Question: Does online dating make us susceptible to fantasy? We interact with people we don’t know, don’t see and have no way of watching in everyday life. We stake a relationship and perhaps our life on the profile and email communications of a complete stranger! Some people call that crazy. I’ve been called desperate. Remaining grounded in reality is pretty imperative.
Once during my online dating process, a man and I sent instant messages back and forth for a couple of hours in flirtatious banter. We had so much fun that we carried further on the phone for a while. I felt deep down that I had become too caught up in the exchange, but I ignored those little niggling warning signs. However, when he repeatedly called my house late at night, only to hang up mysteriously, I realized that my perception (fantasy) of the situation didn’t match the reality of it. Oops! How easily we can create something in our minds (and hearts) that doesn’t actually exist as we imagine it.
In one situation, I communicated with someone for weeks and began to imagine him as the person God had in mind for me. I liked him and enjoyed chatting with him. However, one night the subject of his wife somehow slipped into the conversation (thank you Lord!). WIFE?? Well, nearly an ex-wife, separated, but not yet divorced…you know the story. Not a story I wanted to continue.
So how do we guard our hearts and minds to stay in the reality of the moment and not let them gallivant away into fantasies of the future?
First, watch where we take little steps over the lines or boundaries that exist for our good. Each person has to determine what is best for them based on God’s leading. One little toe over a line may seem like no big deal, but after a few toes have crossed, we’ve taken a whole step and soon we’re running into trouble.
Deciding ahead of time what boundaries to create can be helpful. I had no idea about this initially, and I confess to “winging it” as I went along. At least my best friend improvised with me. Certain topics, words and attitudes simply didn’t fit within our boundary lines. When in doubt, we checked with each other and leaders at church. Once, after a few emails with one guy left me feeling uncomfortable, I showed our correspondence to a trusted couple at church and inquired after a male perspective. He confirmed that the intentions of that suitor were not honorable. I’m so glad I asked!
It’s also best to develop friendship while keeping in constant contact with the Lord about what he has in mind. Even with the first email from my husband, I knew right away that he was from God, but I kept pulling back on the reins of my heart and checking in with the Lord and my best friends to be sure. Clarity and truth can be sobering so it helps to keep relationships “public” with at least a couple of friends we trust who won’t just feed a fantasy. I can be ruined in a split second by sin – one poor choice can destroy everything that is truly important to me.
Accountability ushers in reality and keeps fantasy at bay.
If you can’t tell at least a couple of people about a relationship, or feel the need or desire to keep things “private” or “secret,” you may be headed for dangerous waters.
One of the keys for me? Looking for someone who loves Jesus as much as I do and holds the same perspective on God, dating, marriage and sex. Not much fantasy in that.