Mark Smedmor had been looking forward to his holiday in Portugal for months. At 46, Mark was single again following the end of a 19-year marriage and another 10-month relationship, so he was ready to embrace life (and the beach) again as a single man.
But things never quite happen the way you plan. A week or so before he was due to fly to Portugal, Mark dropped a quick 'hello' email to a woman he'd spotted on DatingDirect, and nothing was ever the same for him again.
'Her photos on the site wowed me and her profile was very sincere,' says Mark, 'So I sent a quick 'hi'.'
Bridget, 38, was so pleased to get Mark's 'hello' because she'd seen and liked his own profile but had been too shy to make a move. Bridget had also been married, and was bringing up her 9-year-old son as a single mum while juggling a job as a payroll manager.
She admits that her initial attraction to Mark was physical. 'I wanted someone who was handsome and sexy, and Mark looked fit in his photo - and he also had kind eyes.'
Emails and phonecalls flew thick and fast and the pair got along so well they arranged to meet up just 5 days after their first phone conversation.
Holiday nervesThe first night Mark and Bridget met up in a pub, they chatted for hours. Things were going brilliantly well, except that Mark was about to leave for his single man's jaunt to Portugal.
'Suddenly I didn't want to go on holiday,' says Mark. 'But Bridget told me to go, because I'd already paid for it. So I went.'
It proved to be the turning point in Mark and Bridget's relationship. Rather than throw himself into the sangria-soaked social life, Mark spent every evening in an internet café, chatting online to Bridget.
'I think a lot of trust built up between us when we spent that week chatting online. We spent hours talking honestly about ourselves and our lives. All I wanted to do was come back and see her,' says Mark.
Four weeks after their first meeting, Mark asked Bridget to marry him... and she said yes! 'It happened so fast, but it was perfect. We got married in Barbados, I sold my house, Bridget rented her flat out and we bought a beautiful bungalow together.'
Three years on from that first email, Mark and Bridget's life couldn't be better. 'We are so happy and so in love', says Mark. 'Our plans now are just to build a happy family unit and live as long as possible. Who knows what's going to happen along the way? We just want to be happy, whatever we do together.'
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