When writer Shana Gray's marriage ended, she thought she'd never find love again. Then, a weeklong foray into the world of online dating renewed her faith in romance—and herself.
"I'm leaving you tonight. I won't be there when you get home."
After 22 years of building a home and a family together, those were the only words Shana Gray's husband, Tim*, had left for her. His announcement—delivered by phone call while Shana was at work—came three weeks after she'd discovered he was having an affair with a mutual friend. "I had expected to be with him for the rest of my life," she says.
After Tim moved out in April 2003, Shana was ridden with insecurity. "I remember thinking that, if my ex didn't want me after 22 years, how could anyone else ever want me?" She was afraid to trust a new man after the horror stories she'd heard from her police officer ex-husband, and it didn't help matters when she watched a TV show about male stalkers one drunken night with her girlfriends. Maybe I'll just be single for the rest of my life, she thought.
Shana had been single for 18 months when one of her friends suggested she sign up for a dating site; the friend had found love online and thought Shana could do the same. But she was skeptical. At the time, there was still a stigma surrounding online dating, and Shana assumed most men trolling for women on the web were "scuzzbags." She finally agreed to log on—for a one-week trial.
Then, on Day 2, Steve* found her. Like in a cheesy '90s rom-com, his profile was titled "Looking for Ms. Right." His bio made him seem "down-to-earth and honest," so they struck up a conversation, moving quickly from chatting on the website to hour-long phone calls each evening at 10. Shana felt like she'd known him for ages.
When it came time to meet in person, they decided to grab a coffee at the mall. They had never seen pictures of each other, and Shana was scared Steve might not be physically attracted to her. "I'm a curvy girl," she says. She also had her friends on alert in case he was a creep. But when the couple embraced, there was an instant connection—and they've been together ever since.
In hindsight, Shana, now 55, realized the end of her marriage was the best thing that ever happened to her, as it made way for Steve to enter her life. A far better match for her, he's also much more supportive of her writing. She wrote and published her first novella in 2010 and has since authored several romance novels under the pen name Shana Gray. "Steve felt that I needed to have an outlet," she says. "He'd tell me, ‘You've got to follow your heart. You've got to do what you love.' "
*Names have been changed.