So many people on this blog have found love through Christian online dating sites!
I’m always amazed when I ask on social media who met their spouses online. Hundreds respond!
And ever since I wrote The Great Sex Rescue, and began talking about how much the church hasn’t handled conversations about sex well, I’ve had more and more singles on the site, including those who have come out of destructive marriages and want to find healthy ones.
Since we’re talking about direct communication this month, I thought I’d turn to singles and look at how to encourage direct, honest and productive conversation in online dating!
So today I thought I’d crowdshare the wisdom in this blog and write tips for safe online dating when you want to find a mate. I asked on Facebook for some tips, and the response was overwhelming. I’ll try to distill it down to several themes–and in most themes I’ve got several people’s feedback. So here we go!
Links to dating sites are affiliate links. When you sign up using my link, it helps support this blog (and I’m thankful for you for doing that!).
Choosing who to get to know
Let’s start with how to attract the right kind of people, and how to figure out who to pursue:
1. Profile pics matter!
In this case it’s okay to judge a guy by his picture!
“A person’s profile picture says a lot about them. If his profile picture is of his car and not him, he might be materialistic. We don’t want to date a guy’s car. We want to date HIM. If he doesn’t have a shirt on. Worse, if he doesn’t have a shirt on and is flexing in a mirror at a gym. Good chance he’s narcissistic. “
“Does their profile have lots of ego-boosting pictures of their nice car, their awesome house, etc etc? Do they have to say “I love my kids to the moon and back!”? Because pretty sure most parents assume that you as a parent love your kids… Run.”
“No bare chest, muscle flexing, posing in a gym or with a fancy car, etc. Amazing how many Christian men’s pictures gave off a “full of self” or vain vibe.”
2. Make your profile very clear about what you want
Speaking of profiles, make sure you’re very explicit up front about what you want. It’s better to attract a fewer number who are serious and match you better than to attract a whole lot who won’t work at all.
” First and foremost make your profile clear about what you are looking for.”
“Be very upfront in your profile. I listed some polarizing public figures I liked at the time because I knew I would prefer a man who agreed with me on this. My intent was to scare away men who disagreed with me, to avoid wasting both our time.”
3. Let them see the real you.
“Leave your views out so you can get honest answers. Look for the same things you would in person. Talk a lot. Take your time. Pay attention to red flags. Look for someone with the same values as you. A lot of people you can tell just by their bio and pics that they are just app surfers. Do all the same things you would do if you met them out somewhere in person. And be true to yourself. You won’t find someone who will be a good match for you if you’re putting up a front. Someone who will be good for you will be interested in the real you.”
How to Get to Know Your Online Matches
4. Talk like crazy! And ask important questions.
“My husband and I met on eHarmony. One of the things that we did was email for about a month before meeting. We sent each other a list of questions and answered them back and forth. The topics were very specific around religion, marriage, family, work, goals. Because almost everything lined up we decided to meet.”
“He was a complete gentleman and brother in Christ in his speech and conversations with me while still making it clear he was getting to know me with serious intention of a future relationship. It wasn’t flippant or meaningless chatter, it was purposeful, but at the same time it wasn’t heavy or pressuring intimacy or filled with flirtation. So many others I talked to wanted to get straight to flirting or talking like we were in a relationship already. Sometimes that came across as flattering or fun but I always knew it wasn’t long term material for me, it was a big turn off in looking for a real relationship. So my husband was the perfect blend of honoring me with boundaries and yet serious intention!”
“I think our dating time (we met on eHarmony and lived two hours apart) being long distance was actually a benefit because we spent hours and hours on the phone each night. We did more talking in the first 3 months than some people do in a year of in person dating. Phone and video chats instead of texting/ messaging is a HUGE “must” in my opinion. Too much gets lost in text as opposed to vocal inflection and facial expressions.”
5. If you think it’s promising, meet in person as soon as possible.
This was likely the #1 thing mentioned!
“We met at a coffee shop almost immediately. The few times I “dated” people online for long periods of time, it was basically worthless. I thought I was hitting it off with them and they seemed like they had good character. When I met them, I automatically knew that it was all a façade. When I met my now-husband we knew immediately there was something there. There is something about intuition and chemistry that you can’t get online.”
“Cut out the small talk and get out and meet them face-to-face. A lot of people hide behind the phones computer screens and aren’t authentic. You can tell a lot about somebody with natural chemistry when you meet them and get to know them face to face. One or two dates and you’ll be able to tell if you would like to see them again.”
“Met my husband on eharmony. I’m a big fan of meeting up in person (in a safe way of course) as soon as possible, and then also meeting their family, friends, community, as soon as possible. He took me to his bible study house group the day we made our relationship offical.”
“Meeting online is great. Dating online is not. Totally different. Once you MEET someone online that you think you like, get it in person ASAP so that you can actually get to know them. I met my husband on Eharmony almost 11 years ago, we met in-person pretty quickly, and were married 10 months later.”
“Get to know the person but don’t wait too long to meet in person because that gives you a more clear picture of the person and always meet in public and let someone know what you’re doing the first time.”
” I usually tried to use chat features as much as possible for usually a month or so to see how conversation would flow and if I wanted to meet them but in the end I really couldn’t tell until I met the person in person. I would usually choose public places like Tim Horton’s or something for a first time meeting. It was casual and didn’t include alcohol. “
Some, however, disagreed:
“I’m going to disagree with the women who say to meet ASAP. We emailed for a month (so I could get all my questions answered), then spoke on the phone for a month (some of this was due to my travel schedule for work), then met in person – in public. That way I felt I knew the person a bit before meeting them.”
So many women recommended eHarmony!
“eharmony does a great job off starting off with questions about key values and stuff, compared to some other dating apps.”
“I only used eharmony at the time (15 years ago) because you had to pay for the service. I quickly learned that that correlated to seriousness of the dating partner (seriousness, meaning earnestness in seeking a marriage partner).”
“I tried a few sites but felt that eharmony weeded out a lot of what felt like random communication.” – J.S.
“eHarmony questionnaire of 500 questions narrowed to the 29 dimensions of compatibility was tremendously helpful. Met my wife on that service in 2003, and we married in 2005.” – T.W.
Things to Watch Out for with Online Dating
When you’re online dating, more comes into play than when you’re dating in person. So some advice for the process of online dating itself!
6. Prioritize your safety
“I only communicated by text to begin with so I had a written record of everything said. I would ask questions about background and then later look up info to see if I could verify anything. Amazing what you can find online. I would ask things like what high school and then what his favorite stores, restaurants, activities were in high school. Many of those locations are easily verified. Then when I felt comfortable I would start talking to them by phone. I didn’t tell them my last name, address, or employer to maintain some safe distance. As our conversations continued I would still try to verify info that they gave me. After a while it would be difficult to continue to weave a false history.”
7. Understand the new rules around online dating
Is someone stringing you along? Is it wrong to “see” three people at a time?
“The same behavior that might be considered wrong/ bad character in the pre-online dating world/ by organic meeting standards can be perfectly acceptable and make reasonable sense with online dating.For example, the volume and constant flow of brief contact –> chatting online–> talking on the phone –> meeting once –> meeting twice… also has to be scheduled and matched around real life availability (including custody– some people only have every other weekend made available for dating at first) which is a slow, stationary thing within a constantly flowing process. While someone going on dates with multiple people in a weekend… or going on a third date, while still arranging a first date with someone else, while still online chatting with a third… might have been “player” behavior pre-online or even “cheating”, it’s totally normal in the new realities. But people are still really different in how they view what’s appropriate and acceptable to be exclusive and shut down the whole process and online account, so best to be really open and upfront about where you’re coming from and what you expect before making that a judgment of character.”
“Physical attraction and chemistry is important, but a friendship is extremely essential. I always say things like “when I’m comfortable to meet you in person I will”, and I second it with “I have other friendships I’m also pursuing in the meantime, I hope you understand I am truly looking for someone that I can like talking to first.”
8. Meeting lots of duds teaches you what you want
Most people online dating go through lots of potentials before they meet someone they click with. Just because you reject or discard many people doesn’t mean that this isn’t working for you. You’re just learning!
One friend of Rebecca’s decided to treat online dating like a part-time job. She decided that lots of people worked a full-time job and a part-time job of 8 hours a week. So every week she would spend 8 hours dating. And she went out with several people a week for almost a year. She’s been married for a few years now and handed down some baby clothes to Rebecca! But she knew that she wanted to be married, and it wasn’t happening, and so she decided to prioritize it and not get discouraged.
“You gotta wade through a loooooootttttt of really awful ones before you find the one”
“I recommend spending a lot of time just talking. Develop a friendship and don’t let yourself fall too hard too fast, because some people misrepresent themselves. “
“Decide ahead of time how long you will take to move a man from stage to stage all the way to exclusivity and commitment. Stages include letting someone from your life meet and vet him. Know what the requirements will be and how you will decide. Think of it as a series of job interviews leading to a job.”
“Next, no inappropriate conversational gambits– these appear surprisingly early; they don’t make a secret of them and apparently don’t have the self control to wait for the 3rd or fourth convo to bring them up. Inappropriate for me included any questions about underwear, sexual preference questions or anything that made me feel the slightest bit uncomfortable– I owe no man any debt but that of kindness. I don’t even have to explain why I’m no longer available to chat, a simple “Thank you for chatting with me. I don’t sense a connection/congruency, and I wish you the best in your search.”
“One thing that was incredibly jarring for me when I first joined eharmony was that it took significantly longer to actually meet someone in person than I thought it would. I had super high expectations that I would meet someone quickly so when that didn’t happen I was super disappointed. For me, first joining felt like I was suddenly online shopping when I was all of a sudden matched with a bunch of people. I messaged quite a few, very few messaged me back. I went in thinking I’d meet someone quickly, and what I discovered was that the vast majority of profiles I was seeing were inactive. So that was frustrating, but also forced me to be more patient than I thought I’d have to be. It was about 5 months from the time I joined to the time I met my husband. Then another five months until we officially started dating. Then married 2.5 years after that.”
How to Be Discerning When You’re Dating Online
So once you’ve found someone you want to get to know better, how do you do it? Here’s what my readers said!
9. Recruit your community!
“When I met him I had my cousin and fiance come because you can never be to careful. In person he was the same as online. He never said or did anything different than what he said online. When I asked him uncomfortable questions about his past he was always honest with me. He lived about 4 hours away so when I went up to see him I would stay with one of his friends that were female. So I got a good idea from his friends of who he was as well. You just have to be very careful and thorough when meeting someone online. We have been married almost 9 years.” (met on eHarmony)
“I met my abuser in person, and my godly loving husband online. With my abuser, I ignored yellow/red flags and didn’t invite my trusted circle to scrutinize him. With my sweet husband, we invited community in right away. He had to meet my pastor, father, small group, etc. on his first visit to meet me (I was in Wisconsin, and he was from New Jersey). He had to put up with tough questions and protective friends. The next time we met in person, I went to visit him and met his community. In all cases, I watched/listened closely for how he treated me as well as others.”
“It is also important to meet his friends and family and attend his church. Does he have good stable relationships? Is his church a place you would be comfortable going to? Do other people affirm his character and his beliefs?”
“I met in person quickly, my friend did a background check on him. I introduced him to my friends and started attending his church pretty quickly. (You can tell a lot about who he hangs around with.)”
10. Don’t take their word they’re a Christian. Probe!
Many guys online are not actually Christian, even if they say they are, nor are they necessarily looking for marriage. As one woman wrote, “A friend of mine met her husband through e-Harmony and all went well. Prior to that, she found that even though she specified looking for a serious relationship, many men she met on line either wanted one-night-stands or to have sex while still getting to know each other, even Christian men.”
So what should you do?
“Ask them straight up. This works really well: “I noticed that you marked yourself as a Christian on your profile. What does “being Christian mean to you?” Or you can ask them what they’re reading in the Bible lately. “
“Once conversation was initiated, I dove right in to asking about their relationship with God. And “I grew up in church” was not what I was satisfied with. Better be deeper than that. I kinda took the approach…I don’t have time to waste on a relationship that doesn’t start with putting God first.”
“Check out what they have posted online before you started talking. Public posts are just that PUBLIC. It’s not creepy or weird to see if they suddenly started posting Bible verses once you “met” but were only posting raunchy memes the week before. After you do, tell them what you did. See how they react. If they are upset or offended, there’s a reason.”
“I also would often ask them to pray with me over the phone. This allowed me to see how comfortable they were with prayer. “
11. Demand transparency. And check up on them too!
“I met my husband on christian cafe. I looked for complete honesty, transparency and humility. It’s so easy to pretend to be someone you aren’t online. I didn’t ask him to but he took the passcode off of his phone so that if I felt the need to “check” I could and also went through all of his female Facebook friends with me to tell me who they were. He knew I needed to trust him. Also, I did criminal background checks and checked for marriage/divorce license online on anyone I met in person.”
“Once we got to a phone relationship and I still didn’t hear any red flags, but could see evidence of him having a personal, daily relationship with the Lord, I Facebook friended him. I scoured his page. I read his comments. I read others’ comments. I got a feel for his family. I basically investigated him very thoroughly! I needed to know that he was healthy.”
12. Is he putting in the effort, too?
Does he text you as well? Is he pursuing you? You can’t carry the relationship yourself, and someone who is serious about you and serious about marriage will put in the effort.
“He also wrote me a lot, both in steady frequency instead of just fading away like many others, and in detail, working hard to show his heart. (Which was a huge challenge for him as writing doesn’t come easily at all, something I didn’t know at the time). Most other encounters I had were guys who were lazy about writing… choppy sentences, sloppy spelling, as little detail as possible and just wanting to get to the fun, flirting part.”
13. Does he honor your boundaries?
One of the big things women said was so important was finding someone who abided by the boundaries that had been communicated.
“One of my biggest ‘rules’ was no contact after 9pm. Very early in each new conversation I would share with the guy that I would not do any texting, messaging, phone calls etc after 9. I didn’t tell them the why – it was partially just cause it’s good for my brain to have a break, and partly cause it’s a super simple rule to see if a guy respected me and my boundaries. A lot didn’t, many would keep pushing to stay chatting or say the only time they could talk was after nine. It might sound petty, but it was a deal breaker for me. My boyfriend respected the rule, would keep an eye on the clock when we were on the phone in the evenings to make sure he said good night before nine. More than once he cut off a story cause he knew it would go long and he was already guarding me and my time. The respect and care he showed in those very simple acts were how and why I started trusting him and was comfortable starting a relationship.”
“Disagree with him on something. How does he act when you disagree? Does he become a snobby know it all and insist his opinion/viewpoint is the correct one? Or does he consider your views, even if he doesn’t agree with them? 7th, but most importantly. Does he respect your boundaries? Try putting up a boundary or telling him no over something. Does he throw a temper tantrum? Does he try to convince you to violate your boundaries? Or does he respect them?”
“I had one guy spend several emails telling me why I shouldn’t have pornography on my “Can’t Stands” list! You don’t have to like my restrictions, but I do ask that you respect them – and respect me!”
“Do the inner work to be comfortable setting boundaries gracefully. If you’re still experiencing anxiety and have difficulty saying “no”, if you fear conflict and disappointing others etc etc, you need to do that work first.”
14. Trust your gut.
Finally, trust yourself.
“If something is making you feel ill at ease, especially to the point you have to ask someone for advice, then listen to that.”
“And trust your instincts. If something feels off, LISTEN TO YOURSELF. You do NOT need to have any more reason to not match with someone or to break things off. TRUST YOUR GUT.”
“In general, trust your gut. If someone gives you a bad vibe, stop the conversation. Sometimes bowing out gracefully is good, other times straight up blocking is necessary. Once I had been talking with a guy for a couple of weeks when the topic of sex came up and I explained I was waiting for marriage and he replied, “We’ll see.” (Ya know, like a rapist.) I shut that down immediately. It was clear he didn’t have respect for personal boundaries. You are worth more than dealing with creeps/jerks.”
So many of my readers, apparently, have met their spouses through online dating!
And so many actually say they found it helpful, because people were intentional from the start; you didn’t have to spend months flirting to see if they were interested; and you could have deep conversations right off the bat to weed people out.
Talking and texting and FaceTiming helped people get to know each other faster, too!
It used to be that online dating was seen as something people did that was second best, but increasingly people are realizing it has some real benefits! So if you’re single, and you don’t want to be, maybe it’s time to put your toes in the water and create that profile!
Guy #2 & I talked by phone. He seemed nice. Strong possibility! I stuck my foot in my mouth “being myself.” He never called again or answered my calls. We’re still LinkedIn today but that was a bust. I was out of practice.
Guy #3 had a corny profile in a very old profile picture. I connected with him anyway because I just had a feeling. He called and left a voice message, and I just knew. Our first phone call lasted three hours. Our first date was amazing. By our second day I was his girlfriend. We’ve been married for all these years.
For me, the key distinction outside of chemistry was that my husband was all about God & wanting a Godly marriage & family. Those other guys were about dating.
His message was short, to the point, respectful. It prompted me to go to his profile which showed he seemed to match up with what I was looking for
We met for coffee and I feel really bad that I judged his beard! I can’t believe I was going to pass him by based on that! He was kind, warm, engaging, and I found I really didnt want coffee to end. We hugged good-bye and I found I really wanted to hug him more.
I knew I had done some internal healing work and was satisfied with my life as it was, fully happy all on my own, I could date objectively with the knowledge that I didn’t live in an 18 year abusive marriage to never experience a beautiful love. And that’s what I have now.
Also….there’s a great YouTube video on this subject? “How I Hacked Online Dating.” I did watch that and amend my profile after watching. All the best to those deciding to dip their toes in the water!
Have you tried online different dating sites?
Sheila Wray Gregoire
Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum
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