My husband and I are a young couple. He’s 22. I’m 23. We got married a year ago. And we met on a dating site.
But that’s not the weird part. When people ask us how we met and when we met, there are a lot of other questions and assumptions hidden behind that question. Such as:
- Why did you get married so young?
- You must be religious.
- Was it a shotgun wedding?
- You must have been high school sweethearts, or met each other during your teens.
But they don’t ask all of that. And maybe they don’t assume all of that. But when we’re asked, “How and when did you meet?” we often look at each other and laugh, knowing that our response is more like a confession that will challenge everyone’s preconceived notions of how everything works. Because even if they can process the fact that we met on a dating site, their jaws will always drop when they hear that we dated for three months before we got married.
We didn’t plan on getting married young. We aren’t religious. It wasn’t a shotgun wedding. And time was a very unusual factor in our relationship from the start.
On April 6, it will be a year since our first date. On July 15, it will be a year since we got married. When people tell me I got sooo lucky and that online dating doesn’t work, I both agree and disagree with them. It doesn’t work for everyone and I did get lucky. But luck is only half of it.
After reflecting on this, I came up with quite a few ideas that are worth considering:
1. Be realistic.
Have the right mindset from the moment you sign up to a dating site. The most important thing to know is that your soulmate may not have signed up to this site. He or she may be elsewhere. Maybe on a different dating site. Maybe not on any dating site. And maybe, there’s no such thing is someone who is created just for you. Do it for fun. Do it to exit your comfort zone, because, as Emerson says, “only as far as [people] are unsettled is there any hope for them.”
2. Be smart.
This doesn’t just mean you should be on the lookout for red flags; you should also know how to distinguish a real red flag from something that may just be a quirk. I like quirky, but quirky can often register as a red flag at first. Knowing how to tell the difference comes from the experience of interacting with new people and observing their behaviors. If you’re too readily dismissive of people, you’ll never gain that crucial experience.
3. Read profiles.
If you’re actually serious about what you’re doing and what you’re looking for, you can save yourself a lot of time and embarrassment by actually reading about what the other person is interested in. If you’re into casual dating or simply looking for a hook-up, don’t contact someone who has specified that they are looking for a long-term relationship.
4. Take your list of pick-up lines and burn it.
I’ve encountered two types of pick-up lines: the overtly sleazy ones that make you cringe and the wise-ass ones that should make you cringe. When I created a dating profile, I was initially very paranoid about privacy, so I chose to put up a photo of myself taken from far away in which I was wearing sunglasses. My favorite message, which I received during this time was, “I don’t think we’d work out, because I’d constantly have a boner in your presence.” I am paraphrasing here, because I’m pretty sure the original message was a grammatical mess (in addition to being a mess in so many other ways), which brings me to my next point.
5. Be literate (unless you aren’t).
I may be biased here, being that I majored in English and punctuation errors make me want to poke my eyes out, but I don’t think I’m being too naive in assuming that most people have a grasp on what constitutes a complete sentence and the fact that normal ppl dnt write lyk dis. (I can’t even properly simulate the grammatical atrocities I have seen, but it was worth a shot.) Bottom line is, know that it’s “night,” not “nite.” I mean it won’t kill you to type five letters instead of four. Well-written messages are a turn-on for people who value intelligence.
6. Don’t be bitter after a bad date.
The dating site isn’t pointless. Men aren’t pointless. Women aren’t pointless. If you’re the sort of person who becomes extremely disappointed when you go on a date only to find that the person you meet is totally different in real life from how they seem online, understand that this is all too common. No one is obligated to love you upon meeting you and there’s no rule saying that a person has to be the same in person and online. And if you can’t accept that and change your mindset, then have a better filter.
7. Plan to meet soon after you begin chatting frequently.
I know so many people who meet after chatting online for several months and find that their experience of the person in real life is a complete let-down. Sadly, it’s very easy for awkward and inarticulate people to be confident and articulate online. I decided to meet my husband a week after we began chatting, because I knew that I needed to gauge how he was in person before investing myself further. Our date lasted eight hours. I took that as a sign that we should keep seeing each other.
8. Be clear about your expectations and about who you are.
You should want the other person to want to go on a date with you, not some made up person you think would appeal to them. You’ll never be anyone but the person you are and you’ll probably never want anything more or less than what you want. Be honest with yourself and then be honest with the person you’re talking to. This avoids a lot of bitterness that may come from either side later on. Upon my suggestion, my husband and I wrote a “date report” to each other after our first date which allowed us to know exactly how we felt about the date and each other.
9. Don’t be a spoiled brat.
Some of the biggest eyesores on anyone’s dating profile are unrealistic and overly specific descriptions of the characteristics they look for in another person. If you want to specify that you will only date cinephiles with musical abilities, who happen to have read all the obscure books you’ve read, you’re going to discourage lots of potential matches from even bothering to contact you. Meeting people who are different from you will allow you to expand your horizons and discover things you never knew you could be interested in.
10. Delete the adjectives.
“I am a thoughtful, laid-back, intelligent guy.” Who can’t say that about themselves? When I see such an intro on a person’s profile, I instantly leave their profile page. Show, don’t tell. Let others deduce what sort of guy or girl you are by demonstrating your writing style, listing your hobbies and favorite movies/books, and talking about what you’re doing with your life.
11. A dead horse can’t be revived.
Don’t message the same person twice if they haven’t responded to your first message. There are two reasons why they haven’t replied yet: either they aren’t interested, or they haven’t seen your message yet. Usually it’s the former, but in either case, a second message isn’t going to compel them to get back to you. One of the most unattractive things I have experienced is a second message saying, “I expected a reply by now. If you’re interested, say something.” Um, the fact that I haven’t said anything means I am not interested. You’ve also just established that you are potentially creepy.
12. Everyone is not a creep.
This was the hardest thing for me to learn. Having met so many creeps, I had become paranoid by the time I met my husband. I had to constantly remind myself that a person does not become a creep simply for reaching out and expressing interest in you. Without this reminder, I would probably have dismissed my husband, not because anything he ever said was actually creepy, but because I was always on the lookout for creepiness.
13. In the end, there are no rules.
One day, the world decided that if you were going to get married to someone, you had to have known each other for x number of years. And they also decided to attach a stigma to a very practical way of meeting people. So naturally, when I told people I was getting married, I was seen as mentally ill.
But if you’re open and accepting of the fact that the most unexpected things are always happening in this world, they can happen to you, too. Meeting someone may require luck, but building and maintaining a relationship mostly involves effort and openness.