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With an increasing number of relationships originating through internet-based dating services, it’s no longer surprising to hear about someone having met a significant other online. But even in becoming increasingly commonplace, these stories are all unique — and we asked several St. Joseph-area women to share theirs:

Alyssa Heldenbrand

My husband and I met online (via Christian Mingle) while living three hours apart; Ryan lived in St. Joe, and I lived in Joplin, Missouri.

At the time, we were both 26 years old. Clearly none of my other relationships had panned out, so I was ready to give online dating a shot. The longer the membership plan you subscribed to, the cheaper it was — but I didn’t think it would ever work out, so I chose just one month. With four days remaining on my account, Ryan “smiled” at me, and so began our conversations. It sounds so corny looking back on it now!

I loved that Ryan seemed like a real person. He didn’t seem to be only showing his best qualities or trying to impress anyone. I could tell right away what was most important to him and what he was looking for. I thought he was really cute, and it was obvious he loved Jesus, which was the most important thing to me.

Neither of us were looking to date someone three hours away, so we decided to meet at Aaron’s Family Fun Center in Belton, Missouri, after talking for only two weeks. That seems quick, but we didn’t want to waste time if it wasn’t going to work out.

When we met, I was so relieved because he was exactly who he said he was! Although he does joke that he considered walking up to me dragging one foot behind him, as if he had left out a very important detail about himself.

We hit it off so well that this first date lasted seven hours, and after that, we alternated weekends: One weekend he would drive down to Joplin, and the next weekend I would drive up to St. Joe. Being far from each other during the week was so hard, but those weekends we spent together, we were together the whole time — which was a lot of uninterrupted time to get to know someone.

After seven month,s we were engaged, and another seven months later, we were married. And after a difficult struggle with infertility, we now have two kids under 2: a daughter, Autumn, and a son, Milo.

To anyone else considering online dating, I’d say dating should be fun! But take it seriously, and find someone who has the qualities and beliefs you are looking for. Never settle.

Amy Simmonds

I lured my boyfriend from Kansas City after meeting him on Plenty of Fish. We both got T-shirts and a note from the company after writing them about our first anniversary.

I tried online dating because it’s always difficult to know whether someone is available or not when you encounter them at a grocery store or run into them at a bar. I also work all the time, so it’s hard for me to meet people the old-fashioned way.

When I first saw my boyfriend’s profile, I noticed he was planking in China in one of his photos, so I thought that was a funny throwback and that it also showed he was up for traveling, which he mentioned as an aspiration in his profile. Other than his photos being more at the gym than anything else, I think he did a great job of showing his true personality.

I sent the first message between us at 4 a.m. on a weekday, because I couldn’t fall asleep and saw he was also online. I rarely initiated contact with people on dating sites, but I had never seen him online before, and he had all the things I was looking for in a guy. I said, “Let’s go travel!”

After a very slow-paced exchange for a couple of weeks, I finally got him out of his his shell, and we discussed meeting. And in June 2017, we met halfway between each other in Platte City, Missouri. We had such a great time that we ended up meeting again the next day and decided afterward that we would move toward an official relationship.

About six months later, we began a trial run of living together, since it had been about seven years since I’d lived with anyone and he’d never lived with a girlfriend. Things went well, and we combined households in May 2018. Also during our time together, we’ve gone on trips to St. Louis, Chicago, Disney World and San Diego, and we’ll be seeing London this summer.

There’s a negative stigma about online dating, but finding a partner is an important thing that shouldn’t be limited to your social circle. My boyfriend and I are quiet when first meeting other people, so without online dating, we would never have met one another or known the other person was interested.

I also think it’s important to throw out the texting “rules” when contacting a person you’re seriously interested in. My boyfriend was sending me maybe one message a day when we first met, because I kept talking about how busy work was and he was worried about coming off as too interested.

I think that’s a common theme when you have a technology go-between. It took me leveling with him about needing to know him more before our date for him to throw out all the crappy dating advice he’d read online, which helped us considerably.

Rhonda Blaylock

I had tried to meet good Christian men in St. Joseph and really didn’t like the dating pool. A friend of mine had been using Singlesnet and was meeting really nice guys, so I thought it couldn’t hurt.

I lived in St. Joseph, and my husband, Kim, lived in Platte City when we met online. But Kim was coming to St. Joseph for work and church, so after messaging back and forth several times, we met in person.

We both had put how important God was to us in the first paragraph of our bios. We had our first couple of meetings before Kim’s divorce was final and decided not to see each other again until it was final. I went to Israel during that time apart, and when I returned, we talked for six hours. We started dating after that and were pretty much inseparable.

We decided we were not going to be sexually active until marriage. And after dating for a year, he proposed to me on the anniversary of our first kiss. We were married one month later.

To others who want to give online dating a try: I’d advise women to not travel to were the men are; stay in your safe, hometown territory. Meet in a public place. And both men and women should thoroughly screen each candidate, ask lots of questions and especially pay attention to intentions and expectations.

It’s also important to prepare yourself for a new relationship. Kim and I both took a relationship recovery class called Fresh Start, and after we married, we asked to be instructed in facilitating the class and have been sharing it ever since. (Classes currently take place at 7 p.m. on Tuesdays at Reach Church in St. Joseph.)

Jane Morgan-Hawley

I was divorced twice by the time I was 40. This was 34 years ago, and I was embarrassed to have had two divorces when my parents were married 69 years. My two brothers also never divorced.

Looking at dating profiles online, I felt a little nervous. But meeting men in person was easier with a plan: I always met them at 5:30 p.m. at Houston’s on the Plaza in Kansas City, and I told them I was having dinner with my son later. At 6:30 p.m., my son would call me — and if I felt safe and the conversation was going well, I would say, “Oh, honey, we can make it another time. I’ll talk to you this week.” If it wasn’t going well and we had nothing in common, I would tell my son, “OK, honey, I’ll meet you at 7 at Jack Stack.”

One incident where things definitely went differently than expected: I met a professor from KU, and things were going well, so he said he would call me the next week and we’d go on a date. But he didn’t call for four weeks. I mentioned to a friend that lived in Lawrence that I’d met a really nice professor but hadn’t heard from him — and she said his obituary had been in the paper three weeks earlier!

After giving up on online dating and being divorced for more than 14 years, the chief financial officer of the St. Joseph School District called one night and asked if I was dating anyone. Nine months later, we were married on January 1, 2001, and had a blast for more than 14 years, traveling and enjoying our children and grandchildren.

I lost him to pancreatic cancer in August 2015. It is lonely, but I don’t have the energy to do online dating again.

For anyone else considering it: My advice would be to stay safe. Make sure someone knows where you are. And remember you have to kiss a lot of frogs before finding the prince.

Ronny Jo Hennis

A friend of mine met her significant other online and kept encouraging me to try it. It took a lot of convincing, but I finally created an account on Zoosk.

At the time we met, I lived in Faucett, Missouri, and my husband lived in Holton, Kansas (about an hour and a half apart). From his profile, he looked very normal. I know that sounds funny, but if you have any experience with online dating, you know it’s a rare thing! He just looked like a regular, down-to-earth guy — and when we met in person, he was exactly who he said he was.

We started talking through Zoosk in June 2015 and basically played 20 Questions on steroids: We picked a category and ran with every question we could think of and did that almost every night. After a few weeks, we shared Facebook profiles and phone numbers. And in August, I asked him to go to a concert in Kansas City with me after a friend bowed out.

He already had plans but canceled them, and from that weekend on, we were together every weekend. After about three months, we met each other’s kids. We moved into a house in Holton together in January 2017 and were married on Aug. 22 of that year, exactly two years after the day we met.

Life has thrown us a ton of curve balls in our time together: I had a massive heart attack 2015; my mother passed away in 2017 and I was diagnosed with cancer in 2018. But we have made it through it all! He adopted my daughter in 2018, and we now have five kids and two grandkids together.

My advice concerning online dating is to be careful. I know that’s cliché, but it’s so important. I always asked for full names, pictures and license plate numbers from anyone I was meeting in person, and I sent all of those to a friend. I’d also have a friend text me throughout the date, and we’d have keywords to indicate if I were OK or needed a way out. Unfortunately, my husband wasn’t the first person I met through online dating, and not every experience was as positive as the one I had with him.

Samantha Fidler-Newby

My husband and I met on OkCupid and fell for each other’s profiles; he was wearing leather armor, and I was in my gypsy garb from when I worked at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival. Our nerdy taste in movies and hobbies was a match, as was our religion.

He lived in Cameron, Missouri, at the time, and I was living with my parents in St. Joe. We met at my house, then hung out at Long John Silver’s for a few hours for our first date. He then took me to my job and kissed me. It was a little overwhelming but sweet.

We started officially dating after three dates and saw each other every weekend. He proposed to me on Nov. 11, 2011, and we got married on Sept. 1, 2012. The years since have flown by, and I can’t wait to spend another 50 or so with him.

I’d tell people to not be afraid to try online dating. Just be safe and be sure to vet people before meeting in person. I think there are a ton of people wanting to be found, and it just takes the guts to go for it.