SALISBURY — Touted as the online dating site with more dates, more relationships and more visits than any other, Plenty of Fish (POF) was just that for Salisbury couple Tim Lockhart and Michelle Coonen.
“I had a friend of mine recommend the site to me after his recent split. I decided to go out there and give it a shot,” Lockhart said.
Lockhart, a Salisbury native, met Coonen through the site in late 2010. She had been on a few “one-date wonders,” she joked. But they were disastrous. In 2008, Coonen turned to Plenty of Fish.
How it Works
The site was started in early 2000 by creator and CEO Markus Frind, and in its early days had 40 members. The free site now boasts 40,000 new singles per day. After joining the site, members first complete a “chemistry test,” which matches personalities that the Plenty of Fish experts say “lead to long lasting stable relationships.”
The chemistry test measures five dimensions of personality, including self-confidence, family orientation and other personality characteristics.
Members create a profile and Plenty of Fish experts select matches based upon age range and location.
The member selects whether he or she “likes” a match. The user can also choose to block or deny a match. The members can then communicate through the site via instant message or email.
Proceed with Caution
Lockhart had been on a couple of dates, but they didn't work out for him. One night, he decided to give the site another try. He saw Coonen's profile and saw they had some similar interests including cooking, photography and traveling.
Coonen had previously worked as a travel agent and was an amateur photographer, just like Lockhart.
“So I figured I'd send her a quick message to see what she was all about,” he said.
Coonen was cautious about her matches and waited about six months before she initially met someone.
Before Coonen went on a date with Lockhart, a friend of hers had spoken to him through the site.
Lockhart joked that Coonen's friend must have given him a good review. Her friend gave Lockhart the seal of approval and the two had their first date at Cracker Barrel.
Coonen insisted on meeting in a public place. The restaurant location was central since Coonen was working in Statesville and Lockhart worked in Charlotte.
Coonen, dressed in blue jeans, a T-shirt and no makeup, met Lockhart for dinner. The two talked for five hours.
Lockhart had a six-month window where he used that time to get to know potential matches. While other dates fell flat around six months, Lockhart's dates with Coonen soared.
“In the past, everything looked good in the beginning and after six months they started showing their true colors,” Lockhart said.
The Real Deal
Coonen was the “real deal,” Lockhart said.
She was the same when he first met her as she was six months after that initial meeting.
Coonen said she had a first-date gut feeling about Lockhart. He seemed genuine.
“I had that at-ease feeling after a few dates,” she said.
“It just clicked,” Coonen said.
The couple was able to get to know each other through the site and eventually text messages. They still text message each other every day.
Lockhart was drawn to Coonen's picture from the Plenty of Fish site. Her smile was one of the things that attracted him, Lockhart said.
Every Sunday, Cracker Barrel is one of the places the couple has breakfast.
Unlucky at Love
Coonen, who is a Pure Romance consultant, had always helped other couples spice up their relationships, but was herself unlucky at love.
Early in her business, Coonen was going through a divorce and trying to keep it a secret.
“I was trying not to uncover I was going through a divorce and was unsuccessful,” she said.
Coonen has been married twice before and the fact that Lockhart had never been married was almost the deal-breaker, she said.
She wondered what was wrong with Lockhart and why he had never been married. He said he was close, but those relationships didn't work.
Lockhart decided to go with whatever happened. He and Coonen spent every weekend together. She would travel from Hickory to be with him and he would travel from Salisbury. After a year of dating, she eventually decided to move to Salisbury.
The move felt like a natural progression, Coonen said.
“After a while, I said, 'I think this one's going to be for keeps,' ” Lockhart said.