We live in a cyber world these days and as such, it’s becoming more and more popular to meet the love of your life on the World Wide Web. There are numerous dating sites available and the ever abundant social media. According to statisticbrain.com there are 54 million single people in the US and 40 million of those people have tried online dating. They have also found that while women lie most about weight, physical build, and age, men tend to lie more about age, height, and income. With such a high number of people trying online dating, you wouldn’t think people would see online relationships as a negative thing. Unfortunately, I’m here to tell you that if you think that, you are wrong.
I met my husband online quite by accident in 2007. We were not looking for each other, we were not looking for anyone, we were just playing a simple game of pool and started chatting further. We developed a relationship via MSN Messenger, my husband used his webcam so I could see him, but I wasn’t confident enough in myself to let him see me so I told my third lie, that I didn’t have a webcam. My first lie was my real name, which I led him to believe was Amber. My second lie was my age, which he believed was 20 (I was actually 21. I have no idea why I lied about my age by one measly year).
Our relationship progressed to chatting daily, but neither of us was labeling it yet, we were just two people who enjoyed chatting online. After probably less than a month I told him that my real name was Ashley and I was actually 21, soon to be 22, but I still didn’t tell him I owned a webcam. He lived in England and I lived in Michigan and he was five hours ahead of me. This meant that by the time he got home from work at 5pm, it was noon where I lived. I was an unemployed college student at the time and my classes were either first thing in the morning or late in the evening and he had no other obligations aside from his job so we had plenty of time to sit at our computers and get to know one another. I told my sister, my best friend, and a few close cousins about him, but I still didn’t think anything would ever come of our online chats. I knew I cared for him a lot, so much that I could barely think of anything else and I couldn’t wait to hear the sound of the ping when he’d sign on after work. I also knew that this man lived 4,000 miles away and just so happened to be twice my age. Even though I’d always had a very close relationship with my parents, I feared they would have a very negative reaction to this if I told them.
Seven months after meeting online we were chatting every day for multiple hours a day when I finally made the spur of the moment decision to tell my mom. I had recently graduated from college and my mom and I had taken a celebratory trip to Niagara Falls and after buying a postcard at a gift shop for my friend, I decided to tell my mom who this friend really was. I told her I had been talking to a man in England named Chris for quite some time, but we were just friends. She had a look on her face that said, quite clearly, “Yeah right!” I told her that honestly, we were just friends, he was too old for me. When she asked how old he was I pretended like I couldn’t remember for sure, but I believed he was in his late thirties (he was 44). After we returned to our hotel I called my dad to tell him about Chris because I knew my mom would tell him and I didn’t want him to think I trusted her more than him. I don’t particularly remember his reaction, but it was pretty mild. I presented it as being nothing at the time because that’s what I thought it was. I always had a hope in the back of my mind that Chris and I could be more than online friends, but I didn’t truly believe it would ever happen.
Once my parents knew about Chris they said hello to him when we were chatting. After finding out more about him and about us my parents started trying to persuade me to turn my webcam on. I’ve always struggled with self confidence because I’ve been overweight most of my life. I was afraid if Chris saw that I was overweight he wouldn’t like me anymore. After another month I gave in and told him I had a webcam. I was incredibly nervous and it was all for nothing because he thought I was beautiful. If anything, turning on my webcam made our relationship stronger and it progressed further and we finally started talking like this could really be something.
Seven months after turning on my webcam, one year and three months after we started chatting online, my mom and I had airplane tickets to London to meet my potential fiance. In those seven months we spent more and more time getting to know each other, talking every day and most of those days we would talk for 5 hours or more until Chris finally had to go to bed because it was getting so late in England. I remember one of our favorite things to do was read those online surveys out loud and answer the questions so we could keep learning about one another. I felt like I knew him better than I knew myself and he knew me better than anyone at that point.
Even though these days we have positive support from our loved ones, in the beginning that was not the case. Before our flight to London I received mixed reactions from friends and family. Honestly, the biggest reaction was positive yet concerned, however, there were also a few negative reactions. I was so caught up in what was, to me, a fairy tale romance that I couldn’t imagine anybody looking at the relationship negatively. Looking back, I can understand why people would be skeptical. Unless you were there each day seeing how much we talked, how much we saw each other on webcam, and how much we knew each other, it would seem so bizarre that two people who have never met in person could fall in love, let alone two people with such a significant age gap and geographical distance. It wasn’t bizarre to me, it was amazing and perfect and everything I’d never dared to hope for. I heard pretty much every negative question and comment you can imagine, from people saying what I thought were insulting things to my parents about how they were crazy for letting me meet him to someone saying he was too old and would probably die soon or at least sooner than me so it wasn’t worth it. I was also told that if it were meant to be we would find each other again so I should cease contact with him and see what happens. There were also those people who just chose to ignore that it was happening. I’d be lying if I said these comments didn’t hurt my feelings. There were many tears shed. Chris was so supportive and wonderful, he was there for me and even when he heard these things that were said about him he never had a bad word to say about any of my friends or family. I was so happy and I just wanted the ones I loved to be happy for me. I’m so thankful that my parents were “crazy” and helped me meet him. As for the comment of him dying soon, nobody’s time on earth is definite, we could all die tomorrow, and I would rather have a few moments of true and great love than to let it pass me by because of what ifs and fear. I was astonished that anyone could hear how we met and fell for each other and say that if we were meant to be we would find each other again. It seemed to me that fate had already played a major role in us finding each other when we lived 4,000 miles apart so it would be silly of me to give that up in the hopes that it would miraculously find me again. I learned fairly quickly that if I wanted to do this, I would have to ignore those who had hurt me and go after my own happiness.
We flew to London in January of 2009 and after going through customs and stopping at a bathroom to prepare myself as best as I could, we were entering the arrivals lounge and there was Chris. The most beautiful man I had ever laid eyes on with the biggest, most beaming smile and it was all for me! I don’t remember much beyond how happy I was and how nervous as well. I think I cried. I know I was shaky. Chris was equally nervous, even forgetting where he parked the car. My mom just stood quietly by, taking pictures of our first meeting and smiling herself. It was a two hour car journey back to Leicester where Chris lived and I’m fairly certain we held hands the whole time. We had our first kiss in the hallway of the hotel my mom and I were staying at after we dropped her off and went out to see the city. My mom and I stayed a week. Chris and I were engaged that week and had the most amazing time. Everything was not like we thought it would be from our chats online, it was better. Chris has told me since then how he wasn’t sure I would show up that day and when I came through arrivals he felt so much love for me it was overwhelming.
I returned by myself to England in March that year and we gathered the necessary documents we would need for me to apply for a visa to move to England. Our visa journey is another story entirely, but my application was approved in late June 2009 and I arrived in Leicester on the 8th of July 2009. We were married in August 2009 and now, three and a half years later, we are blissfully happy with each other and wouldn’t change a thing about our relationship.
If you’re thinking of entering the world of online dating my advice would be to know who you’re talking to, as well as anyone can online at least. One of the first things I did after talking with Chris was a Google search of his name as well as his username. People commonly use the same username for one site that they would on another. I found Chris on a few other websites this way, they happened to be innocent websites, but you never know. I guess you could say I was being too paranoid, but I think with online relationships you can never be too cautious. Something else you should keep in mind is that the majority of people these days do have webcams. Most laptops that are sold have webcams built into them. Yes, there are still people using older models without webcams and these same people may not own a smart phone or tablet that has a webcam, but chances are if they are tech savvy enough to be in an internet relationship, they are tech savvy enough to own and know how to use a webcam.
If you are in an online relationship and you’re thinking of meeting in person, please, take a friend. Or family member. Just take someone with you. Safety in numbers. As much as you love this person, there are still crazy, manipulative people in the world and it’s better to be safe than sorry. Also be aware that internet relationships come with their fair share of ups and downs, probably more so than other relationships because you have the distance factor as well as the mystery of never having met. There were times that I agonized over not being able to get a hold of Chris. There were times when I blew situations out of proportion and was upset because I couldn’t talk to him about it immediately due to the time difference. Obviously looking back these were minor issues in the beginning stages of our relationship, but at the time they were very difficult to deal with. Also, wanting to hug and kiss Chris more than anything and not being able to was one of the hardest parts of online dating.
I feel that Chris and I are proof that internet relationships can work if done correctly. We have both always felt that we knew each other so much better than we would have if we had met in person because for more than a year all we had were our words, there was nothing else to get in the way. I hope if you’re in an online relationship or thinking of pursuing one, you have as much luck as Chris and I have had.