PARKER, CO—After years of unrelenting disappointment and failure on the dating scene, eligible singles Karen Ridenour and Paul Klein forged an instant, clinging bond last month through a mutual desperation born mainly out of an intense fear of being unloved for the rest of their lives.
"I can't believe how blessed I am to finally have another human in my life," said Ridenour, 40, on Tuesday. "Just when I was on the verge of giving up hope, along came a guy who wasn't married, gay, or repulsed by the sight of me, and my whole life changed."
Added Ridenour: "God, I'm just so glad I found him. Or anybody."
Ridenour and Klein called their first encounter "fate," saying they "never would've met" if they hadn't both attended the same Learning Annex course, "They're Out There: Finding Your Soulmate After 35." The pair hit it off immediately, discovering an identical interest in finding a reason to wake up in the morning, and a shared desire to exchange phone calls with someone other than their aged parents.
"Karen and I have so much in common," said Klein, 37, of the first woman in five years who agreed to a second date with him. "Neither of us have had a serious relationship since the early '90s, we read the same self-help books—turns out we even gave up the hope of marrying early enough to have children of our own at the exact same time. I'm so crazy about her, I'm thinking of asking her to elope to Vegas before everything falls apart and I end up alone again."
Although Klein said he was "never a big believer in love at first sight" before, he claimed to be "instantly drawn" to the way Ridenour sat within 10 feet of him and looked in his general direction. A short conversation revealed the two were single, lived in the same town, and had both considered short-term kidnapping schemes in order to avoid spending another Christmas alone.
For her part, Ridenour says it didn't take long to realize Klein was the most caring, funny, and sensitive man who had ever spoken to her for more than 30 minutes without trying to get her to switch long-distance carriers.
"Usually men are turned off by my immediate eagerness to move in together and constant need for assurance that they haven't found someone else, but Paul is just as excited about this relationship as I am," said Ridenour, who canceled her memberships on eHarmony, Match.com, MySpace, and Friendster shortly after meeting Klein. "On our second date, he talked about finding an apartment together. It was so romantic."
Though they credit their meeting to luck and a well-timed impulse to settle for what they can get, both agreed that it takes more to build a relationship healthy enough to stave off thoughts of suicide for another few years—namely, an unusually high threshold for deep character flaws.
"Paul can be so self-pitying, and his humorless earnestness can be suffocating, but I know that a lot of that came from being single for a long time, so I do my best to empathize," Ridenour said. "And I know he can get annoyed by my tendency to obsess over old boyfriends and my xylophagia. I forgive his little quirks, and he's willing to forgive mine. It's a perfect balance."
While these traits might provoke other, less impetuous couples to see the writing on the wall and end their relationship, Klein said his and Ridenour's commitment to lowered standards and desire to have someone to list as an emergency contact are strong enough to get them through any rough patches.
"Sometimes I think, 'If I have to hear that grating voice for one more second, I'll kill us both,'" Klein said. "But then I remember all the nights I spent crying myself to sleep holding a body pillow, and I find the strength to love again."
Despite their past romantic woes, Ridenour and Klein said they are confident they can one day forge a marriage on a strong foundation of not wanting to die alone.