What I’ve learnt from 7 000 love sto­ries

“You’ll en­counter po­ten­tial matches ev­ery­where, ev­ery day, if you just look up and out – some­thing we too of­ten for­get to put our phones down and do.”

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You want to know how peo­ple meet to­day? Deep breath, here are some real-life meet-cutes:

“We met at an an­tiValen­tine’s Day party.” “We met in Grade 1.” “We met in a weight-loss group.” “He was my Airbnb host for 10 days… the Airbnb that I orig­i­nally rented out ended up be­com­ing [our] home.”

I know all of these sto­ries be­cause I ask the ques­tion “How did you meet?” all the time. I even started an In­sta­gram ac­count, The Way We Met, to doc­u­ment the an­swers I re­ceived. Now my 326 000 fol­low­ers and I get to hear ev­ery kind of cou­ple talk about how they first got to­gether. They are proof to even the big­gest dat­ing scep­tic that there’s a match out there for all of us.

So, what wis­dom can I of­fer to help you find them? Af­ter shift­ing through 400 times the num­ber of love sto­ries Ni­cholas Sparks has ever pub­lished, I could tell you the cities where cou­ples have met, the pick-up lines ex­changed and even the strange twists of fate that brought them to­gether. But those de­tails are be­side the point. What I have learnt is that while love doesn’t come with guar­an­tees, the cou­ples who fell in love for the long haul in gen­eral did one of these things:

They didn’t rely on des­tiny

I en­joy nights in with my Net­flix and snacks as much as the next girl, but fate can’t work its magic if you won’t leave your bed­room. And cou­ples who shared their sto­ries on The Way We Met by and large didn’t rely on apps. They met peo­ple when they were out and about – get­ting their iphone fixed, at­tend­ing a party, even stand­ing in line for the bath­room at a bar. They also put them­selves in un­ex­pected sit­u­a­tions to meet some­one: they said yes to blind dates, they agreed to be auc­tioned off for char­ity, they went (hap­pily) stag to a friend’s wed­ding.

That last story was one of my favourites: “I knew (the bride) had a brother who was cute, smart and sin­gle,” Shan­non posted. “So I de­cided to take mat­ters into my own hands. I RSVPED for one, booked a plane ticket and wore a fab­u­lous red dress. My plan ac­tu­ally worked! Our chem­istry was in­sane, and we shared the best kiss of my life at the af­ter-party. Four and a half years later, we cel­e­brated our one year an­niver­sary.”

Cody and Alisha, an­other cou­ple fea­tured on the feed, also seized the mo­ment. “He saw me driv­ing on the free­way, and for the next 32km, we couldn’t stop laugh­ing and wav­ing at each other,” Alisha posted. “He wrote his num­ber down and held it up against his win­dow.” Alisha could’ve rolled her eyes and thought, ‘No thanks!’ But in­stead she took a leap: she later SMSED him, and they set up a date. “And it was one of the best de­ci­sions I’ve ever made.”

While I def­i­nitely en­cour­age you to keep both hands on the wheel, the point I want to make is that if you want to find love, you should pri­ori­tise en­gag­ing with the peo­ple around you. You’ll en­counter po­ten­tial matches ev­ery­where, ev­ery day, if you just look up and out – some­thing we too of­ten for­get to put our phones down and do.

They were will­ing to be em­bar­rassed

Scroll through The Way We Met and you’ll see the cou­ples fea­tured have of­ten ex­pe­ri­enced less-thanper­fect in­tro­duc­tions. I’ve come across some sto­ries that are so dra­matic that they should be plots on The Mindy Project – like, she met a guy while surf­ing, when she ac­ci­den­tally hit him in the head with her surf­board; she met a guy at an out­door fes­ti­val and went off-road­ing with him, af­ter which they both landed up in the hospi­tal for X-rays.

The les­son (ex­cept maybe watch where you’re walk­ing and driv­ing) is that there’s no shame if your ego gets a lit­tle bruised on the way to find­ing The One. Take Brooke. On her first date with Adam (he cooked for her), she tried to SMS a friend: “OMG, I’m here. He’s SO HOT!” – but she mis­tak­enly sent that mes­sage to Adam in­stead. “I con­tem­plated jump­ing over the (kitchen) ta­ble to grab his phone, or even run­ning out the door,” Brooke con­fessed. “I sat there in hor­ror as he read the SMS. He then looked up at me and, in the sweet­est, most hum­ble voice said, ‘Um, I think you meant to send that to some­one else,’” Brooke re­calls.

Hu­mil­i­at­ing? Yes, but maybe not quite as all-out, shoot-me-now mor­ti­fy­ing as hav­ing your mom ap­proach a to­tal stranger she thinks would be per­fect for you, which is what Carolyn says her mom did in a park­ing lot one day. “She raved about me for 20 min­utes, show­ing him pic­tures of me and telling him how funny I am,” Carolyn re­mem­bered. “Then she gave him my num­ber and sped off.” But the stranger SMSED Carolyn and, em­bar­rassed as she was, she still went on the date – and lo and be­hold, Mom’s got a very good eye!

Some­times some­thing you find mor­ti­fy­ing is ut­terly en­dear­ing to the per­son who wants to be with you.

They gave some­one from their past a second look

So many peo­ple on The Way We Met talk about meet­ing some­one at the wrong junc­ture in life (when they were kids, or liv­ing in dif­fer­ent cities or even in re­la­tion­ships with other peo­ple) only to re­con­nect later and give things a go.

There’s the pri­mary school boyfriend and girl­friend who went their sep­a­rate ways, then in their mid-20s, moved back to their home­town the ex­act same week – and ended up elop­ing. The two women

who met at resident ad­vi­sor train­ing: a year goes by; they end up as­signed to the same quad, and boom – cou­ple.

Oc­ca­sion­ally, it doesn’t take more than a few min­utes to re­con­sider: Brian spot­ted his love from across a bar while he was on a blind date… with an­other girl. He walked girl #1 home, and then: well, what the hell, he thought. He ran back into the bar, made a bee-line for girl #2, and said, “Hey, I’m, Brian. I’ve been star­ing at you all night while I was on the worst blind date ever. I just walked her home and had to come see if you were still here.” Turns out, she’d been check­ing him out, too, hop­ing that the woman who was with him was a friend.

So, ev­ery so of­ten, you’ve al­ready met The One.

They didn’t close off

You know what story re­ally gets me? Those from women so bro­ken-hearted that they truly be­lieved they’d never love again – un­til they did.

Lis­ten to Krista’s: many years ago, she thought that she’d mar­ried the love of her life. Then, not long af­ter their wed­ding, he cheated on her. Still, she spent a few years try­ing to make it work. Af­ter that, “I needed a big change,” she posted – so she moved across the coun­try. She looked for a new job and even­tu­ally landed a teach­ing gig. The prin­ci­pal jok­ingly warned her that ev­ery per­son who’d taught in that class­room over the past 10 years had got mar­ried, preg­nant or both. The ‘curse’ struck Krista, too: she mar­ried a col­league. They’ve been to­gether for more than a decade and have three kids.

And that pat­tern isn’t un­usual (one The Way We Met cou­ple met at a car­ni­val in Brazil – where they both trav­elled sep­a­rately to get over rough splits). Af­ter your breakup, make your re­la­tion­ship with your­self a pri­or­ity – in­vest in a job, spend time with friends – but don’t put up walls.

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