Safe or Scary?


Is online dating the wave of the future?

I recently met a woman who politely, yet with scrutiny questioned my decision to employ internet dating sites to meet a husband. This was after I told her about my husband and I meeting online.

Her comments went something like, “Isn’t that a pretty daring thing to do? I mean, I’ve heard such horror stories about singles meeting really creepy people on those sites.”

“Well, it’s true there are some crazy people out there,” I acquiesced, “but both my best friend and I met our husbands–amazing, quality men–online. We also have other friends who met on the same site. So obviously, not all of it’s bad.”

“What site did you use?” she asked. I chuckled internally thinking it usually doesn’t take long before someone’s curiosity overrides their previous ‘sensibility’ about internet dating.

“We met on christiancafe.com, but I also tried eHarmony. Some of the guys were not okay, but my friend and I helped each other screen them. Really, it was fine,” I assured her.

Don’t be crazy!

It’s true I’ve come across numerous sites (like internetdatingstories.com) that depict the horrors of psycho encounters with online daters, but quite honestly, most of them surprise me with their foolish pursuance of predators. What do people think when they communicate with someone? Is society so quick to jump into a relationship (or bed) that people don’t take the time to find out more about each other before running ahead to the next step?

My friends and I never considered meeting a guy unless we had developed a substantial connection through multiple email messages, first through the site and then possibly through our private email, and after a few phone conversations.

Surprisingly, only a few stories I’ve read seemed to describe legitimate complaints of being taken in by seemingly honest individuals who somehow manage to live as Jekyll and Hyde.

All of that to say that with social networking drawing us closer together from farther away, online dating is here to stay and growing in popularity (see unitedfamiliesinternational.wordpress.com/?s=online+dating+statistics for some interesting statistics). So is is safe or scary?

Using wisdom, discretion and accountability will keep it safe. When in doubt about someone, let it go; the best person out there for you is one you feel good about from the start. I posted some safety tips in an earlier blog titled Meeting Face to Face.

Meeting online can lead to great relationships and even marriage. Read through my previous online dater posts for more of our story or check out testimonials on christiancafe.com for other encouraging tales of wedded bliss.

Be safe and online dating shouldn’t be scary.

 

INTERNET DATING FAQ


What Would You Like to Know?

People seemed stunned and curious when I tell them my husband, Brendan, and I met on christiancafe.com, an internet dating site. Usually questions fly as soon as I relate a few of the details like:

  1. He was widowed with three young children and I, divorced with four grown children;
  2. Brendan, who’s from Australia moved here to California, but first we traveled back and forth and dated via Skype
  3. We fell in love long before we ever met in person

 

 

One question leads to another and finally the interested folks I’m sharing with comment, “What a great story! You should write a book. I’d read that.

 

 

 

Questions range from “How did you know what site to try?” to “How did you manage to date from such a long distance?” And, of course, the standard “How did you know he was the one?”

This past week someone asked what we thought when we saw each other for the first time in person. I told her, “As soon as I saw him waiting for me in the airport, I threw my arms around him. (Almost hitting him in the head with my guitar!) We kissed for the first time right then, and my heart felt at home for the first time in my life.”

This week I thought it might be interesting to have readers ask questions. Questions about internet dating or dating in general, questions about our relationship, marriage, profiles, immigration, etc.  I’m open to answering those nagging questions that you wish you could pose to someone. I hope our experience benefits others. Or maybe, you know one or both of us and you’d like to know something specific…

Not only do we have an incredible story, but some of you may also. I’d love to hear from those who have experienced similar situations! What’s your story?

 

 

Meeting Face to Face part 2


Writing last’s week post made me freshly aware of the importance of applying caution to meeting anyone in person. While humor abounds in the anecdotes of online dating encounters, and I have a fairy tale story, the possibility of real danger does exist. Therefore, I want to explore some sobering statistics and how the “red flags” I mentioned last time can help us.

According to the Department of Justice, 4 out of 5 women assaulted (specifically, raped) knew their attacker in some way. We tend to think of rape as being a violent act perpetrated by a psychotic stranger and therefore we may entertain a false sense of security thinking that if we know someone we must be safe. Given the anonymity of internet dating, it behooves us to take care as we communicate with strangers especially when deciding if, when and how we will meet them face to face.

As you’ve discovered, this post leans more to the sober side of internet dating. Concern for people’s potential distress has tempered my writing tonight with the importance of exercising wisdom and relying on God-given intuition. Hence, the deeper investigation of “red flags.”

What are they? Well, here is a list based on my own experiences as well as those of some good friends:

  • Receiving an email recounting the wonderful night you spent together when you haven’t even heard from the person in days or weeks(let alone gone out with them recently)—clue: they are seeing someone else and you might want to let them know that they need to keep their dates straight. While it is not a crime to date more than one person at a time, expect honesty and openness about your dating arrangement.
  • Someone talking about their sexual exploits whether past or current is TMI (too much information for you non-texters) and reveals the baggage they carry. Bragging, boasting or neediness exploits you.
  • Someone you are communicating with continuing to talk about a past relationship discloses their ongoing yearning, not for you, but for another—as my friend says “no one should be anesthesia for someone else’s problems.” That includes their lingering broken heart.
  • People who speak disrespectfully about the opposite sex—for example giving the message that “men(women) are stupid,” or saying things like “when I get him/her trained the way I want them” ; generally, using sexist remarks indicates a misconception of or a “hatred” for the opposite sex, or an insecurity with their own sexuality.
  • Anyone who is controlling. Control in women often manifests in manipulation (think guilt trips, whining, begging, veiled threats); in men it may be more along the lines of violence (raised voice, bullying tone, rough handling like hanging up, grabbing your hand or arm, slamming a door). If someone tells you that you had better think or act a certain way about an issue or about them, you might think twice about continuing the communication!
  • You should be free to pursue a relationship at a pace that is comfortable for you. When someone pressures you into ANYTHING including physical contact, their interest is for themselves not you. If they truly care about you, they will wait patiently for you to feel comfortable and safe with them and with the situation.
  • Beware of charm, and flattery. Mild two sided teasing or bantering can be enjoyable flirtation, but be cautious if the joking is pretentious or too personal.  Using words such as “hottie,” “babe,” or “sexy” is not appropriate, especially if you barely know the person.

Be safe, not sorry. The right relationship is worth waiting for and will feel right. Don’t ignore your intuitive sense that something is off, even if it seems like you can’t pinpoint it. The small nudges of discernment add up to a big payoff when they keep you protected.

If you have been the victim of a crime, including rape, you may find this site helpful: www.stopviolence.com

 

Next week look for….How Do I Know When it’s Real?

Fairy Tales Do Come True


So much can be said about online dating. Technology has taken over our lives and social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace have mushroomed practically overnight. But regardless of whether we meet someone in person, through Facebook or on an internet dating site, some topics remain constant. One is our innate desire for a fairy tale romance. And even guys can get into the happily-ever- after theme.

Our internet dating story proves that fairy tales do come true. You know the kind that only happens in the movies, but never in real life? The type of story I could only dream about with an intense conviction and a deep, unexplained yearning. Don’t most of us? Our story defies everyone who ever told me I was an idealistic, unrealistic dreamer. This IS the fairy tale, happily-ever-after story of love and marriage between two soul mates absolutely made for one another. And I’m not just saying that because it’s my story. Other people have kindly pointed it out to me.

Maybe we need permission to believe in that fairy tale kind of love and marriage. What we subconsciously are convinced of and yet desperately hope to be true can be, in fact, a reality. So, I’m saying it here. Believe it. Have faith that this kind of heady, in-the-movies romance exists and always has, even in spite of our out-of-control divorce rate. It’s not only a possibility, it is a reality. God created it to be that way.

I realize that technically I’m still a newlywed with only a couple of years to my fairy tale credit. You might easily dismiss what I’m saying with a shrug and a wave of your hand, and some comment like “Wait until the honeymoon is over.” But, just for the record, let me assure you that our “honeymoon” ended as soon as we stepped off the plane into the arms of our waiting children; settled into a rental house full of mold that made me chronically ill; tackled step-parenting issues, and talked about finances for the first time. The first two years of married life could easily be classified as one of the most difficult seasons of both our lives. Yes, even including both of the years I went through divorces and the year my family lost everything we owned, not to mention the devastating year Brendan lost his first wife and was left caring for three young children. But, every good story has a climax of impossible conflicts that confines us to the edge of our seat with breath holding anticipation of the resolution. Ours is no different.

And, I believe in miracles. Yes, I believe God is still all about raising-the-dead kind of miracles, but the kind I’m talking about here are the everyday things that really don’t make sense, and shouldn’t happen, but do anyway. Some people call them coincidence, but these “God things” are really just too coincidental and leave us marveling in a perplexed kind of awe. That is what fairy tales are made of, and that is what our story is about–the one that began on a Christian internet dating site a few years ago.

Are You Kidding?


Baby, I want you. IMG_4059

For those of you who have already frequented internet dating sites, you will know exactly what I’m talking about. For those who are still juggling the idea, consider the value of humorous interactions as one of your pros in the decision making process. You wouldn’t believe how some individuals approach the internet dating scene. I suppose it may be equally ludicrous with people at bars, but I can only confess to my experience online.

Let’s start with the men—and  I use men only as the example of my experience, not to be sexist in any way…perhaps women exist who use similar tactics—who in their initial correspondence use the terms: “Oh baby” (Do I know you?); “I want you” (Like for dinner or…?); “I can’t live without you” (Really? What have you been doing all these years?); and “You are my angel” (Sent straight from heaven I suppose).  What response do these men expect from such nonsense? Do people actually reply to those comments?  And what about messages spelled horrifically with no apparent understanding of any language, let alone English? I mean no disrespect, but if you are someone who has been lured by this type of drivel, please know that you were meant for so much more!

Clearly these men are not “in love” with anyone, they simply desire to get something—like money, sex, or a way into the country!

Predators stalking the innocent!

Nonetheless, the possibility of endless pee-your-pants laughter abounds in these situations. One of my friends encountered a suitor that claimed her as his little goldfish, and then referred to himself as a piranha! Really?? Like a girl would be wooed by that line.

Once I was contacted by a Russian scholar-writer-pastor-missile salesman about whom my friend inquired, “Does he do that door-to-door?” We truly didn’t know how someone goes about selling missiles, but we certainly enjoyed a great laugh!

On christiancafe.com, the site I ended up on for about a year, the options for communicating were varied. If you wanted to show interest without corresponding directly, you could wink at someone by simply clicking a button that would send a short general interest message. You also had the choice of either sending a short form email, or a personal email. Generally, I ignored winks because I supposed that if someone was truly interested in me they would take the time to write something.

But when Brendan winked at me, I had already been drawn to him through his profile. Initially, it was his smile that grabbed me, and the fact that he was widowed with three children gripped my heart (more about that in coming blogs). His responses to the questions posed by the site’s profile page delighted and entertained me, and I was so disappointed when I realized he hadn’t finished answering them! So, just a few days after I had enjoyed reading his captivating responses, his wink caused my heart to skip. Really, Lord? Are you kidding me? Really? He’s so far away! Really?? Oh, my gosh.  Beyond thrilled and shedding joyful tears, I took hours to compose an email in reply because of the deep impression on my heart that he might be the “one.” And it turned out that he was.

Online Dating…An Obsession?


Within days of posting my profile online, all I could think about was whether guys would be interested and if so, when, who and for how long?

I was torn over a guy named, Ed*, liking some things, but not certain about others; and another guy, Ron*, appealed to me with his character and personality, but the chemistry seemed to be missing. At least someone was interested, and I devoured every profile. During this time, I realized two crucial things about myself:

I felt starved for someone, and I didn’t feel worthy of anyone. Hawaii

When I began internet dating, I had been single for five years and with the exception of a man who I occasionally hung out with as a friend (even though I hoped it would progress into something more), and a one-time blind date, I didn’t date.

Cumulatively I had endured twenty-one years of wedded despair (with some rare good times) trying to make marriage work and wondering what was wrong with me that drove my ex-husbands to other women. Perhaps they were looking more for sex than love, but in my broken heart (and possibly theirs) those had been synonymous.

I believed that God meant for marriage to be so much more than required sex and a battle of two wills.

I hoped in the idea that someone out there would some day see my heart, my personality, my hopes and desires, and even my occasional opinionated stubbornness  and love it all as a whole package. I imagined that as a result of that intimate connection, lovemaking would follow within the purposeful boundaries of a solid, ever-growing marriage.

However, instead of what I hoped must be true, I had experienced the “if you love me you will…” Hence, sex equaled love, and my search for “love” left me starved.

I actually longed for companionship, partnership, attention and affection; someone who would love me for me and not just for sex. Men of the past had told me I was beautiful, wonderful, attractive and smart, but after twenty-one years and two divorces, I felt like an unattractive, messed up and discarded failure.

Conquered physically, I had been tossed away.

Unfulfilled and lonely, I desperately clung to the Lord with the daily proclamation “You and me, Jesus.” I so badly wanted that to be enough, and I had grown intimately in love with the Lord. I felt him surround me with love and guidance. Nonetheless, I basked in the admiration and seeming adoration of these internet men.

I just wanted to be special to someone.

Day after day I pined for that singular someone, examining each potential prospect. The compulsion to check my computer for messages overtook my life and turmoil ensued. Was I insecure? Looking for a father figure? In love with being in love? Was this an obsession? I wondered. Would I mistake someone’s physical attraction for genuine love and commitment? The patterns that had ruled my life, still threatened to destroy me.

What were my true motives for seeking a mate?

What are your motives in looking for someone online?
 
*not their real names

Online Dating Profiles…


I confess that when I started internet dating, I did so with fear and trembling.

“What are you thinking?” “What are you doing??” I queried myself as if talking to a person gone mad.

However, filling out the questions for the matching process and profile challenged me to consider who I genuinely am, and to be honest with myself and others. After the few days it took to complete all my answers, I understood myself better. My likes, dislikes and characteristic strengths and weaknesses as well as the particular traits I desired in a mate took shape and presented themselves on a profile page. Then came time for the profile picture.

I’ve heard stories of people who actually post a picture of another person on their profile page because they feel unattractive. I decided against that plan of action, but I can understand in part why some people may feel so compelled by a lack of confidence in their appearance. But let’s look at the reality of this scenario. Eventually you will be found out. Simple as that. And if we are truly seeking the person who matches us perfectly, then we want to be completely honest in every way, don’t we? Otherwise, our false facade misrepresents our true self — in fact, we are hidden. How then can the match seeking our soul find us?

By all means, let’s enhance the qualities God has created in us! Ever watch What Not to Wear? While obviously pointing out fashion faux-pas, the hosts of this show actually bring out the true beauty of the participants by challenging their underlying insecurities. Fashion becomes an accessory to accentuate the natural beauty they possess. I’m all for that!

Understandably, it is a little unnerving to post a picture for all to see. Like looking in the mirror, it’s easy to scrutinize every flaw while overlooking any potential positives. I finally donned my best hair, make-up, clothing and smile and had a friend snap a few pictures in my front yard.

What they see is what they get.

I chose to trust that the person who I would want to be with would be someone who saw more than just my exterior appearance. Hopefully they would also catch the twinkle in my eye. Not every work of beauty appeals to everyone. I only needed to appeal to Mr. Right.

Interestingly enough, some months later my parents requested a portrait quality photograph of me for a family picture wall in their house. My front yard photo shoot didn’t exactly meet their requirements so my dad took me to a photographer friend (my dad is friends with everyone it seems). Posing for portrait photos makes me cringe which I’m sure showed in the strained smile and lack of eye twinkle.

At last the photographer looked out from behind his camera.

"Thank goodness!"

“Okay, that’s the last one!”

In relief I threw my head back with a laugh. “Thank goodness!!”

Click.

He captured something relatively beautiful including the twinkle. Dad was delighted. I was pleased enough that when my dad said, “Post that online and you’ll get a guy,” I readily acquiesced.

And so the smile that captivated my future (at that point) husband online was the one captured in that moment. Way to go Dad!

Online Dating Continued…


Where It All Began

I remember sitting in my parents’ living room one night after sharing a delicious meal during one of my rare visits. Naturally, as it usually did, the conversation turned to my struggling, single-parent-of-teenagers life. Twice I had divorced unfaithful men (confessions of another kind), and my parents felt the time had come for me to have another husband – preferably one who cared deeply for me and who could support me in the fashion in which I had been raised as opposed to the one in which I had survived for the previous twenty-two years.

Given my history with men, I was hesitant to dive headfirst into the deep end of the dating pool even if reluctantly willing to consider a third marriage. My parents had an idea of how to launch me back into dating society stating, “You need a man. A nice Christian one with a good job. We have this friend…”

It’s not what you think. Yes, there had been a couple of men they knew who had crossed my path “coincidentally” as a result of my visits to them, but this friend was not someone they thought I should date, he was actually an acquaintance who had founded the well-known, vastly popular internet dating site, eharmony.com, a site that has been harmoniously matching soul mates for more than ten years.

Talk about the deep end, frankly, I thought my parents had gone there in relation to my single status. I considered my life, while challenging, also completely satisfying, and though I had always longed for this person who was my “soul mate,” I still remained a bit disillusioned and skeptical. Still, it had been a few years since my divorce and the healing process was progressing well. Truthfully, I had entertained the idea of meeting someone. Just not online.

I think I chuckled nervously at their seemingly ludicrous suggestion.

“Online dating??”

What did my parents, who barely used computers, know about dating on the internet? However, they seemed pretty convinced and proceeded to relate some stories of people they knew who had actually met and married as a result of trying it. I confess, it peaked my interest, and I went home with the idea rolling around in my mind. A few days later I decided to look up the site “just to see what it was like.” Right. Confession…I was getting hooked on the idea. And it ended up being a good one.