own good judgment, challenged me to be more accepting of people’s differences and, during a time of turmoil and self-doubt, helped clarify what was most important to me.
And finally, when I was ready, it introduced me to Douglas.
We feel grateful that, while Match.com brought us together, our relationship really grew and deepened organically, without pressure, off line and in person. We got the best of both worlds.
Meg Haskell writes for and about the baby boom generation for the Bangor Daily News. Email her at email@example.com.