"This is ridiculous. I’m a busy person. I don’t have time to go out and meet people the usual way."
Tom and Eric
The year was 2002. Eric had just turned forty and hadn’t been in a serious relationship in eight years.
When he first moved to California in the eighties, he dated the old-fashioned way; he tried running personal ads in the paper a few times to meet people. “It’s frightening to think about doing that now, but that’s what we did.” Over the next twenty years, he had one long-term relationship and a couple of shorter ones. He became increasingly frustrated, not finding the right person to share his life with.
For his first foray into online dating, he chose Match, with the caveat of dating everyone he met in person twice. “People get nervous the first time around; they may not be comfortable or say the right things or be too scared to strike up a conversation, so I gave everybody two chances.”
That’s when Eric began thinking that as you get older, you realize that movies and rom-coms are wrong. It’s not necessarily love at first sight; it’s not a fairy tale; it’s life. And couples have to find a way to work through the challenging parts.
Eric met six people (twice) before a guy named Tom reached out and started a conversation. They took it slow, talking on the phone regularly for about three weeks before meeting in person. They met at a restaurant and then met again. And again. It would have been easy for Eric to say, This is the second date. This simply is not going to work. But he never felt that. Every time the two met, he walked away thinking, I don’t know enough. I need more information before I can make that next decision. And it grew from there. They met several times before they actually saw each other’s homes or spent time privately.
“We kept that connection going and learning from it as we went. It took awhile–probably six months–before we thought, Gee, let’s keep doing this and see where it goes.”
Eric believes that with any relationship, whether you meet online or at the grocery store, or while walking the dog, you have to decide if you want to be in a relationship and are willing to compromise and do what’s necessary. “You have to realize that nobody is absolute, that there’s some give and take on both sides. I’m not perfect; Tom’s not perfect.”
In Tom, Eric was lucky enough to find someone who is practical and thinks the same way he does. “We’re on the same page. And that, I think, is probably the more significant issue when meeting people because you have to be in the same place. I think you must have the same attitudes, the same belief system. And we did.”
Eric and Tom dated each other exclusively, partially because dating multiple people at a time required Eric “to remember too much.”
Most readers expect the two to get married and move in together at this point in this story, right? Something about living happily ever after.
Not so fast. At least not yet. The two did get married in May 2017, after having been together for fifteen years. “We had a do-it-yourself wedding in Pacifica with an ocean view and forty friends and family as witnesses,” Eric says. “Very intimate. We had a photographer, but it was all candid shots; nothing staged. It was a big, informal party with a kettle drummer (Calypso Vibe), paella, sides, and wine. It was an epic day.”
Then they returned to separate homes in suburbs outside of San Francisco, about ten minutes apart. “We’re just over a hill, and it’s still convenient. So tonight, I’ll pick him up, and we’ll go out with friends. Later, I’ll drop him off and then come home.”
And this is where most people say, Hmm, OK, that’s weird.
“Whenever people question it, I say, ‘I’m a real estate broker. So I can sell you a second house.’ We were at that time in our lives (and still are) where we each had our way of doing things. We like our personal space. Tom retired early, and I’m still working. And I feel like it’s a great way for us to give the best of each other when we’re together and a way to have our own lives and space when we’re not.”
Although they talk daily, they only see each other several times a week.
“I think there are convincing arguments for both living together and living apart,” Eric says. “You can say–and this is not lost on me–that we have not learned to compromise because we do not live together. I think the other argument is that we can give the best of each other when we are together. And we don’t let some of the ‘normal’ live-in relationship stuff get in the way: You didn’t put the toilet seat down. What’s this toothpaste tube doing out? Why didn’t you take out the trash? All of that life stuff that festers and never gets worked out. We don’t have those challenges. The way I run my home and spend my money is my business. What Tom does is his.”
The two never merged their money. They feel the essence of their relationship is the love, commitment, and belief system they share. They spend a lot of time with friends, but at the end of the day, they each have their own space and live their lives the way they feel they need to.
The question then is, why get married?
Eric remembers thinking initially they may not ever get formally married. “We had already been in a relationship for fifteen years and weren’t sure we needed a piece of paper to legitimize our commitment. It became practical because we wanted to be in each other’s lives and take care of each other.”
Now in their sixties and nearly twenty years together, Eric and Tom are beginning to talk about living together, or maybe living next to each other. “As we age, we feel the need to be closer to check-in and share healthcare.”
Tom retired from the healthcare industry in June 2019. Now he’s reading books, watching movies, and volunteering. Eric continues with his real estate career and plans for his retirement. The two took a month’s vacation at the time Tom retired, visiting Italy and England. “We travel very well together and hope to do a month of travel every year, in addition to our normal weekend get-aways. We love spending time together with friends and family.”
– from A Gentleman's Journey into Online Dating at 60
Now available online in Kindle Edition or Paperback
ASIN: B099TN9VZG (Amazon’s ISBN) ISBN: 9798503264715 (all other booksellers)