Do you know anyone who met their spouse online? Perhaps you met your special someone through a dating site? These days, it is almost impossible to find someone who is not personally connected to an online dating success story. Eric’s best friend met his wife of ten years online at Christian Café – and just two months ago we celebrated my brother-in-law’s wedding in Lake Tahoe (also meeting on Christian Café).
There is no shortage of websites offering to help you find the love of your life: Match, eHarmony, PlentyofFish (POF), OkCupid, Christian Café, Christian Mingle – online dating is at the height of its popularity. The initial fear and unfair stigma surrounding online dating has mostly passed and it is now considered a normal, healthy, completely acceptable way to meet new people and search for relationships. However, the advertising for these websites can reel us in without preparing us for the realities of online dating.
In preparing for this post, I spoke to a close friend at length about her online dating experiences – and she offered several recommendations for how to prepare for online dating as well as how to keep your head above water during the process. If you are considering creating a dating profile, if you are currently on a dating site, or if you know someone who is thinking about entering the diverse world of online dating, this information is for you!
(PreEngaged sends a giant hug and thank you to my friend for sharing her expertise with us. You know who you are!)
Before You Sign Up:
- You need to become emotionally healthy and develop a strong sense of self. Before dating, online or otherwise, it is important to become emotionally healthy. Uncover insecurities or lies you believe about yourself. Be grounded and confident in who you are, and truly believe that a relationship will not increase your worth because you are already priceless just as you are.
- Realize that online dating can be brutal. Go into it with the understanding that some days will be rough and that some of the people you meet will be unkind and insensitive.
- If you are struggling with insecurity, now is not the time to sign up. Not everyone has the same experience, but for many, online dating can take a toll on the heart. If you are dealing with insecurity or are easily wounded, work on healing and self-growth before going on this journey. If you are not ready, you may want to seek out a competent Christian counselor.
- Online dating is not likely to boost your self-esteem. If you need an ego boost, find a different avenue. Even if you receive some compliments, you are likely also to experience some jerks trying to be clever. It is a fact of life. Seek love from God, family, and friends, and do not turn to this platform to increase your sense of desirability.
- You need to know who you are before interacting with potential dates. The people we meet influence us – especially those with whom we spend our time (Proverbs 1:1). Be solid in who you are and what you believe before conversing. If you are not rooted going in, you will be easily swayed.
- Please do not sign up for online dating as a way to fix something in you. If you do, the experience will likely break you even further.
- Know what you want and be aware of your deal breakers. Be honest with yourself. It is not petty or elitist to have standards. Deal breakers also help you narrow down the field.
- Assess what you have learned in past relationships. Dating is still dating whether it starts online, at college, at a homeschool convention, or behind Uncle Phil’s Donuts and Wings. Do an autopsy (e.g., determine the cause of death) on your previous relationships and take lessons from what you learn in the process. What did you learn about yourself, what you want in a spouse, and what you are not willing to endure?
- You are not going to be handed a mate using this platform. There is work involved. Get rid of any preconceived notions that this will be easy as, or even easier than, traditional dating. This dating is traditional dating – only the meeting place is different.
During the Online Dating Process:
- Be open to meeting different types of people but still have standards. Stick to what you want and do not lose your standards.
- The healthiest place to be is in the middle between super specific, and anyone goes. Having standards is not the same as having a 100-point checklist. If the person you are talking to is not exactly what you had in mind, but you see no apparent red flags, do not be so quick to squash the possibility.
- Get coffee unless a deal breaker has risen to the surface in your initial chats. What do you have to lose? Meet some folks… and if it turns out that the person you meet is not for you, at least you got out of your comfort zone! Not to mention, the man or woman you meet in person may be different than who you met online – and maybe even for the better after meeting you!
- Do not let a profile picture alone dictate your decision to meet someone. Who does not take a bad picture once in a while? ~smile~ Also, just because someone does not seem to be your type does not mean he or she cannot become your type. Attraction can grow if two people create a good connection.
- Do not allow people to exhaust you. Be brave enough to say no. If you get tangled up with someone who drains you, it is okay to decline his or her request to meet; or, if you have already gone out, his or her request for another date. If you are not comfortable saying no, this platform will wear you out; and, can even be potentially dangerous. You owe the people you meet nothing more than common human respect!
- Treat this process as a part time job. To give it a “real college try,” you will have to spend a solid chunk of time researching matches and talking to people. Yes, you will need to put time into it.
- Be prepared to say no, to hurt feelings, and to be hurt. It is not a fun part of the process, but it is easier if you mentally prepare in advance that some unpleasant actions may be needed in this process.
- Be mature and honest with yourself and others. ‘Tis not the season to play games. You have a life. The people you will meet have a life. If you need to address something, do so promptly. Be up front from the get go. If a relationship has no future, do not let it drag on simply because you are unsure of how to end it. Honesty is best, even though putting yourself out there can be scary.
- Know how to end conversations with grace and dignity. You have to sleep. You have to work. You have responsibilities. Some friends will keep you on the phone until 3 am if you allow it. Even if you have to research how to get off the phone with someone, do not allow your precious time to be sucked away.
- Develop good support systems. You may go crazy without people in your corner.
- Station some friends nearby in case you find yourself in an awkward situation. If at all possible, have a friend come with you when you meet a date (especially for the first few times). He or she can sit somewhere else in the establishment to give you a sense of safety and to provide an out if one is needed. At the very least, have someone who will check up on you by text (and ready to call the police if you do not respond).
- Put your safety first. If you get an uncomfortable vibe, do not ignore it. Choose well-lit, highly populated places for your first meetings. Under no circumstances should you ever go to their home for a first Let people know where you are going and that you are going to text them when you return home.
- Have accountability with someone you trust. Talk through your experiences, fears, concerns, and excitements regularly with someone who knows you well. Choose a friend who is willing and able to talk you off the ledge should you be ready to throw in the towel, settle for someone you do not like, or get entangled with an undesirable person.
- Be mindful of how you handle their time and allow them to handle yours. Again, you guys are grownups with lives. Be respectful of each other’s schedules, and do not allow someone you barely know to rob you of your time. (Note, if he or she does not respect your time now, do not expect him or her to start respecting it later.)
- If you are getting fatigued with online dating, take a break from it. Try to give it at least six months; three months is minimum. If you can do so without becoming emotionally fatigued, work at online dating for a year (unless you found your special someone) – and then take a break.
- You do not have to be on your dating site constantly. Take a break if you need it. Dating burnout is real.
After You have Found a Match or Not:
- Not finding a match is not failure. For some, online dating is the ticket! For others, even after putting in a good effort, the experience does not end in a relationship. If you try online dating and it does not lead you to a lifelong partner, it still encourages you to meet new people, to take action in your life, and to discover more about yourself and what you are looking for in a mate. The objective of online dating can be bigger than simply snagging a honey. If your goal is to expand your horizons, this platform can help you grow, overcome your fears, and develop as an individual.
- Even if you find a match, the hard work is just beginning. Treat this relationship as you would any relationship. No matter how closely you match, you will have some significant differences, and it is important to look for them; understand them; and, if you decide to move towards marriage, accept them. Whether you meet your significant other on the street, at a party, or online, relationships require effort, and that will be true of this relationship even if your dating site matched you at 100%!
- Do not give up on love. Even if you need to take a break to regroup, do not go into hiding. Continue to put yourself in situations where you are likely to meet new people and continue to trust that God loves you and desires your best.
- Just because your relationship started online does not mean it is healthy to keep it online. Branch out to phone calls, coffee dates (if local), and eventually visits – if your new friend is not local (but you believe the relationship has real potential). Do not feel awkward about bringing a friend with you if you travel to visit someone for the first time. It is wise to take precautions and having a third-party person present can help ease tension as well (make sure the other person knows he or she is coming as with you – this should not be a surprise).
- Laugh. It is unlikely that you will exit your online dating experience without some interesting stories. Have a sense of humor about it and regale your friends with all manner of war stories. They will appreciate it. Trust me. I know. ~smile~
If you are on the verge of setting up a dating profile, take a little time to review these points. Are you ready to join or do you need to address a few concerns first? If possible, have coffee with a friend who has done online dating and see what else you can learn about the process before trying it. If and when you go for it, we applaud you and wish you the best. Congratulations on this new adventure!
Under what circumstances would you try online dating?