Online Dating Hang-ups

On Mondays, we pray asking God to soften our hearts as women. We ask God to make men bold. And, we ask God to give the gift of marriage.

Well, I took the plunge. I signed up for a month on an online dating site.

Many of my friends met together this past week to sign up, talk about our profiles, talk about the awkwardness, and to walk through it all together. I sat on the sofa for most of the evening looking at a badly-written, over simplification of who I am—inwardly grumbling about how uncomfortable I find the whole process of dating, especially dating online.

I don’t know how many of you have tried online dating as a way to meet other Christian men who aren’t in your immediate circle, but it can be an intimidating process. Thankfully, as online dating has become more common, it’s become easier to talk about, but wading through the new trends in etiquette, new technology, and its effects on your heart can be difficult.

Here are just a few of the hang-ups I have about online dating.

Technology – I can email friends. I can email coworkers. But, when it comes to emailing strangers that have a slightly attractive set of photos online—it just grates many people the wrong way.  Flirting via electronic smiles, wading through bad apps, all leave me feeling like the air has just been sucked out of the room. The last thing I want to do at the end of the day is to email.

Etiquette  – Culture-wide traditional etiquette has taken a nosedive, but in most places, people still follow some semblance of social order. My problem is that I don’t what online dating etiquette looks like. I don’t know who sets it. I don’t know who it applies to. Many times online dating can be a cross-cultural experience which adds a whole extra layer of questions.

Body Image – I am so self-conscious about how I appear online. Is this a good picture of me? When we eventually meet, will he think I photograph better than I actually look? How do I describe my body type to an algorithm? How can I judge someone’s appearance by few pixels on a computer screen? Everything in our lives is so image-driven that it’s impossible not get a little caught up in a crazy cycle over our whether the images of ourselves matches up to the world’s expectations.

So, after all of my questions and hang-ups and awkwardness, why am I trying online dating? Does it change praying for soft hearts, bold men, and marriage?

If I believe in a God who has used human technology for his purposes in the past, I must also believe that He could use the Internet as a part of my story.

If I’m boldly asking God to move demonstrably in the lives of those in the FastPray community, I should be bold enough to try a new approach to dating that I’m not comfortable with.

If I believe with the Psalmist when he said that I am “fearfully and wonderfully” made, then I need to leave room for the Holy Spirit to free me from being trapped in an image-driven culture.  

Meandering through an online dating experience isn’t easy and is not always fun, but I believe in a big God who can answer prayers in any way He wants.

 

 

Feel free to chime in with your experiences (positive/negative/neutral) with online dating. 🙂

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31 Responses to Online Dating Hang-ups

  1. Sue says:

    I am in my forties and never married. I recently had some friends recommend online dating. I confess that I was more than extremely insulted. Is it really my fault that I am not married? Or is it that God has willed this for me? I tried very gently to explain to them that God has a higher calling for women. Can not the God who created the universe bring my husband to me? I am reminded in the scriptures of Rebecca, who in the course of her daily life, under God’s will, God brought her a husband. So also for Ruth. She followed the Lord, and God brought her a husband, as she walked daily with Him. Each lady was doing the work the Lord gave her and for each, her husband came during that season. Abigail also did not look for a matchmaker to help her find a husband. Remembering her godly character, David came for her when she became a widow. In all three stories, it was the man who noticed the lady. It is in doing God’s will, walking, and serving, that God will bring His chosen. We will meet our husbands as we daily walk with Him. Our husbands will see us serving the Lord. The Biblical principle is for the man to lead and initiate and for the woman to respond. The standard of the scriptures is to wait upon the Lord. This is a very difficult cross to bear but I believe God will bring our husbands to us, according to His timing and purposes. I recommend Quest for Love, by Elisabeth Elliot. She encourages single ladies to wait for the Lord and writes about many Christian couples who did just that. Have faith, trust, pray and let the Lord bring you a God-sized story.

    • Rebecca Byrd says:

      In your comment you said God sent Boaz to Ruth but it was actually Ruth that went to Boaz. Sometimes the man needs to know you are interested or he will never make the move. Ruth went and worked in his fields. Then Naomi told her that Boaz would be a good match for her and sent her to go lay down next to him and uncover his feet. That is when Boaz knew that she was interested in him. Read the story in Ruth 3. She went to the threshing floor where no noble woman should go and laid down with a man that was not her husband and stayed there all night. Sometimes God may send us to places that some people would find scandalous but it’s still God’s plan. We all have our own story and what worked for me may not work for you but then again it may. I don’t see anything wrong with throwing out the net and seeing what you catch. And there is nothing wrong with letting men know that you are interested. They can still initiate the relationship but they need to know that you want one. I am 10 months into my happily ever after and would never have met my husband without match.com because he lived in another state. I’m not saying everyone should join a dating website but it sure worked for me and now for many of my use-to-be single friends!!

      • Sue says:

        In Ruth chapter 2, Ruth goes to the fields to provide food for her and Naomi. Boaz takes notice of her. He had heard about all she had done for her mother in law and was pleased with her character. He asked her to stay in his fields and offered her protection. I do not know why her mother in law told her to go and lay at the feet of Boaz. Likely, this had cultural implications. As Americans, we often read the scriptures thru our own experiences. This book was written thru the perspective of the culture they were living in. If a man is interested in a woman, he will have the courage to initiate. I would encourage all young ladies not to surrender the confidence which comes from being pursued. It is the first step in leading the relationship and ultimately the family. A woman can be friendly and pleasant and serving but a man will always have the courage to pursue where he has an interest.

        • Rebecca Byrd says:

          I also believe that the man should be the leader in the relationship and in the home. Just because I sent the first wink to my husband didn’t change that fact. He was done with dating and done with the online scene. Had I not sent that wink we would not be together today. He always called me. He drove to see me every weekend. He always came to my house to pick me up. I may have thrown out some suggestions but he always picked where we were going. I lost no confidence in letting him know that I was interested. He was the pursuer in the relationship. Letting someone know you are interested does not mean you are taking over as the pursuer. It doesn’t mean that you are manipulating the relationship. It just opens the door for the man to walk through.

          If men had the courage to initiate and pursue we wouldn’t need to pray for that every Monday. Most men need encouragement. They like to know if someone is interested. If you read chapter 3 in Ruth, Boaz told her to lay back down until dawn because he didn’t want anyone to see her there with him. What she did would’ve been considered scandalous in that day. And he may have noticed her earlier but he didn’t know she was interested in him until she initiated it and let him know that she was interested. He was shocked that she would be interested in him and not in a younger man.

          10 “The Lord bless you, my daughter,” he replied. “This kindness is greater than that which you showed earlier: You have not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor.

          14 So she lay at his feet until morning, but got up before anyone could be recognized; and he said, “No one must know that a woman came to the threshing floor.”

          Letting someone know that you are interested isn’t pushing yourself on them. I don’t think women should throw themselves at men nor should they push and manipulate men into relationships. Please don’t make single women feel like they are doing something wrong by just letting someone know they are interested. It isn’t the same as being the purser…it’s only opening the door…the man still has to walk through it.

        • Sue says:

          I found an article on joshharris.com that has a lot of wisdom for singles, regarding online dating.

          http://www.joshharris.com/2007/05/a_pastoral_response_to_online.php

          copy and paste in your browser.

    • Daniela says:

      Very wise comment – thank you Sue! I’m also in my 40s and never married, although praying for a godly husband since I got baptized in 1995. After having had a profile on almost every possible dating site, I finally came to the conclusion that I should patiently let the Lord lead, and send me my husband in HIS timing. Indeed, Rebecca was waiting at the well – just serving the Lord. I think this is what Christian single women also ought to do. I’m not saying that it’s always easy, but just now, I’m realizing again how fulfilling it is to just go ahead and “do what your hand finds to do” and be happy with the life I have right now. And there is a lot to do for single people at church and in the community! You just just have to make yourself available and allow the Lord to use you with all the talents He entrusted to you. And only if I’m “filled” myself; if I’m content with the life I have right now, am I fit for a relationship with a godly man, who is also “filled” and content with his life as a single man. Only then can we “overflow” together and serve the Lord even more effectively as a team then we would be able to as two single people. In fact, this is what I prayed for specifically as I was fasting yesterday: I thanked the Lord that He has helped me to be content with what I have right now, for giving me the talents and the energy to serve Him where he has placed me right now – and I asked Him to introduce me to that man who is also filled and busy for Him, so that we can make a perfect team to win souls for His Kingdom together one day!

    • Rebecca Byrd says:

      That is a great article. I especially like the part about the benefits of online dating. Although this article has some great points it is still up to the individual to know their limits. They have to be the one to know their own values and convictions and no one can say what those are. We have to be careful when we try and put our own opinions, values and convictions on others. Just because one person “feels” that it isn’t the way it should be done doesn’t mean it can’t be done that way. I still say there isn’t anything wrong with letting a man know that you are interested. Ruth went to Boaz; Abigail went to David. I think God put those stories in the Bible so that we would know that every relationship is different. Letting someone know that you are interested isn’t pushing yourself on them. I would suggest a book called, “How to Get a Date Worth Keeping” by Dr Henry Cloud. He is a Christian psychologist and has written several books. This book gave me a new perspective on dating. He has helped so many people find their mate, me included! I pray that God will soften your heart to see that there are many different ways that He can use to bring about a relationship. And I pray He brings yours soon.

  2. Daniela says:

    I have tried over and over again to find the man of my life through online dating, as well as through ads in publications of my church. And I can tell you, I have had lots of interesting experiences – both positive and negative.

    Well, I have not found the man of my life through these means, and that’s why I finally decided to not try to make it happen anymore, but to just let the Lord lead. It was quite a difficult process, because it really involves courage and trust in the Lord that He CAN make it happen – even if I do not put myself “on the market” anymore. However, I’m very thankful for my experiences, as I have learned a lot through all the encounteres I have had. And even though my future husband was not amongst them, I have definitely built lasting friendships – not necessarily with the men I have met there, but with some people I have met through these contacts. So these “online dating adventures” have definitely enriched my life!

  3. Rebecca Byrd says:

    Also, I failed to mention the book “How To Get A Date Worth Keeping” by Dr. Henry Cloud really helped change the way I thought about dating, (which I found out about through one of these wonderful emails the beginning of last year). It really helped me to see that the purpose of dating is as much learning what you need & want and how you need to grow & change as it is about finding the right person. It’s to help find out about other people and what they are like. Use dating as an opportunity to meet many different types of people. Date to learn. Dating is doing fun, meaningful things with interesting people. It’s a place to learn, grow, experience and serve other people…and have fun. This book will stretch you and not everyone is ready for this kind of dating but if you are ready to get out the house and have some fun then this is the book for you. It’s not about dating to find a husband. Once you take the stress and pressure of “Is he the one” off dating is a lot more fun!! And the book worked for me and for many of my single friends who are now either married or in a serious relationship on the way to marriage.

    • fast. pray. says:

      I’ve read parts of that book, and he definitely has some good points!

    • Monica says:

      Dear Rebecca,
      I agree with you wholeheartedly! The excerpts of Cloud’s book that I read helped me defuse the dating process and enjoy meeting people simply for the sake of meeting them. Since I am not as concentrated on the “hunt for the one”, I allow myself to go out more, even with non-Christians, which I would often forbid myself from doing before, out of a sense of piety or fear. Because of this greater openness from my end, I think men feel freer to approach me. Of course, I still have some standards and use discernment, but I realize now how much I used to block opportunities from the outset.

      One of the most poignant things I learned from the book was that dating was a form of service or ministry in loving another person. This helped me release the bitterness of failed stories when I realized that there was still fruit even if a relationship did not blossom.

      Happy upcoming anniversary!

      • Rebecca Byrd says:

        Yes exactly! Love the “dating is a form of service or ministry in loving another person” point. And Thanks!

  4. Monica says:

    Dear Anna,
    Like you I was wary of online dating for a long time especially because I did not want another email obligation on my list of things to do. In January, after years of people encouraging me to try e-Harmony, I have and do not regret it. I have not yet met in person any of the people with whom I have corresponded (a lot has to do with my particular geographical situation) and there are seasons of dormancy. However, God has used this tool to soften my heart as I see more of the inside of men and their tender hopes to be matched in love. Of course, there are the strange ones that make you wonder why you were ever matched together, but more and more I see good guys, not necessarily for me, but men who might make good husbands. This is especially true for people of a very different social circle and background that I would normally not meet – the police sergeant in Newcastle, England or the US military officer in Germany. Even since January I have seen a difference in the way I respond to men who approach me online and in real life. I am much more open to getting to know someone and respect them as a human being rather than discard them quickly once I think that this person is not for me.

    I still screen carefully and e-Harmony has not eliminated or replaced my vetting process. What is different is that as the site has exposed me to more possibilities, and fasting/praying has softened my heart, I have become more open to giving someone a chance even if that person does not match what I would expect for myself. I think this is good preparation for when God does bring my husband around, by whatever means he chooses.

    • fast. pray. says:

      Thanks for your perspective!! I really appreciate this especially — “I have become more open to giving someone a chance even if that person does not match what I would expect for myself.” I want to be able to do that too.

  5. Kristi says:

    Online dating has been a long-time stigma with me and my generation. I remember 15 years ago thinking about how I might explain to my family meeting someone via a dating service on the internet. It was a very intimidating thought so I avoided it. Then I dabbled by doing the free eharmony test. When I was matched up with someone and they wanted me to respond I freaked! People will think I’m such a loser. That was probably ten years ago. In 2011 I finally took the plunge and decided to put myself out there on Christian Mingle. The stigma–or hang up–is now virtually gone. More and more people are meeting and marrying this way.

    I was pleasantly surprised and shocked during this dabble in online dating. It was quite an adventure that I ended after about six weeks even though I paid for 3 months. I won’t even get into the “why” of why I dropped out because that’s an even longer story. Suffice it to say, online dating is everything you mentioned. It’s frustrating at times. It’s fun. It’s also an adventure. I had a few inappropriate proposals, but for the most part everyone was polite and I had many good conversations. I only met a few in person. I made several friends that I have to this day.

    Online dating is not for everyone, but it’s certainly worth a try. It may be right for a season and something to prayerfully consider. I’m just not in that season right now. However, It taught me a lot about myself, helped me define what I was looking for in a mate, and also opened my eyes up to men and how they tick.

    • fast. pray. says:

      I agree that it’s something to be considered prayerfully. I want to be open to however God wants to work, but not careless, ya know?

      Oh man… I don’t know how I’d deal with inappropriate proposals!

  6. Rebecca Byrd says:

    I met my husband on Match.com. This after 15 years of not dating except for one really weird blind date at the 12 year mark. I think God can use anything including the internet. Now several of the single ladies that were in our “group” have either gotten married or are in a serious relationship all from online dating. There are nice, strong, Christian men out there. I dated a few at first that were not but it didn’t stop me from continuing on. At 46 and coming up on our one year anniversary I am the happiest I have ever been and am so thankful for my strong, righteous, Spirit-filled, godly man that I prayed for! Don’t let the non-christians discourage you. They are everywhere. Trust that God will give you the desires of your heart and that He isn’t withholding any good thing from you. I pray you don’t have to wait 15 years like I did but my Mr. Wonderful was worth the wait!!

  7. Susan says:

    Anna. . .First thank you for sharing with, and caring about us!!! I am trying on-line dating again but still do not feel “comfortable”. I have dated about 12 different guys (first dates only except for one, we made it to a second date). . .some decided I was not a match, but most I decided were not a match for me. I am praying hard that the Lord keeps my heart soft. . .each date I also pray for direction and approach it with a “this might be the one” mentality. So far. . .no go.

    Praying that IF it is God’s will. . .that “my” guy will show and IF it is NOT His will. . .
    that my heart be content and still!

    Susan

  8. kris says:

    Why are the email updates coming late instead of early Mon mornings?

  9. margi hammer says:

    It ups the numbers and at least you know something about the person. Just because someone goes to your church doesn’t mean you know them.

  10. Rachel Preston Schartz says:

    Hey Anna –  This is Rachel Preston Schartz… I’m a friend on Connally’s and used to write regularly for this blog. 

    I’ve been really encouraged that you ladies have continued to write and it is something I genuinely look forward to reading each Sunday.Thanks for being willing to carry burden of this blog. (It can be a lot to sit down and compose something thoughtful and intentional on a Sunday night!) 

    I’m sure you’ll get lots of opinions about this post but for what it’s worth.. I can tell you that I met my husband on E-harmony when I was 37. I was on and off the site for 4 years while I lived in D.C .. so it was a Love/Hate relationship. Sometimes I’d get really discouraged and frustrated and sometimes I was hopeful about the potential of finding a guy to date.

    Anyways… I just wanted to send you some encouragement that.. “you never know??” My husband is a great guy who I would have never met except for online…. our circles would have never crossed in “normal” life. I had some pretty bad and ridiculous dates too, so be confident in yourself and don’t let a bad date ruin the entire experience, try to learn about yourself, and do it with a friend over a glass of wine. My roommate and I had some good laughs over some of the correspondence we had! 

    I honestly never thought I could met a great guy online and pridefully, I didn’t want to. (I wanted a “better” story) but I’m so thankful I gave it a try!

    Blessings, Rachel  

    • fast. pray. says:

      Thank you so much for your comment. I secretly have that “I don’t want to” attitude at at times. I need to turn of my internal self-criticism and be more light-hearted about the whole process!

  11. Betsy says:

    I agree with your post that online dating can be awkward, frustrating, and confusing . . . I talked to a few different men online before meeting my husband on eHarmony. One thing that helped me immensely was involving community in the process–my godly & wise sister in law, some sisters in Christ from church, my dad, and also my pastor all served as a sounding board as I waded through the murky waters! I also made sure to allow godly friends and family to help me screen guys–although my eventual husband was the only one to meet me face to face, when he did, my community of loved ones vetted him hard and gave him the serious impression he’d better treat me right! When I flew cross country to meet him for the first time, he allowed me into his circle at church so I could check his character for myself as well. I’d urge anyone dating online to bring your circle of wise, Christian friends and family into the process–it was a huge help to me. BTW–I only finally succumbed to trying online dating at 38 after waiting on God through my completely dateless early / mid-30s (after being “single again” at 31–my first marriage was to an unbeliever who left). My second husband & I married when I was 40 and he 46 (his first marriage)–his existence is evidence that there are good, godly, Christlike men out there, also waiting on God and asking, “How long????!” May The Lord bless you all as you continue to seek His will and face! My heart goes out to you as you wait on Him–I know the heartache and pain that you feel. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Rom 15:13

    • fast. pray. says:

      Thank you so much for sharing your story here. It’s encouraging to know that God can and does provide.

      The “how long” question really stumps me sometimes–and even my family. (My mom asks it on my behalf. Haha.) Thank you so much for the blessing and for sharing the verse!

  12. Cheryl says:

    I tried online Christian dating websites more than once to my dismay. The last one I dated works for a church & dumped me after several months when I refused to give him sexual favors. He shoved me at least twice while we dated & showed me that he was anything but Christian. Many friends have met their spouses that way while for me it has been a real blow to my self-esteem when I meet deceptive men online who seem to talk a good talk but don’t walk the walk. Yes, God can use the Internet, but He could use the grocery store, your gym, a local coffee shop or a long distance trip to bring your future spouse to you. Our problem is often our own impatience or lack of faith in trusting God for His timing for things to occur in our lives. Yes, we should pray for God’s will for our lives, and if that includes marriage, great, if not, we still need to believe God loves us & knows what is best for us.

    • fast. pray. says:

      Thank you for sharing your experience, Cheryl. I think it’s really wise to be aware that online dating can be unsafe and can give deceitful men and women avenues to take advantage of the opposite sex.

      You are so right about this, “Yes, God can use the Internet, but He could use the grocery store, your gym, a local coffee shop or a long distance trip to bring your future spouse to you.”

  13. Heather says:

    I have tried online dating twice…once for a one month subscription and once for 3 months. I agree with many of your points about the awkwardness and questioning what the protocol really is! It’s hard! I don’t feel that it’s a good or bad way to meet people, but I probably wouldn’t do it again — mainly because I got sick of the slew of first and second dates, only to not have them go nowhere. Plus the feeling that you are just one of many people they may be having those first and second dates with. They lost specialness and seemed more like an interview. But on the upside, it definitely exposed me to guys I would have never come across in every day life.

    But the sentence I thought was the best in your post was “Many of my friends met together this past week to sign up, talk about our profiles, talk about the awkwardness, and to walk through it all together.” That is awesome. Awesome that you have many friends who are at the same point to do this with. I have only one single friend left who is in a serious relationship. When I went through my online dating experience, I didn’t know anyone who had done it in the past or was doing it at the time. I had so many questions about it all that I ended up looking at the online dating site’s message boards for insights — not necessarily the best source! So definitely count that as a blessing in this process!

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