One of my friends just joined one of those fancy dating sites. I was all for it. He’s an import to the city he lives in now, doesn’t know a lot of people to recommend potential girlfriends, and he’s pushing 30, which makes everyone nervous cause there’s some kind of cosmic rule that if you’re not married by 30, you might be a little weird. Or have too many cats. There’s no research to back this up, but because people’s mothers tell them it’s true, it must be. 

Rewind six, maybe seven years, and I felt a little judgy and suspicious of friends who met people on the internet. “Don’t you want your relationship to be more authentic and serendipitous?” I thought haughtily. “Like the movies?” 

This from a girl who, at the time, hadn’t dated anyone for more than a few consecutive months. I was a professional breaker-upper. So yes, I was giving out my dating advice for free. I wasn’t going to be getting paid, that’s for sure.

Since then, two of my friends have found their true loves over the broadbands. Strange as it seemed to me in my BM life (that’s Before Marriage), five point five years of being with Josh (and four and a half married) showed me that love is not quite so spontaneous.  In fact, love in committed relationships, especially once you’ve made the big leap into marriage, requires a significant amount of intentionality. Affairs happen “spontaneously”; people grow up apart in marriage for lack of discipline and purpose in the every day. Getting together and staying together is more successfully when you actually try.  

So it’s really not so strange that you would intentionally look for someone on the interwebs if you’re going to spend the rest of your life trying to intentionally love, honor and respect them, as long as you both shall live.

[Photo cred:]

A couple things that might make internet dating a little funky:
1. Meeting Mr/Ms Right is harder since your new flame is out of context. You probably don’t have mutual friends to spend time with so you can easily get all wrapped up with just him or just her for lack of having others you both know to pal around with. But this happened to Josh and I when we started dating, and we had no lack of mutual friends. There’s that intentionality thing again. If you don’t have mutual friends, inviting your new significant other into your world and your friendships is the best way to solve that problem. Plus it keeps you from being “that guy” who goes off with his girlfriend and forgets his friends. Not cool. (Same is true for girls.) 

2. Then there’s the fact that you simply don’t have a reference on this person. This one is the hardest. It’s nice to meet a friend of a friend and you have this automatic recommendation. A wink and a thumbs up from someone you trust. If you don’t work out, it’s usually not too big of a deal. But of course, it could be awkward if you’re going to see that person at parties later. With internet dating, your “connecting friend” is really a computer, patching together common interests and demographics like it’s in stats class. No emotions, no winking, just data. That kind of sucks since we’re dealing in humans here, but you’re far less likely to run into a bad one-time date at a party if you met him or her in the cyberworld.

3. And of course, there’s just the fact that people can paint such a lovely (ahem, fake) picture of themselves online. I mean, we all do this when we’re dating, but if you’re meeting online, you run the risk of meeting the person as they are now, when their profile picture is from early college before they took up drinking heavily and quit their gym membership. There’s an awkward moment. But goodness knows everyone fakes it the first few months of dating. Why else would you spend the first year in total bliss with almost zero conflict? (Well, I hear other people do this. As two oldest children with a stubborn streak, Josh and I had our share of spats during the magical first years.)

So there you go. Solid reasons to date online, and legitimate rationale to explain away the fears and annoying commentary from nay-saying friends and family. 

You’re welcome. Happy meeting-your-soulmate-on-purpose.