Bryan Cahill was finally extracting himself from an on-again/off-again relationship when he joined JDate in 2010.
It wasn’t that he was particularly interested in dating a Jewish girl, but his mother, who is Jewish, kept prodding him with success stories she’d heard from friends about the site.
“I figured ‘Why not?’ I knew there were other Jews like me who didn’t care about the whole religion/God thing. I knew there were like-minded people who come from nagging, kvetching mothers,” Bryan says.
When he filled out his profile, he let his sarcastic personality shine through. He wrote about sharing custody of his dog with an ex-girlfriend, and in response to the question, “If you had to appear on any reality TV show, what would it be?” he answered “To Catch a Predator.”
“If they don’t laugh at that, they’re not going to like me. And if they took me seriously, they’re still not going to like me,” recalls Bryan, a structural engineer who grew up in Raleigh, N.C.
He may have scared off some women, but he made Deborah Temkin laugh. She’d been on JDate for a few months by the time she came across Bryan’s profile in June 2011 and had a collection of dating horror stories to show for it.
But Bryan was cute and seemed normal, so she sent him a message. His subscription had expired by then, but when JDate emailed saying an inquiry was waiting for him, he re-joined the site just to read it.
Soon they were trading messages every day, first through the site and then via online messaging.
“I just remember I was always really entertained when I was talking to him. So I was always really wanting to talk to him,” remembers Deborah, who was finishing her PhD and working on the Department of Education’s bullying prevention initiative at the time.
Deborah’s interest in the prevention of bullying stemmed from her own experience being severely bullied as a child in Phoenix. And although she was now accustomed to speaking in front of crowds and giving interviews, she still struggled to let down her guard in social settings.
But as the weeks passed, she felt increasingly close to Bryan, though their packed schedules had prevented them from meeting in person. Finally, in August, he suggested meeting for dinner on a night she wasn’t busy.
Deborah, perpetually early, waited nervously at an Arlington Thai restaurant for Bryan, who is always late. She’d been on enough disappointing dates before to know not to have high expectations, but she couldn’t help but get her hopes up.
Bryan was in the midst of an intense work project and hadn’t slept for more than 24 hours, but the conversation was flowing so well he suggested they continue it over coffee and dessert. When they finally parted ways, Deborah drove away feeling elated. “It was just a really good synergy and energy,” she says.
They went out again the next week, and over dinner in Chinatown, Bryan revealed himself in ways he’d never done with previous dates. “I took all my cards and put them on the table. I told her where the bodies were buried and was very honest about everything,” he says. “I felt comfortable. And if we were going to continue, I might as well pull back my façade.”
That night, as it neared midnight and dawned on his birthday, they kissed. The next week, on her birthday, she went out drinking with friends and then texted Bryan that she was coming over to his apartment.
“And it’s not like me at all to do that,” she says. “I’m a very reserved, quiet person. But I felt so much energy with him. It was like, ‘This is the guy I really want to be with.”
Bryan’s candor allowed Deborah to open herself up to him, and within weeks they decided to date exclusively. Although it became apparent that they are in many ways opposites — she’s a political junkie, he hates politics; she loves TV, and he never watches it — they interacted with surprising ease and were quickly envisioning a future together.
By Thanksgiving he was spending most nights at her place, and the following March he officially moved in. To avoid raising eyebrows, the two agreed not to get engaged until they’d dated at least a year, but both felt sure the relationship was headed for marriage.
“We even fought well,” Bryan says. “We’ve had plenty of arguments and fights, as normal people do, and we’re comfortable that we can argue and fight and still love each other.”
Deborah, now 27 and working in bullying prevention at the Robert F. Kennedy Center, was scheduled to graduate from her Penn State PhD program Aug. 10, the one-year anniversary of their first date. When they woke up that morning, Bryan proposed while she was still in bed.
On Oct. 5, the two were married at Sixth and I Historic Synagogue by Bryan’s childhood rabbi. After, they celebrated with 130 guests at the Hay Adams Hotel, where the traditional Hora dance took a treacherous turn when Bryan’s head crashed into the ceiling, straining his neck, and Deborah fell off the chair as it was hoisted into the air, although luckily she landed on her feet.
But even that didn’t diminish the joy that took hold that morning when Bryan visited Deborah in her bridal suite with a letter he’d stayed up much of the night writing.
“It just said that he loved me and how excited he was to marry me. We both just started crying,” Deborah says. “The rest of the day was fantastic, but that will always be the highlight.”