Ah, February — when Cupid comes calling. With Valentine’s Day Friday, I got to thinking about love and first encounters with our significant others.

My husband Shane and I met more than 10 years ago. We didn’t meet through school, extracurricular activities or social hangouts. We met online.

I know quite a few people, including friends and a family member, who also met their husbands, wives, boyfriends or girlfriends online.

Back to my soul mate. Shane joined cupid.com, along with two other dating websites, in 2001, so he was a seasoned online dater by the time I signed up on cupid.com in the summer of 2003.

Shane was out of college, his work environment was such that it was difficult to meet women his age and he wasn’t the type of guy who frequented clubs or bars. He said online dating was his best option at the time.

I, however, was in college, and I signed up on cupid.com not so much looking for a relationship but hoping to find a new friend or two. In hindsight, since the website’s name is cupid.com, I’m not sure why I was searching there strictly for friends.

I created a profile, chose a photo of myself and was good to go. Cupid.com worked in such a way, at least 10 years ago, that it allowed anyone to create a free profile, browse others’ profiles and send a “wink” to any person you were interested in. But if you wanted to send messages to somebody, you had to pay.

So when Shane sent me a “wink” and I “winked” back at him in July 2003, my then-future husband paid the approximately $20 to send me a message online.

We talked online for a few weeks before deciding to meet in person.

Even though Shane and I had a great first meeting and several dates together over that month, we didn’t exactly hit it off right away. We went our separate ways for a couple of months and then rekindled our budding romance over ice cream. From that moment on, we were in it for the long haul.

Now that we’ve been married for close to seven years, I have to admit I blushed and giggled a bit when asking Shane about his past experience with online dating.

Turns out Olive Garden — the site of our first date — was a popular restaurant for Shane while looking for love.

“Olive Garden was the restaurant of choice for first dates. They made a lot of money off me … they probably knew me by name there,” he said.

Shane said he would recommend online dating. After all, it worked for him.

“I often wonder if I had never signed up for cupid.com, where would I be today?”

After our ice-cream date, Shane and I quickly created a close relationship. We definitely had our ups and downs — and still do at times — but that’s part of every relationship. I had to be patient, but I found my husband, and we now have an amazing 2-year-old son together. And I’m proud to say that the father of my child came courting through an online dating site.

While Shane was the only person I met from cupid.com, I would tell others to give online dating a try if they’re searching for their soul mates. You never know who’s out there.

A second chance at love

While Shane and I met online quite some time ago, my best friend Kelly met her future husband online more recently. Kelly, now 34, signed up for eharmony.com in summer 2011. At the time the website required people to pay for an account up front and fill out in-depth questions, then it would match people with others with similar priorities. From there, you could choose whom you wanted to contact.

With children from a previous marriage, Kelly thought online dating would be the best opportunity to find love.

“With two kids, you don’t really have time. I was working and a single mom. That was just a good way to see what’s out there. I thought that would be a more honest or real way to get to know someone,” she said.

Kelly found Chris, now 36, on eharmony.com in June 2011. After emailing for a couple of weeks, then talking on the phone, they met at a Chinese restaurant followed by a trip to a coffee shop.

They hit it off right away. In fact, Chris called Kelly that night to chat more on the phone. And they made plans for another date the next day.

“We didn’t wait a week and play games — play hard to get. We just said, ‘Let’s do that again,’ ” Chris said.

Chris also has two children from a previous marriage. The couple chose to wait a while to meet one another’s kids and introduce all the kids to each another.

“With all their transitions, we just wanted to make sure that we read books about how to introduce or take it in a way that would be least intrusive in their lives or do it in a positive way so they wouldn’t be impacted negatively,” Kelly said.

Chris agreed: “We didn’t want people in and out of their lives if it didn’t work out. They don’t grasp the concept of dating as we do.”

The couple said that thankfully, the kids, two boys and two girls who now range in age from 4 to 8, were fast friends from the beginning.

Kelly and Chris canceled their eharmony.com accounts after they met in person, then dated for 13 months and were married July 2012.

First-time romance

And then there’s Samantha (Sam), my 21-year-old niece whose cousin encouraged her to give online dating a try after finding little success meeting someone in person to date. Sam went with a site called okcupid.com (which is not the same as cupid.com). The website is free to join, search profiles and send messages to other members.

A Tucson native, Sam joined okcupid.com in June 2013, creating both a profile for her hometown as well as a profile for the city where she attends college. After emailing about 15 people back and forth on a regular basis, she decided to only meet two of them. She didn’t hit it off with the first potential match. But when 23-year-old Luke — also a college student — sent her a message, she found the online conversations engaging.

Sam and Luke talked strictly online through the dating website for about a month-and-a-half before deciding to speak on the phone. And a week after that, the two met for the first time in person at a restaurant. They hit it off quickly and officially went to “boyfriend-girlfriend” status last September.

Sam and Luke see each other several times a week, Skype each night and text multiple times a day. Sam says she can definitely see this as a longterm relationship.

While Sam plans to return to Tucson after she graduates in May, Luke will be away until he graduates the following year. Still, who knows what the future holds for this budding romance? After all, Sam told me she originally chose “looking for friends” when she created her profile. Hmm, sounds similar to what I was looking for soon before I found my future husband online.

Here’s to finding love if you’re in search of it and holding on to that incredible love if you’ve already found it.

Sarah Mckeown works at a local charter school and lives on the east side with her husband and son. Email her at east@azstarnet.com