“Should I use a Christian online dating site?”
Ah, that pesky question. When desire for a significant other rises, the number of local prospects falls, and the discouragement of singleness presses, many find themselves asking that challenging question. Sometimes, internet dating bears the stigma of the place people go when they can’t find love in “real life.” Yet the reality of modern America is that our technology and culture tend to make it challenging to expand social circles. People often stay in their bubbles of work, church, and home life, remaining isolated from new social contacts that could yield a significant other. Could internet dating nearly be necessary in our modern culture?
While the decision of whether to use an internet dating site can be challenging for anyone, for Christians there’s an even greater complexity to the question. Does God want us to use internet dating sites? Some voices in Christendom say you should trust God to unite you with your future spouse. If the existing stigmas with internet dating aren’t enough, who wants to be considered faithless because he started browsing Christian Mingle?
In truth, I used to turn my nose up at the thought of internet dating. In my early college days I was on the “you should trust God for your spouse” bandwagon. Eventually I got off that bandwagon (to learn the biblical reasons why read Does God Have A Spouse Chosen For Me?), but I still shied away from internet dating. “I want to date people in real life first.” “I want to get better at dating before going online.” But the truth is I was really just afraid. I didn’t feel skilled with dating. While navigating interest in one person is hard enough, what happens if there are multiple? So for a long time I dragged my feet in spite of a mentor insisting it would be a good thing for me. Eventually, I looked my fears in the eye and decided to move past them. So eventually I got started on Christian Mingle. Later I also opened an account eHarmony. Here are some pros and cons I’ve learned about Christian internet dating through the experience.
It Costs Money
Hey, services don’t come free. If you want to be able to communicate with people (and that’s kind of important for pursuing romance) you’ll have to pay for a subscription. Depending on the site and how long a term you choose, this could run you anywhere from $30 for a month to over $200 for a year. A six month subscription is usually on the order of $120 to $180. The one exception is plentyoffish.com, which is free to use. Unfortunately, it’s a secular site that has no option to search according to faith, though you can find Christians on there.
It’s Time Consuming
Building relationship requires time. There’s no way around that. Early interactions usually consist of writing emails back and forth, especially if the person you’re communicating with is too far away to meet easily in person. If you’re interacting with multiple people (which should be the case) then you’ll have to multiply time commitments. You’ll have to ask yourself if this commitment of time is in keeping with God’s present call for you.
Rejection Is Inevitable
I’ve contacted several people that I really hoped would reply. They didn’t. I’ve also had people contact me, and I didn’t reply. Internet dating allows a lot more contact with potential mates than daily life, but that means it allows opportunity for a lot more rejection. One young woman stopped writing me as soon as she knew I didn’t share a particular interest. So come prepared not to receive or keep interest from everyone you’d like.
There’s a Pyramid
A quick search will bring up every person within an X mile radius that matches your criteria. Some of those people will stand out as attractive. Some of those will turn out to be interesting once you look deeper. That’s when you initiate contact. Some of those you contact will return your contact. Some of those contacts will have chemistry and turn into regular correspondence and dates. One of those casual dating relationships might turn into a long term relationship. Going through the pyramid process can be long, frustrating, and discouraging. In daily life, we subconsciously (or consciously) assess others for how interested we are in them. The outstanding people naturally capture our attention. In internet dating, however, it takes effort to find them.
It’s Not a Silver Bullet
You might participate in internet dating, put in the time, climb up and down the pyramid, and still be left without a long-term relationship. It’s possible. It’s life. So make sure you already have the personal growth necessary to be single and whole.
It Expands Your Perspective
When we live in our bubble we can start to think “all the good people are taken.” Seeing how many good, attractive, God-loving, single people are out there is a lesson in the reality that there are plenty of good people out there.
It’s a Decent Place For Beginners
Who’s not a master at dating? Raise your hand. *Justin raises hand* I was afraid to go online because I didn’t feel skilled at dating. What I discovered is that internet dating is a good place to start if you’re a beginner. That’s because you already know that everyone on the website is already interested in dating. It’s a little less intimidating to contact someone when you know he or she is already receptive to the possibility of dating. And if you don’t get a reply or get a rejection, it can be a little easier to take at a distance than face to face. Just don’t use internet dating as a crutch. Use it as a step. Never let challenge or discouragement stop you.
When you get some positive experiences through internet dating, it really boosts your confidence and morale. When you stop thinking, “all the good people are taken,” and start thinking, “there are good people out there and some of them are interested in me!” you’ll start having a much more optimistic outlook on your love life.
They didn’t coin the term “romantic comedy” for nothing. I’ve gotten some big laughs out of my internet dating. Some have come from meeting some rather “interesting” characters. Unfortunately, some laughs have come from “learning opportunities.” For example, when writing a girl about going to a costume event, don’t choose verbiage that happens to sound like you’re making a pass at her! She never wrote me back, not even after the follow up message trying to explain. Keeping a sense of humor will make it easier to learn from your mistakes. 🙂
Good dating should be fun, and that goes for internet dating. Yes, in dating, there’s always risk of disappointment. But dating that’s done with care for others and a wise outlook should have joy in it. It’s a chance to expand your horizon, interact with others, learn about people, learn about yourself, and enjoy fun experiences together. Give yourself a chance to have fun on the journey to a lifelong love!
It Might Lead to “I Do”
And that’s really what we hope for. Internet dating isn’t a silver bullet, but many people have already married as a result of internet dating. Many more will. You might be one of them. Even if not, your interactions should hopefully leave you with worthwhile knowledge of yourself, others, and where you’re going in life and romance.
Some Things to Bear in Mind
The Normal Principles of Dating Apply
That means your treatment of others online must be just as considerate as your treatment of people in person. Be honest, be kind, be gracious, be wise.
This also means that there’s just as much possibility of rejection as in real life. It’s possible that a person you’ve hit it off with might one day let you know that he or she doesn’t want to go any further or has decided to commit to someone else. That’s a necessary hazard of pursuing love.
And always, always, always be yourself no matter what.
The Desirability Scale Still Applies
Yes, I’m afraid so. Just as in “real life” dating, people tend to look for someone with whom they share similar levels of attractiveness, intelligence, and overall desirability. You’ll find many people online that you wouldn’t meet otherwise, but the truth is some of them may still be out of your league. If you’re going nowhere in life, rarely shower, or have an obnoxious attitude, then internet dating can’t help you. Work on the rough areas first, and then get back out there.
Not Everyone Is At The Same Level of Faith
Not everyone on CHRISTIAN Mingle is as dedicated to Christ as you might hope. Some only live with a basic belief in God that really doesn’t significantly impact his or her life. Sometimes you have to communicate a bit to learn where a person is at in his or her practice of faith. But don’t worry, if you’re looking for someone with a high level of commitment to Christ, they’re out there.
Be Careful What You Find On The Internet
You should always use wisdom and caution in dating, but the internet adds an extra layer that can be used to deceive. You should never share very personal information or commit yourself to someone’s care until they’ve proven they’re trustworthy. Most sites offer safety guidelines. Use them!
Don’t Write People Off
I’ve had a bad history of writing people off for one reason or another without really knowing them. I got frustrated that, after looking through so many profiles, I felt like I hadn’t found any good possibilities. Then it hit me that I was being way too critical and picky. Give yourself a chance to get to know real people rather than chase an empty fantasy of the perfect boy/girlfriend. You might be pleasantly surprised.
Not All Sites Are Equal
I’ve used Christian Mingle, eHarmony, and a free trial of ChristianCafe. I like how ChristianCafe allows for searching by the level of faith commitment. Unfortunately, the site was a bit lacking in its aesthetics and organization when I used it. Christian Mingle doesn’t have such a search feature, but the site is more inviting and user friendly. On Christian Mingle, you can often tell by reading a person’s introduction how important his or her faith is. If you’re uncertain, just ask! eHarmony is the most aesthetically excellent and user friendly site I’ve experienced. It also includes what’s called Guided Correspondence where you can select prewritten questions in order to start communicating with a person. I’ve found it’s a nice way to learn more about a person without having to immediately go directly to personally emailing (though that’s always an option). Though it welcomes secular individuals, eHarmony is quite good at matching you on faith. Unfortunately, eHarmony is on the more costly side. Its cost runs a little higher than other sites.
At The End of The Day…
…you have to decide if you want to participate in Christian internet dating. Personally, I’ve loved being able to see how many people are out there and have the chance to get to know some of them. My stigmas have fallen away in the light of experience. I’ve had positive experiences, and I expect to have more. No, I don’t have a girlfriend yet, but that’s okay. Being willing to walk the journey has been incredibly good for me. It’s not just about the destination.
But you’re making this decision for you. I can’t guarantee that you’ll have a positive experience with internet dating. Some find they don’t like internet dating. You have to decide if you’ll accept the risk along with the potential reward. So prayerfully consider how God is calling you at this point of your life. Ask Him for wisdom and guidance. Are you in a season good for pursuing internet dating? Do you possess the personal maturity needed to date well? Have you yet learned to be whole without a significant other? What do your trustworthy mentors and friends think? Finally, what do you WANT to do? As in all pursuits of love and marriage, it has to be something YOU CHOOSE.
What do you think of internet dating? Have you had good experiences? What cautions would you give? Share your thoughts in the comments section!
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Oh, and here’s some bonus comedy… 🙂