When online romance goes offline

Apr 2, 2012 at 9:00 a.m. ET

These couples met in an out of the ordinary online space. Get inspired by their stories.

In a recent post, I highlighted a list of dating websites that were specific in nature, thereby giving people an outlet to meet through common interests. Every couple shares an interesting story of how they met -- online or offline. Today I'm sharing stories of couples who met in unconventional online spaces. I hope you enjoy their stories in their own words and get inspired. Love can happen anywhere.

Andrea and Chris WrennAndrea and Chris Wrenn

I was instant messaged by a gentleman on Aug. 22, 2000 while I was in a chat room on AOL. I didn't usually talk to anyone I didn't know via instant message, but for some reason I responded. By his use of language, I could tell he was intelligent, could spell and like me, could type fast. This helped to make ours a real conversation via instant message. We learned that we both had similar backgrounds -- small town, married high school sweetheart, divorced after being with first spouse for the same amount of years, kids, not big drinker/partyer types; he was military and I was a military contractor.

We typed back and forth for hours. Just before we signed off, he challenged me to give him a call. I did just that and we ended up talking for a few more hours. We talked online and via phone for the next two days and set up a time to meet in person and set up a lunch date at a place near the Air Force Base.

During out 2.5 hour lunch, the one thing that I remember to this day is how I felt his eyes could penetrate my soul, as if he could see right through me. Since that day, we have spoken to each other every day. In 2002, he asked me to marry him and we had a 13 day engagement, marrying on the parade grounds on the military base July 4. Together (through previous marriages) we share five children between the ages of 19 to 32 and several grandchildren. Had he not sent me that message, and I not responded... who knows what life would have brought.

Talia Mark and Michael HunterTalia Mark and Michael Hunter

One day as I was driving from Florida to my parents' house in South Carolina, I heard Steve Harvey on the radio talking about BlackPeopleMeet.com. I had never heard of the website before, but thought it would be something interesting to check out. When I arrived in Myrtle Beach, my mom, sister and I created a login for the site, spent about 25 minutes on it and went about our day. A few months later, I logged in again, wondering if anyone responded to my profile. I was not actively seeking anyone, mostly because my job as a Multicultural Marketing Manager for USA Swimming kept me on the road a lot and didn't leave me much free time to date.

There were a number of responses from men who didn't fit the profile of what I was looking for. As I began to shut down for the night, an instant message from a man in Missouri popped up that simply said, "How are you?" In my profile, I made it clear that I was only interested in men who lived in Florida.

The first communication I had with my soon-to-be-husband was a reply instant message saying, "Why are you contacting me? You don't live in Florida!" Michael Hunter Jr., an Assistant Football Coach at Missouri State University, was looking to move back to the East Coast in order to be close to family.

Mike and I would instant message each other for about a week until he gave me his phone number. About a month later, Mike had to come to Jacksonville for a football scouting trip, so we decided to meet in person for dinner. The company was great! It felt like we had known each other for years and I felt very comfortable around him. Given the short time he was in town for, we decided to hang out again the next day... Thanksgiving.

Technically our second date, I met his entire family. Everyone treated me like I was part of their own and it made me feel really good. As Christmas rolled around, we decided to have our third date in Myrtle Beach with my family. Mike spent nine days and 10 nights with all of us. My family loved him, especially my dad, since the women far outnumbered the men.

Over the next year, we learned a lot about each other and a lot about ourselves. We realized we are exact opposites; I'm outgoing and he's reserved; I'm spontaneous and he's structured; I'm always right and he's... well, you know how that goes! Through our opposites, we still attract. In March of 2010, Mike was offered a position at a private school in Jacksonville, Florida. He proposed in May of that year and on July 23, 2011 we were married.

Dana and Michael RitterDana and Michael Ritter

My husband Michael and I met through a chance email way back in 1999. I was trying to find an address for a particular family, so I searched the name of the church that family went to on the Member Directory on AOL.  (Remember the dial-up AOL days?) I sent messages to a handful of people who came up in my search. Soon after, a guy named "RitterML" wrote me back and helped me with the address. He then asked me to be his "buddy" so we could chat more often on instant messenger. We would chat and email every now and then. This went on for years and as the internet grew, so did our relationship.

We started chatting on Yahoo! Instant Messenger with our voices, and then video through webcams. The internet was the best way for us to connect for so many reasons. One big one is that my husband is a quadriplegic and is paralyzed from the chest down and is in a wheelchair. Getting to know each other online was comfortable for us.

He didn't have to worry about insecurity because of his physical limitations and I didn't have to face my own fears about it right away either. Some eight (yes, eight!) years of keeping in touch that way, Michael sent me flowers to work on Valentine's Day. We finally met up and started dating, doing the long-distance thing for a year. We were engaged about a year later and were married in 2009, 10 years after our initial chance encounter.

Elaine NAME and Dwayne KilbourneElaine JACKSON and Dwayne Kilbourne

In June of 2010, I'm at home on my computer after enjoying a great workout at the LA Fitness gym in my area. Since Foursquare is a passion of mine and being new to town, I wanted to see if I recognized any of the faces from the LA Fitness venue page. Even though I never recalled seeing Elaine at the gym, her picture definitely got my attention. I decided to friend her. The next day, I saw that Elaine accepted my friend request on Foursquare and since it was linked to her Facebook account, I decided to shoot her a message over there.

I was just glad to connect with new people in the area since I was new myself and had absolutely no intention of finding a soulmate at the gym. We started talking more and more and finally a few weeks later, we "checked in" to the gym around the same time and checked each other out. It's now two years later and we've been dating ever since!

Jennifer and Joel BullockJennifer and Joel Bullock

After college, I got a live-in nannying job out of state and didn't know a soul in the area I was moving to. I went online to FriendFinder.com to find men and women my own age with whom I could connect and ended up meeting my future husband -- though I didn't know it at the time! Joel and I had a lot of similarities and since he grew up in the area I was now living, I thought it would be perfect to become friends. We talked on the phone for about two months before we met in person and when we met, we made sure it was in a public place and my friends and family knew we were meeting too -- for safety reasons.

We had a great night out in the city and decided we would keep talking. Two months later, we started dating exclusively and a year and a half later we were engaged and married in 2005. This year, we are getting ready to celebrate our 7th wedding anniversary and have two beautiful daughters.

Lisa Niver Rajna and George RajnaLisa Niver Rajna and George Rajna

George and I met online, but through an extreme chance encounter. His profile was on salon.com and mine was buried in the Onion Online Personals. George emailed me in October and I never wrote back. Luckily, he emailed me again in January when I was less bitter about dating online. I'd had so many first dates and no second dates that I was about to give up and say the online romance method wasn't going to work for me. A friend suggested trying a new site and George was my first date after I posted on the Onion Personals. I was his third date. Amazingly, our initial meeting lasted four and a half hours. After George walked me to my car, he kissed me and asked for a second date. Two years later we were engaged and a year after that we were married. We love to spend time together and our number one passion is traveling.

Stephanie Corey and Brent MarksStephany Corey and Brent Marks

Editor's Note: Have fun following the story!

I met my husband six years ago through Yahoo! Personals. I'm not even sure it exists anymore, but our story is funny. I was going through a divorce, as was my neighbor, so she came over one night with a bottle of wine and said, "Let's do our online profiles!" So I signed up for a month ($30 I think) and I met tons of guys. I didn't connect with anyone, though. So, the very last day my profile was active, Brent's profile popped up.

He was a San Francisco firefighter who spoke Spanish and French, loved to travel and whose life was focused on his two kids. I thought, "What's not to love?!" So I sent him an email telling him that my profile was ending so he wouldn't be able to get in touch with me through the website any longer and I gave him my email address so we could keep talking!

Here's the funny part: His ex-wife's name is also Stephany (spelled with a Y) so he was hesitant to contact me. Now he's glad he did! Funny part 2: His ex-wife and I are now best friends and just ran a 10K together. Funny part 3: My ex-husband is now also dating a girl named Stephanie! This is the stuff reality shows are made of!

Do you have an interesting story to share?

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