How we met: ‘As a hardcore single person, I now know it’s never too late

How we met: ‘As a hardcore single person, I now know it’s never too late

Linda and John had been single for virtually their entire adult lives when they met in 2008; Linda was 60 and John was 56. Linda’s cat had died shortly before. “I decided I needed another partner, and this time I would try for a human,” she says. “I had tried answering personals ads before, but they had been disastrous for the most part. I thought: ‘I’ll try one more time and that will be it.’”

She joined the Washington Post’s online dating site. John was doing the same, cajoled by a younger colleague at the soup kitchen where he worked as a counsellor. “I was putting in an average of 60 hours a week, so it didn’t make for a lot of time to have a social life,” he says. “She was not very impressed, and she sat me down in front of the computer screen, and she said: ‘We’re going to do this.’”

Linda liked John’s profile picture. “It’s a photo of him standing in front of a car, and he has got his arms folded in front of him. It’s not exactly a scowl, but it’s a serious expression on his face.” She contacted him.

“I thought: ‘This looks interesting,’” says John. “We set up a date, then I Googled her and I said: ‘Oh my God – she has a whole page of entries about her.’ She is a very prolific writer; she’d written several books. I was like: ‘Who am I dating here?’ I was a little bit intimidated.”

They arranged to go to the cinema. “He was late, which is often the case,” says Linda. “I saw, from quite a distance away, somebody who was hustling towards me and I figured: ‘That’s got to be him.’ Even from that distance, there was something familiar about him – it was as if maybe I knew him when I was young.”

They went for dinner, although they can’t remember what they talked about. Did it feel awkward? “Those kinds of encounters are necessarily awkward, but because of this feeling I had – that this person was familiar to me, somehow – from early on, I felt comfortable with John,” says Linda. Afterwards, walking to their cars, Linda noticed John often didn’t finish his sentences: “I thought: ‘Can I get involved with somebody who doesn’t finish his sentences?’ But it seems that it wasn’t such a great obstacle.”

John was busy at work, so it was another month before they met again. When did they become a couple? “After about two months,” says John. Even when they got married in 2012, Linda half expected John to remain living at his house half the time, which is how their relationship had worked until that point. “I was surprised when he told me he would be moving in with me. I thought we were both very independent people, having been single for such a long time – we weren’t used to having to answer to anybody else or to share a living space with another person.” (And, now, another cat.)

Their independence has made it easy, says Linda, “to become devoted to each other in a strange way. We haven’t had children, so it’s easy to focus on one other person. John is also a very generous and kind person, and that makes it easy to love him. Because I very much admire the work he did for 30 years or more with homeless people, I have often told him he’s my hero.” Linda, says John, is “a very understanding person, very kind. In any kind of romantic relationships I’ve been in, work had always been a problem: ‘You’re married to your job – there’s no room for me.’ Linda, although she was not always happy with it, respected the work that I did.”

Had they given up hope they would ever meet someone? “Just about,” says Linda. It was becoming increasingly likely, she says, that she had missed her chance. “Part of the process of growing up is realising this whole idea of Mr Right or you’re going to fall in love at first sight … all these romantic illusions are just that. If you’re going to find somebody it has to be the right person for the long haul. As a hardcore single person, I now believe that it’s never too late.”

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