Recently, I entered the world of online dating.
Understand, I didn’t just jump into this; I have been praying about it for a while, maybe since I moved to a different state eight months ago.
Is online dating even okay for Christians?
I struggled with this. I wondered if God would be upset with me for somewhat taking control of my destiny and not letting things happen organically, say, meeting a guy at a coffee shop or at work.
“Does God work through dating apps?”
It was hard for me to answer this question because the app format seemed too straightforward and easy to be a tool of the Divine. Oftentimes, the greatest blessings in my life have been unexpected and seemed to have materialized out of nowhere, not selected after a few screen swipes.
I took some time to really try to study this and eventually came to peace with it.
“God can use anything,” I concluded. I had heard of (and probably even met) thriving Christian couples who had met online, and they seemed to be doing fine, so it seemed like it was okay for Christians. It seemed to me that the biggest factor in considering these questions was my own motives. We’ll touch on that soon.
The Challenges of Online Dating
Then, when I felt like it was a good time to get out into the cyber dating scene, I was overwhelmed by my options in dating sites and apps.
Being a graduate student, naturally, I dove into research. I studied comparison articles, checked out the different sites’ and apps’ websites and histories, and checked in with friends who had tried their luck on them. This was a weeks-long process filled with mental pros and cons lists, Venn Diagrams, and even more prayer.
Of course, later, once I started meeting people, I encountered other challenges that made me really step back and look at myself and what I wanted. I’m only about one month into the experience now, but I feel like I’ve learned so much.
Three Tips Before Saying Yes to Online Dating
If you’re interested in or have ever been curious about, trying out the whole online dating thing, as a Christian, here are three tips that I’ve found crucial.
1. Check yourself
The reason why it took so long for me to jump into this was that I really wanted to be sure of my motives. I really wanted to make sure I was doing this for the right reasons.
When I first seriously started considering this, I had just moved to a new state, started at a new school, and was trying to make a life in a place where I knew absolutely no one. There were definitely some moments of serious loneliness. Was I going to do this just to try to fill a void? I didn’t want that to be the case, but it was possible. I’ve always prided myself in my ability to be independent and not have to rely on anyone else to make me feel better. I had really been working hard on making sure only to turn to God for that level of fulfillment, and also on building a strong core friend group before considering a relationship.
The person for whom I was looking wasn’t supposed to complete me; God has already made me whole.
I also decided that I wasn’t just trying to find someone to help me show off. As I said, I had just moved far away from where I grew up. I knew people were watching me. Most of them supported me already, and there really wasn’t much to prove, but a part of me thought that if I started showing up on social media linking arms with some new guy, it might show, “oh wow, she’s really settling in very nicely”. I also feared that some would think I was moving too fast. Ultimately, I had to come to a place where I would constantly check in with myself to make sure I wasn’t paying too much attention to what others were thinking or where they were looking.
I think the biggest thing for me in this category, however, was making sure that my motive was not to control. I’ll be honest-
Unchecked, I am an archetypical control freak.
I really hate when I can’t make plans or construct timelines. It drives me crazy when things or people do not adhere to my plans because I feel like I’m the best planner. I dedicate a lot of time thinking through logistics, running through an alternate route in my mind, and coming up with the best plan of action. I get a lot of satisfaction from fulfilled plans and successful preparation.
Dating is something over which I have not had much control. That’s just how it works, right? You could be interested in someone and then find that the feelings are not mutual. At that point, you can’t rightfully force anything more to happen. You can’t “will” or “plan” someone into being attracted to you and accepting all your flaws and falling in love with you. It’s inherently a two-person thing.
I recognize that (for better or worse) I’m different.
There are a lot of things about me that society tells me would make me less attractive than others in my dating pool. For instance, I’m quite a tomboy. I hate dressing up, I don’t own a single pencil, bottle, or brush of makeup, and I don’t know how to do much with my hair. I don’t get my nails done or get excited about shoe shopping. I always say, quite honestly, “what you see is what you get”. In adolescence, I kind of struggled with this, but now, it is something of which I have become quite proud. An inner tension in me loosened when I finally allowed myself to accept and embrace these things, trusting that the guy who is for me will not find a problem in this.
That’s not the only thing that makes me different (I’ll allude to more later), but I realize that my differences and my standards add another layer of complexity to my search.
This is where the “control” part comes in.
Because I know that what I’m looking for is pretty rare, I’m often tempted to feel like I need to “help God out” a little. And the online platform makes way for this.
Oftentimes (and on the app that I chose), these sites pair people who share major similarities and/or have expressed interest in one another. So, I figured, it was an environment where I could bare all my quirks and abnormalities, and then if a guy, after seeing/reading all that, expressed interest, I could feel a stronger sense of genuineness. It wasn’t like in real life, where you meet someone and gradually expose those parts of yourself in hopes that he won’t drop you like a hot potato. In this way, I could control which information he learns about me first and easily filter out the guys who would not be able to accept me or share my values.
This is the part with which I wrestled with God the most. He eventually revealed to me that remaining true to myself and my values were wise, as long as I and my values remain true to Him. If these things were in line with Him and His will, I didn’t have to hesitate about giving Him the control.
2. Check your connection
Speaking of wrestling with God, remaining connected to Him has been the most important factor of this whole experience. This probably should have been the first point, but I wanted to be honest about the order in which I processed all of this.
God has been my protector- physically, spiritually, emotionally. Of course, before I went out to meet any of these practical strangers, I asked for God’s protection, and wisdom to recognize a potentially dangerous situation.
What I want to focus on more, though, is how God has protected me emotionally and spiritually.
As I’ve expressed, this sort of dating environment is completely foreign to me. Meeting multiple new people in a short span of time is something that I’ve never done, not for the purpose of dating, anyway. Honestly, my inclination is to find one person and stick to him and never branch out. Of course, this is ideal for someone who is in a committed, exclusive relationship. As someone who is only dating (as in just meeting guys and getting to know them, not in a relationship), this can become kind of detrimental.
I’m an “all eggs in one basket” type of person, naturally, so that means I can fall fast.
If I’m not careful, I let my emotions get involved relatively quickly, which sets me up for more potential hurt. This is also something I was worried about in all this, me getting along with the first guy I meet and jumping in head-first like “this is the one!”.
I’ve decided to rely wholeheartedly on God for direction.
My recent prayers have mostly been,
“Dear God, PLEASE guard my heart and give me clear direction. Let me know if a guy is not the one for me. Please give me peace when I do meet him, and give me your peace in the process. I pray for YOUR will to be done here because I have no idea what I’m doing. Amen.”
And He has been doing all of that and more.
3. Check your dates
As I started saying earlier, I have a set of non-negotiable standards.
One of THE most annoying things for me is when people try to downplay my own values.
For example, obviously, it is mandatory that my potential mate is a Christian. This is expectation is evident from my profile. I feel like it’s pretty straightforward, but I’ve found that it’s not. I realized that “Christian” means different things for different people. Some people just grew up going to church, but don’t really practice the faith now, in adulthood. These people claim the faith because it’s what they know to claim, but in reality, they’re not trying to follow Jesus.
Listen, I get that, and I’m not judging. Oftentimes in these situations, people need to come to Jesus for themselves and discover Him for themselves after years of attending church out of tradition. Everyone has his own journey when it comes to this. The thing is, though, in terms of dating me, I want someone who is in a place on his journey that is similar to mine.
2 Corinthians 6:14 tells us not to be “unequally yoked”.
This means to not get tied up with someone who is not in the same place, not walking in the same direction as we are. The verse directs us not to tie up with “unbelievers”, but I would propose that this even includes believers who are in vastly different places in their faith. This does not mean we can’t be friends with them- that wouldn’t make sense, as Jesus himself hung out with some of the most un-Christlike people-, it just means it’s not wise to enter into deep, vulnerable bonds with them.
If I am entering into some sort of partner heavy-weight competition, I’m obviously going to want to choose a partner who can lift at least as much as I can. Sure, I can definitely maintain friendships with those in a different weight class, but if we’re talking about partnership in the competition, I want to choose someone upon which I could depend to share that weight equally with me.
This is something that has made it hard for me in the world of dating.
I kept finding guys who called themselves Christians, but clung to the phrase, “but hey, no one’s perfect”. Sure, that’s true, but there’s a difference between settling in imperfection and handing it over to God, the one who then perfects us more and more daily. I’m trying to actively live my life out for Him, and what I’m looking for is someone who is already doing the same, so we can just do it together.
Going back to the weightlifting analogy, when it comes to a relationship, I’m not looking to be a personal trainer or coach. Sure, we can be workout partners, but I’m looking for mutual accountability and encouragement, pushing jointly to the same goals with the same motivations.
For instance, I went on this nice date with one of the guys from the app, and we got to the topic of premarital sex. Yes, I’m not much one for plain, small talk. He disclosed to me that he has a son, so obviously he wasn’t a virgin, but that’s honestly not what turned me away. People slip up, and there’s forgiveness for that. When I told him that I was saving myself for marriage, he was in awe! He commended me because of how rare that is these days and told me he really respected me for it. That’s cool.
When I asked him if he held the same value, he hesitated with kind of a sly grin. He answered that if a girl he was dating exclusively were to declare that that’s what she wanted, he would honor that out of love for her. It was a nice sentiment, but I did not feel safe in that.
If I were his girlfriend, I would hate for that responsibility to be on me.
I think guys forget that girls have libidos as well.
In that theoretical relationship, if I were to fall to that temptation, I wouldn’t want a guy who says, “well, you didn’t stop things, so I assumed it was okay with you.” I would want a guy who is able to say, “hey, no, we made a commitment to each other and to God that we would obey His command.” That’s the thing. This guy said that he would do it out of love for the girl, but I need a guy who does things out of love for God. The issue with solely devoting ourselves to people is that people falter, and that’s too much pressure for me.
Only things rooted in God endure.
I’ve been in a relationship where I was always forcing him to come to church and pushing him to do different devotions, and that didn’t work. Ultimately, he wasn’t ready for that type of stuff, and I wasn’t ready to believe I couldn’t change him. Now, I’m not looking to change or mold anyone into what I know God wants for me. Accordingly, I’ve become comfortable at being up-front with guys and being honest from early on about when something was not going to work for me.
I have received varying feedback from guys. Almost all of them end up respecting me for having standards, but still disagree with them. A couple has lectured me on how I’m really limiting myself by eliminating such a substantial chunk of my dating pool. “You’re going to miss out on a lot,” is what they say, but I say that those on which I’ll be missing out are the ones who are not for me anyway. That’s the whole point. They ask, “How will you know what you like if you don’t try everything?” My response is that God knows the desires of my heart (Psalm 37:4), so if I keep delighting myself in Him, following Him, He will provide that for me. I trust Him to do that.
So, be sure in what you believe and don’t let anyone push you to compromise.
They may call you narrow-minded, but the path of following Jesus is a narrow one anyway (Matthew 7:13). Never be ashamed of wanting only what God has for you.
Overall, I’ve found that the key factors are knowing who I am, knowing what God wants, and moving accordingly. The online dating world can be daunting, especially from the perspective of a Christian woman, but staying in line with God, you can’t go wrong.
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