Sunday, June 14, 2009

Musings on Online Dating

Disclaimer: I am not writing this to anyone, so if you are one of my single friends, please don't take this as my trying to be all annoying and matchmakery...this is just something I have been thinking about recently...

I've been thinking lately about my many unmarried friends who are around my age (late 20s). They have each expressed a desire to settle down and start a family. These are attractive, intelligent, educated, good people who would all make good spouses for why are they still single?

Several have expressed the feeling that it is difficult to meet people, or, at least, that it is difficult to meet the sort of people that could be considered marriage material. Once upon a time, when people lived their entire lives in the same little town, they grew up with their future spouses. A boy could look around at the girls his age and see that these were his options, and when he got ready to marry he'd pick one of them...when the choices are fewer the process is certainly simplified. Of course modern culture has convinced us that we need to worry about things like falling in love, but I would venture to suggest that if two people with common values and goals are willing to commit to each other, then love and attraction will fall into place. (And really, what's the stronger basis for a relationship anyway?) So are clubs, parties, dances, movies, or dates an ideal way to meet potential spouses? I would submit that they are not. Sitting in the dark, with little more than small talk or some dancing, is not much of a way to get to know someone.

As most of my readers know by this point, I met my Hubby online, and frankly, I think that route makes a lot of sense. We no longer live in the same tiny town our entire lives. As people move farther apart and live more independent lifestyles, it becomes harder to find people who share our values and goals, and therefore harder to find people to marry. Modern dating methods (the movies and dances I mentioned before) do not facilitate getting to know each other well enough to know what we truly have in common...instead they promote superficial things like physical attraction or similar taste in foods. Even in the settings where supposedly all the attendees are "marriage material" (such as at a church function), I find that strength of convictions and perspectives on life still vary...and if the goal is to find someone with shared goals and values, well, even a church-sponsored activity (or a church-owned school!) is not necessarily sufficient. The simple fact is that, with our diverging and busy modern lifestyles, it is harder to meet like-minded people through routine activities...and this is why I think that online dating makes so much sense.

There is also a second reason why I support online dating.
I remember the day I told my mother that someone was going to come visit for the weekend (he lived in another state), that I had met him online, and that I had a feeling that this was someone important. (I actually already knew that I was going to marry him, but since we hadn't met in person yet, I wasn't ready to tell anyone that fact!) My mom just smiled and said "I know...and I think that seems like a very healthy way to get to know someone--focusing on the conversation and really getting to know each other instead of just going on some dates."

I agree with her. There is some safety in taking the online approach to getting to know people. I'm reminded of the puritan style of courtship, where the young man A 19th century Courting Benchwould come visit the girl in her home (with her siblings and parents in the room) and the would sit on either side of the fireplace and talk to each other through a "courtship tube." They were able to get to know each other on intellectual, spiritual, and social levels, without the distraction of physical intimacy (of whatever degree). I strongly believe that once the hormones come into play, the brain ends up on the bench. Hormones are fine, but when you're choosing a spouse, it's a good idea to make sure your brain is fully functional. As the saying goes, "keep your eyes wide open before marriage, and half-shut afterward."
Later generations utilized a "courtship bench" (as pictured) which allowed the young people to talk in a slightly more cozy manner, while still keeping enough of a barrier to assure the proper decorum. I think that the internet (used intelligently of course) can be the modern version of these chaste courtships.

Now obviously, without face-to-face meetings, it is possible for someone to misrepresent themselves. There are a few common sense things that one can do to protect themselves from the creeps who are out there, and one of those is to stick with dating sites which have built-in protections. The site I used did not allow us to post our email address, phone number, or exact location, and it had an internal instant messaging program, so that we did not have to share even that contact information until we felt comfortable withs someone. I do not have experience with many sites, but I do think that sites such as e-harmony are pretty good (the registration process is quite lengthy, and I don't think the average punk looking for an easy lay is going to bother with it). There are also sites that are religion-specific--LDSsingles worked for me. ☺


Emily said...

Another internet dater here!

I agree wholeheartedly with everything you wrote. I have heard from several people that chastity before marriage doesn't allow you to "test drive" your spouse to see if you are compatible in bed, and that internet dating doesn't allow you to "test drive" your spouse to see if you are compatible in the area of sexual attraction.

But I can personally attest to the fact that if the person you marry is a good man, agrees with your morals and ethics, and is committed to an eternal marriage, the sex part will work out.

Sexuality is the icing on the cake. It can taste REALLY REALLY GOOD, and you can even eat icing by itself. However, if the cake part tastes like crap, you won't get through the whole thing. Also, icing by itself isn't very filling, so you will move on to something with more substance eventually.

I met my husband on the internet, and found that he was strong in his faith, a humble and kind man, and more than anything, was open, honest, and interested to work out problems and commit to the marriage. I thought those traits would be priceless, and would cover any possible bump in the road, and they have.

I was wary of internet dating for a long time, but I believe dating websites have come a long way. Security features are much better, and you can choose sites that work within your belief system. (LDSPlanet for us)

If you are single and not sure where to go from here, I also vote for internet dating. Be smart, take your time, and see what's out there!

Katrina said...

This all makes sense to me, and you brought up some things I just hadn't thought about, about online dating.
You probably don't know this yet, but one of our mutual cousins met her future husband online, met him in person last weekend, and will soon be getting married. I think it probably makes it easier on them that you found your hubby that way, so it isn't quite so "shocking" for family. What I think is neat is that they have already talked more hours, getting to know each other that way, than probably a lot of couples do who date in the usual way. And that communication foundation is so vital for a strong marriage.

Terresa said...

Yep, I think online dating that eventually leads to marriage is a fine thing.

My mom-in-law met her now-husband that way and they are a perfect pair. They're now in their 60's and early 70's, they've served a mission together & plan to serve another one as soon as health permits. It was a match made in heaven that they had to wait over 50 earth years to finally meet each other...and it all began online.

With online dating, I've learned that anything is possible.

Janeen said...

DH and I met online. Now, I do have to say that DH wasn't entirely up front about several things (age for one) and there were a few surprises along the way but even with all of that and with having had a wedding sort of at the last minute (no, not pregnancy, getting him home from South Korea when I NEEDED him), we've managed to get through the bumps. Now admittedly, we didn't meet through any particular dating site, our "meeting" happened purely by chance and I found him and it was one of those things where if one little element had been different, we probably wouldn't have met. Such is life, I suppose. But I do think that ultimately, especially through specific websites, you can find someone compatible and it's definitely a better option than some of the ways people meet this day and age. lol

Future Mama said...

This is cute! I'm not sure I'd say I like the idea of online dating more than regular dating, but I do think online dating can be fun! :) I only did it once and met my hubby! He didn't have a pic or anything, but we didn't do much emailing online before we met. Basically I think it was just meant to be, haha!

Not sure what I'd think about my kid online dating. I imagine I'd be cool with it, so long as the site was secure like you said. I would just like to meet the person too I guess!

Cool post!

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