Why in the world would I waste my time talking to someone so far away?, Sheri thought to herself when the chat request from Robbie came through on her CatholicMatch account. He's in Minnesota for goodness sakes! Two states away! Yes, the then-23-year-old from St. Louis was a little skeptical. But she decided there was really nothing to lose--it was only an online chat request. So she responded and the door was opened to something beautiful.
The initial chat went better than planned and for the next several days they continued to communicate online. It was a short window of time, but Sheri already sensed something special about Robbie. "He was obviously a very caring and thoughtful person," she said. Our faith lives and goals matched up." She further admired his devotion to family. Ultimately, Robbie and Sheri just had very natural communication with each other, something that would serve them well down the road, and was present from the outset.
Sheri still briefly hesitated when Robbie asked if he could call her on the phone and she ran the idea by a friend before agreeing to talk on a Saturday. It turned out that over the course of the weekend they spent eight hours on the phone--and that's not including the text messages and online chats. The relationship quickly moved forward and Robbie asked her to come north for a visit that April, where they would also go to a concert. Sheri moved the timetable up a month. She made the drive--yes, to a place two states away--in March.
They were both a little nervous over whether the connection that seemed so apparent online and on the phone would be there in person. It was--in fact, even Robbie's parents remarked that it seemed so natural, as though Sheri had always been there.
This all took place in the early part of 2011. Over the next year and a half, they worked at maintaining a long distance relationship. It wasn't without challenges, but the one thing Sheri cites as indispensable was daily prayer. "He and I made a commitment early on to pray together every day," she said. "There were times when that daily prayer saved our relationship during hard times. Long distance is never easy, but long distance without God is nearly impossible."
What's more, the prayer commitment underscored to Sheri, just how much Robbie really put God first in his life. Like so many members of CatholicMatch, it was the desire to find a relationship based on faith that led both of them to join the site to begin with.
"Before CatholicMatch I had gone on a lot of first dates, some were doozies," Sheri recalled. "I couldn't seem to reach outside of my Catholic network of friends and CatholicMatch gave me that opportunity." For his part, Robbie's natural shyness had made meeting people difficult and he joined the site after seeing the ad in the parish bulletin.
The year and a half of long-distance dating convinced Sheri that she was ready to take the leap and move to the Twin Cities. "I knew Robbie was the real deal," she said. "The more I saw he treated his family and how he was with friends and my family made me love him even more. I have a younger brother and when I saw how loving Robbie was to my brother, it really stood out."
Sheri put in a transfer request with her employer to be moved to Minnesota and she got the okay. The move was made in May 2012. Once again, the connection between her and Robbie only got better.
They found they enjoyed being around each other in the simple and mundane things of life, such as going to the grocery store together. Being in the same town allowed them greater opportunity to be with each others' families and friends.
Robbie and Sheri also experienced tough times. He had a rough stretch of employment and after her transfer, she ended up briefly unemployed for a time. They experienced tragedy when two of her co-workers were killed in a car accident. They were able to be there for each other in times of sorrow and hardship and grow together as a couple.
They also found that the other brought out the best in them, as each helped the other overcome issues that had often been a struggle. "I always struggled with self-confidence," Sheri said. "Robbie loves me as I am and constantly helps to build me up." She also admitted to having allowed herself to be defined by her dating life--"if I wasn't dating someone, I tended to feel more lost and insecure. When I was dating someone he was my main focus and the person I needed every day." It's a mark of Robbie's personal security that he's given Sheri the room to be independent, while still being there for her.
On the flip side, Robbie admits to having a difficulty with voicing his own opinion. Sheri has worked on helping him to overcome that, for him to tell her what he thinks and feels. "We both seem to bring out the very best in each other," she said. "My relationship with Robbie is the healthiest relationship I've ever been in."
2013 saw a series of weddings by friends of theirs--eight in all. Perhaps it was logical that in the final days of the year, Robbie decided it was time to start planning #9. They were at the wedding reception for the last of the string of marriages, near the home of Sheri's parents.
After leaving the reception early, Robbie suggested they stop at the Tridge--a bridge so named because it connects three different parts of land. After briefly walking, Sheri was ready to get going. "Why don't we walk a little further?", Robbie prompted, and he led her to the lamppost where the three sections of the bridge all came together.
Robbie gave her a hug and got done on one knee. But the first person who spoke was Sheri--"Is this real?", she said in shock. Robbie confirmed that yes, indeed it was real, and he pulled out the ring to prove it. After a overcoming her shock, Sheri gave him an enthusiastic yes.
The scene of the proposal was fitting--perhaps the three connecting parts of the bridge symbolized the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, because the relationship of Robbie and Sheri was built on faith from the start. They will be married this August.