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"I just wanted to meet people, go out and have fun," she says. "In a list of five things he said he couldn't live without were live music and a Wüsthof knife.

But after a while, her initial approach of putting up a profile and waiting for guys to find her seemed too passive, and she began doing some searching of her own. I thought, OK, he knows his way around a kitchen, and at the very least maybe we can see some bands together." She got in touch and, lo and behold, it turned out that Ryan had seen her profile some time back but decided not to contact her.

If you watch any type of television, you've probably sat through the many e Harmony or commercials boasting their Cupid-like reputations for linking people together.

Thousands of couples have gone on to live happily ever after thanks to the online dating services out there but thousands more have been given the boot at the very first date.

"His profile struck a chord—he was very spiritual, for one thing, which was important to me." Those other matches had interested her, but fizzled once they got past initial communication. Six months later, Anna and Sam were engaged; they got married in April 2010.

Not so with Sam—whom she agreed to make a date with after six weeks of emails and hour-long phone calls. "I thought, 'Oh my gosh, this is a real man, not just an email! Lesson learned: Keep expectations low; it can take a while to find a match.

"By the time we actually met, I felt like I knew him pretty well already—he was so expressive in his messages." Then they met—on a first date that lasted nine hours.

"We both came away from the date thinking the other was so serious," laughs Tonya.But even though their early email matchup went smoothly, and they began dating quickly, their brand-new relationship was tested when Crissy's dad became very ill."I was much more emotionally needy than I would have been otherwise," admits Crissy.Meanwhile, Frank, 41, a lifelong bachelor, had been online for a year on different match-up sites.Within a few weeks, Tonya was matched with Frank, and they began exchanging emails, at least one a day for a few weeks.Lesson learned: Though most online daters spend a lot of time corresponding by email before meeting, Rebecca disagrees: "You run the risk, intentionally or not, of creating these online personas that aren't really you. "He seemed so eloquent and sweet—just a nice, Jewish boy." The pair met for their first date in a bookstore.

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