Modern Love: How These Pittsburgh Couples Went from Online Dating to “I Do”

Online dating during COVID-19 can feel hopeless, but it doesn’t have to be. Find out how dating apps led four Pittsburghers to their life partners, and what they did to make the most of their relationship online.
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For many Pittsburghers, the coronavirus pandemic ended their dreams of meet-cutes in bars and at concerts and pushed their dating lives online. When your dating pool is limited to your smartphone, it can be hard to feel truly connected. 

We asked two local couples how they went from online dating to “I Do.”

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Ben Musial and Chelsea Schaffer say you should “be yourself” but “be fearless,” too. After swiping right on each other’s Tinder profiles, the couple’s first date was at Bigham Tavern.  

“Ben messaged me first,” Chelsea says. “What I liked the most about him is that he cut right to the chase and immediately asked me out for a drink. And he called me ‘Chels,’ which always is extra points in my book.”

After their first few dates, they became busy and drifted apart. Three months later, Ben reapproached Chelsea and asked her to a concert at the Rex Theater. She ended up accepting his invitation after her roommates encouraged her to give him another shot.

“And I’m so glad they encouraged me to do so,” she says, “because going into that concert, I was able to see Ben as his most comfortable self.”

She met several of Ben’s friends that night, which put them both more at ease.

“Everybody at the show knew and loved him,” she says. “I was like, there really is something here.”

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Three and a half years later, Ben proposed to Chelsea on Mount Washington. They married Nov. 20, 2020 at the Hotel Monaco, Downtown. 

Both Chelsea and Ben feel it’s important to plan dates in places where you and your potential partner feel relaxed.

“I would encourage anyone to just maybe meet people where they are,” Chelsea says. “Meet people in their comfort zone, in their element, because that ultimately is really when you’re going to get to know someone.”

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Tim Dodson and Katelyn Petraglia met on the dating app Coffee Meets Bagel in 2017. Tim messaged Katelyn first and broke the ice by asking about her brother, who he knew through a mutual friend.

Tim believes one of the most important parts of dating online is being confident enough to take that first step and ask someone out.

“You know, texting and meeting someone is always different,” he says. “But you never know who you’ll meet on the other end of that.”

For their first date, Tim asked Katelyn to attend a University of Pittsburgh football game. They dated for two years before he proposed on Nov. 6, 2019. Their wedding was at Heinz Memorial Chapel on June 5 this year.

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Katelyn knows many more people are meeting their partners online now due to the pandemic and called it the “modern love story.” 

“Some people are always posting their best pictures,” she says, “and sometimes they’re not too honest in their profile. My advice is just be honest with yourself. That’s really how you find true love, is by being honest.”

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Like Katelyn, Chelsea knows online dating is more common than ever. She hopes other Pittsburghers can embrace the change.

“The landscape of dating has changed so much,” she says. “When Ben and I first met on Tinder, we were almost embarrassed to tell people that, and now, I don’t think that there’s any shame in how you meet your partner. … Ultimately, I found my person, and there’s no right or wrong way to go about that.”

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