Online Dating and Shopping Carts

Online Dating and Shopping Carts

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Every time I go into a grocery store and get a bad shopping cart, I think of Joshua Harris.

You may be familiar with the reference.

In his well-known book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Harris compares one-on-one dating to a unwieldy shopping cart that always wants to go its own way. It's possible to have a godly relationship with traditional dating, he says, but more difficult than with a courtship model.

Well, we've already identified some of the problems with IKDG. Maybe we abandoned those carts a little too soon without any replacements. Perhaps one-on-one dating wasn't the real problem, but more some sinful heart attitudes that could go along with it.

I have a similar sentiment about online dating. When online dating first became popular, Boundless took a cautious approach. We wondered if online dating might also be an unwieldy shopping cart. The thing is, there are dangers and downsides to every method of dating. And in our fast-paced, globally connected world, online dating may be one of the best ways to find a mate.

As encouragement, I wanted to share my friend Monica's story. She met her husband, Bill, online in 2008. Here's her story in her own words:

Bill was in New Jersey, in a church with older members. He figured he had to look outside of his immediate community to find a good, conservative Christian girl to marry, so he signed up for online dating one year before we met.

I was in Colorado, where I had moved for my job. It was my first Christmas away from home, and the office was dead. My work friend and I decided to sign up for online dating to kill the time. I had previously thought about doing it but was scared of stepping on God's toes. I wanted to be married, and some older, trusted Christians advised me to try online dating to open a door God might work through. "After all," they said, "if you have a headache you take an Advil, right? Why isn't that stepping on God's toes?"

Bill and I were matched Jan. 7, 2008, and began communicating soon after. Our profiles provided a lot of information about who we were and what we believed, but we began emailing to get to know one another better. Because we were older (I was 29 and he was almost 34) we were both comfortable being direct in our conversations. We had frank talks about our pasts and our non-negotiables. Bill was forthright that he liked me and had serious intentions.

After a couple of weeks of heavy communication, including phone conversations, Bill asked me when we should meet. I told him as soon as possible so we could see if we clicked in person. I didn't want to get too emotionally invested before a first meeting because in-person was so important. With a visit, we'd know if this was something we wanted to continue pursuing.

He bought a ticket the next day to fly to Colorado two weeks later. Since my parents were in Puerto Rico, I asked a trusted male Christian in my life (who happened to be my boss) to help me "vet" Bill. I told Bill he would have to meet my boss, and Bill's reaction was, "Of course, and anyone else you want me to meet." His willingness to be scrutinized showed me he was serious about his intentions.

Bill stayed at a hotel for the weekend. Our first day together was a bit awkward for me because as much as I had tried to guard my heart, I was starting to fall for him ... then I met him in person, and I realized how much I didn't know about him! I knew his heart and his intentions and his history, but not his mannerisms and his smile. This caused me to be a bit guarded. But by day two, we "clicked."

Two weeks later I flew to New Jersey to visit him and meet his family. During this visit, we became girlfriend and boyfriend officially. At this point, I freaked out a little because we were long distance. He told me he could move out to Colorado so we could date in a more conventional manner. But I realized he was serious about me (if he was willing to move), we were attracted to each other and our non-negotiables matched up. So I felt peace about not dating conventionally.

The rest of our courtship included a few more visits and a trip to Puerto Rico where Bill asked my dad for his blessing to marry me. We became engaged in August and married the following January, just a year after we were matched.

The adjustment to marriage was easier than I anticipated. We had worried and talked through possible struggles because we were long distance during our whole relationship, but it was OK. Yes, we learned a few new things about each other that we might have known if we were in the same town while dating, but overall is was just wonderful to finally be together. We didn't take the closeness for granted.

My advice for online dating is to meet in person as soon as possible; use the online part just as a tool to meet people. God can obviously use this. Four years and two kids later, we are happily married.

I'm thankful for Monica's perspective on online dating. When I was single, there were times when I might have viewed online dating as a faulty shopping cart ā€” mainly because of some wrong attitudes (of wanting to take control) I recognized in myself. Like all forms of dating, online dating has its potential pitfalls and safety issues. But that's no reason to give up on the cart. As Monica discovered, that may be the very cart God wants to use to guide you to marriage.

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  • Comment by  Clair:

    I love how the author says she was nervous when he visited because she was already falling for him...and i think its wise how she suggests you meet in person quickly.

    I met my fiance online (although we were from the same state- only 2 hours away, he was in the process of moving back from a job up north so it took a few weeks to meet.  I remember confessing to him before we met that I was more nervous than usual because unlike other first dates, we had expectations that we would be a good fit. He felt the same nervousness! In one way, talking on the phone for 3-4 wks helps yous be at ease but in another way, you are so scared you won't hit it off or be attracted.  I wasn't scared of physical attraction, per se (as we talk about on boundless, thats not all that matters and it can grow), I was scared that we wouldn't have chemistry in the easy, able to talk to eachother way we had on the phone which would require some patience in person as we discovered if it was there!  And I was just plain scared it wouldn't be there.  If we turned out not to "click" in person after several dates, I think I would be more dissapointed than most first dates because I had already invested in him and had expectations. (Usually a date is just a chance to meet a nice guy and have dinner or coffee etc, I don't put unfair expectations on it, but this date had expectations!)

    So yes yes yes meet asap! And, be honest about it.  I think the fact that we both discussed our nerves prepared us for the fact that it might be awkward or scary at first and we would go out several times to see if we could overcome that awkwardness.  Thankfully, other than first date awkwardness, there was no lack of connection or attraction and we talked for 3+ hours that first night.

    Thanks for sharing her story.  I try to share mine with friends.  I think there is a stigma with online dating....and I think if normal attractive fun people are honest about how it worked for them (atleast I think I am normal and decently attractive and I know my fiance is!), then some of the stigma goes away.  I think us talking about it has made my friends aware of this option.  

  • Comment by  Nate:

    I could mention a few reasons why I don't like online dating, but the biggest one is its too easy to lie. Even on Christian sites, some people will fudge their info to look more impressive. I speak from experience. I met a girl on a blogging site and started to like her, only to learn she was fake--a "prank" engineered by two so-called friends. A disaster ensued afterward. (A side note: I sympathize with Notre Dame quarterback Te'o because of this).

  • Comment by  Joanna:

    I'm with Nate (2) on this one -- I've seen two women use online dating, get married, and break up within two years after discovering who the man was that they'd actually married.

    The thing is, it's easy to hide giant character flaws over email and in short in-person visits. One man was a complete liar -- there were red flags that she had ignored -- and the other was an OCD controller which came out more and more. He was finally the one who ended that marriage after she turned out not to be the subservient trophy wife he'd been looking for.

    The only way you can actually get to know someone is by spending some time with them, being able to watch them, and seeing them go through stuff.

    It was interesting in one of the Boundless engagement stories about a couple who met online, that while the girl was visiting the guy, he got into a car accident. It was totally a God thing, because it gave her a chance to see him under pressure in a frustrating and stressful situation.

    Therefore, I'm a bit suspicions of online dating working out. Of course, God can lead you to the right person that way too.... I guess I'm just unsure about any relationship that starts with romantic under or overtones instead of a simple friendship that grows into something more.

  • Comment by  Clair:

    Nate, I am sorry for your bad experiance  and it may not be for you, but it doesn't mean that the internet is the only way of lying.

    I dated a boy from church who was still in love with his ex gf.  He lied about that (among numerous other things) He lied to her and said we weren't dating. (thankfully neither of us ended up with him)

    I dated a boy who lied to me about his sexual history and standards before.  He lied to me and was texting other people while we were dating. He lied about being a member of a church but turns out he had just visited a time or too

    I've known friends who have been lied to about pasts, desire for kids, intentions, etc.  

    Liars come in all types and through all venues.  Sure you have to be careful via the internet, but you also have to be careful face to face.  And the key with the internet is that you have to go face to face quickly.

    Sidenote: a lot of times when I hear people talk about others lying on the internet, they are concerned that they are lying about their appearance...that the women (usually) are putting up a pic from five years ago and now they are chubbier or older.  True, thats a concern (and you will see the truth as soon as you meet them)  And while I don't believe in lying about appearance, I do think it reveals something in us about our priorities if thats our main concerns regarding lying. Few of my friends are scared they will meet him (or her) and find out that hes not really a lawyer or his favorite color isn't really green or he doesn't like sushi like he said.  The general concern is does he really look this way?  Appearance plays a part, so I am not completely condemning this, but I do think some of our claims for "fears of ugliness" is a really just a fear he/she isn't going to be as attractive as we thought.

  • Comment by  Allie:

    I was one of those people suspicious of online dating until I actually met my current boy friend online! Long story short, but I had an older Christian friend encourage me try it out.  I'm so grateful I did!  God can use online dating.  Most stories are of long distance couples, but  I met a Godly man who only lives 45 minutes from my home.  We emailed for about a month and then went on our first date.  Since that first date we've been dating like any other normal couple. Its been our time dating that I've gotten to know his heart and that was when I feel in love with him!

  • Comment by  Nate:

    Clair (#4), it's not just the appearnce I'm concerned about. It's just easier to lie about everything. In person, I would think it'd be easier to spot the signs of liying, but I don't deny the fact that people lie to each other all the time in person. And yes, it's not for me.

  • Comment by  Clair:

    *I meant to type in comment 4: claims for "fears of lying"  oops

    Nate, I don't think you are concerned with appearance which is why I didn't accuse you of that.  You seemed to genuinely have had a bad experiance.

    For Joanna, it seems your friends' main problem was that they didn't take enough time to get to know someone/living in same town/etc.  My fiance and I dated for a year pre engagement, 5 of those months in the same town (conveniantly he had already planned to move to my city for school in the fall before even meeting me) and the other 7 were 2 hours (at most) apart where we saw eachother 3 wkds and a couple weeknights a month.

    I dated long distance before - and that was a big concern of mine: making sure we spend several months in the same town before getting married. (obviously that guy and I didn't get married, but I carried my views into future relationships)  Whether we mean to or not, we all put up lies when interaction is temporary or sporatic.  We put up our best self but our best self isn't who we always are.

    Joanna, I completely agree that I would like a friendship that grew into more.  Thats pretty ideal, the type of stuff you see in movies, but unless you have a college sweetheart or a childhood best bud you just fell for or maybe lucked out and had a current friend that became more, this tends to be rare.  People tend to have already decided someone else is a friend or potential. This occasionally changes, but not always.

    I left myself open for that.  I did the online dating thing twice (the second time it led to something permenant) but while doing it, particularly the first time, I also accepted dates from guys I met through friends, at church, etc.  I chose to leave all avenues to marriage open.

    Also, as much as I like the friendship leads to marriage idea, I've often been burned by this because there is a phase of friendship with flirtation and attraction that may or may not lead anywhere and it can be dissapointing and hurtful.  Just because its confusing doesn't mean I avoided it, because well, thats dating. Its not perfect.  But, what I loved about internet dating (which actually surprised me) is that it was so intentional.  We were meeting for a date. I had no questions about it. I was interested and he was and we talked as if we were. I wasn't scared to say my concerns because I wasn't walking that strange line of sometimes we act like friends and sometimes we act like more and I am not sure what it is yet. So that was a definite plus.  So, in a strange way, the attraction was there and then the friendship grew, not the opposite.  Or maybe its best to say that attraction and friendship grew at the same time.  

    I certainly don't thing online dating is the answer for everyone. I understand if a bad experiance turned you off and I understand we should be cautious.  But, don't let a few bad stories turn you away from other ways of meeting someone. I've had friends who met the most horrible men at church before but it didnt stop me from dating church boys! So, if online dating isn't for you, then be willing to say yes to a blind date or ask the girl out if you're scared, etc.  I think a lot of times people say "I would never go on a blind date" or "I would never online date" for x,y,z reasons -- when a lot of the real reasons is that they wanted to meet someone a different way...or they are scared of a stigma.  

    I wish I had met my sweet man a different romantic way too---but the most important thing is that I met him.  And had I never agreed to try online dating with my friend, it wouldn't have happened.  So, don't rule out nontraditional avenues of meeting someone! You never know :)

    PS- Also I have found that a lot of people are so anti-online dating, as one friend said "I'm not so old that I have to result to that yet" BUT it's not like these people are dating a lot.  Trying online dating might open some doors up for people, especially if you live in an area where opposite gender christians are sparse. My friend who made that comment to me? still single, still not dating.

  • Comment by  Kellie:

    I don't think online dating is for everyone.  You have to be a bit of a realist...in other words, you can't think of every person you communicate with as your possible future spouse.  If you can't look at online dating as just a way to meet some new people, then please save yourself the trouble.

    I also would recommend not getting romantic with someone you have never met...don't decide you are going to be dating this person  when you have never met IRL, or even until you have spent some quality time with them....meet their family and/or friends too!

    Please also know that chemistry online does not always translate to chemistry IRL, and that is okay, just be honest about it.

    I used "online dating" for about a year and I corresponded with many guys...some fizzled out quickly, some I talked to over the phone, I met two in person (the first, I never heard from again, which was fine with me, the second, I married :-) )

  • Comment by  mk:

    yah, red flags are red flags. joanna, about your friend, you said it yourself "there were red flags that she had ignored."

    you can ignore red flags in real life or on the internet.

    online dating is a tool; no different from a friend setting you up or meeting at an event or whatever. people who lie will lie no matter the venue.

    i've hit up most of the major sites, and had some interesting, trying, fun, and frustrating experiences. match, eharmony, christian mingle, plenty of fish (aka plenty of freaks), and ok cupid. i alternate and take big breaks (currently on one right now).

    i would encourage folks to get a trusted team together and take a shot at online dating. even if you don't end up with someone, you'll learn a lot and come out with some good/crazy/interesting stories :)

  • Comment by  Kelly1:

    Online dating overwhelms me.  Too many men who seem perfectly decent; how could I possibly choose which ones to meet up with?

    I don't want to waste my time interacting online; I just want to meet them face to face ASAP. (So I don't even bother with long distance.)   I'm the type of person who can get on well with *anyone*, and so it's never a question of that.  It's a question of if we actually have that 'extra' kind of chemistry too, and I can only judge that in person.  

    So yeah, every so often I'll set up a profile, browse through a few pages of matches, get overwhelmed and give up.

    --

    Regarding lying in your profile - I totally don't understand that.  Academically I understand that people lie, but in real life, I don't, and I don't expect people to lie to me either.  I mean, what is the point of creating a fake persona if what you want is true love and marriage?  

  • Comment by  adam:

    Sorry, that website in my last post was Oktrends (blog.okcupid.com).

    Some Boundless readers may appreciate the language or the frank discussions of sexuality on that site, but if you want to learn about dating (online and otherwise) from actual data, not unsubstantiated theories, then it's a great site to learn what is actually going on. Some swear words and humor shouldn't distract you from the university-level statistical analyses being performed, although it's pretty funny.

  • Comment by  Kris:

    My sister and her husband met through an online dating service.  And I have dated people I met through online dating services.

    I don't see anything wrong with using online dating services as a tool, with the caveat that a real relationship has to be conducted in person (hence meet in person fairly quickly) along with the safety caveats. People can write whatever they want on their profile - you never know until you meet someone and spend time with them what they are really like.

  • Comment by  Jess:

    I'm going to meet a guy I met online next weekend. We don't live too far apart - maybe 45 minutes driving.

    In the past, I've placed WAAYY too much pressure on myself to like the guy before meeting him, and then when it turned out that I wasn't interested, I felt really upset with myself and frustrated with the whole situation. I had to realize that placing those kind of high expectations on both myself and the other person is unrealistic and unfair.

    So I have a new perspective on this; instead of pressuring yourself to feel that spark when you meet a guy in person, focus instead on building a friendship with that person that isn't just through texts and emails. As the friendship grows, you may find yourself growing more and more attracted to that person that you originally did!

  • Comment by  JJ:

    I am on an online dating site currently and I don't think I will be renewing my subscription when the time comes. I'm a 30+ female of African descent. I find that the only guys that are interested in me are the ones from the UK or the ones who are old enough to be my father.  I have put myself out there and have respectfully "approached" the men I am interested in getting to know; those I am matched with or who have viewed my profile (from a variety of ethnic groups by the way). I have gotten no responses from these men. I've also tried the laid-back, wait-and-see approach. Still no responses. I am worn out by the experience and to tell the truth, a but discouraged. I still think God has my husband somewhere out there. But, part of me thinks that I may have to change careers and become a flight attendant, jetting around the world, to meet up with him. (Sigh).

  • Comment by  Stephanie:

    JJ -  The first time I tried online dating  about five years ago I didn't meet anyone in person and probably talked to two people via email and I was only on one site which matched you to  folks - you couldn't just reach out to whoever you wanted.  Last year I decided to do multiple sites at a time and it dramatically improved. So I'm finding it's a skill unto itself in just figuring out how to navigate online dating because while you don't want to just go on random dates for dating's sake, you do want to increase the pool of people you can meet and who can meet you. Even so, I'd say for every 20 winks, emails etc I send or receive maybe only two people end up being someone I actually talk to on the phone  and maybe one ends up being someone I meet in person. That was by actively using two -three sites. But I still had to drop about three other sites I had tried.

    You may also want to think about what you have in your profile, pictures you're using  and whether you just have generic things about yourself there. That said, of course you can't put too much personal stuff so it's tough to write a profile I'll admit.

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