The thing about online dating is that there are no guarantees. Unlike eBay or any other online shop for that matter, if the item you invest in doesn't turn out to be as described, there's no come back.
Still surrounded by baggage - physical and emotional - I fell into internet dating from a position of vulnerability. Another unsatisfying three year relationship over, another suitcase in another hall.
After I moved out on my own, when I wasn't making myself unsustainably busy to numb the pain, I'd be online, looking out for my next potential life-partner. A few guys said hello, I liked the look of some of them, too, but it all felt empty; none of them made me feel anything inside. That is until one evening, about a month in.
I'd trawled about a hundred or so online profiles, as I usually did, clicking one or two as "favourites" - maybe he liked art, maybe he was sensitive - but I stopped dead in my tracks when I saw this particular one. I remember, I actually stood up and said, "Wow, I have got to speak to him."
"Relax, smile and be happy" his profile instructed me. That spoke to me, so I read more. You know when you're on a beach looking for pretty pebbles and one catches your eye and you're so delighted you reach down to pick it up? Well, this was no pebble - I believed I'd found a diamond, right there at my feet. As I read what he had to say in those few short paragraphs, all the emptiness was filled, and the agony I'd been carrying around for months just dissipated.
Within two weeks we had exchanged probably 50 emails and had arranged to meet. His online photos were slightly obscure so I wasn't certain I'd recognise him but as soon as we saw eachother we smiled, he scooped me into his arms and squeezed me. "It's good to meet you." It was. Instantly I was hooked.
We had an amazing first date, spent all afternoon together in the sunshine; we walked, ate ice cream, wandered the markets and canals, shared food in a cute organic cafe... Could any first date have gone better? I thought probably not. At the end of our date he walked me to the station and gave me another of his giant hugs. I hadn't known if we'd kiss but no, we didn't. Maybe it was too soon, there was time for all that.
His emails after that point dropped off a bit - always "manic" at work - but still we met for dates; five wonderful afternoons over the course of about ten weeks. The last time I saw him I felt we had become close. He'd mentioned previously that he hadn't been ready for anything serious so I had backed off and left him alone - neither was I, if I was really honest with myself. But after a couple of weeks he came back to me, wanted to see me again, and I was glad. He'd clearly been doing a lot of thinking and he told me his plans; his dream of moving back to his home country, a friendly community, sunshine, kids, beachside living; in a few years, after he had worked out how to make more money.
Why did he tell me this? Was he looking for my reaction to gauge whether I'd like to be a part of his future?
When I left him that day his words and actions told me we'd see eachother again very soon. That was almost two weeks ago. Since then it's like nothing has changed. He's again busy at work, no phone calls, few emails and no plans to meet up.
Why, then, is this extraordinarily beautiful and confused man in an online shop selling himself as potential relationship material?
I've decided today that I must move on from him for my own emotional safety. He's a risky venture and my well-being is at stake. I'm having conversations with some wonderful men who are very keen to meet me.
But what about my ten week investment? And far more importantly, what about that aching, gaping hole he left in my heart? I hope that one of these other wonderful men can help to fill it in, and soothe it better. But the thing about online dating is that there are no guarantees.