I Met My Husband on Craigslist: Internet Dating Success Stories are No Myth
Internet dating will be big--very big--in the not-too-distant future. I say this as someone who tried both offline dating and online dating for years before I finally found my husband--on Craigslist, of all places. It sounds crazy, but I think that within twenty years, people like me will not be in the minority. Instead, people will routinely be meeting their spouses online. Those who marry someone that they first met in person will be in the minority. I'll tell you my story and maybe you'll see why.
Safety and Online Dating
Let's get this out of the way right now: Yes, there are serious disadvantages to online dating. There are security and safety concerns.
But that's what a strong sense of self-preservation and SODA (Safer Online Dating Alliance) are for. Take care, be wary, research the guy, don't go meeting him in private right off the bat, let others know all about it, and follow your suspicious instincts. That's Safe Online Dating 101 in a nutshell.
And a bit of Craigslist dating advice: Don't trust anyone
who seems too good to be true and don't put your personal details out
My Story--How I Met My Husband on Craigslist
I'd looked at many online dating personals sites--Match.com, American Singles, eHarmony, pretty much all the big ones.
One thing I learned was that the people who succeed in finding mates on those sites are in the mainstream. They work at regular jobs...they get coffee at Starbucks every morning...and they'd really love to meet "someone vivacious, with a good figure and a successful career, easy-going, no drama-queen, who likes walks on the beach and to be showered with flowers on Valentine's Day."
In other words, they're fun-loving, regular folk looking for people more regular and mainstream than I am.
Every personality matching test I took revealed that I would be best matched with, like, 0.002% of the population. In other words, finding my perfect guy was going to mean finding a needle in a haystack.
After a few years of trying out the "biggest and best" Internet personals sites, I decided to throw in the towel. Oh, and by the way, the singles bar environments of chat rooms and IM sessions were not my thing--I'm too guarded and cautious a person and every flirtatious comment made me log off in a panic.
Finally, I wandered onto Craigslist one night and did something I found out later that few women actually do. I posted my profile and picture. I know--post a personals ad on Craigslist, of all places?
In retrospect, I can't think how I had the guts. (It's years later and I'm married and have a kid, and settling down like that "wimpifies" a person. I've heard many Craigslist dating horror stories since then. But back then, I must have been feeling deliciously reckless.)
Poll: Have You Had a Long-Term Relationship With Someone You Met Online?
Have you ever had a long-term relationship with a woman or man you met on the Internet?See results without voting
Are Quick Internet Marriages Reckless and Fated for Divorce?
Some might say that quick marriages are fated for a quick end.
I researched the matter and found that this is actually a myth, according to:
- Anecdotal evidence--Go ahead, ask your Great Aunt Myrtle how long her generation dated, back in the day. Not long, let me tell you.
- Expert advice--Self-appointed dating experts and researchers admit that great relationships do not correlate with long courtships.
Confident that how long a person dates does not determine the success of a marriage, I told my splendid Craigslist discovery (he loves it when I talk about him like he's a treasure I found while on vacation on the Riviera) that we're good to go. And we went.
Writing the Personals Profile
I took photo after photo to get the one I thought was most
flattering. I made sure that the fact that I was plump showed up--I
didn't want to deceive anyone into thinking I was skinny. I took out
the book my mom (hint-hint, nudge-nudge) had given me , Find a Husband After 35 (Using What I Know at Harvard Business School)
and followed the advice for how to create a profile listing so as to
get the best responses from the type of guys I'd like to hear from, instead of,
well, the other type.
In the first forty-eight hours, I received over 60 responses. This may seem like a lot, but it wasn't that much, compared to some women on Craigslist who post young, beautiful pictures and young, fun-loving profiles...or even normal, conservative profiles. I was middle-aged (in my 30s), a card-carrying member of Generation X, geeky, more ironic than fun-loving, and didn't fall into any easy-to-identify slots.
I wrote back to most of them, either letting them know "thanks, but no thanks," or "hmm, you seem interesting."
Who were these guys who contacted me?
There were some really nice guys who happened to be twenty years younger or older than I was. I didn't eliminate them right off, because, well, who knows?
There were some weirdos--in a bad way, I mean, instead of a good way--such as the guy who sent me a picture of himself naked in bed, or the older couple who emailed me inviting me for a threesome.
But there were some good, my-kind-of-guys who were my age, too. I mean, really good husband material--smart, nice, reliable, creative, and they seemed to like me, too. At the very least, I might have made some good friendships over the course of the next year.
That was my plan. I'd hoped to spend about a year dating various candidates and then, if I was lucky, it would work out with one of them in twelve months, more or less.
What happened, though, was that a man wrote to answer my Craigslist ad, I spent one week talking to him online, we met in person, got engaged two weeks later, and were married in three months. Oops. And wow.
But You Can't Tell if There's Chemistry on the Internet...Hah!
Online dating isn't perfect. When you meet someone online, you can't tell if the all-important chemistry is really there.
But think about it. What's a couple of weeks of tentative online exchanges against six months of dating...only to find out he's a (gasp) licensed widget collector, you're a (gasp) confirmed member of the Anti-Widget Society, and you've just wasted half a year with this guy based on some really hot chemistry that failed to tell you anything you really needed to know about him?
From personal experience, I believe that you can tell if there's chemistry via email. Especially if you're a "mind" person more than a "body" person--and that doesn't mean you don't care about sex, just that you find minds as sexy as bodies--then you can often tell if somebody has that spark you consider sexy.
But no, I admit that for now, there's no way to smell somebody's pheromones online. For now.
What's the Secret?
So what happened during that single week of online dating that cemented our relationship so quickly that I--a freakish, neurotic sort--was convinced to meet him? And forego meeting all the other guys? What was the (dramatic pause) secret of our success?
(So tempted to include a .wav file here of soap opera music announcing, "Tune in next paragraph to the tale of How One Woman Nabbed Her True Love On Craigslist and Didn't Let Go." But resisting.)
It started with my profile. I wrote my profile with much care. The wording was designed to be general enough to invite plenty of responses, but narrow enough to target a particular type of man. A man who was nice, trustworthy, decent, and family-oriented, who thought for himself and who looked at the world as one big source of ironic amusement.
I wrote it so that anyone who didn't have a good sense of humor, for example, was not going to respond. If you're looking for someone with a good sense of humor, by the way, you never say, "I'm looking for a man with a good sense of humor." Everybody says that, just like they all say "I want an honest guy who won't do me wrong." Male eyes just glaze over those kinds of statements.
So how do you say it? You apply the same rule of writing fiction that you do to writing an online dating profile: You show, not tell. You make a laugh-out-loud joke. Or you say, "I'm crazy about Dilbert but I hate Full House." Or, "I laugh when nobody else does. When other people laugh, I don't. If this is you, too, give me a holler." You give them something concrete to latch onto.
A key point about my Internet personals profile was that I didn't write, "I don't want a smoker." "Please, no drama kings." "Don't waste my time if you're a short guy." Or any of the other zillions of things women write because they think limiting the field this way will help.
It won't. Drama kings, short guys and smokers will contact you, anyway, because this is the real world, and people don't come packaged up with neat ingredients.
In fact, all this kind of negativity does is turn off nice guys. "She doesn't like short guys? I'm tall, dark and handsome, but no way am I gonna respond to this princess." "She doesn't like smokers? I smoke about once every six months...but I guess she has zero tolerance. Too bad. She seemed nice, too..."
Online Dating is the Wave of the Future--We're Totally Not in Kansas Anymore
Romance these days just ain't what it used to be in the days of old. Why, back in the day...
A girl could go to church to flirt with a boy. His family knew her family, and he'd spent years watching her grow up. Now, at last, seeing her sit over there in her pretty Sunday dress, he'd make his move....She, meanwhile, had been watching him grow up, and her cousins all thought he was silly, but she liked him.... yada, yada, yada, happily ever after.
Or she'd go skipping along the path
with a flower in her hair that announces, "I'm single and available, boys!" And
when a boy--who lived just over yonder--called on her, she could nod
her head: "He's a good one." Or wrinkle her nose: "He's
unreliable." Because everybody in the village knew that family.
Or when she's still a baby, her parents could match her with the next door baby boy, arrange for a dowry, and sixteen years later...a wedding!
But these days, finding the perfect man is not so easy. The old social conventions are disappearing faster than you can say "Will you marry me?" People don't know their neighbors...they don't even know their own relatives. They live far away from their family, in solo apartments. They don't know anything about the people they work with, commute with, eat with.
So a girl meets someone and goes on a date. And she likes him. They talk on the phone for hours each night, go out once or twice a week...and then it happens. One day she invites him over to her place, and she finds out he's allergic to cats. Help! What would she do without her Muffy? And so that's it. Four months of dating, ruined...
This is why Internet dating using online personals is a good thing.
Our Email Conversations and Our First Date
He wrote me within those first two days. He didn't sound like everyone else. Most guys who wrote me back talked about stuff...you know, things they liked, things they had done. Not themselves. The few who did write about themselves did so to the exclusion of everything and everyone else.
He was different. He was blunt, honest, wary. But he was assertive and confident and could converse about anything.
As for me, I was, as usual, cautious. I was still emailing other guys who'd responded to my Craigslist personals ad. This wasn't a case of love-at-first-email. Both of us were too jaded and wary to fall in love by email.
But in a short amount of time, in which we emailed each other every day, we both knew we wanted to meet. Then he sent me his picture.
At which time I almost ruined it. I wasn't sure what I'd envisioned, but I hadn't pictured a seriously good-lookin' dude. Mix being courted by Prince Charming with the fact that I was in the midst of PMS, and you've got a dangerous combo. I displayed a bout of Female Insecurity that nearly cleaved our newly hatched relationship in half.
In case you didn't know, most guys hate dealing with Female Insecurity even more than they hate going through old photo albums. Like, at least the photo albums have a finite end, but there's no earthly way to help an insecure female who's determined to stay that way. The only way to make amends was to meet the guy.
But, um, well, I had laundry to do. And that's the second time I almost ruined it.
After he straightened out my priorities on the phone--and the first time we talked, we were both so nervous that my voice shook and he sounded like the Grim Reaper--we agreed to meet at Starbucks the next day.
We did. Nervous does not begin to describe my feelings when I met him that morning. It's cliched, but I honestly trembled the entire time we strolled our way to the nearby park.
Then we started walking and in a burst of what can only be described as first-meeting insanity, we proceeded to spill all our secrets to each other, starting with the day we were born and ending with the day we met. We soon realized we'd covered about the first year of most peoples' relationships in two hours.
Now I realize why. It's the Internet. Online dating puts you in a certain mindset. You want it all laid out there for you, because we live in the modern world, where we know nothing about our neighbors.
Poll: Has Internet Dating Been Good to You?
How would you rate your experience with online dating?See results without voting
Dating Successfully Online
I'm a firm believer that everyone should learn the techniques needed for successful online dating.
Techniques? Oh, yes. It's not instinctive. It's not intuitive. Meeting a man you'll spend the rest of your life with is hard enough in real life, but on the Internet, it's like landing on a brand new planet.
The social rules are still as new as a baby's behind...and about as messy. You have to learn how to communicate. You have to know what to look for in a husband (or wife). You have to know what sites to use...the safe sites, the bad sites, or--as in the case of Craigslist--the free sites that turn out to hold a gem or two.
Do As I Say, Not as I Did
I then did something you should never do on the first date after you meet someone off of Craigslist. I let him drive me home. I'm an intensely suspicious sort--well, you know that by now--but, well, I did. And I lived to tell about it. But don't do that, yourself. Really.
I Never Knew Anyone Like Him Existed
The thing that bowled me over was that he existed. The person actually existed who saw the world in the same way I did, and he was about my age, and he was a heterosexual male, and he lived near me, and he liked me as much as I liked him. I'd lost faith at that point that I'd find someone like that and long ago had decided to compromise on one or more counts (pretty much all, in fact, except the heterosexual).
It felt like the most wonderful coincidence. But it's not a coincidence that I found my husband on Craigslist. The Internet allows people to meet who never would meet in the traditional way. Traditional, real-life meetings don't stem from personality matches. Traditional meetings happen because of:
- finding someone attractive
- casual impulse
There is absolutely nothing wrong with meeting someone based on some of those factors. But for many people, meeting this way in the modern world won't help you find someone you'll truly be happy with.
I venture to say that in 20 years, not only will most people be meeting online, but that those who don't meet on the Internet will quickly go online to find out all they can about the people they meet in "real" life. Because the Internet offers matchmaking and identification tools that are pretty much our only hope in a world that's increasingly crowded, fragmented and impersonal.
What do you think?
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