Gregory P. Hoadley
Romance isn’t what it used to be.
Long ago, it was rare for a man and a women who lived far apart to meet and marry. But with the advent of the Internet, that has changed. You can meet your future spouse on dating sites, even if he or she lives in a different area of the country (or even the world). In fact, over a third of the couples getting married today met online.
But as with any venue for meeting one’s future spouse, there is some risk involved with using the Internet, and caution is needed. What, then, are some of the common mistakes to avoid? And what are the proper steps to take, if you look for a future spouse in cyberspace?
What follows are some steps that my wife, Stella, and I took in our journey of meeting one another.
While Internet dating is exciting, it is only going to work if the Lord blesses it. He may lead you to your spouse through, say, eHarmony or Sovereign Grace Singles. Then again, he may not. Either way, you have to trust that he will provide for you in his perfect timing.
Providentially, it worked for us. When we got matched on eHarmony, I was living in Florida, and she was living in Pennsylvania.
Stella initially enrolled, not for herself, but to check out eHarmony before referring it to a friend. And so, Stella stayed up late one night to fill out a profile. When she woke up the next morning, she already had several matches, most of whom were pastors (not me, yet)! When she told her friend, her friend encouraged her to do it for herself. Stella eventually agreed, and signed up for three months. When that was about to expire, she thought to herself, “If I’m going to take this seriously, I should do it for a year.”
She also opened up her options. Previously, she only requested matches in her local area. But Stella concluded that she should expand her search to the continental United States (other people might choose other countries as well, but Stella knew that wouldn’t work for her, financially and logistically). It was then that we were matched up.
Most dating sites require you to fill out a profile, detailing who you are, what your likes and interests are, and what you are looking for in a potential spouse. It is a wonderful opportunity, not only to put your best foot forward, but also to learn more about yourself and your walk with the Lord.
When you fill out your profile, you should always be honest about who you really are. It is wise to ask your family and friends at church whom you respect to read it. Ask them if it is accurate and how you can improve it.
Additionally, you need to be forthright with potential matches. This is particularly important on a site like eHarmony, which constantly sends you matches. Anytime you think a match has great potential, focus only on that person. Just like real dating, you have to be honest. If you see a profile that is intriguing, let your other potential matches know right away; you do not want to lead them on and give them false hope. When I saw Stella’s profile, I had to let another potential match know right away, and she appreciated my honesty.
But don’t forget to have fun in filling out your profile. For instance, I stated that strong biblical preaching was something I cannot live without; but I followed it by listing my favorite coffee drink and sports team. While you should take your profile seriously, it’s also good to show some personality.
You should also be thorough. While filling out your profile can be tedious, it is well worth your effort, given that this may be what the Lord uses to connect you to your future spouse. If you need to finish it later, be sure to note that you are “still working” on it; if you don’t, you may unwittingly communicate that you are not serious.
When I first read Stella’s profile, she was up-front about who she is: Reformed and a member of an Orthodox Presbyterian church. This piqued my interest right away.
When you get sent potential matches, read their profiles thoroughly. If someone is not a Christian, then that is not a match for you (2 Cor. 6:14). If someone is in a different denomination, great discernment may be needed. If you are interested in someone, find out if he or she is teachable.
Many times, Stella and I received matches who said, “I believe in God” when it came to their religious beliefs. This revealed a lack of seriousness (i.e., no mention of Christ). If someone isn’t willing to elaborate on such an important question, then he or she is probably not God’s intended for you.
At the appropriate time, you will also want to ask some important questions: Has that person been previously married? If so, was it a biblical divorce? Does he or she have any children? Is he or she a church member in good standing? While it may be awkward to ask, you need answers to these and other important questions before you get emotionally attached. So be sure to guard your heart, and don’t provide any personal contact information until you know these crucial facts.
If you live far apart from each other, one of you should eventually be willing to move, if the relationship gets serious.
In addition to asking your parents and trusted friends, ask your pastor or elder(s) what they think. They are often left out of this process, but their counsel is very important, since they must give an account of how they watched over your soul (Heb. 13:17).
Gentlemen, even though both of you are paying for the online dating service, take the first step in contacting the woman. When the time is right, you define the relationship, and take the initiative to talk to her parents. Ask for their permission to court their daughter. This shows proper respect. It will demonstrate that you are not hiding, and that your intentions are honorable.
And when you take her out for a date, you pay for it (unless it’s your birthday!). Getting flowers is always a good idea.
Also, go to her pastor. Let him know your intentions. This will show that you want to do what is right in God’s eyes. It will also demonstrate that you are taking the lead in the relationship.
When I did this with Stella’s pastor and parents, it made them want to help us. Her pastor was very helpful to us during the courting process and then in premarital counseling. Her father enthusiastically allowed me to court her, even though they had not yet met me in person (since they live in Korea).
After we were matched up, the process went very quickly. We had our first telephone conversation nearly two weeks later. Our interactions gradually became more frequent. I visited her for the first time in April 2007. After that, we visited each other almost on a monthly basis. We met each other’s friends, worshiped at each other’s churches, and eventually met each other’s parents (mine live in California).
We also read books together on the phone, did a Bible study, prayed, and emailed each other daily. She also drilled me on the Shorter Catechism as I studied for licensure. In short, we learned that while long-distance relationships are challenging, they can work if both parties are willing and have the right mind-set.
Stella and I have now been married for nearly eight years. It has been a wonderful journey. Looking back, we are thankful that this is how the Lord brought us together. We hope that he might graciously do the same for you.
The author is a minister in the OPC. His wife, Stella, contributed to this article. New Horizons, January 2016.