Black dress, tights, boots, green sweater, gold necklace.
Staring in the mirror an hour before I leave for the coffee shop, the rhythm of reusing a first-date outfit soothes some of my fraying nerves. Despite feeling frustrated and lonely, I rally again to see if this is the person who inspires me to delete my dating apps.
Dating is hard. Dating as a Christian is very hard. But dating as a Christian in a pandemic feels impossible.
I arrive 12 minutes early, enough time to take a few deep breaths, put on some chapstick, and set my phone to vibrate. Within a few minutes, I am joined by David (6’, well dressed, seminary student with kind eyes).
“So, what kind of Christian are you?” he asks as we wait for two coffees.
I know what he means. The “Christian” filter on apps like Bumble and Hinge isn’t accurate enough to produce matches with genuine compatibility. In 2022, Christian doesn’t hold the same insurance of shared values and priorities it once did.
I began online dating when I was 19, a decade ago now. Things were simpler then, or maybe I was more naive. While I’m drawn to larger platforms that promise more matches, I’ve always felt like if I met one person who shared my faith and feelings of attraction, we could make it work.
Then I found that person. And we dated for a long time–and it wasn’t enough. Ticking the boxes of believing in God and Jesus and salvation was a great start, but it wasn’t enough to sustain us through real-world application of our faith. What does being a Christian mean when you have a Black Lives Matter versus Blue Lives Matter match, a pro-life versus anti-abortion match, an attend every Sunday versus reevaluating church match?
So I found myself back on the dating apps trying to pinpoint what I didn’t ask. What questions when coupled with shared faith would help ensure success? Here’s what I came up with:
What does the other person value? And, perhaps more importantly, how is that reflected in their calendar and budget? Matthew 6 teaches us that our values are directly tied to our treasure. What we prioritize is always reflected in how we spend our time and money, which is a massive gut check. So what do your calendar and budget say about your values? And what do you want someone else’s to say?
Does this person like you? And do you like them? I’ve dated many people who never actually seemed to like me. Being with someone who is sure of you, who shows you that same level of confidence and investment, is a game-changer. I heard this on TikTok and it’s changed the way I date: If someone likes you, you’ll know. Otherwise, you’ll feel confused. Ultimately, dating helps us figure out what and who we want, so it’s okay to not be liked–or to not like someone who works on paper. But don’t be afraid to leave what isn’t life-giving.
If you were stuck in traffic for five hours with the other person, how would you feel? Somewhere along the way, I absorbed more of the “relationships require work” message than the “you should really enjoy the person you’re with” message. I so badly wanted to be in a Christian relationship that I sacrificed the functional relationship part to ensure the “Christian” bit. But that fun, healthy relationship is worth having too. I want to be with a person I enjoy– not just a placeholder. It’s a gift to find someone with whom you can consistently enjoy both the magical and the mundane.
How would you define an ideal relationship? Is an ideal relationship one with lots of autonomy, independent interests, and only occasional moments of coming together? Or do both of you feel like the best relationships represent shared lives where afternoons and weekends and small moments and big adventures are enjoyed together? When planning long term, are there kids? What role does each partner play? What rhythms and routines define the relationship? Finding sameness here makes the daily life part much easier. So what are your needs? What are your wants? And what, of those, are you willing to compromise on?
Where are the green flags? I used to only look for red flags– for the major problems that I knew I needed to avoid. He’s not a convicted criminal, unemployed, or rude to wait staff; therefore, he has marriage potential. This isn’t enough. While a few of my previous relationships were free from massive red flags, they were also free from green flags. Where am I seeing signs of health and promise? What about this person excites me? How does this person affirm the best parts of me?
What kind of Christian are you? It sounds simple, but it’s not. Is he an occasional church attender while being invested in a local body is very important to you? Is praying together essential to one of you while it feels uncomfortable for the other? Do your Christian beliefs lead you to avoid politics while his drive the way he engages with them? When our faith compels us to make similar choices, that’s a much healthier relationship than when our faith leads us in different directions. What are the most important elements of your faith that your partner needs to share– and do they actually need to share them or simply respect them? Once you start whittling away everything that isn’t crucial, you have a much better idea of who you want to build a life with.
As I sip coffee and chat with David about our families, careers, and favorite books, these questions keep me grounded. They help me see past the sales and marketing of the dating world to measure whether this is more than a faith match. And, with David, it isn’t. He’s a nice guy but not my guy.
At the end of the day, I have hope that there’s someone who will leave me excited after the first date, not emotionally spent and resigned. And I’m determined to find that person.
So back to the dating apps I go. Thankfully, not all apps are created equal. While some offer the massive pools with minimal features and filters, there are a few, like Upward, that are learning how to cater specifically to Christians. They’re realizing there’s more to a successful match than shared faith, and that faith is more nuanced than a single filter can convey. They’re making an app that tries to help you find a partner—no matter what kind of Christian you are.
And for now, that’s enough to keep me swiping.