Well, I finally went and did it. I got engaged.

Some of you already know that I've been dating Kara Staible for the past four months. But for the uninitiated...

About five months ago I was minding my own business, being single, when a friend of mine suggested using eHarmony to meet women. I was sort of in a slump at the time... most of the girls I was meeting were not exactly what I was hoping for in a wife. I had run into plenty of problems with women who just wanted someone to be a father to their children, or someone who could provide for them financially or someone to "take them away from it all." This last one seemed to usually mean, "I'm actually married but my husband's a jerk." I'm not the "adultery" type.

So I wasn't having a crop of good luck on the dating front. That's when a friend of mine suggested eHarmony.

I've used online dating sites before. I even had some success with a couple of them. Yahoo! in particular was great for meeting women. But the problem was that - well - everyone LIES. Pretty early on, I gave up on "pursuing" anyone myself through these online personals. I never approached anyone, because even though their profile was everything I wanted, they weren't. They were usually lying about SOMETHING. Either they had put up the wrong picture, or they were married (ick) or they had three kids and were claiming they had none. Or they were guys... that's freaky.

So I always let THEM come to ME. And the girls that approached me did, in general, seem to be sweet and worth taking the time to date. But something always seemed to go wrong. We were always "off" somehow - never quite compatible. One of my friends accused me of "being too picky." In his words, "You'll never find anyone that's a perfect match for your list. You should settle on whoever comes closest."

Ain't that romantic?

But I figured that settling wasn't really a bright idea when it came to the person you were going to spend the rest of your life with. Shouldn't you be picky about the person who shares your bed, occupies half of your home, spends every day in your presence? I was picky, all right. Darn picky.

So when my friend suggested eHarmony, I didn't have high hopes for it. Actually, I had really resolved myself to the idea that it wasn't going to work. I'd tried other paid dating sites, most of which were cheaper than this one, and I'd had sketchy results at best. But despite my misgivings I gave in and shilled out some bucks to put my ad on eHarmony. I took their personality profile, got myself a list of their 29 dimensions, and sat back to see what would happen.

Nothing happened. Not for a few weeks, anyway. It was almost a month before I finally starting getting any serious results from their matching system. The first scattered profiles I was sent were mostly for women who had already moved on from the service. They had met someone or they had given up in despair or something. I was disappointed and a little miffed that my hard-earned money hadn't netted me a date yet. But then a few of the profiles started showing more promise. I started getting into the game a little, meeting some people, having conversations.

Some of the girls I met weren't what I was hoping for, but it was ok. We seemed to be able to chat for a bit and move on without fuss. I went out with a couple of the ladies in "the real world," and was happy enough with what I was finding. These were not the kind of girls I had been meeting on Yahoo. These were girls who were serious about meeting someone to spend a lifetime with. But even though I wasn't being lied to or misled, I also wasn't meeting the love of my life.

I had pretty much decided to write off eHarmony after a month of using it. It wasn't living up to the hype, I thought. The women I was meeting seemed great, but not for me. I was starting to believe (or starting to confirm my belief) that I was just too old to get married. Here I was in my early 30's and I figured my prime years were passed. All of my friends and family had these compact little family units of their own - I was the last hold out. It seemed that was just the way it was going to be.

I think God was waiting for that cue.

You know the saying, "You'll find love when you stop looking for it?" I think the hardest part about that is the actual "stop looking" thing. Who can stop looking? I never could. I spent every day thinking, "I wonder if that girl in the fruit and vegetable section is 'the one.'" Or, "Hey, that woman who just pulled up next to me at the light is looking over here, I wonder if she'd like to go out?" Every day, every woman I saw was becoming a potential. I kept my eyes open all the time for the tell-tale signs of a budding relationship. The thing is, relationships don't start that way. They never do.

Think about all the relationships you've ever had. How did you meet? It's usually some casual thing, like having a locker that's close to each other or being on the same committee at church. Most people never manage to do the deliberate hunt-and-conquer thing when it comes to meeting people. It's too forced, too artificial. I was never going to meet anyone with my eyes wide open.

But here I was on eHarmony and I had finally given up. I had resolved myself to the fate of being single forever. Actually, it's not that bad. I get to eat whatever I want (Ice cream for breakfast!), I get to wear whatever I want (Holes? What holes?) and my schedule belongs to me and me alone (Sure, I can go on a road-trip to Vegas. Meet you in five minutes). Yep, I was going to live it up. Then I would die a miserable old man with no family, stuck in some state-funded home for the elderly and beat up by my bitter man-nurse because I pooped on myself again.

But luckily for me, God had other plans.

Kara had sent me an "invitation" at a point where I was actually going out with someone else from eHarmony. I had looked at her profile, approved of the fact that she had actually included her picture (a lot of girls don't!), and sort of "filed her away." I was in a relationship of sorts with another girl at the time. My single-brain was in over-drive trying to make it work with a girl who was clearly wrong for me. We got along great, laughed at each other's jokes, but there was more chemistry in a pre-school science class than what she and I had when we went out. It finally came down to the two of us deciding to go our own way quietly and without fuss. We just sort of both mutually decided, all on our own, not to contact the other one again.

It was at this point that I had adopted my new resolve to be single. It just wasn't worth it, meeting total strangers for dinner or drinks, banking on the potential promise of a future relationship. I quit. That was it for me.

I went back online to eHarmony just to see what some of matches were. It was idle curiosity. I had no intention of responding to anyone. But then there was Kara.

Her profile was kind of unique to me. It didn't do the usual "Everything in here is about Jesus so stay away Perverts!" defense thing. She obviously WAS a Christian, and she was obviously NOT looking for one-night-stands or perverted nights of carnal bliss. She was sincere and, well, sort of PURE. I liked her responses to the standard questions. I liked her list of "things I can't live without." I liked the fact that she listed a book about a historical event as the last thing she'd read (as opposed to the thousands of "God is Watching" books I'd seen in the other profiles). I just sort of liked her. And she was cute, too.

So I responded to her invitation, mostly out of curiosity. We went through the process of going back and forth with the automated question-and-answer system. We saw each other's "must have and must not have" lists and they seemed pretty compatible. And finally we got to the part where we were writing to each other directly.

Over the next month, we wrote faithfully every day. We told each other the little secrets we were willing to reveal about ourselves. We talked about our families and our friends, our likes and dis-likes. I was a little put off by the fact that she wouldn't share her actual e-mail address with me, and even more put off by the fact that after a month of getting to know each other she WOULD NOT share her phone number with me. It was a thing with her - she wouldn't give me her number until we'd met in person.

I found this very strange.

By this time we had pretty much shared our deepest selves with each other (at least, that's what *I* thought, but come on!) Why couldn't we have a phone conversation? I was a little frustrated with her for not giving me her number and she, in turn became frustrated with me for asking. In fact, our very first "fight" was because of the whole phone call thing. I had asked her to call me on my cel phone (again) once I figured we'd gotten to the point where we could trust each other. After all, every e-mail we sent now said, "I'm thinking of you all the time!" I figured it'd be nice to at least put a voice with the photo.

Plus, I thought it was just plain strange for her to insist that we meet BEFORE we talked on the phone. This seemed backwards to me, and it seemed like maybe she had something to hide. I was wary of this kind of thing. I had dealt with too many women who were just plain liars. But she had dealt with too many guys who were just plain stalkers... so we were at an impasse.

It came about, though, that we figured we were ready to meet each other. We set a date for our first date. And it was about a month away.

I was distraught! A month? Another month of "filtered" e-mails through the eHarmony system, no phone calls, no real contact beyond the subscription service? It seemed weird to me. I didn't know if I'd be able to keep doing it.

But as fate would have it, we didn't have to wait another month. Kara, apparently, was just as anxious to meet me. And so she didn't need much convincing to get her to bump up our meeting. Unfortunately, family and other commitments kept us from getting together right away, and there was a major holiday coming up. Easter Sunday was starting to look like the earliest opening in our schedules.

Jokingly, Kara suggested, "We could meet for Easter service at 2nd Baptist Church." I don't think she was expecting me to say "yes."

See, at this point, I'd have met her at a funeral if it meant finally knowing her beyond the bounds of cyber space. This whole second-hand e-mail system we were using was getting me down. I wanted to make some real contact with this girl! She was everything I was looking for... in theory. I felt like we were just delaying the inevitable.

So we agreed to meet on Easter Sunday. We met at Starbucks for coffee (of course... and we continue to be a Starbucks couple!). I gave her a purple flower tied (by me!) in a purple ribbon. And we had a wonderful first conversation right there, sipping coffee and Chai tea before we went off to hear the church service.

After the service, on our way back out to our cars, Kara actually took my hand. We walked hand-in-hand for the first time on Easter Sunday during a cold snap that could freeze the butt off of a firefly. It was the warmest moment of my life.

I was smitten. We finally (FINALLY!) exchanged phone numbers, and I believe we've actually talked on the phone every night since. For four months now we've gotten to know each other in ways we never thought possible.

In that four months, so much has happened. My life has changed so rapidly that I sometimes feel out of breath, like I can't catch up. In that four months I've moved to Houston, I've started leasing an office space, the two of use have met each other's families, our families have met each other and we have become engaged! What a whirlwind of a quarter! Life has become a torrent of changes moving at a frenetic pace.

We are looking at January as a possible wedding date. There's a lot to plan between now and then. Anyone with any ideas, suggestions or other help can feel free to e-mail me!

I just can't believe how all of this has unfolded. In five months I've gone from being resolved to my fate as a single guy to planning a wedding! How did this happen?

I couldn't be happier with Kara. She's sincerely the greatest thing that's happened to me. We are compatible on a level that I never thought possible. She's so supportive and nurturing and caring, I can't believe I lived this long without her! I love her.

So, I hope you've enjoyed this lengthy tale of a relationship in bloom. I'm told that I'll miss my single life. I think that's reasonable. It was long and full of adventures, twists and turns. But just like a good movie or a good book, a good single life is destined to come to an end one way or another. And now I can look back with fond memories, through lenses tinted with the color of a life filled with love, devotion and happiness. Marriage-tinted glasses. I'll have a family soon. Who'd have thunk it?

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Kevin Tumlinson is the author of numerous novels, novellas, and non-fiction books, and the host of the Wordslinger Podcast. Try three of his best books for free when you download his starter library at kevintumlinson.com/starterlibrary.


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