Reflection: Falling in love online

I felt validated recently to read that researchers at the University of Chicago have discovered that more than a third of U.S. marriages between 2005 and 2012 began online and that early research shows online couples tend to have longer, happier marriages.

I’m half of such a couple, having met my husband of six years on eHarmony 10 years ago. I heretofore have not volunteered that information publicly because for some people of our age (late 60s), there is a whiff of desperation associated with online dating.

I had experienced my share of unpromising dates, as had John, before he sent me his profile and photo. One of mine was with a man I dubbed Peter Rabbit, who took me to a movie and withdrew from his jacket a large package of whole carrots and celery stalks to nibble on.

But I had hope, and when John sent me his profile and photo, I forwarded it for vetting to my friend since seventh grade, Di, who also was paddling around in a post-divorce boat in Denver. He’s handsome, I emailed her, but I don’t think we’d have much in common. (His profile revealed that he is a scientist who loves sports. I am a writer whose idea of sport is a rousing Scrabble game.)

“Check this one out,” Di urged me. “He strikes me as a person of quality.”

Our first meeting was at a coffeehouse (I didn’t want to give him my home address in case he was an ax murderer.) We shared a dark roast (me) and a decaf (him) and a laugh about No. 4 in the list of eHarmony’s top 10 “Can’t Stands” criteria, “Poor Hygiene. I can’t stand someone who is not clean.” (It seemed to us that this should be a given.)

That coffee led to our first real date, which was a comedy of errors. We met in a restaurant that I had recommended, which served a terrible meal. We then went to a show that he had selected, a troupe of jugglers who were as awkward as we were. When he didn’t walk me to my car afterward, I figured that was it. In the morning I got a long, funny email recounting all the things he thought he’d done wrong, and I responded in kind, likening us to a pair of middle-schoolers.

As our relationship evolved, we learned more about our differences. He likes new cars. I drive mine until they are old enough to vote. We seldom finish each other’s sentences because the flight patterns of our brains are so different. And while we are willing to sample each other’s favorite pursuits, we never go along simply for the sake of harmony, E or otherwise.

Once, he took me to a football tailgate party and laughed when I said, “Next time, I’m scheduling a colonoscopy.” When I took him to a poetry discussion group, he gazed at me steadily with the lambent “take-me-home” eyes of a caged puppy at the Animal Rescue League.

On the other hand, John has begun to tune in to my enthusiasm for opera, and I have become a rabid Cyclones basketball fan, despite never having attending a game during the four years I was an ISU student. When I moved out of my beloved arts and crafts bungalow and into his contemporary home, he gave me free rein to redecorate.

Before we wed, I asked advice from my mom, whose marriage retained a freshness about it for more than half a century before Dad passed away. (Once, Dad attached an invitation to dinner at their favorite steakhouse, Johnny and Kay’s, to their Boston terrier’s collar and told her to go find Mama.)

Mom gave me three insights: Keep a sense of humor, let the little stuff go, and emphasize shared values, which are more important than shared interests.

So far, so uncommonly good.

Rebecca Christian is a freelance writer from Ames, Iowa.

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