Secrets about falling in love (and staying there) from the creator of the Instagram sensation The Way We Met.
You want to know how people meet people today? Take a deep breath, folks—I’m about to lay down some real-life meet-cutes:
“I met my boyfriend on the set of The Millionaire Matchmaker.”
“We met at an anti–Valentine’s Day party.”
“We met in first grade.”
“We met in a weight-loss group.”
“He was my Airbnb host for 10 days…. The Airbnb that I originally rented out ended up becoming [our] home.”
I know all these stories because I ask the question “How did you guys meet?” all the time. I even started an Instagram account, The Way We Met, to document the answers I’ve received. (Yes, I’m obsessed.) Now my 300,000 followers and I get to hear every kind of couple talk about how they first got together. They are proof to even the biggest dating skeptic that there is love—and a match—out there for all of us.
So what wisdom can I offer to help you find it? After sifting through 400 times the number of love stories Nicholas Sparks has ever published, I could tell you the cities where couples have met (places like Austin, Texas; New York; Los Angeles); the pickup lines exchanged (they locked eyes, and he pointed at her and then mouthed: “You, me, dance floor?”); even the strange twists of fate that brought them together (they had the same model car, and he accidentally loaded his groceries into her backseat). But those details are beside the point. What I have learned is that while love doesn’t come with guarantees, the couples who fell in love for the long haul in general did one of these things:
They didn’t rely on destiny.
I enjoy nights in with my Netflix and my snacks as much as the next girl, but fate can’t work its magic if you won’t leave your bedroom. And couples who shared their stories on The Way We Met by and large didn’t rely on apps. They met people when they were out and about, doing their thing—getting their iPhone fixed, attending a Super Bowl party, even standing in line for the bathroom at a bar. They also put themselves in unexpected situations in order to meet someone: They said yes to blind dates, they agreed to be auctioned off for charity, they went (happily) stag to a friend’s wedding. That last story is one of my favorites: “I knew [the bride] had a brother who was super cute, smart, and happened to be single,” Shannon posted. “So I decided to take matters into my own hands. I RSVP’d for one, booked a plane ticket, and wore a fabulous red dress. My plan actually worked! Our chemistry was insane, and we shared the best kiss of my life at the after-party. Four and a half years later, we just celebrated our one-year wedding anniversary.” Cody and Alisha, another couple featured on the feed, also seized the moment. “He saw me driving on the freeway, and for the next 20 miles, we couldn’t stop laughing and waving at each other,” Alisha posted. “He bravely wrote his number down and held it up against his window.” Alisha could have rolled her eyes: No thanks, rando! But instead she took a leap: She later texted him, and they set up a date. “One of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” she concluded. While I definitely encourage you to keep both hands on the wheel, the point I want to make is that if you want to find love, you should prioritize engaging with the people around you. You’ll encounter potential matches everywhere, every day, if you just look up and out—something we too often forget to put our phones down and do.
They were willing to be embarrassed.
Scroll through The Way We Met and you’ll see that the couples featured have often experienced less-than-perfect introductions. I’ve come across some stories that are so dramatic they should be plots on The Mindy Project—you know, she met a guy while surfing, when she accidentally hit him in the head with her surfboard; she met a guy at a harvest festival and spontaneously went off-roading with him, after which they both landed in the emergency room for X-rays. The lesson (except maybe watch where you’re walking and driving) is that there’s no shame if your ego gets a little bruised on the way to finding The One. Take Brooke. On her first date with Adam (he cooked for her), she tried to text a friend, “OMG. I’m here. He’s SO HOT!”—but she mistakenly sent that message to Adam instead. “I contemplated jumping over the [kitchen] counter to grab his phone or even running out the door,” Brooke confessed. “I sat there in horror as he read the text. He then looked up at me and in the sweetest, most humble voice said, ‘Um, I think you meant to send that to someone else.'” She recoiled, then recovered. Humiliating? Yes, but maybe not quite as all-out, shoot-me-now mortifying as having your mom approach a total stranger she thinks would be perfect for you, which is what Carolyn says her mom did in a Marshalls parking lot one day. “She raved about me for 20 minutes, showing him pictures of me and telling him how funny I am,” Carolyn remembered. “Then she gave him my number and sped off in her Honda.” But the stranger texted Carolyn, and as embarrassed as she was, she still went on the date—and lo and behold, Mom’s got a damn good eye! Listen: Sometimes something you find mortifying is utterly endearing to the person who wants to be with you.
They gave someone from their past a second look.
So many people on The Way We Met talk about meeting someone at the wrong juncture in life (when they were kids, or living in different cities, or even in relationships with other people) only to reconnect later and give things a go. There’s the middle school boyfriend and girlfriend who went separate ways, then in their mid-20s moved back to their hometown the exact same week—and ended up eloping. The two women who met at resident adviser training: A year goes by, they end up assigned to the same quad, and boom—couple. Occasionally it doesn’t take more than a few minutes to reconsider: Brian spotted his love from across a bar while he was on a blind date…with another girl. He walked girl #1 home, and then: Well, what the hell, he thought. He ran back into the bar, beelined it toward girl #2: “Hey! I’m Brian,” he said. “I’ve been staring at you all night while I was on the worst blind date ever. I just walked her home and had to come see if you were still here.” Turns out, she had been checking him out too, hoping the woman with him was a friend. Worth knowing: Every so often you’ve already met the right person.
They didn’t close off.
You know what stories really get me? Those from women so brokenhearted they truly believed they’d never love again—until they did. Listen to Krista’s: Many years ago she thought she’d married the love of her life. Then, not long after their wedding, she says he cheated on her. Still, she spent a few years trying to make it work. After that, “I needed a big change,” she told TWWM—so she moved across the country. She looked for a new job; eventually she landed a teaching gig. The principal jokingly warned her that every person who had taught in that classroom over the 10 years prior had gotten married, pregnant, or both. The “curse” struck Krista too: She married a colleague. They’ve been together for more than a decade and have three kids. And that pattern’s not unusual (one TWWM couple met at Carnival in Brazil—where they’d both traveled separately to get over rough splits). After a breakup, make your relationship with yourself a priority—invest in a job, spend time with friends—but don’t put up walls.
They listened to their instincts.
One final thing I’ve noticed? Despite all the other variables, TWWM couples pay attention to their gut. They often talk about going on epic eight-hour first dates, and many have become “official” after only a few days; one woman even introduced a guy to her parents on day three. Another woman said she felt an “instant connection” with the woman she’s now marrying; she followed her “pretty much across the country” from job to job—she was just that sure. Here’s what I like: These people took the time to get to know the person in front of them instead of getting distracted by the prospect of the thousands of other people they could be dating if they started swiping on their phone. They gave the person they were with a chance, and because they did, they felt a spark, and went all in. That takes courage—and nobody falls in love without it.
Brooklyn Sherman is the creator of The Way We Met (@thewaywemet on Instagram).