Is There a Christian Formula for Online Dating?
As writers like Gary Thomas (in Sacred Marriage) and Tim and Kathy Keller (in The Meaning of Marriage) have noted, that sometimes means marriage will produce a discomfort quite at odds with the happiness ideal. That's not to say the ideal marriage produces more misery than bliss, but anyone whom God uses to help us become who we were made to be is bound to fulfill that role through as least some friction with traits we blindly deem part of our true selves.
Yet, precisely became I'm probably most blind to the areas where I most need change, I may grossly misidentify the sort of partner best for me. That's my biggest hesitation with using a list like Webb's to turn down dates: what if I drew up criteria that actually excluded the kind of person best for me?
My informal list has evolved over the years from its early emphasis on preferences and interests to character traits. Loves Jesus. Active in his church. History of submitting to God even when it's uncomfortable. Honest. Emotionally healthy. Someone I could respect. Passionate about the arts. Able to laugh at himself.
Actually, I could accept or decline dates based on a list like that. Where then does one find such men? For Webb that involved the Internet, but also, determining what kind of woman/online profile would appeal to her Mr. Perfect. She then "advertised" herself with him in mind.
On one level, the notion of having to advertise repulses me. Then again, when I used to go swing dancing, I picked outfits very carefully, using shoes and hair to let potential partners know I was not just a clumsy first-timer. That, too, was a kind of advertising, I suppose; I just didn't have to write words to do it.
Putting oneself "out there" is only part of online dating, however. One must also peruse the seemingly unlimited ranks of potential dates. I struggle with that, too. Never mind who says "hi" first; how much time do I invest in searching, vs. just answering those who contact me? In other parts of life, I try to carefully guard that scarce resource. If one spent just an hour a night on a dating site (and you easily could!), that's at least five hours a week I'm not using to read, write, catch up with friends, attend a concert, and so on.
And yet, Daniel Slater in Love in the Time of Algorithms cites a 2010 report that roughly 20 percent of "committed relationships" began online. Anecdotally, two of the three weddings I expect to attend this year are couples who met online. Can you find love without being online? What is God's role in all of this?
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