Get Serious About Online Dating

woman looking at her phone smiling outside by river at dusk

Online dating worked for me — but only after I took off the rose-colored glasses and got real. Here are some tips for getting serious about finding love online.

God’s plans for our lives rarely resemble the plots of our favorite romance novels or rom-coms. So, as an avid consumer of both, you can imagine my disappointment when I finally resorted to online dating.

I had given up on getting my “meet cute,” so I approached online dating half-heartedly…for years. But one day, after a guy contacted me, emailed me long, detailed messages for over a month, met me in person, then proceeded to ghost me, I decided to get serious. My relationship status hadn’t changed, so I knew my game had to.

First, I thought very carefully about what I wanted in a match, and then I narrowed my search until I got only about 30 men within a 100 mile radius. Every search criterion was an essential, with only one element being a “nice to have.” I limited it by faith, marital status and education. I left out height or whether they had children at home. I left out how frequently they exercised. Then, I messaged every single one of them.

Not a single one wrote me back.

All thirty of these Christian men ignored me. I continued with my search (still the same broad criteria) and pattern of messaging. I received replies from dudes who were clearly not reading my profile and instead sending messages to anyone with a picture. (“Hey gurrrrl, ur buaetifull.”) I ignored them.

About a month after I sent all those messages, I finally heard back from one of the recipients.  His name was Andy, and he is now my husband.

In retrospect, my revised approach to online dating was similar to the way I approached applying for a job. I looked at what I needed and then signaled interest. It may seem unromantic, but you’ll never get romance if you’re never on a date to begin with, right?

Online dating can work; more specifically, it can work for you. But first you need to address a few attitudes and behaviors that may be derailing your success.

Let Go of the Stigma

We have to get over the stigma of online dating.  I don’t want to hear that it’s “not God’s plan for you” or “isn’t your story.” I tried five different websites — from the biggies all the way down to the free ones. If I had stopped online dating after one or two tries, I would not be happily married and the adopted owner of the world’s cutest Rottweiler.

Besides, the only person who cares about any stigma is you. We all know people who have met and married from online dating. Do you judge your friends and find them lacking because they met online? Of course not. No one will judge you, either. Online dating is a great tool for meeting a potential mate, and more and more people are using it.

Don’t let what you want your “story” to be handicap you. The way you meet your partner has little to no effect on your relationship long-term. Andy and I frequently mention that we forget we met online because it has no current influence on our marriage.  My parents met on a blind date, and my in-laws met in high school and have been together since they were 16.  These are sweet stories, but they do not affect how the relationship moves forward.  A movie-worthy meeting is no guarantee against the hardships of job loss, sick children or financial hardship. Love for your spouse and love for the Lord are what mitigate life’s difficulties. There is no asterisk on the wedding license to differentiate relationships that started online. The wedding vows remain the same no matter how you met.

Have Realistic Expectations

When Andy first emailed me, he explained that his online subscription had been inactive when I messaged him. But after weeks of unsuccessful attempts to meet women elsewhere, he re-upped his subscription, and my picture and message were there waiting for him as soon as he logged on.

We messaged on the app for about three weeks, and maybe exchanged 10-12 messages the whole time. He knew he’d soon be traveling to my town for other reasons, so he asked me out. I wasn’t super interested at that point, but thought, Hey, a free dinner. We met with incredibly tame expectations. Looking back, I didn’t actually get nervous until we had been dating a month or so and I determined I really liked him. We spent the next 22 months driving the hour and a half to see each other every weekend before getting married in late summer.

Having reasonable expectations helps you be less nervous, and you can be your real self. Waiting too long to meet or call allows both parties to build up an idealized version of the other person in our heads, which then creates unrealistic expectations.

While dating online, keep in mind that you are not in a romantic relationship with someone you have not met in person. Emails are fine, but ladies, if the guy is within reasonable driving distance and has not pushed to see you within a few weeks to a month, drop him. Men will pursue you if they are interested. Women instinctively know this and observe this in the real world. However, we lie to ourselves to justify why the guy we’ve been emailing for two months just “can’t find the time” to meet because it is easier than admitting that he isn’t really interested.  Why does he keep leading you on? I don’t know. Maybe he’s a jerk; maybe he’s catfishing you.  Either way, cut bait and move on.

Gentlemen, if a woman is being overly coy and taking days to respond, move on. Some women enjoy being pursued more than being in a relationship, or they’ll resent anything that takes your focus off them even though you barely know each other. You deserve better.

I would also encourage you to not give out your number for texting until you have met in person.  This definitely made my dating life easier. Use the messaging app to write an email message once a day — then move on and go about your life. Constant communication early on can be a bad thing, because you just text endlessly without any boundary in the communication. I am willing to tell my friends I’m busy, at work, or just not in the mood for texting, but not a guy I just met?

Likewise, if a guy pushes back and insists on your number before you have met in person, drop him; he isn’t going to respect your other boundaries, either. Men, beware the woman who needs constant affirmation and attention online, or pouts because you turn your phone off at work. You may enjoy the flirty texts now, but high-maintenance behavior doesn’t change, and can make for a miserable long-term relationship.

Exert Maximum Effort

Finally, successful online dating requires effort. Lose the passivity. Actively search and send emails letting someone know that you are interested, and do not take it personally if you do not get a response. Imagine sending a message as simply making digital eye contact. Timidly liking a photo or sending a wink is weak sauce. You would never expect a person you met in a small group or through an organization to come up and talk to you if you didn’t smile or make eye contact.

It works the same online. Show interest. Have a thoughtful profile and good photos of yourself.  This is applicable to men, too. The picture of you taking a picture of yourself in the bathroom mirror is sad. Get a friend to take a good picture to use for your profile.

I have friends who have the most passive attitudes toward dating, which means they mainly talk about it at prayer group. This always surprises me. These are highly successful women in their professional fields who resort to inactivity because they are “waiting on the Lord.” Friends, we don’t do this for anything else in our lives.

You don’t say, “I want to be a banker so I am going to wait on the Lord.” No, you go to school and study finance. You put yourself out there and apply for jobs and go to interviews. Put as much energy into dating as you would other important things in life. And as much intention into it as you’d encourage your friends to have. You won’t know until you try.

Remember, a relationship isn’t guaranteed, even to those who do everything “right.” Dating and marriage are wonderful things, but they are not rewards from God for holiness or maturity.  After three months of marriage, I feel the Lord continuing to shape and mold me. He’d be doing that even if I were still single.

Copyright 2018 Sara Klooster. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Sara Klooster

Sara G. Klooster is a librarian living in Fort Worth with her new husband. She spends her days baking, reading and researching. She is one of the rotating panelists on “The Christian Feminist Podcast” and the upcoming “Complementarianish” podcast.