All's fair in love and war, they say.
When it comes to Tulsans and their love lives, we are experts at playing hard to get, cat and mouse, hide and seek, maybe even a little peek-a-boo.
Whether you're solidly single, happily married or somewhere in between, we all have our own ideas on what love means, on the best ways to find love and on what constitutes a satisfying relationship. There is no one size fits all.
We went behind closed doors for private talks with T-Towners who spilled the beans (anonymously!) on their own love lives, on what types of relationships they prefer, and on the hard road to finding their happily ever after.
50 First Dates
One 40-year-old south Tulsa fiery red-head, who we'll call "Bette," told us how she looked for love. Over the course of 15 years, Bette searched for Mr. Right on more than 50 blind dates.
It began in the mid-1990s, before Internet dating cornered the market as the bar-hopping alternative. Bette tried a video dating service, but struck out after several first dates.
Next, she ran a personal ad in a Tulsa publication. Bette garnered dozens of dates through this popular pre-Intertubes love connection. (Does anyone else miss reading through dozens of these lonely hearts ads, passing judgment, silently critiquing their grammar and otherwise re-writing them in your head? Or that was just me?)
Once she had three dates in one day -- one she met for lunch, one for after-work drinks and one for dinner. Though Bette didn't find lasting love, she did happen upon a goofball who called himself "the horny Santa." 'Nuff said.
In the late '90s, America Online was all the rage, and with it came the first big Internet dating system -- Love@AOL. And with the first Internet dating method came the champion sport of stat warping, wherein a short, balding, heavyset man (for instance) suddenly turns into a 5'11", 170-pound fellow with luscious locks (typically, these stats are helped along by out-of-date photos).
Bette said she searched for an honest man, and was deeply disappointed by her findings. On Love@AOL, she met a guy who seemed perfect for her. "I could tell I was really falling," she said. They talked on the phone for hours each night, and told one another their life stories, their hopes and dreams. He wanted her to meet his parents. She said they needed to physically meet first.
So they met at a McDonald's off the turnpike. As he pulled into the parking lot, she met his gaze and realized, "Everything he had told me was a lie."
The man was morbidly obese with what Bette dubbed "sausage fingers," and not only had he lied about his weight but he was also several inches shorter than he'd indicated. And his monetary situation wasn't quite the picture he'd painted in her mind, either. He was driving an ancient minivan with most of the seats torn out.
When she let him down, he tried to get her back by posing as a different man and sending her emails through a different account. But she soon shut that down, too.
In the early 2000s, Love@AOL morphed into Match.com, one of the most highly populated and successful dating sites on the Interwebs now. For years, Bette would check the site, see the same Tulsans, go on a few dates, and be disappointed. Lather, rinse, repeat.
But one evening in 2005, a new profile popped up. "Who is this?" she wondered. The first thing that struck her was his height. He was honest about it, and reported he wasn't very tall. After a solid exchange of emails, they decided to meet for dinner.
From the moment they met, Bette said she felt comfortable around him. And he had been honest. He was exactly the man he'd said, and exactly the kind of man Bette had been searching for.
She's finally found happiness in a place she never expected after a long and arduous search: the suburbs of Broken Arrow. She now lives in a spacious, well-appointed home with her husband of six years and three-year-old son.
The moral of this story? Don't give up. Sometimes it takes a long time to find a love worth keeping, but it's worth it.
About 20 percent of people in a fresh new committed relationship (or one out of five previously single people) met online. More than 280,000 marriages occur every year as a result of people meeting via online dating sites, Online Dating Magazine reported in Jan. 2011.
A Match.com study (no bias there!) showed that online dating is the third most popular method of meeting people, behind the usual stand-bys of school or work and a friend or family member.
A Different Kind of Happy
Searching out traditional love and marriage isn't everybody's bag. Even Tulsa is affected by a sea change in our culture. Since the 1990s, a meme began to spread about the institution of marriage falling apart. Many have since decried the death of marriage, have mourned its loss or celebrated its ending.
But marriage is still a popular option, though our gender identities, along with technological and medical advances, are changing the way in which we view ideas about monogamy and lifelong love.
The American ideal of happily ever after is a warm, fuzzy picture of the 1950s nuclear family. We're in love with the idea of a husband kissing everyone's cheek before heading to work while his wife smiles down at their 2.5 kids (and dirty dishes and laundry) all day.
But that was more than half a century ago, and this ideal has proved an ephemeral construct of a very specific time and place. It was a phase in American history when women didn't go out and earn degrees as often as their male counterparts, when they weren't often considered for high-powered positions, when the American economy could sustain a family on one paycheck.
My, how times have changed. Now, women are graduating with degrees at higher rates than men. In 2010, women earned 60 percent of all bachelor's and master's degrees. The ladies have made huge gains at work as well. More than half of all managerial and professional positions are held by women. Only 26 percent had these higher-paying gigs in 1980.
Simply put, women don't need men as their sole source of income or support as they frequently did in the 1950s. With the tradition of marrying out of social and economic necessity no longer on the table, our ideas about marriage are shifting. We're putting off childbearing, taking more time with our careers, and waiting longer for Mr. Right.
Monogamy is a tough standard, one that people have failed at for centuries. In her recent book, Marriage Confidential, author Pamela Haag calls infidelity a "shocking banality," in which it happens all the time though we are "shocked by it all the time."
Today, relationships are changing because we're living longer, women are earning more and the Internet is connecting us to a larger social circle. Some are redefining what makes love and happiness work for them.
One Tulsan, whom we'll call Svetlana, said that after two wonderful children and zero marriages, she's "found the best kind of happiness."
For nearly three years, she's been involved in a semi-polyamorous extramarital affair. "I've never been happier in a relationship," she said.
The term polyamory literally translates to "many loves," and the theory is translated into reality in many ways. For every Svetlana who finds true love this way, there is another who is swallowed up by insecurities, jealousy and feelings of betrayal. It takes a certain type of person to responsibly delve into an open relationship or marriage.
The moral of the story? Human pair-bonding has been around for millions of years, but as long as there are rules there will be exceptions. If you're an exception, go with it.
If you're the rule, you head down to Tulsa County Courthouse, get in a short line, pay a small fee, fill out some forms. Less than half an hour later, you and your lover can walk hand-in-hand back into broad daylight with a proper marriage license.
Despite the array of alternatives, marriage is the safe, comfy, family-approved, go-to option for most Tulsans. And, minus the extravagant wedding, it's cheap. For $50, you're good to go. That figure is bumped down to $5 if you show proof of least four hours of pre-marital counseling.
So, you get your dream wedding, delight in a glorious honeymoon and head back home, where you're both knee-deep in wedding gifts. What now? Tulsans' traditional marriages result in many different lifestyles, challenges and let's face it, time limits.
One Tulsa couple we spoke to, we'll call them David and Julie, has been happily married for six years. Things were easy enough for the first several years, but times changed when they decided to have a baby. Now, their idyllic, romantic relationship has taken a hit, in the form of their energetic and funny toddler. Kids definitely have a way of sucking the romance out of things, though David and Julie insist their relationship has also grown deeper and more vital.
However, Oklahoma is a divorce-happy state with rates just a tad higher than the national average. Still, Okie divorce rates have dropped significantly since a decade ago. In 2000, the Oklahoma divorce rate was around 7.7 per 1,000 people. At the time, the national average was only 4.7 divorces per 1,000 people.
But by 2009, Oklahoma's divorce rate had dropped to only 4.6 per 1,000, and closing in on the national average, which fell to 3.4. But compare our Bible Belt statistics with a northern state like Massachusetts. The northern state recently legalized gay marriage, and their straight marriages are more successful too. Massachusetts' divorce rate was only 1.8 per 1,000 in 2009.
The Oklahoma Marriage Initiative was created to help build stronger marriages and relationships in the state. The initiative has held dozens of workshops and seminars -- marriage prep work and other informative sessions -- all over Tulsa County since 2003. Nonetheless, it's tough to take an initiative seriously when it insists on pushing the goofy slogan, "Forever. For real."
Whether you're a dating veteran like Bette, an adventurous Svetlana or traditional lovebirds like David and Julie, there is hope for you and for love and forever (for real. Just kidding!).
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