"I can't believe I'm doing this," Michael was thinking to himself as he made the seven-hour drive from Pensacola to Nashville. "I'm driving to a state and city I've never visited to meet a girl that I've only ever spoken to on the phone, because I met her online."
It all seemed a little crazy to the then-24-year-old graduate student. But the one thing Michael wasn't feeling was--afraid. That was a significant milestone, because his journey to this first date with Julie had seen him overcome his fears repeatedly.
"I had signed up (for CatholicMatch) after taking a month off from dating," Michael recalled. He had gone through the breakup of an engagement, but decided that he did want to start over. Michael knew friends who had met on CatholicMatch and were just celebrating their five-year wedding anniversary. A devoutly traditional Catholic with a love for the Latin Mass, Michael thought perhaps this venue might work for him too.
Julie, who joined the site about the same time as Michael, noticed him in her list of matches and sent an emotigram. "I had received emotigrams that were simply a smiley face or a heart," Michael recalled. But Julie added content. It was basic--"I hope you have a beautiful day," was the message. That was enough to stand out to Michael and he went to read her profile.
"We shared many common interests," Michael said. "We were each in health sciences for our graduate programs, were each deeply rooted in our Catholic beliefs. I loved how she wrote and she just sounded so darn interesting."
Yet Michael was battling fears of opening his heart to love again.
"I had just gotten through a breakup and at first I was afraid that if I expressed interest that I would hurt her feelings if my interest grew cold," he admitted. He waited 10 full days before responding, and thankfully, it wasn't too late. "The Lord is good, because she did answer back when I finally did respond," he said gratefully.
Those messages soon turned lengthy, up to 2,000 words. Long messages became chat sessions, and then Michael took another leap and started talking to Julie on the phone. "She and I could communicate so well. It was just so fun to share and read," he said recalling the early days of their correspondence.
Even more important, Michael felt himself maturing thanks to his new friendship with Julie. "In my previous relationship I had been very immature at times," he candidly acknowledged. "This time, I was determined to do things right." After several weeks of phone calls, he asked Julie if they could meet in person.
The plan was to meet over their Christmas break. Julie would spend much of the break with her parents in Oklahoma, but left a bit early to allow time to meet Michael in Nashville. Thus, he was on the road, contemplating the craziness of it all, yet no longer feeling fear--excitement and nervousness to be sure, but he was not afraid.
There was some natural first-date awkwardness when they met, but the ice was eventually broken. "We went to Mass together, prayed the Rosary, played music and sang together," Michael said. "It was perfect.
That first date was at the end of 2010. On their one-year anniversary, he proposed and she accepted. They were married in September 2012. Each has completed their graduate programs and they have settled down in Tulsa, near Julie's parents.
When Michael filled out his original CatholicMatch profile he said he simply wanted a woman who would help him get to Heaven. That's what he found in Julie, even if it took ten days to respond.