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.”
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.