Becky Wright was so nervous about her date with Greg Fernebok that she almost didn’t make it past the parking lot.
They met on Match.com in September 2007. For a week they traded e-mails, naming their top travel destinations and quizzing each other on country music trivia. A long phone conversation only upped the ante; by the time Wright drove to meet Fernebok at Clyde’s in Reston Town Center, she was frantic with anticipation.
“Of course you get your hopes up,” recalls Wright, who was 29 then. “So it’s like, ‘Is this going to be the one? ’Cause it works so well over e-mail.’ ”
Sitting in her car, she called Fernebok to confess her jitters. He persuaded her to come in, assuring her she could walk out at any time if she was uncomfortable. He also promised to hug her when they first met, rather than shake her hand, so no one would suspect they were on a first date.
When Wright showed up, she got her hug and then Fernebok handed her a note. He told her how nice it was to meet her, regardless of what happened, and supplied her with a few jokes to tell in case there way any awkward silence.
She never needed the jokes. The two sat for five hours laughing and talking easily. Fernebok, a real estate developer, drove away elated. “I wasn’t sitting there going through a list in my head, making sure we had enough to talk about,” he says. “She was very attractive on top of everything else and we had a great time together.”
Wright considered it the “best first date ever” but wasn’t sure their connection was a romantic one. On the second date, he picked her up at her Ashburn home, brought a stack of magazines as a gift and kissed her. She knew then that they’d be more than friends.
“I felt like I had known him forever,” she says. “I was able to completely be myself. And I hadn’t been able to be that way before.”
On the third date, Fernebok, then 33, told Wright he thought she should be his girlfriend. She agreed. “He knew what he wanted. And he always followed through,” Wright says. “When he said he was going to call, he called. When he said he was going to be somewhere, he was there.”
They dated steadily over the coming months, spending time at her place in Ashburn and his in Bethesda. But by the next summer, something shifted. Wright could feel Fernebok pulling away.
In July he told her they needed to break up. “You're perfect,” he told her, but he wasn’t ready for a lifelong commitment. A month later, he came to her house and said he couldn’t stop thinking about her. They got back together. But a month after that, he called it off again.
“I just wasn’t in the right place,” Fernebok says. “And I knew I needed to let her go because I wasn’t really ready to commit.”
This time the breakup stuck. For months Wright didn’t even want to look at another guy, but after a year she began to date again. Even as she tried to move on, she couldn’t help looking back.
“I knew that I still loved him,” she says. “I would compare every person to him, and nobody was even close to coming to the type of person that he was or the connection I had with him. I figured, at some point I’m going to meet somebody and fall in love. But I don’t know that it will ever be at the level I had with him.”
In July 2010, a guy Wright was seeing confessed he was still in love with an ex-girlfriend, so she encouraged him to go back to her and see if it could work. Then she began thinking about her own advice. She went home that night and sent Fernebok a friend request on Facebook.
“I was thinking, ‘You know, I’m at a place now where I’m over the hurt and the anger, and I just want him to be happy,’ ” she says. “I hope he’s doing well. And I wonder what he’s up to.”
Fernebok had dated other people in the two years since they broke up, “but it wasn’t what we had,” he says. Wright awoke the next morning to see that he’d accepted her friend request and sent her a message asking if she’d meet for a drink.
Wright’s mom and friend told her not to go and risk being hurt again. But Wright knew she had to say yes. “I decided, ‘You know what? I don’t like to live life with any regrets or what ifs. I never want to look back on this and say, What if I would have met him?’ So I was like, ‘What do I have to lose?’ ”
Before walking into Clyde’s at Tysons Corner, Wright worked out a code with her friend. She would text the number one if he was single, two if he had a girlfriend and three if he was single and wanted to get back together. This time, they sat talking for six hours, and it felt as natural as it always had. She told him about the code and asked what she should text her friend. His answer: three.
Slowly, they began spending time together again. Wright confessed her fears of being hurt again, and Fernebok asked for the chance to regain her trust. “I got my [stuff] together,” he explains of the change of heart. This time, he says, “I was in it to win it.”
“It was just a very natural progression. He was really, really respect[ful] of my feelings,” says Wright, now 34. “One thing I can wholeheartedly say is we are better people. We got back together being our best selves.”
On New Year’s Eve 2011, he proposed as she sat on the couch in his living room. “She’s just a pleasure to be with,” Fernebok, now 38, says of their relationship. “I always joke that we could go to prison together and not drive each other crazy in the cell.”
On Sept. 22, they were married at Le Meridien Hotel in Rosslyn. The couple pledged their lives to each other before 66 guests on a balcony looking out at the Georgetown waterfront.
“I think that when we got back together, we were in different places,” Wright says. “And I feel that we can both say we’re 100 percent sure. And we know that it’s for eternity.”