5 Online Dating Tips (for Christians)Essays, Featured — By Betsy Zabel on September 30, 2012 at 4:43 am
Not always. Sometimes we are legitimately waiting, legitimately stuck. (And for this season, all I can say is yell at God as much as you want.)
For over a year, I went off and on dating websites. At times, it was absolutely sickening—stomach-wrenching, headache-inducing horribleness. Man after wrong man with shirtless pictures and self-portraits taken in the bathroom. I wanted to throw my laptop across the room at the uselessness of trying.
And yet, I had two great boyfriends in 7 months. I would not regret or take back either one.
Especially this current one.
Because it is just as corny as it sounds: if you meet one person and they are “the one,” that’s all you need. One is all it takes to make it all worth it.
So I’ve made a list of tips, things I have learned about online dating over the past year or so.
1. Contact someone.
With almost every guy I’ve talked to, I was the one to instigate a conversation. Whether it was super-casual or if I already really wanted to meet them, I just wrote them. They were free to become interested or not.
Even if I didn’t think we were a match but I felt like responding to something they wrote in their profile, I would. After all, if you’re actually corresponding with people, it makes the online dating scene much more relational and less snoopy.
With my last boyfriend, I wrote to him first because I was impressed with how he spoke about his family. I didn’t necessarily think we would work. I thought he was too cute or too extroverted for me, but I wanted him to know how much I admired the way he spoke about his life. I had no other expectations. I really just wanted him to feel encouraged.
As it turns out, he read my message, liked what I had to say, and clicked on my profile. As he waited for the page to load, he chanted internally, “Please be pretty, please be pretty . . . YES!” when my picture came up.
If I hadn’t written to him, he probably wouldn’t have found me. It wasn’t like he overlooked me or didn’t pursue me. (He did. He set up the first date.) But if I hadn’t simply contacted him, nothing would have ever happened.
2. Suspend your judgments on faith labels.
This same boyfriend was Catholic—which was a big reason why I didn’t expect anything to develop between us. I remember feeling so afraid of the label, worrying that he might not be a “real Christian” and if he was, what kind, and would we have enough in common at all?
I used to dismiss a lot of guys because of what denomination they listed, being too doubtful that it was worth it. (At the same time, I didn’t go on any dates either.) But this time, I just decided to go with it.
And it ended up being amazing.
Throughout our relationship, we spent time talking and listening to each other about what our faith meant to us and how we expressed it. I learned first-hand how to respect aspects of faith that used to feel foreign to me. I was able to put “ecclesiastical differences” into a very intimate context. At the time, I knew this was valuable stuff. (If we aren’t learning about faith differences in relationship, then how substantial is it? But that’s another subject.)
That boyfriend was one of the kindest people I’ve ever met. Sure, we didn’t end up getting married, but we learned a lot about how individuality affects a relationship—and, in the process, we had a lot of fun.
Which leads me to the third tip:
3. Suspend your expectations.
We live so much in our heads. We pray and think and plan for Prince Charming or Princess Perfection, and the whole activity gets so cerebral sometimes.
Christians can be even worse with this idea. We encourage girls to write letters to their Future Husband, and make a list of attributes he should have. We wear promise rings for him and pray for him, our beloved Future Husband.
None of these things are intrinsically wrong. It’s good to have some idea of what you want, but it can get dangerously close to a false reality. Future Husband becomes a fancy way of saying “figment of my imagination.” I realized that the Prince Charming I was cultivating in my head didn’t look or sound like any real person I knew. Maybe that’s why he was so hard to find . . .
I opted for meeting real people, regardless of how challenging it felt, instead of living with a make-believe man.
4. Suspend your fears.
I put this one directly after “suspend your expectations” for a reason, because often our expectations are a smokescreen for our fears.
For instance, you think you cannot marry a divorced person because it might go against your doctrine.
Or maybe it means the person is untrustworthy or messed up.
Or maybe you’re just scared about every little thing it might mean.
Or maybe you are self-righteously writing off a whole person based on one word without ever meeting them.
Or maybe they have a kid and you do not want to be a step-parent. It is not a part of your plan. You’d prefer your own family in your own time.
Or maybe you are being selfish by demanding God give you only the children you want, the way you want, because it will be easiest for you.
Or maybe you are just too plain scared to handle the possibility of life being different and not what you expected.
Or maybe you are defying God by deciding who you will and will not love, treating people like brands of cereal at the grocery store, being as choosy as you want to be, ultimately choosing nothing because you just can’t be bothered.
Perhaps I went off on a rant. But I get pretty fired up about the ways we live out of our fears and call them something else.
Once you’ve done all that internal work, there is only one thing left to do:
5. Go on dates.
Don’t feel like you have to talk to them for 5 days or 5 weeks first. You don’t have to know if you love them or not. Just go have a drink with them. Go meet someone on a Thursday night, ask them what their job is really like and what they think about Fifty Shades of Grey.
You’ve already seen every movie in your DVD collection. They can wait another day. Make your life interesting and venture outside of yourself.
Even if the date is a dud or you don’t have any chemistry, at least you spent your evening relating to a real person. (And people are worthwhile, just in case you need a reminder.)
That being said, there’s no reason why you have to go on a second date with someone you don’t want to date. Don’t do anything you don’t want to do.
Nobody is making you date a creep or a loser. Nobody is telling you to grit your teeth and have no fun.
But date if you want to.
Date if you want to get married more than you want to be single.
I’ll tell you that one of the biggest rewards of online dating for me is when we are at a dinner party, and someone asks, “So how did you two meet?”
And I get to grin as if it is a great joke and say, “Online.”