Online Dating and Shopping Carts

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 — 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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