Searching for love online
Some Christians are turning to the internet to help them find love, but it might not be everyone's cup of tea
Published 09 June 2012 | Charlene Winkel
Managing a busy lifestyle can be lonely business and many long for a partner who awaits them at home after a stressful day at work.
The need for companionship as well as the desire to start a family have their obvious appeal. Yet finding the right partner is not easy, especially in big cities were life tends to be anonymous. For Christians, church can be the only place where they really have the chance to meet potential partners.
A growing market has opened up to facilitate the search for that other half: Christian dating websites.
For various reasons, I have been sceptical of using these means. Firstly, I have never believed in the concept of dating - where you ‘try out’ who is the right person for you. Secondly, actively searching for someone seems as if you are taking things into your own hands instead of waiting for God’s perfect timing.
When asking friends, among them pastors, about their views on Christian online dating, I was surprised that the majority found nothing wrong with other people using these websites but added that they did not consider it an option for themselves.
My friend Joe* was quite frank: “I'm not against it. Personally, I haven't gotten to the stage where I think I need it, but I think God can use it. In my opinion, it's just another door to knock on and see if God opens it. Although I would rather not meet my future wife via a website. It's a bit of a nerdy story for the grandkids.”
Although online dating is becoming more prevalent these days, there is still a stigma attached to using these websites. Some assume that the people who use them lack social skills, are unattractive, old or a combination of all three. I can't help but feel that they are desperate to be in a relationship and see these websites as their last ray of hope.
Despite of all these negative assumptions, I know of at least two happily married couples who met each other over the internet and they see no difference between joining a Christian online dating website and being members of a singles ministry at church.
Having been single myself for a while, I decided to overcome my prejudices and reconsider online dating – after all, I don’t want to dismiss something I have never tried out.
After looking at numerous Christian dating websites, I came across one of the only ones that were free of charge. I filled in the form, wrote a short personal statement and uploaded some decent photos.
Now it was time to wait. I felt like Ruth who was waiting for her Boaz to find her in the field. Sadly, there was no sight of Boaz at all. Instead I was contacted by other less appealing men.
The desperate ones:
“Please can I be the one you have been searching for and to share your life with for the rest of your life?”
The superficial ones:
“Your eyes are amazing!”
The cocky ones:
“Just to tell you that I can be the gift of god for you that you're looking for for 10 years.“
The amusing ones:
“You must be the blessed virgin Mary. Do not tell me you are not Jesus mother, oh my Queen of England. I promise you, I will take good care of you.”
Interestingly, I even received a message from a man of another faith which did make me wonder if I could take this website seriously.
Of course I also received beautiful messages where men had read my profile and showed interest in my personality, my life and my walk with God. Most of them, however, were 20 years my senior, divorced or, if I’m honest, unattractive to me.
And that’s the cruelty of online dating - you become aware of how superficial you are. Anyone who knows me will know I have a thing about short men, so even though I received messages from good-looking guys, the mere fact that they were too short gave me enough reason not to respond to them. In my mind, at least, my Boaz is tall.
In the end, I was found by two potential candidates: one, a musician from the US and the other, an investment banker from Austria.
Although the banker and I had much more in common, I found the musician more intriguing. His laid-back character made me feel at ease when writing to him, although he quickly wanted to video-chat and I was not emotionally ready yet. Instead I suggested we add each other on one of the social network sites we both use. I had already pictured myself as the wife of a rock star, but I soon realised that after the excitement of the first few days messages became shorter, shallower and we did not find anything to talk about. Looking back now, I believe it was his unconventional lifestyle attracted me to him. I am still friends with him on the social network site, but we are not in contact in any other way.
Whereas my contact with the musician was intense but short-lived, my relationship with the banker developed gradually. Even though he was not my usual type, he seemed mature and determined looking for a wife with whom he could start a family. He dreamt about a future abroad and therefore ticked a lot of my boxes. Likewise, he had the same preconceptions about online dating as I did but had found his desire to find a partner to be stronger. Nevertheless, he felt so embarrassed about his membership on the dating site that he kept it a secret among family and friends.
We exchanged long emails and I caught myself thinking that he was a good catch. Most of my friends agreed. Still, I was never convinced or felt peace. In my emails I emphasised that I still did not believe in online dating, but that I wanted to meet my partner in a normal, real setting. I guess he understood my signals because after a couple of weeks he was the one who did not reply. However his last email stated: “I would have liked to meet you and not only because I think you are pretty.”
Maybe it was the distance, or the fact that I found him a bit conservative, or maybe it was only because I did not want to be with someone I had met over the Internet. It just did not work for me.
What I learnt from this experience is that I am more superficial than I thought I was and even more so online. In real life I would still give someone who might not be attractive at first glance, the chance to captivate me with his charm, his commitment to God, and simply a nice character. Meeting online, it’s more difficult to see past the superficial things.
In addition, throughout my experiment, I never prayed about the musician, the banker, or any other man who wrote me – something I would naturally do if I were getting to know someone in the real. The absence of spiritual guidance is precisely the reason why I have become even more sceptical of dating websites because you are tempted to act out of your flesh. When you see a picture you like or read a profile which seems interesting you send a quick message without making an effort to sit down and pray. However, I am aware that this behaviour pattern is not restricted to the online world and that there are many Christians out there who would date someone, even for months without asking God about it.
Perhaps these dating websites can help Christians to connect more easily, but I believe that it is only wise and fruitful to use these websites if God is in it and if the person is led by the Spirit. And for me at least, that was not so easy to sense.
In sum, I believe that even if my Boaz was living on the other side of the world, God would arrange for us to meet in the real world in due season. Sometimes people lose patience, but I have decided to enjoy my single life while waiting, knowing that God is never late.
*surname omitted by request
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