Sean heard of CatholicMatch through an unusual source--his girlfriend. It's actually not as dramatic as it may sound--his former girlfriend had joined the site, and they briefly got together thereafter. When they both went their separate ways for good, he was interested in checking out this venue.
"I had joined RCIA classes in late 2012 and was committed to joining the Catholic faith," he said. "When I became single and valued my faith as the center of who I wanted to be, my prior knowledge of CatholicMatch made it an ideal option."
So when the 26-year-old from Georgia went on CatholicMatch to find someone new, he was quickly attracted to what he saw in Ashley's profile. While natural attraction was certainly present, it was her quiz questions that caught Sean's eye. "Her quiz questions were extremely unique, funny and super creative," he said, explaining what separated Ashely from other profiles he had browsed. "I saw she had a vibrant and lively personality, which was something I was looking for."
And a further review of her profile gave an indication of how much faith mattered to the 24-year-old from Oklahoma. He reached out to her, she replied, and it led to six weeks of communication with the phone and Skype.
The phone conversations themselves were revealing to Sean, simply by how much time he spent on them. His previous "record" for phone conversation length was 90 minutes, a record that in of itself has never been close to being broken. But the first conversation with Ashley was two hours, and subsequent calls have gone as long as four hours.
Sean knew that eventually they would have to meet in person, so he booked a flight to Oklahoma City to meet her. Even though Sean is a natural, Type A personality--as is Ashley--that shouldn't be mistaken for lacking nervousness at a first meeting like this. The anxiety was what Sean later identified as his biggest challenge in making the relationship click.
"When I got to see her smile as she met me at the airport, I almost blushed and had to look away," he recalled. "I was nervous, unsure and felt partially crazy, but the trip was a chance I wanted to take."
Sean and Ashley were well-prepared for their first meeting and the had created a list of about 20 things that fell into three categories--Must Do, Should Do and Could Do. It could be an activity as general as playing mini-golf or seeing a movie, but others were unique to them. They made brunch together, and made a homemade fort to have a date night in. The activities were fun, but the creation of the list itself was just as much a part of the fun.
That fun activity is just one surface expression of how Sean and Ashley have used the distance between them to enhance their communication skills, and to have serious discussions about the life they wanted and where they thought God was calling them.
"Ironically, after hours and hours of conversation, I still felt like we had only talked for 30 minutes," Sean said, recalling his first trip to Oklahoma City. "This was one of the signs that showed me we might have chemistry. We were both used to going to Mass alone on the weekends, but were able to share that as well."
Before Sean left Oklahoma, one of the last things he and Ashley did was go to an arcade to play a basketball game. They beat the high score and exchanged high fives. "Something so simple as this was able to bring a smile to my face nearly a week later," he said. "Feeling like I had so many things in common with someone was both refreshing--and slightly overwhelming."
One of the factors that enabled their communication to flow freely was that neither was in any hurry to force anything. Their interest in marriage was certainly there--they each were already praying for their future spouses, the topic was on their mind with each other, but they were willing to let things take their natural course.
Sean and Ashley continued to develop their friendship and relationship via phone, Skype and text. "The unique challenges of a long-distance relationship have actually been our biggest blessings," Sean said. "We're both constantly busy with life, school, work and sports, and to be able to get to know each other without these distractions present in front of us has been tremendously refreshing." The communications required in a long-distance relationship, by their nature, allow Sean and Ashely to focus exclusively on each other.
Ashley has since made a visit to Georgia, and while the future of the relationship is still being discerned, she and Sean are quite happy together. They share a great deal in common, from a passion for travel, to an interest in reading books that teach them more about their faith, and as their basketball arcade game shows, they like competition. And they like talking together about what the future may hold.
"We believe that God will continue to open the right doors if it's his will," Sean said. "I still think I was somewhat crazy to get on a plane just to meet someone that I was seriously interested in, but I think that's part of the risk I was taking in trying to find something real. Every time something good has happened in my life, Ashley is the first person I want to tell about it, which only further excites me about what the future might hold."