(Dating Stigma Series – part 3 of 4)
I bet you had some pretty strong opinions once you read the title of this post. People tend to either love or hate online dating. And by online dating, I mean meeting people online to initiate a relationship, not actually having the entire relationship be virtual. That can happen through dating apps or even the creative use of social media. For today’s purpose, I want you to read with an open mind (assuming you’re at the stage where you’re ready to date); after all, that’s the whole point of challenging a stigma, to confront some incorrect ideas we might have.
Whenever I coach people who are looking for a relationship, one of the main complaints is that there aren’t enough good people out there. Or that it’s hard to meet someone these days. Or that they’re meeting people, but not the kind of people they’re interested in dating. I then have them walk me through their routine and where they typically meet people. If they aren’t already going to different functions or events that will allow them to meet other Christian singles, I challenge them to do so. Also, people often overlook telling their trusted circle of friends or family that they are open to meeting someone and would be willing to get set up. It sometimes works out wonderfully when someone who knows your character can vouch for someone else they think would be an excellent match for you.
But what if you don’t have the privilege of meeting people in those ways? And on top of that, you belong to a small community or are not around others who share your faith. Your odds get slimmer with each circumstance. But don’t lose hope just yet. Whether we’d like to admit it or not, a larger percentage of couples are meeting online these days. According to the Pew Research Center 30% of U.S. adults have used online dating (and this survey was done in 2019, before the pandemic, I would assume the numbers have gone up since). Online dating apps are a great way to meet other eligible singles outside of your current circle or network; if used correctly, that is. Here are three things I want you to keep in mind as you consider online dating: your mentality, intention, and criteria.
Before you even think about giving online dating a try, there are a few mental hurdles you’ll have to jump through. First, I know that online dating might be frowned upon by some, thinking that it’s only for “desperate” people. That’s the first stigma you have to throw out the window. There is nothing desperate about someone who is mature and ready to settle down in life and needs help finding someone who shares the same values and vision. Online dating is just one of the many avenues to meet such a person; as I mentioned, more and more people are turning to the internet to find their partner.
If you go into online dating thinking it will be a terrible experience and won’t help your situation, then guess what? I can almost guarantee it won’t work for you, so don’t even bother wasting your time. Your negative thoughts will become a self-fulfilling prophecy, leading to their confirmation. Instead, I’d challenge you to go in with an open mind; I’m not saying you need to have high expectations, but give it a fair shot and avoid forming any opinions before even trying it.
It goes without saying that you get out what you put in. Meaning that if you spend time thoughtfully building your online profile, you will attract the right people. There are many resources online that can teach you how to build your online profile well (this guide or this workshop for women might be worth your investment). You don’t want people just judging your compatibility based on your pictures; give them more information to filter through. It shows you cared enough to put some real thought and effort into your profile, and it’s probably a reflection of the thought and effort that you will put into a relationship.
Have the right mindset as to why you’re trying to meet people online. Sadly, the popular dating culture consists of people looking for a hook-up. Still, I know so many Christians who are using dating apps with the serious intention of meeting a lifelong partner. Then, once you match with someone, lead with intention and avoid any vagueness, as tempting as it may be to play hard to get. You’re all serious adults here, and I’m assuming games are the last thing you want to waste your time on. Start a healthy conversation where you genuinely try to get to know someone. If it goes well, the messages will turn into texts, then phone calls, and even facetiming before meeting in person (this can make first dates less awkward). That way, you’ve done your homework, and you can determine compatibility from a few conversations before committing to going on a date. Also, if you have mutual friends or know their community group, it doesn’t hurt to ask around about them. Be open-minded about what you hear, allowing yourself to form your own opinions with time, but also trusting people whose input you value.
Lastly, as you maturely start a conversation and maybe even go on a date or two, maturely end things if you feel things won’t work out for you two. There is nothing that would bother me more than getting ghosted. It shows a lack of respect and maturity. If someone took the time out to talk with you and spend time with you, the least you can do is be courteous enough to let them know you are no longer interested.
This one might seem straightforward; everyone kind of knows what criteria they’re looking for, right? Well, I’d hope so. But I want you to challenge your criteria and what it’s based on. If your criteria hasn’t led you to a successful relationship, it might be time to reconsider it. I want you to be open to talking with people who don’t fit the typical criteria you tend to go for. Let’s be honest, we all have a physical type, and if the person’s profile pictures don’t show you that, you tend to swipe left. But physical attraction is only one part of the equation. Spiritual, emotional, and mental attraction should play a more significant role in how you’re drawn to a person. But those take much longer to figure out. Sometimes physical attraction isn’t there from the beginning but grows over time as you get to know other facets of someone’s personality. Also, it’s the first thing to fade over time. We all know that “Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing” (Proverbs 31:30).
You want to find someone who is godly, and that won’t be obvious from an online profile, be open to committing to get to know someone on a deeper level. Give someone a chance who isn’t your typical type, and you never know, they might impress you. In the same way you would want someone else to give you a chance and not just judge you outwardly.
With the plethora of dating apps out there, it can be overwhelming to find the right one for you. While I highly advise you only to use Christian ones, I’d even get more specific about the kind of Christian app you’re using. Religious compatibility places a massive part in the overall compatibility of a couple, so I’d recommend if you’re Orthodox to stick to Orthodox apps. One app I’d recommend is Meet & Right, where there are over 9,000 Coptic and Orthodox singles worldwide. I’ve heard of many couples meeting on this app and the successful relationships that come out of it. If you date with the correct mentality, have clear intentions, and focus on the criteria that matter, you can have a successful online dating experience. Whether you find “the one” or not, you can meet great people, expose yourself to valuable experiences, and have the opportunity to pursue a long-lasting relationship.