Thriving Relationships//

The Unexpected Lesson I Learned from Online Dating

Broadening my filters changed the way I view the world.

Kwanchai Lerttanapunyaporn / EyeEm/ Getty Images
Kwanchai Lerttanapunyaporn / EyeEm/ Getty Images

I met my boyfriend online, which is not that unusual these days. In fact, one study found that nearly 20 percent of couples today say they met online or via social media. What is unusual about our story is the way we found each other online, or I guess I should say the way I found him.

I was living in the Detroit area, which was overwhelmingly populated with sports-obsessed guys who like to work hard and play harder. My connections page overflowed with images of men with goatees wearing baseball caps. Most of them weren’t even smiling.

Frustrated by the Match.com search engine, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I created a custom search for guys with compatible astrological signs (Leo, Virgo, Libra, and Aries) who lived within 100 miles of me. Suddenly, a new dating pool of eligible men appeared on my computer screen, like an oasis in the desert. A cute guy from Ohio immediately caught my attention. He was a Virgo, with dark brown hair and blue eyes. And best of all, he was smiling! I couldn’t wait to read more.

If you lined up our profiles and read them side by side, it would be hard to discern the differences between us. We both wrote about our love of yoga and meditation, nature walks, favorite bands, preferring road trips over plane rides, and our desire for a meaningful connection. Like me, he was also a neat freak, which was a definite bonus. I e-mailed him the next day, and then waited for his response.

He wrote me back a few days later. I scanned through his profile again, and that’s when I noticed it. He listed his height as five foot three – a few inches below my minimum height criteria. That’s why he never showed up in any of my previous searches. When I created my custom search based on astrological signs, I had accidentally turned off all of my other filters!

We immediately became immersed in each other’s worlds, firing off multi-paragraph e-mails on a daily basis. There was a connection between us, a common vocabulary, and point of view that was uniquely ours. After a week of late-night marathon phone calls, I was smitten. I had almost forgotten about the height issue until we started planning our first date.

Aside from the social stigma associated with dating a shorter guy, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. Naturally, I was a bit nervous going into that date. I wondered, “How tall is five foot three anyway? And what if he is lying about his height and he is really only five feet tall?”

As soon as we met each other, it was clear that his height was not an issue at all. In fact, it is not something we ever think about. We have been together for over three years, and I have never been happier in a relationship. Everything about us just fits perfectly.

Every time I think about how I met my boyfriend, I realize how lucky I am. My boyfriend’s profile didn’t miraculously appear out of thin air. He was there the whole time. I just couldn’t see him. If I hadn’t accidentally turned off all of my filters, I would have missed out on meeting the love of my life.

Filters are more than just a convenient search tool. They represent an internal set of criteria and biases that we may not even be aware of. There are many areas in life where our filters can hold us back and limit our options. The more we can turn off our filters, the more we are able to see things clearly.

Whenever people ask me about my experience with online dating, I am always happy to share our story. And remind people to turn off their filters. Search filters can be extremely helpful if you are looking for the perfect pair of black suede ankle boots. But when you are looking for love, it is better to cast a wider net.

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