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Couples Who Click

On a whim, RoseMarie Carver, a sophomore in college at the time, and her best friend decided to sign up for several online dating sites—eHarmony, Match, OKCupid.

RoseMarie grew up on Beals Island and said the dating pool there was more like a wading pool. “Most of the people are either related to you, or there’s just not enough people your age to seek an interest in somebody, even for friendship,” she said. “I tried online dating because I wanted to meet people outside of Downeast Maine.”

eHarmony uses what it coins the 29 Dimensions of Compatibility to make matches. Users are asked a series of questions ranging from their favorite television show to their personal beliefs and communication styles. The company then matches them with clients showing similar interests.

Just two days after RoseMarie signed up, she received a message. “It said, ‘Your profile makes me smile,’” she said. “And then he added a smiley face on the end of it.”

The message came from a man named Alex Downing, who also happened to be in college at the time. “Her profile caught my eye right away,” said Downing.

Interestingly enough, when RoseMarie looked at her match list, she saw Alex’s name at the top.

“I’m not very good at computers so I couldn’t figure out how to respond to him,” RoseMarie said with a laugh. “Instead I stalked him on Facebook and sent him a message that way.”

The two started messaging each other and said the connection was instant. Soon, they moved to texting. Not long after that, the couple began talking on Skype. About a month after RoseMarie received that first message from Alex, he asked her to come to his home for the weekend so they could meet in person and she could meet his family.

“It was very overwhelming, but fun,” said RoseMarie.

Three years later, the couple became engaged. Both being huge Disney fans, “I asked her to marry me at the Disney store in New York City,” said Downing. Last August, they became Mr. and Mrs. Alex Downing, five years to the day after their first date.

And remember RoseMarie’s best friend that also tried online dating at the same time? “She actually found her husband online as well that same year,” RoseMarie said with a smile.

According to a recent national study, online dating has jumped among adults under the age of 25 as well as those in their late 50s and early 60s. A big part of the younger generation’s increase is the use of mobile dating apps.

Thirty-one-year-old Sarah Eremita has tried online dating since 2007. When she moved back home to Bangor from New York City, she signed up for eHarmony, Match and Plenty Of Fish. “I was 25 years old at the time, I was looking for people to go out with,” she said. “It’s harder to meet people as you get older. Online dating seemed like a good way to find some common interests with people. Plus, I was tired of going out with my parents every Friday night.”

Eremita was hoping to meet someone in the area, but her closest match online was all the way down in Providence, Rhode Island. That’s when she decided to try Tinder, a popular mobile app for dating and romantic connections.

“Tinder is linked to your Facebook profile,” explains Eremita. “The app will pull photos from your profile or you can choose your own, as long as they are on your Facebook page.”

Tinder screens users’ Facebook likes and interests and uses those to make connections. When a potential match comes up, the user has the option of swiping right to like them, or left to pass. If the other person also swipes “like,” a message pops up announcing “It’s a match.” Both users are then encouraged to start chatting.

According to reports, there are about 50 million active users on Tinder. They check their accounts 11 times per day and spend an average of 90 minutes each day on the app.

“Some guys are on there just for hookups,” said Eremita. “You can weed them out pretty quickly.”

She ended up dating a man she met on Tinder for a little more than six months. “He was from Skowhegan, so distance was an issue. Also, he was looking for a wife and I was just looking for a boyfriend.”

The two broke up. Eremita said her ex did end up finding a wife, on Tinder.

Eremita’s next try turned out to be an accidental match. “I swiped right [or yes] on a guy that I didn’t mean to,” she said. “He and I ended up being together for two years. He moved in and we were planning on getting engaged.”

But Eremita said issues started building up and they too, broke up.

Eremita tried Tinder again, and ended up meeting someone she with whom she shared a lot of interests “but there wasn’t much chemistry.” They’ve decided to become friends instead. Eremita is now taking a break from online dating to see “if anything comes naturally.”

As for dating without digital matchmaking, Eremita doesn’t really see that as an option. “Bangor is a very small community, so it’s hard to meet new people,” she said. “It’s such a small pool to choose from.”

Eremita also believes she might still have had the same “roller coaster ride of relationships” without the online services, but “maybe I wouldn’t have gotten into them so fast.”

Jill Hinckley is the owner of Hinckley Introductions, based in Portland. She started her matchmaking business at the end of 2013. “I had a lot of single friends that were having trouble navigating the dating world,” she explains.  “I thought to myself, ‘Someone needs to help network these amazing people—why not me?’”

Hinckley’s family owned and operated Hinckley Yachts, a company her grandfather started in 1928. Hinckley herself worked as a recruiter in the boat business and thought it would be an easy transition into the matchmaking world. She caters to clients 40 years and older from all over New England and as far away as Florida.

“We do not share member’s information online,” Hinckley explains. “We meet and get to know every member of our network and make personal introductions when possible.”

Hinckley said most of her members are actually turned off by online dating sites. “They feel that online dating is not authentic,” she said, “that it’s too easy for someone to misrepresent himself or herself and that it’s time consuming to screen potential dates.”

She often recommends to her clients that, in some cases, online dating sites can lead to great matches. “If they are interested in trying online options, we can help them navigate through the different dating apps and online sites,” she said.

Fia Marquis admits she was skeptical about paying for any type of dating service. However, she said, “I wasn’t having any luck making romantic connections organically, and I tend to spend a lot of time on the computer anyway, writing or reading, so it made sense to try online dating.”

The 34-year-old said she was ultimately looking for a husband. “I was single and living at home in Windsor and my social life mostly consisted of singing karaoke with friends a couple of nights a week.”

She started with OKCupid and Plenty Of Fish “because they were offering services for free.”

Marquis went out on a few dates, but never with Mr. Right. She was ready to call it quits and had actually shut down one of her accounts when she received a message from a match.

“I actually ended up canceling a date with another match so I could stay at home in front of my computer, talking to him,” said Marquis. “I think that’s probably when I knew we had something.”

The two lived about an hour apart. “On a work night, I remember thinking that he must really like me to spend that much time in the car just to take me out,” Marquis said.

The couple dated for about three years before making it official in 2015. They now have a daughter.

This is where the story takes an interesting turn. When Marquis and her now-husband moved in together, Marquis set her mother up with a laptop so they could talk via Facebook. Barbara Belanger also asked her daughter for help in joining an online dating service. “She’d been widowed for almost two years at that point after being married to my dad for almost 40 years,” explains Marquis. “She was lonely.”

Belanger admits she was “leery of what might happen,” since many of her friends had tried online dating and it didn’t work out. But cupid’s arrow did strike—despite a nearly five hour distance between the two, and Belanger married a man she met online in August of 2015.

“They actually beat us down the aisle,” said Marquis.

Keeping an open mind, keeping your expectations open, and keeping one eye open at all times are what these online dating users dole out for advice.

“I think Skyping was a really big part of getting to know each other,” said Alex Downing. “We could really tell just from Skype sessions if we were being genuine towards each other.”

“We did take the precautions of texting, calling and Skyping before we met,” adds his wife, RoseMarie. “My advice would be to take those precautions and not just jump into something. It worked out for us but there are a lot of people that lie on their profiles.”

Marquis advises always telling someone else where you’re going on a date, just in case. “And don’t expect to have everything in common. If you did, it would be boring. But at the same time, know what you can’t compromise on. For example, I’m a food blogger, so I really should have known before the first date that it wouldn’t work out with a guy who ordered chicken fingers every time we went to a restaurant, even though we had strikingly similar tastes in pop culture indulgences. By contrast, my husband is an adventurous eater who looks forward to my kitchen experiments, although we have a very hard time finding a movie that we’ll both enjoy, unless it has the words Star Wars or Star Trek in the title.”

Hinckley agrees that chemistry is a big component of the coupling process.  “I think where matchmakers help, is they create opportunities for you to meet more people outside of your immediate network,” she said. “We help you find the needle in the haystack.”

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