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Saturday, October 15, 2011

All about internet dating - including a guest post from Amy Reynolds of Best Catholic Dating Sites

My last two posts were on Atheism and the first of the two was exceedingly long while the second was quite personal.   In my opinion the first one required extra time to digest and with all my various activites and responsibilities I let those last two posts stand for awhile.   Changing gears entirely, the subject is internet dating.  

I am a Christian and I met my wife on an internet dating site.  She is absolutely the love of my life and my soulmate!   So I am all for internet dating.   So this is a pretty comprehensive post because I know a lot of people are looking for love in all the wrong places.

One of my readers asked to make a guest post and I agreed.   Her link takes you to Catholic Dating Sites but in fact not all of the sites are necessarily Catholic.  It does appear that all the sites are good ones (in terms of being focused on joining singles together), so batting leadoff - Amy Reynolds!

The Benefits of Online Dating

Over the last several years, the popularity if online dating has seemed to skyrocket through the roof.  In our society we are continuously hearing stories of love found in the cyber world that has flourished into successful, long-term relationships.  With all of the advantages that online dating offers, it comes as no surprise as to why this method is as popular as it is.  If you’ve ever wondered if your match is just waiting to be found behind a “.com” check out these reasons why online dating could be right for you:

You get to know someone for who they are.  Online dating focuses on communication and a lot of the superficiality that sometimes comes with traditional dating is omitted.  Because you are interacting with someone across the web, you have the chance to dive deep into questions you might not normally ask in person.  When interacting online a person tends to better communicate their feelings—when in person it can sometimes be more difficult or awkward to do this.  So once you’ve chatted online with someone for a while you get to know the way they feel, the way they think, what makes them happy or sad, etc.

Online dating sites have many advanced features.  Online dating sites have come a long way.  In this day in age, online dating services offer a variety of tools that allow you to search for others out there like yourself.  Dating sites allow singles to communicate and even flirt with people by means such as text chat, voice chat, web cam chat, email and more.  These are great ways to easily get to know someone before meeting them. 

Online dating saves you money.  For those mindful of their wallets, online dating can save you some serious cash that you would have normally dished out on conventional dates. Of course, with most dating sites you pay a fee to be a member, but that fee is nothing to what you would pay going out on the town on multiple first dates.  With the ease of online dating you are able to save precious time and money by weeding through and eliminating people who aren’t right for you right away.

You gain access to a lot of singles.  With the number of online dating sites out there and the millions of singles signed up to them, you really broaden your chances of meeting someone.  You can meet plenty of singles in your area…but an added benefit is that you can also meet people all over the world.  This could open up a whole new kind of relationship for you.  Imagine traveling to an exciting new place to meet an exciting new partner!

You can relax and just be yourself.  When you first begin your journey in the world of online dating, you are given the tools to create an original masterpiece of a dating profile.  You can include a picture, basic background info, what you are looking for in a match, and have the chance to really showcase your personality through a unique bio of yourself.  Also, when looking on the web for that special someone, you are able to relax a bit more than you would when face to face with someone new.  The awkwardness and pressure to impress the other person isn’t as great, and you can do all of this while sitting at home in your pajamas!

The first meeting has real promise.  If your online relationship grows to a point where you feel comfortable meeting with that person face to face, chances are that some of the awkwardness of a first date is eliminated.  The great thing is that you’ve already gotten to know this person online and asked many of those first date questions in your email exchanges…so when the time comes to meet in person, it feels as if they are someone who you’ve known forever!

This guest post is brought to us by Amy Reynolds.  Amy writes on issues surrounding dating as it relates to the internet and her work can be found on Best Catholic Dating Sites.  

As a Christian, but not a Catholic, I was a bit (pleasantly) surprised to see that the site Amy recommends actually contains (at the moment) links to 19 different dating sites!   Five of them were sites I tried out during my Mr. Mom days and all five of them were "safe" in terms of having a mission statement that would be acceptable to normal single people seeking the love of their life.   So I am quite happy to post Amy's article and will put her link on my links list.   You will also find that by going to that site she links that there are blog posts that discuss internet dating.  I happened to read one that was written from the feminine perspective but would also apply to men - 8 First Date Questions To Know If He's The One.  Very intelligent questions for either gender, actually.   I thought that the Five Tips For Setting Up Your Profile... had some sound advice.   

I probably should know a lot about internet dating, because I navigated the waters of online dating for a few years seeking to "catch" the right one.  I figured looking for a girl was like fishing,  keep on casting out that lure and if you were not getting any hits on the line, move to another spot.  I found her, but I landed a lot of carp and other nuisance fish before I finally caught a keeper.   In fairness, plenty of the "fish" I landed and threw back were pretty close to right and a couple of them jumped out of the boat because they figured out they didn't want to be caught by me before I had decided to release them back into the wild.

So I am also going to link and mention one more site, because it was the site where I found the right girl for me.  I suppose it is about the same idea as Christian Mingle even if it is not set up exactly the same way.   But I did join more than one site and perused profiles and made contacts.   

Many of the people who join sites like this are not entirely truthful.  They post pictures from many years back, they claim to weigh 120-150 pounds when they haven't been on the left side of the 200 mark of their scale for a long time, they assert that they possess traits that are not true - they are just not honest.  So the first thing I say to someone going on a dating site is to NOT be that person.  If you post a picture, make sure it was taken within the last five years, okay?   Be honest about your physical state, be honest about your finances if it comes up, be honest about your beliefs and your traits and habits and all that stuff.   Trust me, you might get a date with someone by selling the sizzle but once you meet up it is the steak they will encounter.   If you are a ribeye when you claimed to be a porterhouse, it won't be pretty!   So start out being honest about yourself when you make a profile on one or more of these sites.   

That being said, even a few of those who claim to be Christians will fib about some things, so be prepared to be unhappily surprised if you simply take everything people post at face value.   That way you will not be shocked if they have spun their profile a bit.   Be especially careful about long-distance situations.  In these days of built-in video cams on laptops you can arrange to do something like Skype to talk to someone with video and audio before you ever meet in person, which makes sense for anyone who lives too far away to meet for coffee somewhere.  If you run into a long-distance friend who refuses to do this, consider forgetting about that particular person.  If he or she cannot figure out how to connect with you in this way, it may be because they do not want you to really see and hear them in real time.  Don't waste your time or emotional bank account on them.


I don't mean simply in terms of distance geographically.  People who are closer in age can relate to the cultural references of your life.   I tried dating much younger women and frankly they didn't "grok" some of the things I'd experienced.   We tended to like different music, enjoy different television programs or movies and really it was all about trying to make personal chemistry cover up differences in experiences while being in different grades in the college of hard knocks.   If you are living a middle-class lifestyle and your prospective date loves diamonds and expensive vacations, it won't work out.   If you love dogs and they don't like animals in the house, it won't work out.   Seriously, I mean this, the little things matter a lot.  

There are great advantages in living within driving distance of a potential date.   You can decide to both drive and meet halfway somewhere the first time you meet so both of you have the option of graceful exits at any time.   If you do the driving, at least you know you can go home at any time and not have to wait for a flight back home or to shell out for a motel accommodation because the drive is too long and you are too tired to face it after a less-than happy first date.  Plus, if you do connect and the relationship looks like it is worth investment in time and money and commitment, you are close enough to date often without spending lots of time and money traveling. 


These online sites allow you to connect with potential mates inside the site.  If you seem to connect, it is wise to transition from emails within the site to emails and phone calls outside of the site before you meet.   I mean, if she lives five miles away you could skip some of that and just meet at a local eatery for coffee and, if it goes well, a meal and more conversation.   But if you have to drive a few miles to meet you had better spend some time on the phone first.   It is probably smart to do that in any case.  Talking about what you believe and what you like and things you have experienced on the phone gives you a real feel for the person and vice-versa.   Yes, I did say get on a video chat with a long distance contact but I would do the phone thing first even then.   Speaking with a potential date and being honest and upfront tends to cull out the people who sound like your kind of person from the "chaff" before you really get into the appearance/attraction phase.  

Really, this may be the best thing about internet dating.  It gives you a chance to get an idea about what someone is like on the inside before you encounter them in person.   If you have been around for awhile, you know you can have "chemistry" with someone you would not want to spend your life with, strange as it seems.   It can be easy to be dragged into a relationship with someone who rings your bell but then you realize that spending time with them when you aren't admiring their appearance or playing kissy-face, well, it isn't all that great.   You mean you haven't been attracted to someone who turned out to be somewhere between annoying and awful to spend time with after the first blush of infatuation?   Lucky you!


Before I was a Christian and was out of school I guess I met most of my girlfriends in bars with bands aka nightclubs.   The second most likely place was at a party.   A couple of times I ran into a girl at the beach and I got set up on some blind dates that worked out okay.  I even wound up connecting with a couple of people at work but that can get complicated after the breakup!  I thought I was looking for love but mostly I didn't really know what love was, so I was really looking for infatuation and sex and someone to go out with to the same bars I went to alone.   I loved music and loved dancing and loved doing drugs so if a girl was pretty, liked to dance and liked at least getting high, BOOM, I had a girlfriend until one of us got tired of the other one or one of us met someone we liked better.   Really, I thought something was wrong with me because I would be so into a girl at the start but usually a few weeks later I was trying to figure out the nicest possible way to dump her...although sometimes I got dumped first.  The whole Hollywood concept of love and dating is so idiotic and yet so pervasive in all the television sitcoms and movies that heartbreak and betrayal and deception is the way the world thinks it has to be...hard to find the right girl using the wrong methods and going to the wrong places with the wrong goals in mind.  

If you meet someone at work and then it falls apart, working with that person can be very uncomfortable.   School, especially college, can actually be a great place to find your true love if you are looking for the right things with the right attitude.   But most of us who go to college put in four years and then we are gone.   If you didn't find the girl of your dreams then, frankly, the internet is far and away the best thing.    Oh, sure, church is a wonderful place to find your mate.   But the selection is limited, especially in small churches.   My church is big enough that some couples have met in that church and been engaged and married.   Our youth group in which me, my wife and oldest son participate as staff, has produced some kids who have wound up as a couple and married.    We try to discourage them from doing much dating in high school unless it is more of group dating because relationships cannot go on forever in a straight line.   They go up or they go down.   You move from friends to kissing couples to passionately kissing couples and then you are either going to get engaged and hold out for that wedding night or you had better break up.   Sex outside of marriage?   Studies show that couples that live together first do not do as well as those who don't.   Couples who wait on sex until they are married have the best chance of staying together.

Yep, some of you Atheists will tell me that the Christian divorce rate is about the same as the non-Christian rate.  But Christians tend to get married, while non-Christians tend to pair up and break up regularly without marrying.    If they did a study of couples who live together both with and without the ring, Christians are far more likely to make it work long-term.  Furthermore, there are plenty of CHINO couples (Christians in name only) who check a box on a tax return or a survey who are far more at home at the local bar than they are a church.   Heck, when I was no more a Christian than I was a Snow Leopard I checked a "Christian" box of some kind when I filled out forms, since my grandparents went to church and I had gone to a couple of Sunday Schools to get candy and hang out with friends when I was a small child.  I mean, was I going to check Muslim?!   Thus there is an entire huge subset of "Christians" in the USA who really aren't at all.  Which brings us back to the post at hand.


If you happen to be an Atheist and you are looking for a mate, go to FriendFinder or or one of the other sites not centered on Christianity and look for another Athesist or Agnostic.   Your basic philosophy of life is going to be incredibly important to your relationship.   Too many people decide that since they are attracted to someone, they will "look past" the annoying parts of their personality and they think they will, by their love and by spending time together, change that person.
NO NO NO you are NOT going to change anyone.   People can change but they do it because they want to do it.  God can change people.   But if you think marrying a girl will suddenly change who she is, forget it!   Marry the person you know and the person who is right now because that is who you are getting for life.   If they change over time and from experiences during the journey you take together you are probably having the same experiences and making the same changes.   I cannot count all the couples I have counseled or befriended where most often it was the wife who marries a guy and thinks she will change him, she doesn't, and then they are both unhappy and things are falling apart.  

"Missionary dating" doesn't work, folks!   Too many girls have dated unsaved guys who then "say a prayer" so they can mollify that girl and they get married and things go bad pretty quick.   Saying a prayer won't make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage will make you a car.   To become a Christian is a decision from the heart that involves repentance and a ready acceptance of Jesus Christ as Savior.   It isn't about saying words it is about what is truly in your heart.  If you want to find God you will because He is looking for you.   If you don't have a strong desire to truly know truth and find meaning and find God then meeting some girl won't change that.

For this reason I am quite proud of one of our daughters.  She met a boy in college and she wanted to date him, but he was not a Christian.  So she befriended him and talked with him and hung out with him sometimes but would not date him.  He was kind of confused by that behavior and she told him she would not date or marry anyone unless they were a Christian and that was that.  But she would be his friend.   He decided to check out this whole "Christian" thing.  He came over to talk to us about God.  He came to a couple of church services.   On a Christmas Eve service he "got it" and prayed to receive Christ.  We saw tears in his eyes and we didn't know for sure what that meant but he didn't tell anyone for awhile.  He said he was afraid to tell anyone he was saved because they might expect him to change right away.  Ha!  Kind of noble of him, really, since he still could not date our daughter because I think he wanted to be sure something within him actually changed.  She noticed he wanted to read the Bible and talk about it but it was a couple of months before he told her he was now a Christian.  She was so happy when he told her because she cried out that "now we can go out" or something along those lines.  They were engaged not long after that and last spring they married.   They are happy as clams (not sure why clams are happy) and we are very glad for them!

A picture from their wedding day below...


BIG thing...internet dating allows you to connect with people without revealing too much about your  location.  You can use a pseudonym and a non-specific email address like gmail or hotmail or yahoo so that people you first meet cannot track you down if you don't want to be found.    You can get comfortable enough to have real trust before you tell someone anything specific about your name or address or phone number.    During that time you can get to know what they say they believe and then when you take the step of making that first phone call (which will identify yourself to an extent) you are still not within physical reach and you can interact person-to-person before the lure of appearances really gets a chance to kick in.

Me?  I tried long-distance relationships, which boiled down to lots of phone time and the hassle and expense of airline travel and, had any of those worked out, one of us was going to have to leave home and family to live with the other.   I actually came thisclose to getting engaged to a very nice and cute Texas girl, but when I met her kids I realized she would never let me be the head honcho in the family when it came to her children.   She was willing to give herself to me but those kids?  Nope!  She was going to be the decision-maker concerning them and that was the deal-breaker.  Thank God!

Finally I met a girl who lived across one state line but it wasn't all that far away.   We clicked by email, we clicked over the phone and when we met her kids were so glad to meet me they almost scared me away!   Her kids really wanted a dad-person they could love and trust in their lives and my kids were willing to give her a chance (they were old enough so it wasn't a critical issue) but sure enough they came to love her so much they all claim her as a mom and her kids all took to me as the dad guy.  A good couple needs a leader (me) who is not a dictator but rather looks for agreement with his wife and only goes against her when agreement is not there.   This is so rare in our relationship I can't remember it ever being an issue.   My wife and I met in the summer and planned to marry in the late spring of the following year but coincidences and circumstances (probably God) gave us the chance to marry that winter over Christmas break so we moved her household over to my house, started building a new, bigger house for us to inhabit and went from first date to married at light speed but it was right.  I was a Mr. Mom, she was a widow with some money in the bank but frankly not making much income and absolutely wanting a true love.  Money was not her main concern and she knew I made enough to get by but was unlikely to buy us a houseboat or a vacation cabin.  Money can't buy me love.

I have to say from personal experience, being alone and lonely is better than being with someone who makes you miserable.   After all, I came to Christianity later in life and I tried the whole jump in bed on the first or second date thing and the live together thing and the hook up with someone gorgeous on the outside and ugly on the inside thing.  In fact, some folks who wear the Christian nameplate figure that having sex before marriage is a good idea.  I don't!   I am glad to say that I became "re-virgined" once I was alone again and my wife and I saved that part of the relationship for our wedding night.  Eight years later, through trials and troubles and fun and successes we are like one person walking around in two bodies as far as our view of the road ahead.   We are in this thing together and only death can do us part and even then that is just a transition from a material life to an eternal one.  I will love Debbie forever.  She will love me forever.  It can't get any better than that and we met on an internet dating site.  

Now we have been able to take a cruise up the coast of Alaska, we've vacationed in San Diego and Hawaii and Seattle and Las Vegas and Virginia and Maryland and a few places in between.  We've had to deal with health issues (mostly mine) and money issues (I am the sole provider so when I caught MRSA I had to literally crawl to my desk to put in a couple of hours work at times) and family issues and so really we have had good times and hard times but we have never had times when we didn't want to be together.  My girl of my dreams had put a profile on an internet site and figured the guys should come to her.  I met her as a person before I ever laid eyes on her and I think we both knew we would be married within a couple-three weeks of our first date.  


After emails and then making phone calls I quickly decided I had to meet this girl!  We met online in late summer and it was only a matter of  maybe three weeks before I knew I wanted to see her in person.  She only lived about 70 miles away.  I had a company car (that I drove home and had full useage of, so it was my primary mode of transportation) with the company logo emblazoned in red and white on a bright almost fluorescent green VW turbo with sunroof/moonroof/racing tires/pricey sound system and an automatic spoiler that popped up at about 75-80 miles an hour.  (Guilty pleasure.  I commuted to Chicago for work and I was the guy who whipped back and forth through traffic with one eye on the road and one eye for the police cruiser.   I did have to take the VDub out and see how fast it would go.  I had pedal left at 120 MPH when I figured I had better slow down and not get a ticket.  Marriage has tamed my accelerator pedal).   So I basically had a grown-up toy.   I also had a Chrysler mini-van so if I was going somewhere with my kids AND some of their friends (who tended to congregate at my house) I could fit them all in.  In fact, I also had a GMC conversion van with screen windows and captain chairs with a four-banger engine like they used at Indy for years and a stick shift, a very rare bird indeed!   So I didn't lack for transportation!   Debbie had a Subaru Outback (and still does, we keep it maintained and hope for 250,000 miles) and a relatively dinky house in a nice neighborhood in the 'burbs of Chicago near O'Hare Airport.  I  had a not-much-bigger house back in Indiana.

On the day I came to take her out to eat and meet her kids, I was driving down what I was sure was her street and as I approached the house I saw her two children out in the yard close to the road evidently looking out for me!!!  Kind of freaked me out...I figured her two children (a girl in junior high and a grade school boy) would be inside and kind of hanging out in their room a bit reluctant to meet some strange guy from out of town.  WRONG!   I actually drove right past and thought about the implications of her children standing outside waiting.   Okay, well, if they were anxious to meet me it must be a good thing?   I turned around and came back and pulled into the driveway and they were still standing there although kind of puzzled about me driving past and then coming back.  They wanted to meet me and they were intrigued by the car!  Of I made sure to take them for a ride with the sound nice and loud and let them check out how the sunroof/moonroof worked and all that.  Apparently my future wife had assured them that she thought I was a good guy so they were not afraid to meet me at all. 

I took her to Olive Garden.  She sharked a bite off of my plate.  We had our first kiss within a few hours of meeting but we kind of doled the physical part of the relationship out slowly so we didn't go too fast.   But that first date we knew the chemistry was all there and I loved looking into her eyes and it was all good!  I had done my due diligence, I had prayed and asked God to help me find my one true love and I had used dating sites to connect with women from as far away as California and as close as one town over but as they say in the sales business, you kiss a lot of frogs to find one princess.  Not that I kissed every single female I dated.  But I worked fast in one way.  Before that first date I would talk about sex and finances and heartfelt personal convictions so that I didn't waste a lot of time beating around the bush.   I didn't meet anyone who didn't seem to be a good fit before I actually arranged to meet up.  I mean, I had been married before and I had kids and I was hitting the big 5-0 so it made no sense to me to waste time.  Once I found the right girl it all fell into place.  

It is very hard to imagine how I would have met her any other way but by the internet.  She lived too far away, she went to a different church, she worked far away...only the internet could have connected us.  Of course we both figure God was involved, too.  I mean, she tried to sell her house for a year without one serious nibble.  When we got engaged she put the house on the market and we hoped it would sell by spring so we could marry.  We got six firm offers within 24 hours of listing, one of them for cash and above our asking price!   So we wound up getting married on the shortest day of the year, the Winter Solstice, because the buyer wanted to get into the house fast.  Her kids loved our school system way more than the one they had been in, our family blended pretty much immediately and the pastor of her church (who married us) admitted that we were relatively old and since we were moving to my place we wouldn't "be his problem" if we married too hastily.   Don't worry, Ab, we are doing GREAT!  My oldest daughter sang at the wedding (How Beautiful), my second-oldest son (who was my best man) and I sang a duet (Unchained Melody) and all the kids but the oldest son who was stationed in Afghanistan were in the wedding party.

On our wedding day laughing...

So if you are not surrounded by potential dates because you are going to school or a great big church or something like that, the internet is probably the safest and best way to look for that one true love.  It worked for us.  We have friends who have met online also.   In fact we'll be soon be traveling to Kentucky for a marriage between a couple who met online (they are marrying down there and then moving up here).   The guy is a friend who lives in this county and the girl has been up here and we've met her and love her, too.  She is a real sweetheart and they are both Christians so we figure it will be a great match.  If you are ready to look for true love, might as well expand the search beyond the people you meet in your daily life.  Internet dating is the safe and effective way to do it!