A friendly wink has long been a way to let someone know you find them interesting, amusing or attractive. Though the advent of online dating has changed the way couples meet and interact, at Match.com a virtual wink is still a way to signal interest.
And for Spokane Valley’s Mary Spalding and Lee Stanton it led to true love. “Apparently, I winked first,” Spalding said. Two years ago, the recently divorced single mom waded cautiously into the world of online dating. “I was out of practice and kind of nervous.”
When she read Stanton’s profile on Match.com, she liked what she saw. “I thought his picture was really cute and he seemed quick-witted. He wrote that he was the ‘reluctant social director for his friends.’ ” That made her smile, so she winked at him.
Stanton checked out her profile. “She had a goofy picture of her and her kids wearing clown noses,” he recalled. He found that and her long, blonde hair attractive, so he sent her an e-mail.
Soon they discovered that they were both born in the same Oakland, Calif., hospital and that Spalding shared the same name as Stanton’s mother. They agreed to meet in person.
When Spalding entered the restaurant Stanton was shocked. “She had dark hair – raving dark hair!” he said. However, her change of hair color didn’t dampen his interest. “I recognized the smile right away.”
He made a good first impression on Spalding. “He stood up when I approached the table,” she said. That courtesy amazed and delighted her. “We talked for three hours – we closed the place,” she said, laughing.
She impressed Stanton, as well. “She ordered food and actually ate it,” he said, adding that many women either say that they aren’t hungry or merely pick at their food when they’re on a date. “She was confident and comfortable enough to eat. I thought that was great.”
Stanton, who’d been twice divorced and focused on raising his teenage son, was up front about his intentions. “Probably, my second sentence was ‘I’m not interested in getting married.’ ” But that was fine with Spalding.
Their initial attraction and camaraderie intensified as the couple spent more time together. However, they waited several months before introducing each other to their children, conscious that their relationship affected more than just the two of them.
They discovered similarities, like their shared interest in fitness. Last year, Stanton competed in the Empire Classic Bodybuilding and Fitness Championship, and this year Spalding will compete.
They also found differences. “I’m all about now, a fly by the seat of your pants guy,” Stanton said. “She’s a planner and a list maker.”
In addition, they discovered political differences. “She’s a card-carrying California liberal,” he said. When asked his political affiliation, he replied, “I’m sane.”
Spalding laughed. “I voted for Nader once,” she confided.
Across the table Stanton affected shock. “Why would you tell me this, now that I’m committed?”
And committed he is, because after six months of dating, things changed – at least for Spalding. “She was telling my friends’ wives, ‘I’d marry him tomorrow, if he asked me,’ ” Stanton said, shaking his head. Of course, his friends eagerly passed the information on to him.
Having not had much success in the marital department, he wasn’t keen on trying again. However, they decided to combine households in December 2008. Spalding and her children moved into the house Stanton shared with his teenage son, a house his friends referred to as the “Fraternity.”
His choices in home furnishings were decidedly Spartan. He described it this way, “All white walls, throw rugs on concrete floors and white plastic lawn chairs, everywhere.”
When Spalding moved in, she made some changes and Stanton enjoyed the results. “We have walls that are painted,” he said. “Now, it’s a home, not just a house.”
The transformation of his home became part of the transformation of his heart. Stanton said, “I looked at how my life would be without her and I didn’t want to live without her.”
In August 2009, he gathered the kids together, got down on one knee, and ring in hand, he proposed. “I said, ‘I love you. I want to marry you. I want us to be a family,’ ” Stanton recalled. And in four months they will exchange wedding vows in front of assembled guests.
Stanton, 46, and Spalding, 40, have some advice for singles new to online dating. “You get out of it, what you put into it,” said Stanton. “Some people take more time shopping for shoes than they do when they’re dating. But there’s a lot of good people out there.”
His fiancee agreed. “There’s life in the dating world after 40,” she said. “Don’t settle.”