Landisa: How I met my husband on OkCupid in South Africa in 2011

2020-03-23 22:54
Jeanne and her husband Paulo (supplied)

Jeanne and her husband Paulo (supplied)

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I met him after work at a nearby restaurant. Drinks turned into dinner and it was an easy conversation. It was a decent evening. Sparks didn’t fly, but he was the first one that I wanted to see again.

The first one out of the five dates that I had been on from the online dating site.

This was before online dating meant everyone was swiping on faces on their phone screens during their lunch break. It was 2011 and online dating in South Africa was, in many eyes, just one step up from the lonely hearts pages at the back of a gossip magazine. 

It had taken weeks before I was brave enough to put up a photo, lest someone recognised me on there. It took almost a year before I could admit freely that this was how we met. 

He had no qualms about it. Online dating was simply the workaround in an alpha male society: As women, we had become so accustomed to defending ourselves against overly aggressive advances, that many friendly conversations couldn’t stand a chance.

We thought we were just having fun. 

We went on a few more dates. I spilled wine on his picnic blanket. I met his friends. I was a girl he was seeing. We enjoyed each other’s company. Only after a few months did we both admit that we were in a relationship.

Neither of us remembers the exact day.

I went to family functions. I met his mom. He met my parents for the first time when he came on holiday with us. We kissed at midnight on New Year’s Eve.

We spent a week together in a tiny hotel room in New York. We fought. We were a couple. 

You fall in love when you aren’t chasing something.

Both of us left some unchecked boxes on the "ideal partner" list of the other.

But because there were no great expectations for the relationship, it didn’t really matter. It allowed me to see him for who he was. And that was so much better than who I thought I wanted him to be. 

We thought we were just doing something sensible. 

His new apartment was being renovated, so he moved in with me.

We cooked dinner together and took up each other’s space.

We picked out bedside tables. I grew chillies in the garden. We talked on the phone at odd hours when he was working on the other side of the world.

I missed him so much it physically hurt. 

Sometimes, when you meet someone for the first time, the impression that they make on you is so strong that they become frozen in your mind.

You miss the beauty of how they grow and change. You can’t see your fingerprints on their character. You don’t notice how they gradually help you to see the world in a different way.

When you fall in love slowly, you leave space for the other person to become, and you create room for the relationship to grow.

I thought it was just another holiday together. 

He went down on one knee on a hilltop in Prague on a sweaty day in August 2015.

We shopped around for wedding venues. We argued over a colour that we didn’t really care about. We laughed. In January 2017 I walked down the aisle in a forest on my father’s arm, and saw him waiting for me on the other side with tears in his eyes. 

For us, love was not a sudden flash of lightning.

Love was the slow movement of thunderclouds across a blue sky, the smell of rain and a hint of electricity in the air, the gradual bending of the sun’s rays until the whole world was bathed in a different light, drops falling on our faces faster and faster until we were drenched to the bone.

It wasn’t love at first sight.

And that’s the best thing that could have happened.

- Jeanne runs a public relations company, Rain Tree, and lives in Johannesburg with her husband, Paulo. 

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