We owe a BIG thank you to the lovely (and not-so-lovely) folks at match.com!
Ethan and I grew up in neighboring small towns in southwest Ohio, and knew many of the same people and frequented many of the same places. But somehow, our paths had never crossed.
I dated some through college, but when my last boyfriend broke up with me the day before he deployed to Baghdad but continued to communicate with me like a girlfriend, I spent several very confused months in a holding pattern. After he came home and we established that our relationship really was over, I felt adrift and totally not confident in myself. I thought I had forgotten how to flirt. I wasn't interested in meeting a boy from school, because we were graduating in a couple of months, and who knew where our careers would take us?
My friend, tired of that kind of whining, convinced me to join match.com, to at least meet some guys that I could go on dates WITH, and get my dating groove back. So I did. And I met some guys who seemed pretty nice at first, but who eventually showed their rather skeevy colors. At one point, I was seeing three men casually, including Ethan. The other two proved themselves to be jerks, so I was feeling frustrated and used, so I broke up with all three. Yup, including Ethan.
I went on first-and-only dates with a couple other guys, still feeling pretty down about myself and the whole experience, all the while, still exchanging emails, texts and phone calls with this man who seemed genuinely interested in being my friend if he couldn't be my boyfriend. One night, I was unloading to him about how all my recent dates had been so lousy and how the guys all seemed to be out for "one thing" when I realized... I had treated Ethan pretty badly... I had lumped him in with all the others for no reason, accepted his friendship, and complained to him about the guys I was still banging my head against a wall with. But he was still there, speaking biblical truths to me about my worth as a daughter of God and the promises that He was with me and had a plan for me.
(and now I'm crying)
So I invited him to a big formal ball at my school, and we had a beautiful date... we shared our first "I love you"s that night. He proposed to me over cookies-n-cream ice cream a few weeks later, and we married four and a half months after that.
Timing is a funny thing. Ethan is seven years older than I am, and started teaching junior high the year I started attending high school. And he started teaching high school the year after I graduated. If we had met at any point prior to when we did, we most likely would've seen the age gap as insurmountable (and at times, illegal or unethical). But as a last-semester senior in college and a high school teacher, we worked. Our connections are so numerous that it is really remarkable that we had never met before, and we know that God had a hand in that. For example - my boss for three years in high school taught across the hall from Ethan at the junior high, and Ethan came in to that job for fro-yo from time-to-time. His family ate at and ordered takeout from Cracker Barrel when I worked there, and Ethan was often the picker-upper. One of my unofficial mentors - a sweet-as-sugar, tough-as-nails retired state trooper commander who worked in one of the shops at the mall when I was a security guard - was over-the-moon when I started dating the adorable little redhead that he had gone to church with for many years, and NOT a HAPPY CAMPER when I tried to break up with him. (He read a C.S. Lewis passage at our wedding!) We went to the same grocery store, my sister was probably his pharmacy tech at one point (not that she could tell me - HIPAA!), we knew people from each other's churches and schools... it still amazes me that I had so much shared history with a guy I met online. :-)
If you happen to be considering online dating, I will be the first to tell you that you can meet some real creeps. Be careful and smart - always meet in public until you are comfortable and confident that they are who they claim to be. Always be upfront via your profile and emails about boundaries. I met jerks even when I made it abundantly clear that I was a Christian who did not believe in and would not engage in premarital sex. And be clear with yourself about your expectations... are you looking for casual dates? The One? Something in between? Also, take it from someone who learned the hard way (with a miraculously good outcome)... this is not the way to rebuild your self-esteem. Because it may just tear it the rest of the way down instead. BUT, I can vouch that there ARE wonderful, kind, real people on online dating sites who are genuinely looking for Miss or Mr. Right. It's just that, like with every other kind of dating, the ratio of thorns to roses can be pretty discouraging.