STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald
STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald
They almost deleted each other. Call it serendipity, fate or just pure luck that they didn’t.
When Katherine Michelsen and Don Freemyer met on eHarmony – an online dating website – they thought they were too different to have a meaningful relationship.
Michelsen was about to hit that fateful button when she noticed a picture of Freemyer with his aunt and mother. She figured that a man who posts a photo with his mother must be pretty secure in himself.
“I have a rule in life: If a man doesn’t love his mother, stay away,” she said.
Freemyer likewise decided not to delete Michelsen, and almost three years later they are engaged.
Neither thought they would meet their future spouse on an online dating site, but Freemyer and Michelsen represent a rising number of couples who meet online.
About one in six couples meet through an online dating website, and one in five single people have dated someone they met online, according to a 2009 study conducted by Chadwick Martin Bailey, a Boston-based firm, for match.com.
“I always thought my friends would introduce me to someone, but they never did,” Michelsen said. “I wouldn’t have gotten on (eHarmony) if it weren’t for Marcia.”
Her best friend, Marcia Reece, sat her down and helped her fill out eHarmony’s exhaustive questionnaire. The whole process took two hours and a bottle of wine.
“I told her I was going to do it with or without her,” Reece said.
Durango isn’t known as a single person’s paradise, and Freemyer, 71, was facing a problem many Durangoans face: how to meet someone outside the bar scene.
“I made a remark to a friend that I don’t know how I’m going to meet anybody because I’m not going to meet people in the bars, and they said ‘Well, go get on eHarmony.’”
But Durango’s size and location poses a problem for online daters.
Sheri Rochford Figgs was on match.com for about a month before she met her husband, Dan, and said Durango is “pretty geographically challenged.”
“I just didn’t find many people. Most people didn’t live here, and I didn’t want to relocate. I like Durango too much,” she said.
Luckily for Rochford Figgs, her husband was willing to move from Norwood to Durango.
“I really feel fortunate that I met my wonderful husband through match.com,” she said. “I never ever imagined that I’d find someone so compatible or make me so happy.”
Michelsen moved to Durango from Vail.
Both women gave the same advice for future online daters: Know what you want and be careful.
Michelsen searched Freemyer on Google to make sure he was telling her the truth about being a lawyer in Durango. She also took copious notes when she talked to potential mates to make sure they didn’t change their story in later conversations.
Match and eHarmony tell their clients to protect their identity and always meet the person in a public venue for the first time. Other recommendations include staying sober, drive yourself to and from the meeting and beware of people who talk of “destiny” or “fate.”
Some online daters take even more precautions and hire a private investigator to do background checks on people they meet, said a local private investigator who asked not to be identified because of the nature of the work.
Others want to know the financial situation of the person, if they have ever filed for bankruptcy or are married. The investigator gets about 10 phone calls a month from people who want to check up on someone they met through an online dating website.
“There is a low percentage of people who actually find something wrong. I’d say 10 percent, maybe 15, get a negative report,” the investigator said.