Julie Armstrong went kicking and screaming to Match.com.
It was 2001, a time when there was still a stigma attached to online dating. After moving from Dallas to Colorado Springs, Colo., Julie knew she was going to have to put in a little extra effort to meet someone. When she discovered an acquaintance was having success with online dating, she decided to give it a try -- but with a catch. The world traveler, now 53, made her profile picture of her riding an elephant in Chang Mai, Thailand, a location she thought no one would guess, shot from behind.
"I put that photo up and thought no one could see me," admitted Julie, a Jenny Craig franchise owner.
But Randy Petersen, 59, who works in the travel industry, recognized the exact location of the photo. He messaged Julie in early November.
"Who could have guessed that from mere photo identification I would have been able to impress her enough for the start of a conversation?" Randy said.
But he did. "I couldn't believe it, and I was shocked and intrigued," Julie said. "It opened up a floodgate of emails about travel."
In addition to their love of travel, neither had been married or had kids. They also both came from large, close-knit families. After messaging for a few weeks, the two met in person. Julie was naturally a little scared at first.
"I felt like I really knew him, but you know, until you really come face to face with someone, you don't know if the chemistry will be there."
The date almost didn't happen. On his way to Julie's house, Randy got lost and showed up 30 minutes late.
"I thought he stood me up," Julie said. "Finally, he arrived, and he was so apologetic."
After that meeting, the two were inseparable, and Randy surprised Julie in 2003 with a marriage proposal. They tied the knot on May 5, 2005, in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
The two now travel the world, and Randy was the motivation behind Julie giving up her career as a health-care marketing executive to go into business for herself. They both believe they wouldn't have met without the help of Match.com.
"There's absolutely no way we would have ever met up, rubbed shoulders or even connected since we're not the lounge crowd," Randy said. "But the positives of both our worlds certainly have proved to be a blessing -- for each the better."
Putting Your Best You Online
Lifestyle coach Andrea Gross
works with singles looking to meet someone, either in person or online. With either medium, she says, you must be confident and authentic to land a good catch.
"You can meet the man of your dreams tomorrow. If you're feeling fat and insecure, it's not going to work."
Some of her tips for maximizing your online dating potential:
-- Don't show pictures of cleavage or biceps:
"That's showing us that you don't have much to offer besides your body. The picture should be natural."
-- Don't tell, do:
"Don't say you're funny. Be funny. Talk about something."
-- Push for real communication:
"So many guys are great texters, but when it comes to talking on the phone, they're tongue-tied. Especially people dating online. If you have a few messages or texts back and forth, and you suggest having a phone call, and the guy doesn't call, move on."