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Part of a couple?

Alone?

There’s nothing quite like Valentine’s Day to highlight the difference between the two groups.

If you’re part of a couple, it’s an opportunity (and, yes, a responsibility ... I’m talking to you, all you guys) to celebrate that relationship. It’s a chance for special dinners, heartfelt messages in cards, candy, gifts and roses delivered to your sweetheart.

But for those not in a relationship — especially those who wish they were — Valentine’s Day is no celebration. No flowers, no special dinner ... nothing.

As guidance for those who are in the “Alone” category and think they are ready to be in the “Couple” category, several recently engaged couples talked about how they found their special someone.

Embracing technology

Sarah Vence, 31, has been the chorus director at Chopticon High School for the last six years, and she taught on the Eastern Shore for four years before that. She studied at Florida State University and the University of Delaware. She is originally from New York state.

So, she’s moved around plenty. And, as a person with no network when she moved to a new place, she didn’t always feel comfortable meeting people cold in a bar, she said. “It’s not necessarily a safe thing until you make connections.”

While she was active socially, getting involved in church and groups like the Young Professionals Initiative of St. Mary’s County, she also tried to meet people online. She said she found it was a way to say who you are and what you want and cut through a lot of the preliminary work in a relationship.

One day, she was on a free matching site and she “met” Edward Lorek Jr., who was also originally from New York. He had just moved to Virginia and was trying to meet people also.

While they exchanged a little information, they both decided quickly that they were not attracted to the tone of that site, Vence said.

She became a member of Match.com, a for-profit dating site, and Lorek turned up there also. “It just sort of blossomed from there,”she said. After communicating electronically for a month or less, the couple had their first date at the Ruddy Duck Brewery and Grill in Dowell in June 2010. They will be married May 25.

“I never thought that was the way a successful relationship would have started,” she said, referring to the online dating site. “I had really positive success.”

Vence said that online dating is a little tricky, but “you can tell a lot about a person by how they represent themselves online,” she said.

But there’s only so much you can really know in the electronic world. “It’s so formulated,” Vence said. People can rewrite and rewrite electronic communications, so the relationship isn’t true to life.

“I felt like, at that point, we had learned all we could online,” Vence said of the decision to meet and start interacting in the real world.

But for people hoping to meet someone, Vence recommends sites like Match.com and another, Meetup.com, which is more of a place to find compatible social groups and find out about planned activities. “I definitely think it’s a great way to start,” Vence said. “But you still have to balance that with social engagement ... you get to know them truer than you do online.”

Overlooking the one right in front of you

Robin Suite, 22, of Mechanicsville was a student a Chopticon High School in 2006 when she met Kevin Best, 24, an upperclassman. He was definitely not her type, Suite said.

“You know, when you’re a teenager, you’re attracted to the bad boys,” Suite said during a telephone interview on Thursday. The problem was, Best wasn’t very bad.

A fellow member of a band he was in tried to set him up with Suite. “He used to come by my locker and give me this little dorky wave,” Suite said.

She eventually decided to give him a chance despite that Dorky wave. They went out on their first date on Dec. 29, 2006, “and we’ve been together ever since,” she said.

“I gave the good boy a chance, and thank God I did,” she said.

Suite and Best will be married July 27 at the River’s Edge Conference and Catering Center in Patuxent River.

While Suite and Best followed the classic high school sweetheart route, Suite said her friends are meeting people at local bars or on Facebook. She also said friends are setting people up with their friends.

Friend and social media pave the way

Leanne Serman was a senior at Chopticon High School, a member of the Class of 2006, when a friend said she knew a guy at St. Mary’s Ryken who wasn’t seeing anyone. “She thought we’d hit it off,” Serman said.

The friend introduced Serman to Jonathan Mattingly, a senior at St. Mary’s Ryken, through the social networking site MySpace. Serman said she noticed two things in Mattingly’s MySpace profile — he loved Ford Mustangs (and so did she), and they shared the same birthday.

“You look for signs when you’re young,” Serman said.

After spending about two weeks talking for hours on the phone, sometimes for stretches of four to five hours, Serman said, the two met in person, again assisted by the friend.

Serman and Mattingly kept seeing each other as they finished their schooling, and now they are planning to get married in June.

Serman said the way they met worked for them because they are both quiet, shy types. Getting to know each other through MySpace and telephone calls first was more comfortable for them, she said.

And it didn’t hurt to have a friend with match-making skills.

Go to a different place, meet different people

Megan Raley of Mechanicsville was out with friends when a mutual friend first introduced to her future fiance, B.J. Lyon of Mechanicsville. It was back in 2009. She was 20 and Lyon was 30. Now Raley laughs and she says she can’t even remember where they were when they met. But she remembers receiving a text from Lyon not long after that meeting, and once she figured out who the text was from, she was excited because “he was cute,” she said.

Raley and Lyon will be married on March 2 in Chaptico.

Raley said that most of her friends met their significant other in high school. But she recommends to those who didn’t that they go out with their friends to different places. If you go out to new places, you will meet new people. She did.



scraton@somdnews.com