Allison Carter: 'It was not anything I was ashamed of'
Before going online, I had a few short-term relationships. However, nothing ever lasted longer than six months.
It was always men I met through friends and organisations I was involved in, but none of the relationships ever came to anything.
Turning to online dating was a last resort, but I was also interested in road testing it.
I found it a bit of a nightmare trying to meet guys out in pubs and clubs, where it was very difficult to find genuine men. So I thought I would have a look online and see what types of men were there.
I went online for the first time in June 2004, on maybefriends. com. I didn't really talk to many people about it.
I came across Jeff's profile one evening. I had been out the previous night and was frustrated as usual that I hadn't really met anyone nice.
Jeff was very vague in his tag line and I was intrigued to find out more about him, so I sent him a message. I think I sent messages to one or two other guys that evening, too.
After Jeff responded to my initial contact; we exchanged messages regularly, maybe a couple of times per day, and soon it became obvious that we had similar interests, values and sense of humour.
We then had a few sessions of instant-messaging chats and, after about two weeks, Jeff asked me out on a date.
We exchanged photos at that point, but I had not seen pictures of him, nor he of me, prior to that. Our first date was in August 2004, when we went to Temple Bar in Dublin. We got on so well that we went out again to the cinema the next night, and the rest, as they say, is history.
After our first date, it all happened really quickly. We bought our house off the plans in August 2005, and moved in when it was built less than a year later.
We got engaged in July 2006 and got married – which was, without doubt, the most fabulous day of our lives – in January 2008.
Our first daughter, Charlotte, was born a year later and the latest addition to our family, Rebecca, arrived on September 23.
Online dating is more accepted now – everyone seems to be doing it. It is the best way to meet someone. You get an opportunity to weed out the people who you don't have anything in common with.
It takes a long time to go through this process via regular dating. You can also chat to a few people at the same time without offending anyone, and you can see pictures before deciding to meet.
When we started online dating we weren't shouting from the rooftops about it, but if anyone asked us how we met, we told them the truth. It was not anything I was ashamed of, and I feel the same today.
I never thought I would meet the love of my life online. I gave it a go thinking maybe I might meet one or two nice guys and go on a few dates, but here I am, eight years later, with a family.
Jeff and I are so happy together – we have a wonderful home life and two beautiful little girls, and were it not for online dating we never would have met.