Ever think about online dating? Hear conflicting advice from trusted people? Well, here’s how your sister-in-Christ manages to find dateable men—without losing her mind. The first and foremost piece of advice: keep the lines of communication open with God—prayer, Mass, sacraments. Those practices help with discernment.
And I know, advice coming from an unmarried woman seems unreliable, BUT but I did meet and date 6 great guys (just not “The One”) over 6 years and am currently dating Mr. Hopefully-Lucky #7!
What I Kept in Mind:
– It’s a strategy, not the strategy.
- You know that expression, “When one door closes, God opens a window”? Well, I decided that I was going to open every window, door, and chimney flue to help God in. Online dating is just one portal through which He can reach me.
– The profile doesn’t have to always be “on.”
- Sometimes it’s good to switch off the site to better tune into the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
– Remembering that I am trying to connect with a possible future spouse, not shopping for emotional satisfaction.
- To me, online dating is like utilizing LinkedIn in to find a job, not browsing through images of shoes and putting my favorites in a cart. LinkedIn is an additional tool to a job search—and that’s just for how you spend your day and earn your money. Why not utilize an additional tool to find who I spend my life with and earn my salvation? When looking for a job, you have to be discriminating; with shoes or clothes, it’s a lot more impulse-based. Bottom line: Dating is a process of discriminating discernment.
– Figure out what I wanted in a guy.
- More than just physical attraction (to me): his spirituality, his attitude toward life, how he spends his spare time, how he thinks of his family, what his ideal 3-5 year plan looks like compared to mine, etc.
- List non-negotiables: spiritual life, personality traits, vision of future, acceptance of Church teaching on marital life, etc., acceptable distance
- Rank areas I’d give wiggle room to: compatibility with type of political views, hobbies, music, TV shows, etc.
- I didn’t want to discount a great-sounding guy because he doesn’t like Doctor Who or Mumford and Sons, but I also don’t want to butt heads about policy or have nothing we can share.
– Figure out HOW I would be able to tell if his responses seem legit
- Ex: If there’s a faith litmus test and he enters “7 of 7” but leaves any more specific questions (favorites, etc.) blank, I will know to message him/converse on the first date about his faith life.
- Ex: Know how I would feel about photos of drunken shenanigans with friends vs. ones holding an adorable baby.
- Ex: Know how I would feel if there’s a great photo, “7 of 7,” but virtually no specifics. Having a plan of action (See below if that’s the case).
- Ex: What have I learned are really just codes for casual hook-ups:
- “looking for someone to hang out with”, “not looking for anything serious b/c of school, job, whatev,” “I just want to meet new people,” “got tired of the bar scene” (but the pictures say I still go!)
– Decide how much I will invest:
- Hint: in many cases, plunking down at least some small amount of money to communicate indicates some level of seriousness
- Hint: this is just one task on a list of many, and not your first one
- Hint: keep this low. My friend once told me she likes to think of her matches as imaginary friends until they meet. Helps A LOT.
– Pick one, and only one, site
- Some ladies can manage multiple log-ins and many guys, but I found more opportunities does not always equal better.
- way to gauge faith practice
- reports from friends about their experience
- user features
- Most sites (even paid ones) allow you to browse. Explore the following:
- number of guys that meet your search criteria
- type of guys that meet your search criteria
- Matching Process and User Elements
- How do they pair you? Is it just a survey with boxes you tick about physical (and sometimes faith) characteristics and the like?
- Or do they have a special algorithm based on more in-depth qualities?
- How do they let you communicate with your matches?
- Any extras that you find helpful to your particular needs?
Whew! That’s a lot of background mental work BEFORE I even signed up. But it was so worth it. Asking and answering these questions of myself really helped when it came to using the site prudently.
So, I’m going to actually skip the section of “how to create a profile.” Just KISS: Keep it Simple, Silly!: be myself, be honest, include variety of photos of me, me+friends, me+family in assorted activities/times of year; etc. I will tell you that a trustworthy male friend looked at my profile and told me not to reveal too much (list favorite genres of music and no more than two examples of specific artists, for example).
Evaluating the Profiles
When it came to this point, I got a little overwhelmed—not only does CatholicMatch match you based on a Match Portrait that’s essentially a pre-marital survey about your views on, well, everything, but also your “Primary Search” (where you check boxes about height, eye color, distance, level of faith, etc.). This is good because sometimes some guys are on one list, but not the other. But I reminded myself that Match Portraits and the like are algorithms with thresholds, not an exact science. Plus, I found that my Match Portrait netted results halfway across the country, and I am too poor to fly and too not-the-person to have a phone-based relationship for several weeks or more. Here’s what helped:
– Set limits for how often I log on.
- I started out only logging on once a week, when I had time carved out. A god solid hour to consider new profiles and manage messages. Then I logged off and lived my life. It helped me detach from the idol that online dating could turn into.
– Stay focused.
- Remember that list from before I began? I kept checking the profiles against that. I wouldn’t give a non-negotiable wiggle room just because a guy was really hot.
– Be open-minded, but honest with myself.
- Read the entire profile before declining or deciding against a flirty first move.
- Don’t decide I’m not attracted to him based off of one photo or even all 37 he’s posted. I need to see his flesh, hear his voice, and experience his presence.
- But if lack of immediate attraction is just one of many hesitancies I had, (distance, iffy on the non-negotiables), I found it okay not to make the first move or to play it extra-guarded if he messages me.
- Special point about attraction regarding husbands: I firmly believe that because I will have to kiss, sleep with, wake up to this man for many many years, it’s okay to move on from a profile if there’s sincerely not one thing I personally am attracted to. I’ve heard love helps beautify the beloved, but I feel that so long as I’m not demanding super-star levels of hotness, I feel I can be honest about what is attractive to me or not.
- Case in point: all 7 guys (plus Former Crush Friendboy) have very different body types, hair color, eyes, facial structure, etc.
– Don’t spend too much time with Mr. Vague: the guy who has no specifics, no quiz questions, no temperament test, etc.
- Mr. Vague doesn’t put in a lot of effort. How serious is he taking his search?
- Mr. Vague doesn’t stand apart from other guys who want to give a sense of who they are and what they’re about.
- Mr. Vague brings out the superficiality in me, for aside from generic interests and faith/location compatibility, all I have to go on is immediate response based on looks. That’s not fair to me, or even him, actually.
- Mr. Vague will get the notice that I looked at him. If he only looks at me and doesn’t send anything, I’m moving on.
Managing the Messaging
– Set limits for how often I messaged.
– I realized I needed to after one particularly crazy phase in which I lived and died by the announcement of a message or not. Cindy over at Veil of Chastity, recommends picking just one day a week to manage an online account. Worked for her: She’s married to The Man Who Waited!
– It sounds scary at first—what if great guy loses interest or gets snagged? Well, that’s a risk. But it can be a test of trust in God that a great guy for you will still be around or willing to wait. Remember that verse: trust in the small things means trust in big things? Ability to patiently wait for you online could indicate capacity to patiently wait for you in other respects, too.
– I preferred waiting for a full message from the guy first before responding.
– I allowed myself to send an emoticon/flirt, answer his quiz questions, but did not send a chatty message first thing during my latest go-around.
– I think this strategy allows for you to tell if he genuinely has some interest in you and isn’t just flattered by female attention.
– If you find yourself saying “he’s not responding because he’s shy,” think about the conclusion I came to: “if he’s so shy as to be uncomfortable sending an Internet message, then is that degree of bashfulness something I really want to take on?”
– I refused to send “where are you???” messages when guys just “poofed.” (TM my NAS prayer partner. J). I’ve learned no matter how busy men say they are, they always make time for the woman they want to make time for.
– I insisted upon quality messaging.
– Don’t get locked into a dozen-long chain of two-line, uncapitalized, veritable text-message-like emails.
– But don’t get so long-winded there’s nothing to talk about on Date 1, either.
– Use the initial emails/online chat functions to figure out questionable things from his profile or get answers to what was missing.
– Set a meet-up deadline.
- Of course I was flexible if needed. But in general, state a “meet-by-X” timeframe.
- If he lives under an hour’s driving distance/public transit ride from me, I wanted a date—even a simple coffee date—by exchange #5.
- If he lived within a reasonable day–trip distance (under 3 hours drive each way), I’d ask how he felt about a phone call (if he didn’t ask first) after exchange #5 and things were still going good.
- If phone call went well, I’d try not to make it take more than 2 months total—barring true conflicts, like moving or trips away—before we met in person.
And there you have it! A complete system by which to approach online dating that respects you and the gentlemen. It’s not a fool-proof way to actually get a husband, but it is a pretty successful way to “get on the market” and keep your sanity.
As a reward for sticking through this super-long post, be sure to check out the blog next Wednesday, 11/20 for a special giveaway!