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A Bridge Too Far: The Dating Divide Between D.C. People And Arlingtonians

(Updated at 5 p.m.) For some, dating across the river is apparently a bridge too far.

It’s a familiar refrain for some Arlingtonians: boy meets D.C. girl, girl learns he lives across the river, girl ghosts. In the words of one man, the river is less a body of water and more a “Great Potomac Divide.” But after I joked about the phenomenon last week, hundreds shared stories on social media of how they’ve been left adrift — or shamelessly drop dates themselves.

D.C. resident Tim tweeted that “everything was perfect” between him a girl after going on a dates at a D.C. bar, the Wharf, and Union Market. So far what happened to rip these love birds apart?

“She strongly encouraged our 4th date be in […] Ballston,” he wrote. “We never had a 4th date.”

When asked why he’d been ghosted about half a dozen times, Sean from Arlington (who asked us not to use his last name) said he wasn’t sure.

“To me, it’s just a couple extra stops on the Metro line,” he said. “But the Potomac seems to be a psychological barrier.”

In an age of dating apps with location filters — and Metro summer shutdowns — we reached out to professional matchmakers to ask just how common this geo-phobia was. Is there any hope for those looking for love in the retrocession of District of Columbia?

“Yes it happens but I don’t see it a ton,” said professional matchmaker Kate O’Connor, with D.C. office of It’s Just Lunch. “Everyone I work with is serious about relationships and are willing to go the extra mile. Literally.” 

Michelle Jacoby, who runs local firm DC Matchmatching and herself grew up in Montgomery County, agreed extreme location preferences aren’t common but do happen. Two weeks ago, one of her male clients from Virginia said he didn’t want to visit a woman in D.C. for their first date.

“He was insisting that she come to Virginia,” she said. “Just insisting.”

Jacoby said this can be off-putting for women who do not feel safe traveling to a place they’re unfamiliar with to meet a stranger on a first date, and it’s a gesture of courtesy to meet her at a place she’s more comfortable with.

“You want to get the girl?” Jacoby said. “Drive a little further.”

Both said they’ve mostly experienced strict location parameters with D.C.-based clients, however, and the problem can sometimes be caused by them not owning a car.

‘Ladies never go to Arlington for any guy’

This squares with the transportation woes that several D.C. residents cited when retelling their stories over social media messages this past week.

“Honestly anytime I meet someone and they want to have a date anywhere but D.C. I just decline or block. There is no way that I would like anyone enough to keep going out there,” said Rosalyn, 34, who lives in Northeast D.C. and asked that her last name not be used.

Abby Tannenbaum, 24, has lived in Columbia Heights for the past year and a half and says that the commute to Arlington is just too far. She told ARLnow she once had a second date scheduled in Arlington “to do him a favor since the commute to D.C. is something he always had to do.”

“I took a $20 Uber there only to be stood up and had to take a $35 Uber back,” she lamented. Tannenbaum noted that traveling this distance over Metro can sometimes take close to an hour.

“Ladies never go to Arlington for any guy, you’re better than that,” she tweeted later.

Then again, the replies on Twitter made it clear that Arlingtonians aren’t exempt from eschewing dates from the opposite bank of the Potomac, either.

“Maybe they don’t have time to go into Arlington every day. But there are new creative ways of keeping a relationship fun and spicy,” said O’Connor. Social media and apps like Skype and FaceTime have revolutionized relationships for busy people or those living apart, she noted.

Jacoby said she also makes an effort to find dating spots that are Metro accessible and halfway between a pair to cut down on the commute.

But the matchmakers say there is hope for the ones willing to go the distance.

A year or so ago, Josh, 27, said he walked from his house near Thomas Circle in D.C. all the way to Courthouse to visit his girlfriend.

“I just had to time to kill and I like long walks, so I figured why not,” he said. “She made me shower when I got there.”

It’s an attitude that O’Connor and Jacoby said is important for anyone serious about finding a partner in the area.

Jacoby said she once a male client in D.C. who refused to broaden his location parameters. While recovering from a medical procedure, the man met a woman from Herndon and fell in love. The funny part? Jacoby not only knew her, she had wanted to match them.

“He wouldn’t let me match her with him because of the location, even though I knew they would be a good match,” she said.

“You cannot expect to have all the options in the world in D.C,” said O’Connor.

‘Forever Single’

“I agree that me being too narrowly focused is probably a driver on why I’m still single,” admitted Tim, whose Twitter handle is “Forever Single.”

“I would like to say that I have nothing against Virginia and Maryland women but based on my current preferences, I prefer to only date women in D.C.,” he said.

Tannenbaum said she felt that “with how busy D.C. is, and how work-focused we all are, convenience can be the key to making it work in a difficult dating scene.”

“I’m actually heading out for my third date since Wednesday,” Rosalyn told me this weekend. “So no, I’m not worried.”

Then again, it doesn’t always work out for willing commuters, either. Intrepid footslogger Josh said he and his Courthouse girlfriend are no longer together.

“I moved to Pittsburgh and we broke up,” he said. “THAT distance was too far.”

‘Better Buckle Up’

Still, the cross-boundary dating dynamics could change now that Amazon is poised to hire 25,000 people and chose Arlington in part because of its attractiveness to young (often single) tech workers.

Asked how this could impact the dating scene, O’Connor — who previously worked as a matchmaker in Seattle — said the sheer number of employees brings “potential” to the whole DMV dating scene.

“If it’s anything like the headquarters in Seattle,  D.C. and Arlington better buckle up,” she said. “There’s going to be a lot of new single people in town.” 

In the meantime, the two matchmakers shared said Arlington restaurants offer opportunities for the perfect first date no matter who are you.

For quiet conversations, Jacoby and O’Connor said clients have approved of Circa in Clarendon, Barley Mac in Rosslyn, and the cozy atmosphere at Ambar in Clarendon. For a more upbeat vibe, they said their clients have enjoyed tapas at Palette 22 or sharing jumbo margaritas at Guapo’s, both in Shirlington.

Image via Flickr/John Sonderman

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