I love a “how we met” story. Maybe it’s the idealist in me, or my world-weariness vis-à-vis our current swipe-happy dating landscape, or my childhood obsession with watching Pride and Prejudice on repeat. Whatever the cause, I’m always the first to lean across the table at a dinner party, wide-eyed as I address a couple that I’ve only just met, and ask: “So, how did you meet?”
Sometimes the resulting story sounds like a Hallmark commercial. A fortuitous combination of chance, spark, and timing, like Kate Beckinsale and John Cusack reaching for the same glove, or Zooey Deschanel singing The Smiths to an immediately lovestruck Joseph Gordon-Levitt. But more often they’re nothing like a romcom. They’re a bad one-night-stand that blossoms into a full-blown relationship. A string of weird dates and ghost attempts that somehow turn around. A friendship that had no chemistry until one day, for some reason, it does. These happen to be my favorites.
There’s something appealing about the idea that an extraordinary love can be born out of the plain ordinary, or even downright unromantic. In fact, when I put a call out on Twitter for couples with these kinds of introductions, I learned that some of the least romantic “how we met” tales have spawned some of the best love stories I’ve ever heard. So in case you need reminding that love can come from unexpected places, here were some of my favorites.
“A traumatic event bought us together.”
Dolly, 34, met her husband Matthew, 35, when she was his occupational therapist.
“Matt was involved in a terrible car accident in 2014. He had suffered internal-organ damage, various fractures, and a spinal cord injury. The accident left him paralyzed from the waist down, and he also lost a friend who was in the car with him at the time.
I was working at a rehab hospital as an occupational therapist, and Matt was transferred to my unit to begin his rehabilitation process. He needed to learn how to move again without the use of his legs. I was the first person to transfer him out of a hospital bed and into a wheelchair.
My first impression of Matt was that he was incredibly strong. I admired his work ethic and his attitude toward recovery. When we first met, our relationship was strictly professional. But when Matt was transferred to a different rehab program after spending two and a half weeks at my facility, I told him to keep in touch with me to let me know how his recovery progressed. We stayed in contact, texted each other regularly, and he eventually invited me to a birthday party his friends were holding for him at the hospital. When he asked, I was conflicted. I remember looking in the mirror and asking myself, Dolly, what are you doing? It was in that moment that I realized I had feelings for him.
I think that right from the start of our romantic relationship we both knew that we had something very special. My mother had told me to carefully reflect on what my life would be like with a man in a wheelchair, to know that things will be different, and to understand how life might be just a little bit harder than a typical life. None of that mattered to me. We belonged together.
A recurring theme in our relationship has always been happy accidents. We always just go with the flow and embrace whatever life dishes out for us. It’s been five years and we now have a home of our own and a beautiful little girl. So even though things may be a little bit harder for us, we wouldn’t change a thing.”
“We had the worst first date I’ve ever had.”
Konrad, 32, met his husband Robert, 34 on Grindr.
“We met a few days after connecting online. Although Robert had been incredibly expressive over Grindr, this was totally absent when we met in real life. I thought he was completely uninterested. When he texted me after the date saying we should meet up again, I thought, Why?, but thought I’d give it one more chance. On the second date, he was marginally more expressive, and by the third his exterior shell of nervousness had cracked!
Whilst our first meeting in person didn’t particularly go as planned, it worked out in the long run. We met up for our first date in late-August, and I asked Robert to be official in early-October of that year. He actually initially turned me down as he had recently come out of a long-term relationship, but later changed his mind.
We don’t have a romantic ‘how we met’ story but our relationship is solid, loving, trusting, and supportive. I really couldn’t ask for a better husband!”
“I was on a date with someone else!”
Ellie*, 27 first caught her partner’s eye whilst she was on a Tinder date with another man.
“My boyfriend first saw me in person whilst I was on another date. I don’t recall seeing him at the time but we matched on Tinder the next day, and after a few messages he built the courage to ask: ‘Were you out the other night wearing a leopard dress?’
We went to play crazy golf on our first date, which was so fun. Throughout the game we chatted and found we had a lot in common. We met up again two days later for a drink after work and then began to see each other more regularly. Things fell naturally for us and we made things exclusive pretty early on as neither of us were interested in dating anyone else.
I’ve never met someone so understanding and loving before. He’s very patient and motivates me to work harder. He’s also a great travel partner!”
“We met at a Twilight convention”
Lauren, 29, is now married to Paul, 43, whom she bonded with over a love of Twilight.
“It was October 2010 and I had ended a long-term relationship just two weeks prior, so needless to say I wasn’t looking for anyone. I had two tickets to a Twilight convention and took my little sister along. That’s where I met Paul. There weren’t many guys attending, other than those already with partners. My friend group decided to ask him to join our table at lunch. We had a masquerade-themed party that evening, so we were all wearing masks and fancy ball gowns. We had our photos taken together, and I really didn’t think much of it until a few days after the convention had ended, and we got to chatting.
We spent the next month spending hours on the phone, discussing every topic imaginable and finding out that we were actually very similar. We made it official just before Christmas that year, and got married in 2016. We now have a daughter we named Alice, after one of the characters in Twilight.”
“His friend sent me a dick pic!”
Annabel*, 28, first met her partner Rob*, 29, in college after being sent an unwanted image.
“When I started college I was keen to make friends. So when I sat next to a couple of really friendly guys named Alex* and Rob in one of my first classes, I was happy to chat. They lived in the same hall, and one of them suggested that I add them both on Facebook so we could hang out.
Over the next couple of weeks, Alex messaged me pretty frequently. We went for a coffee on campus, but I really just saw him as a potential friend in a strange new environment. That’s why I was horrified when one day, out of the blue, he sent me a dick pic.
I now know how serious sending unwanted pictures can be, and I think that had it happened when I was a bit older and wiser I might have confronted him about it. But at the time me and my new roommates mostly just thought it was funny, if inappropriate. Still, I didn’t want him doing the same again, so I blocked his number and decided to drop his friend Rob a message to ask him to speak to Alex and tell him how weird the gesture had been. He was really outraged and sympathetic, even offering to come with me to speak to a college welfare team member if I wanted him to.
From there we ended up speaking more frequently, and became friends. We actually didn’t get together until a couple of years later, but we always joke that we never would have started talking if it wasn’t for that picture! When people ask how we got together now we just tell them that we met at college—they don’t need to know the details!”
Responses have been edited for clarity and brevity.
*Names have been changed.
Graphic by Lorenza Centi.