I Heart Online Dating (and So Should You)

I am a firm believer that the solution for meeting more people is online dating. I'm a veteran online dater, and I'm here to tell you the stories from the trenches and dispel the horror myths surrounding online dating.

When I look around the churches I've been in throughout my life, I can count literally dozens of awesome, attractive, smart, fun, and talented single Christians in the church. Most, if not all, of them want to be married. But the years seem to go by, and no matches are made.

Further, while churches would surely like their congregation to be fruitful and multiply, they seem to be relatively awful at actually getting singles to meet. Church singles events are often oddball get-togethers for the middle-aged or senior citizen set. They are at best adventures in awkwardness, and at worst depressing disasters.

I am a firm believer that the solution for meeting more people is online dating. I am a veteran online dater, and I am here to tell you the stories from the trenches and dispel the horror myths surrounding online dating.

I started dating online one month before I turned 29, and I finally met the man of my dreams one month after turning 32. If you had told me when I started that it would take me three years, I probably never would have begun. And yet it was worth it. One beyond-awesome boyfriend was found; zero psycho serial killers were spotted. Victory.

Who Did I Date?

One of the benefits of online dating — separate from the possibility of meeting your life match — is the number of interesting people you meet. In my three-year experience, all were friendly, courteous professionals, albeit flawed human beings, as we all are. The first guy I dated from an online site was a doctor who was both incredibly intelligent and a great conversationalist, but not emotionally past his divorce. I also dated:

  • an engineer who planned large-scale construction projects,
  • a retirement planner for Nationwide,
  • an international business lawyer,
  • an international marketing executive,
  • a hospital chaplain, and
  • a division director of large state agency.

These are just the ones I dated for at least a handful of dates, as there were also several more lawyers, teachers, a nurse, an international nonprofit director, a business owner, and many other one-date-wonders. All of them were gainfully employed and perfect gentlemen. Zero were creepers who stalked me post-date.

When and Where Did We Meet on the First Date?

I'm a big believer in not wasting my time on endless emailing/texting/calling, all of which can go up in smoke the minute you meet someone and realize it's not going to work. So I always suggest getting together sooner rather than later. Guys, let me encourage you to take the initiative! This is hardly news, but women like to be pursued, and we particularly like men who have the confidence and boldness to ask us out.

The best places to get together are restaurants or coffee shops — both are personal, and financial commitments are small. Another great place to meet on a first date is an art museum or a festival — they give you plenty of conversation topics. My first date with my boyfriend was at our local botanical gardens — his pick, and I thought it spoke very highly of him!

I have friends who want the man to pick them up and take them out on a first date, but that is a big safety no-no to me. I preferred public places in busy areas that I was familiar with, like downtown or near malls. I never had anyone suggest a suspicious place, but I would have had no qualms about changing the location if it raised any questions.

Last, call me old-fashioned, but I encourage the men to take the time and effort to travel to where the lady is, even if it's out of town. She will appreciate the gesture.

What Did We Talk About on the First Date?

The first date is the easiest, trust me. You ask all the general questions:

  • What do you do for a living? How did you choose that? Do you like it? What would you rather be doing?
  • Do you have any hobbies, or what do you like to do in your spare time?
  • Where do you go to church? What do you like about it? Tell me about your faith journey.
  • Tell me about your family.
  • Any favorite family vacations that you went on? Where do you like to go on vacation now?
  • Where did you go to college? What was your favorite part about it?
  • Where do you see yourself in 10 years? What are some of your goals in life?
  • What do you really care about?

Note that this is for guys, too! Too often it seems that women are expected to do the heavy lifting in the conversation. Yet women feel appreciated and engaged when the guy clearly takes an active interest in them by asking questions. Don't forget that for every question she asks you, you should ask one in return.

Hopefully, these questions will spark further conversation, and you'll be off and running. However, sometimes the responses are monosyllabic, and the conversation just dies. This is a clear sign that you can wrap up the date and head home, crossing this one off the list.

What Is the Worst Part of Online Dating?

Starting off, the worst part appears to be the nerves of having to meet a new person. But after you've been on a number of dates, that wears off. You know what you're going to wear, you have an idea of where you'll meet, and you have a ready supply of first-date questions to ask. If you can view the date through the lens of "I get to meet an interesting new person today," it will be fun, regardless of the outcome.

The worst part is simply the emotional rollercoaster. You meet someone, have a great date, call your best friend to tell her about it on your way home, and then...nothing. Poof! Gone. He disappeared like he never existed. Even more difficult is when you've been dating for a handful of dates, it's all going well, and then he disappears. You're left replaying in your mind every second of the dates, wondering where the signs were.

The other worst part is telling someone that you do not want to see them again. I tried very hard to always tell a guy when I did not want to pursue a relationship, and I did it as soon as I knew for sure without dragging out for weeks a relationship that wasn't going anywhere. It never became easier, but I was always proud of myself afterward for having both the courage and the kindness to be honest with the other person.

Rejection isn't easy for anyone, no matter which side you're on. I have heard men say that they feel like they contacted a million women and got no response; the blow to the ego is crushing. You have to remember that it sometimes takes a lot of searching to find the right one. Be willing to have patience and continue to put yourself out there until she comes along.

What Is the Best Part of Online Dating?

The best part of online dating is obviously being able to say I met my boyfriend. Even prior to meeting him, though, I was a fan of online dating. Here's why:

  • Online dating kept my confidence and optimism up. As you get older, you start wondering whether marriage is ever going to happen, and it is easy to get cynical and/or depressed. Even the dates that didn't work out reminded me that there were good guys out there, even if I hadn't met the right one yet.
  • Online dating kept me from fixating on the wrong guys and helped me be willing to wait. One of the things that prompted me to start online dating was that I was coming off a hardcore infatuation with a guy who wasn't right for me but who had shown me a modicum of interest. In part because it was all the interest I had at the time, it became much more important to me than it should have been. While some people have criticized the seeming ocean of available people online, it helped me keep my standards high because I figured sooner or later, the right one would come along.
  • Online dating helped me keep perspective. When guys didn't work out, it was as often me ending it as it was the guys. It helped me to not personalize rejection. When I didn't want to continue a relationship, it was never because the guy was an awful person; it just wasn't the right fit. This perspective helped me when I was the one being rejected.
  • Online dating gave me the opportunity to get to know a wide variety of people. I am a true believer that everyone has a story to share and a lesson to impart. When you're on a date, even a first date, you're expected to ask personal questions and get to know someone in a way that would not be appropriate in other situations. You learn people's stories, their goals and ambitions for life, what's important to them, and their dreams for the future. I viewed everyone as an opportunity to learn.

Did I Meet Mr. Right?

YES! After three years of searching, I can finally say that it was all worth it to have met my Mr. Right, who is beyond what I had hoped for or imagined. But I didn't know he was the right one from his profile; I had to go on the first date to find out.

So the only question left is, what are you waiting for?

Copyright 2015 Joanna Saul. All rights reserved.

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