After one has addressed whatever personal work they can and need to before beginning to date most most of my peers probably need to address the size of their dating pool. Contrary to a lot of what I have been talk part of dating is a numbers game. This statement might offend the sensisbilities of some (sensibilities shaped by Romantic/Christian notions concerning how people “should” meet one another) but I think it is true.
If you meet the same eligible singles every week at Church, work, and school and fail to connect with them you are probably not going to connect the next week or the week after that. In a situation where you are not meeting new eligble singles your dating pool has become stagnant. New arrivals to your dating people may happen by circumstance, such as during certain seasonal changes (like the school system rotating and new people coming to campus), or happy coincidence but for the most part you are not meeting new people. In this perdicament you can either lower your standards to date someone you previously were not attracted to or try and figure out new ways to meet people.
In regards to these two options I do not think anyone should ever lower or change their standards. There is a tension here. Part of dating is in fact figuring out what you want from a significant other, so you might want to date people you might not normally think are “your type.” However, at the end of the day I don’t think people should someone just because that person is practically available. To steal a line from class this morning start with what you want and figure out how to attain it, don’t just start with what is practical and try and force what you want into it. This inevitably will lead to efforts to change other people to suit your desires instead of finding out what your desires our and then finding a person that fits the bill.
Furthermore, I would not my future significant other to have tried to get with other men but, having failed to attract their attention, to “settle” for me nor would I want the woman that I end up with to feel that I settled for her because I was essentially too lazy to put effort into dating. I think it far more prudent for most singles to to put some thought and effort into meeting new singles and find ways to increase the size of their dating pool. The real question is how to do this.
There are a number of methods many Christians try. I could join the singles ministry at my church, or another church, or join some singles activities at local recreation centers or invite my friends to set me up with people they think I would be compatible with, or accept more invitations to go out with groups of people I do not know. All of these options have pros and cons but as previously mentioned I have begun to investigate online dating, doing both research into it and experiencing it for myself. I want to devote some blogs to my thoughts and experiences on this topic.
But first I should back up in space and time to a college class in Canada several years ago. In a class on marriage and family online dating was one topic that was discussed. It was a relatively knew phenomenon and we in the class seemed to hold it up with a mixed bag of stigma and curiosity. The most interesting aspect I found was that the internet and the dating site can act in many ways like a chaperone used to a long time ago. Back in the days of yore, a young suitor would “come calling” upon an available lady. They would sit opposite one another, never touch, and engage in conversation. At all times a chaperone would be present to make sure no hanky-panky ensued. Apparently in the days of yore, the young men spat game like no other, so there was great risk of hanky-panky ensuing from a simple conversation. More to the point, young men would have to determine if they were really interested in a young lady from conversation alone. To win her heart over and against other suitors, the young man would have to do so through verbal communication because physical touch was prevented by the chaperone. I think one can see how evolutionarily speaking those with the ability to spit game won out on these romantic escapades more and passed on their skills to their progeny, so I guess it should not be so surprising that young men from the days of yore had very good “verbal intimacy/communciation skills.”
Online dating sites in many ways function like a chaperone in that they force the interaction to focus more on conversation than physicality. While pictures are part of the process and physical attraction is still a component, interacting online emphasizes conversation . Conversation is center-stage, especially during the initial contacts as expressing oneself and being attracted to how the other person expresses themselves is key. Only after establishing a rapport through written communication will there be presumably be phone calls, and eventually in-person meeting and dates.
The class was several years ago and since then the internet dating arena has blossomed. It is increasingly less stygmatized but as a recent Facebook status udpate shows, it still draws a lot of debate and arguments concerning it from Christians. I honestly do not see why. Some sense it is the last call for the desperate. While this might be the case for some, I think the use of online dating as a “last resort” has more to say about people’s presuppositions regarding dating than it actually being a mark of desperation in their character. Some think of online dating as “artificial,” believing that dating and or getting to know someone should be more “organic.” How “organic” is it to cruise churches for available singles? My parents were set up on a blind date by my aunt and my uncle. How “organic” was that? Is their marriage invalid because of they met? I think the continuing stigma of online dating comes from the fact that there are a lot of romantic movies out there and there are tons of anecdotes about how Christian couples have met in the natural course of their life through a more “organic” fashion. We need to do away with these notions. First, this is real life, not the Notebook (sorry ladies). While I want romance for my life and to be part of my marriage I am living my life, there is no script and I am not Ryan Gossling. Second, those anecdotes regarding organic meetings are great for the Christian couples who met and are married but I’m still single and the “organic” approach has not worked for me so far. Should I really assume that something that isn’t working will magically work given another two, or five, or ten years?
With this conviction in mind and the desire to only give advice on something I had experienced I signed up for three sites and want to put my initial reaction to each before moving onto my next post.
I created another gmail account to use just for these online dating sites. I really did not want to be spammed by people or by the companies involved in online dating and off I went. I would encourage everyone to create an alternate email account if they try online dating. It has also kept me from being distracted by content from the dating sites when I am trying to check my work/class email.
www.plentyoffish.com – This is the first site I signed up for as it is free. I have a friend who has met up with several guys from this site so I knew I probably wasn’t going to get axe-murdered for registering or seeing whose out there. The set up is pretty straightforward and you answer a handful of questions about yourself, plug in some of your likes and dislikes and you are ready to go. I have to be honest, this felt like the Myspace of online dating sites. Many of the pictures were self-shoots from odd angles and were cropped in suspicious ways. Reading some site reviews this, and other sites, had been used in scams so I was (and am) still a bit skeptical.
One of my initial surprises in taking this site was the sheer volume of people trying internet dating. Searching within a relatively small area I was presented with pages and pages of women in my age bracket in my area looking to date. My initial thought was, “Where the hell have I been for the last six years?” Going to a bar, club, church, diner or other places available singles are supposed to gather pales in comparisson with the sheer volume of singles we are online and looking to date. Only after I plugged in some additional criteria (such as religion and some wants) did I narrow the search to roughly four pages of results.
I did not contact anyone from this site (though I have received some interest from women through this site) mostly because I wanted to move on and explore other sites. I also was a bit frustrated by the compatiability options and assessment offered by the site. I had a feeling I could contact 100 women on plentyoffish.com before I met 5 I would actually want to even be friends with, let alone take out on a legit date. But this was before even trying anything, and I totally own that.
After these two experiences I had a conversation with my counselor before signing up for eHarmony. We talked over a few things in regards to my new adventures. First, he communicated that the general flow of online dating is emailing, phone-calls, then a fifteen minute coffee date or something else equally “leavable,” and then finally, if all that goes well, a more lengthy date. The reason for the fifteen minute coffee date is because some people misrepresent themselves online, for example posting photos of themselves…from fifteen years ago. Other times you can just walk into a date and not feel that spark or chemistry. You do not want to be locked into a two or three hour date with someone you are turned off by. Second, I made a general rule of only checking these sites twice a week which he affirmed. I can get compulsive and online dating could easily become another Facebook that I check way more than I need to. By setting up another email account it is not always in my face and I check it on my terms. I feel online dating should not intrude into your life, but it should be something that you intentionally choose. Third, I talked about my desire to use my experiences in online dating (and dating in general) as fodder for discussion; this whole process is a mirror that I can use to examine my own life more with. I wanted to pay close attention to how I felt as I was making moves in this area of my life and my motives for my actions in this arena. Finally, we both agreed that facing and experiencing rejection online was probably the safest place to experience rejection. One of the core beliefs of sexual addiction, that has definitely been part of my life, is the belief that if people get to know me they will reject me. Consequently I struggle with handling rejection more than most people; it is no that I experience more often I just feel it at a much higher volume as it were. As such, online dating is a form of exposure therapy for me, helping me increasingly tolerate rejection as I heal from a very real and deep-seated fear of relationships, rejection and ultimately abandonment by other people.
In all of this I have to sometimes remember that I am not just here to have stuff to write about, or work on my issues, but I do actually want to go out on some dates. With this in hand I signed up for www.eHarmony.com one night and my experiences there will be the content of my following posts.
P.S. The Gonzaga family has a bit of a history with www.eharmony.com In the process of this all I remembered that my sister did a commercial for them. She’s the one that looks like my twin. Hooray for Ginger! 🙂