Online Dating Tips, Tricks and Opinions

So I figured that one day I would hit the publish button before I was ready to post a blog.  Today was that day.  So if you saw the beginning of this blog already I’m sorry but I hope you saw it and it made you want to read more.

Online dating has lost some of its stigma.  But Ryan and I still see some raised eyebrows when we tell people how we met.  Although it is also common for people to tell us their own stories of friends and family members who met their spouses online.  I also have a few other friends, including a brother-in-law, who are in this growing category.  I’m hoping that more people who want a relationship will try the online route and that the experience will be positive.

Ryan and I are often asked which site we used.  ChristianMingle, eHarmoney, Match.Com, Christian Cafe, Plenty of Fish, Zoosk and there are so many more.  I’ve written about OkCupid before but one site isn’t necessarily the key to online dating success.  Both Ryan and I tried multiple sites before we met and each one had a different feel.  I was determined not to pay but many of the sites only give you limited access if you don’t pay.  This includes many of the Christian sites.  Whether you make a choice to pay or go with the free options, dating online can work.  So what can you do to make the most out of your online dating experience?  If you just want a date, that’s easy but here are some tips (from my perspective) if you want to try and find a relationship online.

1. Put effort into it.

If you are serious about finding someone then you need to put time into looking through profiles, responding to and writing messages, making dates (men), going on dates and communicating in general.  It takes time.  If you don’t have time to make it a priority, wait until you do.  Or if you aren’t paying for a site, then it’s easier to date for a month or so and then take a break.  That’s how I kept my sanity during the online dating process.

2. Be strategic with your site choice.

Everyone is different but in my experience I didn’t like eHarmony or Match.  I also tried a couple of the Christian sites but found that the men were looking for a ‘nice Christian girl’ but they weren’t necessarily solid Christian men.  I didn’t like having to sort through a lot of Christian lingo and niceties that didn’t really tell me about the person.  I liked OkCupid because being a Christian wasn’t a good thing if you were just looking for a little action or some friday night fun.  The men who were serious, solid Christians automatically distinguished themselves on a free site like OkCupid.

3. Know what you are looking for.

Once you get to the point of meeting someone, one date can only tell you so much.  That person could be having a bad day or be super nervous.  So I worked on a very short list of my ‘must haves’ and no this didn’t include a height requirement.  The book Marriage and Mr. Right helped me think through what really was important to me and what wasn’t a true deal breaker.  In theory if a guy had those ‘must haves’ then he got at least a second date and if the guy didn’t then I would shake his hand and that was it.  I say in theory because there were some men that it was more difficult to stop dating even once I knew they weren’t someone I would consider marrying.  But looking back I can say that those dates were seriously a waste of time.  Fun dates but not potential mates.

4. Be smart with your communication and meeting choices.

We all know about being safe with strangers.  But this is more than that.  Most of the time I didn’t give out my phone number until I met the guy in person.  Then if the date didn’t go well I didn’t have to worry about unwanted phone calls.  And I also didn’t have to worry about a random stranger having my phone number if they misrepresented themselves.  Be wise about where you meet and what time of day.  I did go hiking with someone I just met but it was on a well traveled trail in a familiar area.  Be smart because if you feel comfortable with your choices then the date will most likely go better too.

5. Enlist the help of friends.

Once you meet someone who has more potential than just a date then don’t be shy introducing them to close friends.  One of the downsides of online dating is meeting someone outside of your normal sphere.  I’m a big fan of getting your community involved.  This doesn’t mean bringing in the calvary but a few people can help you see if you’re overlooking anything.  Ryan met some of my friends on our second date, that might be a bit early for most people but it worked for us.  It also helped us to start mingling our friend groups because meeting online often means you don’t have any friends or even acquaintances in common.

I’m sure I could think of a few more things but that’s it for now.  I’d love to hear your stories of online dating, the adventures as well as misadventures in finding and keeping love.

OkCupid Worked for Us

Note: I wrote this post before we left California because we flew out on the red-eye which is going to make all of Wednesday a little bleary eyed.  Don’t worry I will be posting about Wisconsin fun but here’s a little something to tide you over until then.

It’s no secret that Ryan and I met on OkCupid.  We both tried other dating sites. (I’ll post my little online dating site preference rant some other time.)  Ryan and I both went on a good amount of dates, both with people we met off as well as online.  But we were on OkCupid at the same time, it was free! and that’s what worked for us.

okcupidSo when I saw that OkCupid was in the news, I clicked on the link (OkCupid User Experiments) and read about how the site was experimenting with users.  In order to see whether or not their matching algorithm was working, they took people who actually had low matches and gave them an artificially high match.  Then they watched to see if that high match would increase the amount of time they would spend communicating.

Obviously, when they released the fact that they had done this, the public had mixed feelings.  Having used OkCupid, I can’t imagine that an artificially high match would change the ultimate decision I would have made about someone.  The questions that you answer for their algorithm ranged for me from inconsequential (movie and music preferences) to questions that I felt actually revealed character.  For example, there was a question about how long it would take for you to have sex with someone (I would have sex with a stranger, first date, third date, committed relationship, wait until marriage).  Seeing how someone answered that question already gave me a good idea of how their values matched mine.  It didn’t matter that a few guys looked like they matched well with me, there were certain questions that revealed a lot about them and those were the questions I actually looked for to help make my decision about whether or not to even talk to let alone date someone.

Personally, as long as OkCupid didn’t change people’s answers, they can change the other numbers all they want and maybe I would have given a guy a first date based on the fake match but he certainly wouldn’t have gotten a second date.  And even if OkCupid went so far as to change some of the answers, that’s why you email, talk on the phone and ultimately meet the person.  Maybe someone is but I certainly wasn’t going to marry someone based on a profile picture and a good match according to OkCupid.  Time will show who someone truly is and ultimately if you are looking for a specific set of beliefs or at a person’s character, you’re not going to be fooled by numbers that don’t really add up.

OkCupid is free.  It’s easy to use.  And it helped me find my amazing husband.  As far as i’m concerned it wasn’t the algorithm that brought us together but we most likely wouldn’t have met without it.  I hope that a little experimenting by the online dating sites won’t stop people from using these great resources to potentially meet their future spouse.  OkCupid worked for us!

Singleness: How to Encourage and Not Discourage

I’ve been married all of two months and a day.  Ryan and I are both still pinching each other because we really don’t believe it.  We’re also still battling through all the changes that take place when you start living with someone who you’ve given your heart, your life and your future to.  It’s not all rose petals and fairy dust but there is a lot of laughter even during the tears and our vows and commitment to each other keep us holding hands.

Although marriage changes pretty much everything, Ryan and I both hope to remain sensitive to singleness.  We realize that just because we’re married doesn’t make us experts in how to find a spouse.  And it definitely doesn’t make us marriage experts.  I had a lot of advice pre-marriage but I am especially thankful for the advice that was conflicting but completely sincere.  This is an important reminder that all marriages are different and we have to find our way together.

And that’s kind of a long introduction to my main point that comes from a blog entry called What Not To Tell Single Girls (And some things you should do.) This is a good article (click on the title and it will take you to it so you can read it for yourself) that elaborates on why certain platitudes said mainly to single women (although I am sure some single men have heard them too) are not helpful nor edifying.  I think that her words can be an encouragement to singles but also a call to those who are not single to watch our words.

So in that spirit I want to respond to her six points with observations now on this side of marriage.  It’s not too long that i’ve forgotten what it is like to be single but my perspective has definitely shifted.

1. “I know the Lord has someone special for you.”

This is just not true unless that someone special is Jesus.  Yes, God could have a spouse in mind for that person but he may also have a plan that includes a beautiful, fulfilled life as a single.  Do not lie to single people.  It doesn’t make anyone feel better.

When people would say this to me I remember thinking- How do you know?  I don’t know if God has someone in mind for me so how could you possibly know?

What did actually help me was the reminder that God is sovereign.  2 years ago with no Ryan even close to the picture and even now that I am married- I need to constantly remind myself that God is sovereign even if I had never dated again and God is sovereign even though i’m married.  That is the truth.

2. “You’re just so great; guys are intimidated by you.”

This point is definitely one to read from the other author.  She points out that this is emasculating to guys and not helpful to women either.

I heard this a lot and I took it as a challenge.  I wanted a husband, not a puppy.  But I did date a lot of guys who would have followed me around like a puppy.  That was not God’s plan and in his grace he provided me with a husband who is not intimidated and also not overbearing.

I can’t really explain it but somehow God provided me with a man who lets me be strong while at the same time loving and encouraging my vulnerability with him.  I’m still observing this and trying to figure out how it even works but I know that it’s beautiful.

3. “The Lord is preparing both of you.”

Ok so this point may actually be true in some ways but it is definitely not helpful for a single to hear.  And getting married is not about being perfect and ready.  Praise God or we would all still be single.

God was preparing Ryan and God was preparing me.  Now that we are married he hasn’t stopped preparing us.  God is still working in us individually and now he gets to work in us together as well.  This will continue.  It’s a process called sanctification.

4. “He’ll come when you least expect it.” 

Could be true but was not true for me.  I was expecting it.  Each time I went on a date I was wondering if this was the guy.  Each time I updated my online dating profile, I thought about what I would need to write to interest the one who would marry me.  I thought on my first date with Ryan, “This could work”.  I, of course, didn’t say that to him but I was thinking it.  I had no idea how it would unfold but I was anticipating each step.

If I wasn’t married to Ryan, each new guy at church, each random encounter at the grocery store, each new seat mate on an airplane, I would still be waiting, anticipating.  I’m not ashamed.  I wanted to be married.

So maybe this isn’t the most healthy outlook but that’s where I was.  I was living my life with my eyes wide open and my heart was waiting.  This could have been disastrous if I had met a smooth talking liar who was good at telling me what I wanted to hear.  But by God’s grace I met a man with character and an amazing heart.

If I could go back I would tell my single self that it’s ok to anticipate and it’s ok to hope.  And just because a guy is over 6’4 doesn’t mean he’s perfect for you:-)

5. “Enjoy this season of singleness.  You have so much freedom to adventure and find out who you are.”

Yes!  Enjoy this season of singleness but don’t tell singles to do that.  I enjoyed being single but that didn’t mean that I didn’t want to be married.  These aren’t mutually exclusive.

There is also a part of this that comes in how it is said.  Is the married person unhappy in their marriage?  I have a divorced friend who continually reminded me that being single was better than an unhappy/unhealthy marriage.  This was actually a good reminder for me to be careful who I was choosing.

And now to that other part: the freedom to adventure and find out who you are.

First of all, the adventure for Ryan and I didn’t stop with marriage, it just changed.  And everything superficially I thought I knew about who I am is also going through the spin cycle and becoming something different.  Marriage changes things.

But the core remains.  The other author hit the nail on the head with this.  She writes:

“I also probably will never find the end to finding out about myself. If I did, I would think myself pret-ty boring. I am the daughter of the Most High, the Great I AM. You know why I love His name? Because He is. He IS kind. He IS good. He IS just. He IS mercy. He IS jealous. He IS patience. He IS love. He IS truth. He IS. We cannot find an end to Him… Why would the Creator of it all make us so finite that we could find an end to ourselves? Science has not even found an end to us biologically. The matter of the heart has not yet been tackled. So HOORAY for never finding an end of myself or of God and ALWAYS living a life a discovery and adventure!!!!”

Those words can remain true whether single or married.  Amen.

6. “Enjoy this season of singleness.  It is a special time with the Lord.”

Once again, Yes! But don’t say this to singles.  It is not helpful or encouraging.  I am so thankful for all the special time I had with the Lord as a single.  I am also thankful that God does not revoke the special times with him now that I am married.  They are both special, both worth celebrating and both are possible and lovely.

Adding Ryan into my relationship with God has been a very challenging thing for me.  God and I were getting along just fine together.  I knew (but was still constantly learning) how to talk to God, listen to God, commune with God and worship God.  But then this man came into my life who is not Jesus and who is definitely not God.  But he wanted to be a part of this relationship and became a part of it when we said “I do”.  I’m still struggling, learning and stretching as we figure out how this whole being-one-thing works when it comes to communion and relationship with God.  Ryan and I now have our own time to be with God but we also have time to commune, worship and pray together.  It’s part of the great mystery of becoming one and it’s good but it’s by no means easy.

Prayer and Encouragement

The author ends with an exhortation for people to encourage and pray for singles.  Her words are lovely so I won’t try to summarize here.  But I agree that there are so many worthwhile and easy ways to encourage that don’t include cheesy platitudes.  It’s a reminder for all the married people to think before they speak.

I will add this.  Although I did want to be married, I have come across many single women (as well as men) who are not actively praying for or seeking marriage.  This is perfectly acceptable.  So please don’t assume that just because someone is single necessarily means that they want to be married and just because they want to be married don’t assume they are not content with their singleness.

I had a few friends as well as strangers over the years ask me how they could pray for me while I was single.  They weren’t making assumptions, they were listening and genuinely wanting to pray how I was praying.  To have someone treat singleness not as a disease to get rid of but a normal part of life is amazing.

Whether single or married, God is sovereign.  How’s that for encouragement?

Last Year on This Day…

…I didn’t know this man even existed.  And now according to my wordpress countdown there are 17 days until our wedding.

Beach4According to archived OkCupid emails, Ryan first wrote to me on February 13th last year.  He was responding to my message after I had seen that he had looked at my profile.  We don’t know when I first wrote to him but it’s pretty safe to say that I had no idea on February 5th, 2013, while I was preparing to speak at the FOPC mission potluck in Sacramento, that this time next year I would be preparing for my wedding in Santa Barbara.