post updated 31 August 2022
Today on Twitter, Single Friendly Church put up one of those little polls: “Have you or would you use a Christian dating site to meet other Christians?” I was surprised to see how many said they hadn’t used such a site, and they wouldn’t; around 40% of those replying. Well, I did, and I would recommend it. As it happens, I was at a conference recently when – in the context of discussions about the theology of marriage and its importance in the Living in Love and Faith process – someone asked why we don’t have a theology of dating. It’s an interesting question, and one which Andrew Godsall has now addressed here. I am not qualified to comment on the theology, but I do have some practical experience to bring to any discussion!
For most of my life, I hadn’t seriously thought about online dating because, well, you hear stories. But in my forties, never married, I was in our local Christian bookshop and happened to pick up a magazine which featured Christian Connection, which is now a partner of Single Friendly Church. I thought, well, I can probably spot a dodgy Christian man from several miles off (bitter experience…) so maybe that would be worth doing. So I constructed a profile, found some cheerful photos, and began. I set my parameters quite tightly, in terms of distance (I don’t drive) and educational background (for some insane reason I thought that Mr Right needed at least a first degree) and waited to see what happened. Meanwhile, I found that the various discussion threads which at that time featured on the site were very good fun. They ranged from serious discussions of current affairs and theology to more entertaining topics. I started one on fridge magnets. I began to interact with other women on the site (no, the story isn’t going in that direction – although the site is open to LGBTQI+ relationships). I found a supportive community in which people shared tips, checked out each other’s sites to give advice – like, you’re sounding very needy and vulnerable so be careful as you may attract predators – and shared information about some men on the site who weren’t sticking to the rules. I even contacted some men whose profiles were just non-starters, not to set up dates but simply to give some sisterly advice.
I was having such fun in this online community that the men who expressed an interest stopped being the main reason for being there. There was (and still is) a strong emphasis on keeping one’s details private, at least until you’d had a chance to meet in person. I found people who matched the parameters I’d set up, chatted on the phone, and met two of them; both were lovely, but one seemed to be back in the water too soon after a very bad relationship breakdown and, while the other was lovely enough that we had a second date, there just wasn’t that spark.
And then I was contacted by someone who’d found me, rather than the other way around. He didn’t match all my parameters, so I wouldn’t have seen his profile; his own seemed to be ‘female, alive, no baggage, no animals, non-smoker’! But from the first email he came across as honest, happy in himself, and with an excellent way with words; those matter very much to me. We talked on the phone and couldn’t stop talking (some time later he admitted he’d been to the loo somewhere in that first conversation!). He rightly pushed for a face-to-face meeting asap as, rather than falling in love with an image of each other, we needed to connect in person. I was busy the following weekend; what was I doing, he asked? I told him I was going to a plant sale and he announced he could meet me there (despite admitting to no interest in plants whatsoever – later, I’d find that his idea of gardening was to mow the flower beds). It was a Sunday; I told friends at church I was going to meet this man, and several turned out to be attending the same plant sale, meaning that they were lurking in the rhododendron bushes to check things were going well. At the event, I managed to walk into a former student and also a colleague from a nearby university; both were clearly intrigued as to who this man may be, and I didn’t feel able to say ‘This is a bloke I met online a week ago’.
I’d taken the bus to our meeting, and there aren’t many buses round here on a Sunday. How was I going to get home? As we had tea at the plant sale, I also realised there weren’t any loos at the venue. I hadn’t entirely thought all this through, although in addition to the church people I’d notified a friend of what was happening so somebody knew where I was. Tentatively, I asked my date whether he’d see any sign of a loo. He went and asked, and once it was confirmed that there weren’t any he immediately said he’d take me to the garden centre down the road.
Tricky. A firm rule of Christian Connection was not to get into someone’s car on the first date. But… So I did. Impressively, he dropped me off at the garden centre entrance to reduce the length of time before I found that loo, and said he’d park and then find me. As I came out of the loo, I wondered whether he’d be there, or whether this was a way of dumping me… but he was there waiting for me, and has been there for me ever since.
We had more tea and cakes. He dropped me home. We had a little hug. And the rest is history; nearly 20 years of it so far.
Totally admire your courage. My kids all encouraged me to try online dating, post divorce, but I was enjoying my newfound freedom too much! Far too old now! But so pleased it worked for you. X
Never too old, Brenda! The courageous/insane part was agreeing to go holiday with him 6 weeks later, in a cottage with no phone or Wi-Fi, accompanied by two of his friends I’d not previously met!
Loved reading this! I met my husband of nearly 14 years on the same site. I had been single with children for some years (you don’t prioritise meeting men when your kids are small), living in a small town and working mainly from home. I agree completely that the way to approach it is to think in terms of making friends and having some good conversations. If things develop from there that’s great, but it shouldn’t be the only reason.
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Helen thank you, as always, for your carefully crafted writing and thinking.
I am increasingly wary of anything that has the prefix “Christian” because it seems likely that I could be associated with a number of things I don’t care to be associated with. On one blog that I often read, the commenters frequently remind readers that Christians date only with a view to marriage. They should not touch – even hold hands – unless they are going to commit their lives to each other. Kissing should only be ‘chaste’ – whatever that means – until marriage. So I wonder if Christian dating sites mention sex at all, and warn that it is the stuff of the devil until a couple are married when, miraculously, it will be accompanied by lightning and thunder and the transport of delight that non-Christians could not possibly understand? For those of us who don’t think that sexual activity should *necessarily* always be within heterosexual marriage, it would be good to know how Christian dating approaches the matter.
Thank you, Andrew! Your comments underline the need for a theology of dating. I don’t think we’re going to find the Bible any direct help, as dating is hardly a topic in societies in which marriages are arranged. Many many years ago I was talking to a visitor to the church I was attending who told us a story where the punchline was that holding hands was more powerful and intimate than sexual intercourse. That story stuck with me. I don’t think Christian Connection mentions the ‘how far can you go?’ topic, perhaps sensibly leaving this to individuals. The other side of ‘how far can you go?’ is something particularly toxic to my mind, the idea that if you are married (to an opp sex partner, naturally…) then the woman must go along with anything her husband wants, because it’s Christian marriage and somehow everything is ‘consecrated’. Dangerous stuff.
That idea is so toxic but, sadly, I have encountered it on ‘Christian’ websites and in conversation. It’s one of the reasons that I mention my reservations about the prefix ‘Christian’. I hope we can keep this crucial conversation alive somehow,
I was going to say pretty much the same, but you’ve said it for me. I heard the same ‘advice’ about dating – only go out if you intend marriage, and never, EVER date a non-Christian – always go in multiple pairs for communal protection from temptation, and above all else, give up marriage and serve the Lord….. It is so unreal and fear ridden. How any conservative evangelical Christians (my world) ever manage to ‘have a relationship’ that culminates in marriage I do not know.
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So enjoyed reading this. I write for the CC blog sometimes and did my fair share of online dating before I met my husband. Anything that widens the group of people you are meeting is good, and the online community is one such way. Thanks for sharing your encouraging and sensible piece.
Thank you for this.
There is much wisdom in having a friendly member of the opposite sex to read and to correct your profile for CC or any similar website. A good, up-to-date photo is essential too. I remember claiming to live “to the south of London” when I was in France!
Although it can be easy to live in a certain default zone as a single person, a path of least resistance, maybe for months at a time without even so much as a hug, I feel it is important to stay open to the idea of meeting someone and TO MAKE THE EFFORT. As I was just about giving up hope, marriage and then parenthood came to me in my mid-40s.
Churches too need to make the effort to organise dances, hikes or other activities where single people can mix and chat in a group environment.
And pastors shouldn’t be afraid to talk about sex to the soon-to-be-married: even as a scientist, my ignorance of female biology was staggering.
Oh my. What a story.
I have been thinking about Christian Dating also, as a grown up believer. This led me to penning a post also on my blog https://thirtyoddsomethings.wordpress.com/2022/12/09/love-and-dating/
I don’t think I will do online dating though.
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