David and Valerie Lester have been happily married for nearly three years. And like a growing number of couples, the story of how they fell in love begins with the internet.
"I was starting to work the night shift," said David. "And you don't really get out to meet any people. So online dating was a first for me."
David joined an online dating site. As he was scrolling through his matches one day, he saw Valerie's profile and "winked" at her (similar to a "like" on facebook). But he never heard back.
About a year later, he was on a different dating site. And once again, Valerie came up as one of his matches. This time, he emailed her.
"When he and I first met on there I guess he had sent me an email and I ignored it, thinking oh no, he's not my type" said Valerie. "I thought he was cute and he seemed nice, but no, not my type. And after a couple more dates [with other people], it was like okay Valerie, time to get outside the box and try something different."
David took Valerie ice skating at the Roanoke Civic Center for their first date -- the ideal first date Valerie described on her profile. They went on a few more dates, but then Valerie called it off, saying he wasn't what she was looking for at that point in time. Fate had other ideas.
"I couldn't get him out of my mind," said Valerie. "About three months later I ended up sending him a text in the middle of the night. We started talking again and met up again on March 16. And a week later, my mom passed away. So I credit him totally with the fact that he was my rock. Even though we had not really been in contact that much at that point, he was the second person I called."
From then on, they became inseparable and ultimately got married.
"I do know a lot of people that have found a really wonderful partner through online dating," said Susan Boyes, a Licensed Professional Counselor in Roanoke who helps people with relationships.
Boyes says dating sites can be effective tools in your quest for love, giving you access to information about another person and their personality you might not otherwise get. But she finds that how you approach online dating can dictate your success or failure.
"I think sometimes people go into it and they're looking for a lifetime partner," said Boyes. "I always suggest just look for someone that you're interested in, somebody that you could be friends with. Don't necessarily go for marriage and family from the get go."
She says it's also important not to go into online dating with low expectations.
"One of the things people tell me that really disturbs me, is they say I don't want to get my hopes up," said Boyes. "And I think that's exactly what you need to do, get your hopes up and expect to meet somebody wonderful or to have a good experience."
Finally, she says to always trust your intuition -- if something isn't adding up, move on. But if things are going well, continue to build the relationship. That's what the Lesters did. And things turned out pretty well for them.
"Go for it," said Valerie. "There's no reason not to."