Katie John said it was nerve-wracking nearly 14 years ago when she was preparing to tell her family about the man she was dating and falling in love with.
Once taboo, online dating has become more and more mainstream over the years, said Jeannie Assimos, senior managing editor for eHarmony Advice. In 1999 online dating wasn’t something that was openly discussed, but that’s exactly how John met the man who was to be her husband.
“My parents, at first, were very nervous about it because I met some stranger online,” she said. “But once they met him and got to know him they liked him. And now, him and my father are very close and my mother loves him.”
John was about 19 years old when she first joined Match.com. She met a guy whom she had dated for a while, but “it was a disaster.”
“Another horrible breakup story,” she said.
When she got back online a year later she went on a few dates but said she didn’t “click” with anyone.
That’s when she got a message from Brett John. He lived in Ohio and she lived in New Hampshire, but the distance didn’t concern her.
“I was very young,” Katie John said. “I had just turned 20. I didn’t think about logistics like that. Whoever I met, if I liked them [I figured it out].”
Katie John, now 34, said she was online hoping to find someone she could eventually marry. Brett John said finding a wife wasn’t necessarily what he was looking for.
“I was very lonely and I was afraid of ending up alone,” Brett John said.
“He was looking for something,” Katie John said.
The couple, who now live in Myrtle Beach with their two daughters, began talking non-stop online and on the phone. A few weeks later, the pep band that Brett John was part of at Ohio State University was going to travel to Massachusetts – about 45 minutes from where Katie John lived.
“I was nervous and excited,” Katie John said. “Looking back on it I think I was crazy. … I was 20 and I was all alone. If my parents knew what I was doing they wouldn’t have liked it. But we were very lucky and blessed and destined to be together.”
Katie John said they immediately clicked and were engaged within a few months and married the next year.
“He is an awesome guy,” she said. “I think he’s a rare breed of men.”
In 2008 eHarmony had 30 million users, Assimos said. As of Wednesday afternoon there were 44 million users.
“More and more people are having success online,” she said. “When people hear those success stories they think they can try it.”
Katie John said that when it came out to friends that she and Brett John met online, people had a negative reaction.
“Now if they find out we met online, they’re like ‘Oh, cool. I know lots of people who did that,’” she said. “The perception of it is different and has changed over the years.”
Assimos also said as people get more tech savvy they get more comfortable with the idea of using online dating websites.
“Just look at the number of sites out there now,” she said.
A Google search for online dating sites brings up about 183 million results. Veteran sites such as Match.com and eHarmony.com can be found along with sites geared toward almost any kind of niche market.
Sites range from ChristianMingle.com, SeniorPeopleMeet.com, JDate.com and many others to newer sites such as Grouper, a site that brings two groups of friends together for a low-pressure date.
Many of the success story-couples tell Assimos they’re amazed by the fact that they’d lived in the same town for years but had never met before – dating online casts a much wider net.
Katie John said for a while she was afraid to refer to her marriage as a “success story.”
“Now that we’ve been married for almost 13 years we’re like, ‘OK, this worked,’” she said.