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What You Hide From Your Friends When You’re Dating Online

a woman looking at her phone. She's on an online dating app
I wanted to ignore my own bad behavior. And because online dating is often such an isolated and isolating experience, it was convenient for me to do.

“I have a confession the next time we see each other,” I texted Laura from the grocery store parking lot. I wanted to put it out there before I forgot. And by “forgot,” I mean I’d conveniently not remember to tell her.

Because I didn’t want her to know, that’s why.

Laura, who’s my favorite, replied, “I love confessions.”

I didn’t want Laura to know that I’d made plans with Chuck, a Christian man I’d met online who hadn’t treated me well. Because if I didn’t tell Laura, then I could fool myself by framing it all kinds of other ways:

  • This time he’ll probably realize how awesome I am
  • I deserve this little shred of happiness and fun
  • It’s my choice
  • It’s not hurting anyone

But Laura and I both knew that a long-term relationship is something I value and hope for, and that Chuck wasn’t looking for one. It’s why I’d broken it off with him on more than one occasion.

I hadn’t been telling Laura everything about my dating life — on purpose. And the reason I wasn’t sharing is because, well — I’ll bet you know: If I told Laura that I was going out with Chuck again, I’d have to face my own poor choices.

And there it was.

I wanted to ignore my own bad behavior. And because online dating is often such an isolated and isolating experience, it was convenient for me to do. And even though I’d invited God into my dating life, I’d become quite adept at excluding God from the messy details of the journey. (I’m sure that busy Deity has got a full plate. I can handle this.) I’d confessed this wily dating temptation to God before, but my behavior hadn’t changed. As is so often the case, confessing to God felt easier than confessing to another person. If I spilled the beans to Laura, it would be real.

We succeed at keeping our secrets, poor choices and bad behavior “private” because the technology of dating apps allows us to flirt and meet up and date as if in a relational silo. But we were made for so much more. And wise friends are the good gifts God gave us to help us make better choices that honor ourselves and honor God.

Bottom line: Choosing to share the details of our dating lives with our friends keeps us in the light; hiding the details of our dating lives from our friends keeps us in the dark. And the devil loves working in the dark.

That’s why I think that getting honest with a trustworthy friend is a critical tool to have and use on our dating journeys. This is a friend with whom we commit to sharing the successes and the failures, the highs and the lows. If I can’t wait to tell my girlfriend about a date — and I mean every part of it, without skipping the dirty details — that’s a pretty good sign. But if I pick and choose what I tell her, that’s a red flag to me that I need to bring my business into the light.

Here are a few things we might “forget” to tell our friends:

  • “Girl, the only time this guy calls me is at midnight.”
  • “Dude, I wouldn’t want you to see the photos I send when I’m messaging women.”
  • “He hasn’t yet picked up the check and we’ve been out three times.”
  • “We only talk about her and she never asks about my life.”
  • “I drive the 40-mile round trip to his apartment five times a week.”
  • “Bro, I didn’t mean to go as far sexually as I did on that date.”

So what have you been hiding?

Maybe you’re already keenly aware of the areas you’ve been keeping in the dark. If one has already surfaced, please text a friend right now and make plans to get together and talk about it. If none are coming to mind, some of these common online dating fails might help jog your memory. I’ll follow them with a conversation starter to use with a friend in order to get back on track.

“I’ve been too obsessive.”

 A few months ago, a guy friend was mortified when his phone reported his weekly minutes of screen use. He didn’t want to know he’d been spending several hours every day on dating apps! I totally understand. A lot of us don’t want to admit how addictive the apps can be and how much of our lives we’re wasting on them.

Conversation to Have With a Trusted Friend: “I don’t really feel like talking about how much time I spend on dating apps, but I need to share my habits with you so that we can make a better plan.”

“I’ve been too secretive.”

My girlfriend was eager to tell me about this amazing man she met on the online dating app, Bumble. Apparently he mentored high school kids in his church’s youth group. Pretty cool, huh? She spared no details in describing this prince. But what she didn’t mention was that he also got a bit too sexually suggestive during their phone calls. When they parted ways, my friend finally shared what she’d been hiding.

Conversation to Have With a Trusted Friend: “From here on out I’m going to be paying extra attention to what I don’t want to tell you. Are you willing to be my listening friend?”

“I’ve been too consumeristic.”

When I met one guy for dinner, he was pretty surprised to see that I was tall. Since it was on my profile, I asked how he’d missed it. Shamelessly, he explained, “Guys only look at the pictures.” And this wasn’t a sleazy guy — this was a good guy! Guys admit they judge women on their appearances and many women confess to prioritizing income or success more than they’d like to admit.

Conversation to Have With a Trusted Friend: “Let’s talk about the qualities I’m prioritizing in a partner, and whether they’re the same qualities God cares about.”

“I’ve not shown others courtesy.”

 I agreed to talk on the phone with a guy, and even arranged a time. But when I realized I hadn’t yet shared my phone number, I just let the appointed hour go by. (Now, he didn’t message to ask for it, so he also let the hour go by!) But I know that I could have done better. I ended up apologizing and explaining why I got cold feet.

Conversation to Have With a Trusted Friend: “As much as I like to whine about men’s bad behavior on these apps, I’ve also been a jerk and not treated others with courtesy and respect.”

“I’ve sent pictures I regret.”

A common complaint of women who’ve used dating apps is that they’ve received unwanted explicit pictures from men. And sometimes, women who never thought they’d do it have gladly or reluctantly reciprocated. If you find yourself anywhere in this equation, it’s time to share with a friend.

Conversation to Have With a Trusted Friend: “I never thought I’d do something so dumb, but I want you to know about it.”

“I’ve behaved in ways I regret.”

Eharmony reports that one-third of female dating site users report having sex on the first online dating encounter. As you might deduce, Christian women are likely among that third. There are moments on this dating journey when we do behave in ways we didn’t plan or intend. Rather than keeping your behavior in the dark, share it with a friend.

Conversation to Have With a Trusted Friend: “I don’t want to date in isolation anymore. Here’s what happened. I hope we can pray together, and I’d like to keep sharing with you.”


I am incredibly grateful for the friends who are supporting me on this online dating journey. Without them, it is tempting to behave in ways I’ll later regret.

Just last week, when a story popped up in the news that I was dying to discuss with Chuck, I saw Laura’s face with the eyes of my heart and was reminded — by her steadfast faithful love for me — that I am worthy of more. Because of her companionship, I didn’t call him.

Win for me. Thank you, Laura.

Copyright 2020 Margot Starbuck. All rights reserved.

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About the Author

Margot Starbuck

Margot Starbuck is the author of “The Grown Woman’s Guide to Online Dating: Lessons Learned While Swiping Right, Snapping Selfies, and Analyzing Emojis” (Thomas Nelson, August 2020). Learn more at

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