Online Dating for Dummies Part II

On Wednesday, I closed my computer after clicking on that magical PUBLISH button for my last post and my phone started buzzing. “Who could that be?” I wondered dreamily. None other than Mr. NYC of course. Coffee in Central Park on Saturday? Done and done. If I could write a letter to New York City regarding how my time has been these past two weeks, it would go something like this:

Dear New York City,

You’ve been good to me. 

Yours forever,

Em

p.s. Can we get rid of Times Square? It’s dirty and touristy and I don’t like it. We’ll keep the New York Times though.

Now, down to business. Do you have your ice cream? This second post will require something a little more substantial. I’d recommend Ben and Jerry’s Half Baked, or anything with brownies will do.

Story #5 The One Who Broke My Heart and the One Whose Heart I Broke

Stories from my life that I told years ago, I can never tell in the same way again, even if I wanted to. It’s not the story that changes, but the storyteller. The colors of emotion change with it too. I have learned to be so thankful for this as I have experienced a few tough break ups. One in particular comes to mind as my most trying. If I told you the story last year, the color would be grey and the lighting dim and I would be heartbroken all over again. But when I tell it to you now, I think you’ll see more spring. You’ll see that it served an important purpose. And perhaps part of the reason it all happened was for you.

I was dating this guy 2 years ago. He was the first guy who really seemed to see what I saw in the world of travel. We had a lot of fun together and my heart skipped a beat to think that it could lead to something more. It didn’t. It was over almost as soon as it began. I was sad for a little while. Then, he left for one country and I went to Uganda with my dad for two weeks, which ended up being one of the happiest times of my life. I met so many family members there and my outspoken, happy, and wild spirit fit in quite nicely amidst my new Ugandan friends. I felt at home. I am sure that God planned it this way because this time strengthened me and rebuilt me into something slightly different than what I was before the guy. Sometimes God will break us in order to strengthen us into more of what he intended us to be. I became a lot less sad and a lot more free to experience life with abandon. My spirit was awakened again and I returned from that trip with a new attitude towards dating, what I call The-Why-Not Attitude. I signed up for eHarm a couple of weeks later and of course, it was with my best friend and a pint of ice cream that I answered all of those ridiculous questions. I was excited. I was enjoying life. I was free.

It only took a few weeks of checking that inbox to receive one that immediately sparked my interest. He was obviously a writer. He noticed things about my writing that no one else did. He was a traveller too and the same kind as me. He would want to immerse himself in cultures and in families. I couldn’t help but think over and over again as we wrote to each other, “What! You too? I thought no one but myself” (Clive).

We were enraptured with each other. We would sneak away from people and places whenever we received an email. One time, I think he snuck away from dinner at a restaurant and sat on a toilet to read my letter. Another time, when internet was scarce for him, he wrote letters in his journal to take pictures of for me later. We skyped too. For hours. He was travelling a lot for work, so for one solid month while he was in South America, we would skype during the evenings. We read books to each other and even watched a movie together. The quality was terrible, but it didn’t matter. Neither of us could believe the other existed.

And all of this, before we even met face to face. We continued to write and we started planning. He would let me in on his work decisions and started to ask for my opinions. He planned to come and meet my family for Thanksgiving and I was so happy and he was nervous to meet my family, but in a good way he assured me. Ah, if only Ella were here now. I know just what she’d say, “If we’d thought a bit of the end of it when we started painting the to-o-own. We’d have been aware that our love affair, It was too-oo-oo hot no-ot to coo-ool do-o-o-own”  But we didn’t think of it. We were just so taken away by that early phase that we didn’t take our heads out of the clouds for even a moment to see that we were perhaps biting off a bit more than we could chew at this point.

Then it all caught up to us. We had been writing and talking for a little over three months now. Thanksgiving was approaching and with it, all of our hopes and fantasies of what it would be like to be near each other and it was too much and he ended it. The poor guy. He did not intend to hurt me. He was hoping for all the same things as me. He did not intend to woo me and then just run, but that’s how it felt at the time. But I know it broke his heart to break mine. It was shattering for both of us. Completely shattering.

The next morning, I woke up. It was Thanksgiving Day and it was far from what I expected. I was not even sure of how I would survive waking up let alone living happily through the day with my family. Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday and I feared it would be stained. I slipped out of my bed and crept on the cold floor. It was still dark and gloomy outside but the darkness was beginning to walk away from the light. I creaked down the wooden steps and looked out our frosted windows on our white front doors to see what looked like a shimmering down blanket, covering the earth. It was magic. I just thought about that. The snow. The coolness. My blanket wrapped tightly around me. That moment was lovely. That was a good moment. I thanked God for that moment. Next moment. I had to bake my apple pie. Peel those crisp green apples. Make that beautiful, flaky crust. Listen to music. Spend time with my niece. Those moments were beautiful too. I thanked God for those too. Next moment. Next moment. Next moment. I thanked God for all of those.

Now let’s talk. What went wrong? Why did something that seemed so wondrous and magical come to an end? Well, there are probably many reasons, most of which I don’t even know. One reason though is that sometimes things happen and we may never know the fullness of why, but God is faithful and He sees more than we do. After all of this happened, my dad would often say to me, “Don’t discount the hidden hand of God.” And really, this is the best reason of all. Another reason accounts for the difference between men and women. I am still not exactly sure how men are in this area (women aren’t the only mystery), but women’s hearts are touched through an emotional appeal. That’s all that this person and I had. Emotional appeal over and over again. My heart was touched and then it was a lot of responsibility to take care of my touched heart. Add that to not knowing each other in a natural setting and starting immediately with romance instead of friendship and you’ve got a beautiful, but fragile glass castle that is about to be hit by the wind of reality. We only saw the sweet, romantic, beautiful parts of each other. We did not endure any part of life together, not even boredom. Then when a real life family meeting approached, it hit against our glass castle and it shattered. It only took a little bit of wind.

What a good lesson for me to learn! And for him too, I am sure. The danger of staying online too long. Dear one, my hope for you is that you would allow the sweetness and romance that we desire so much to grow out of a trusting friendship that has been built over time and with hard work. And we all know that trust comes with the territory. If you find someone who takes the time to prove his loyal and pure friendship to you, without having to receive all of the benefits that come with intimacy, then perhaps he is someone who is worthy of receiving the benefits of your love, but it should not be given until that friendship has been proved. As Elisabeth Elliot would say, your love has a price tag and you never go on sale. When we start with this attitude, then we spend more time building a strong foundation. We set the cornerstones. We reveal a little more of our heart. We pour the concrete. We show a little more of our feelings. We lay the stones walls. We reveal even more. Until one day, we take a step back to see that instead of a glass castle, we have built a strong and magnificent stone castle…probably in the South of France. And that’s the kind of place you want to live in, run to, and bask in, not a glass building that causes you to fear every time the wind blows.

Story #6 “I Know, It’s Probably not the Best Thing to Put on a Dating Site…”

Every time I have seen this phrase, I think, “oh geez, what could it be?” And I always like what I read after it. Once it was, “I know, it’s probably not the best thing to put on a dating site, but I admire my mom for how she raised my siblings and me.” Are we not supposed to mention our mothers and fathers? Oops. And another time it was, “The most influential person in my life was my late wife. I know it’s sad, and probably not the best thing to put on a dating site, but I’m a much better man because of her.” Why not? Are we calling this kind of thing baggage? When I opened my profile settings to include matches who had children, I actually hoped that there would be widowers who could say something like this about their late wife because like the first comment, it tells me something important. Both of these men have had positive relationships with women they honor the women in their lives. Therefore, it is safe to assume that they would most likely honor me as well. So, I would argue that those comments are actually the best things to put on a dating site, but only if you are looking for a woman who desires to be honored and who would also honor you. We tend to attract people like ourselves.  The widower went on to say that he hopes to meet another woman who will spur him on to be a better man of God. Ummm…ATTRACTIVE!! DING DING DING!! Who wouldn’t want a man like that?

We need a rewiring in our dating brains. We turn dating sites into marketing schemes. We go to our profiles and we fashion people there who will receive the most possible likes/winks/smiles/pokes/whatever, but we fail to make the most important connection with just one person because we omit the intimate truths that truly make us who we are. We hide those things to share later at a specific point in time when it is socially acceptable to admit that you actually like your mom or that you are a widower who had a beautiful wife whom he will and should remember and honor forever.

Story #7 How We Wish It Would Always End

I met Michael on a site called Coffee Meets Bagel. We decided to meet up for..you guessed it. Ice cream. Duh! And not just any ice cream, but East Coast Custard. The date went well. Michael was kind and quite the gentleman, but we didn’t really have anything in common. We enjoyed each other’s company, we laughed and we learned about each other and had genuine interest in the other person’s life. A few days later, I got a text from him saying that he was open to hanging out more and I wasn’t interested so I decided to try a little experiment. Women usually have the hard time of not being straightforward with men when they just aren’t that into them. We close doors but leave windows open because we assume that they’ll be hurt like us. But then we just end up hurting them more. I decided to be straight forward, just to see what would happen. My return message read like this: “Hi Michael, thank you for treating me to ice cream the other day. I had a great time getting to know you. I don’t see this going any further, but I appreciate the time you gave me. I hope you do get to go to South Africa one day and good luck with your family’s company.” After I sent this I was pretty nervous. I’d never been so straightforward before and I confess, I was afraid his feelings would be hurt. Then I received his response: “Hey Emilie! Thank you so much for being honest with me! I think you’re a great girl and I had a nice time too. Good luck with everything!” I was so encouraged. We didn’t owe each other anything more than respect and honesty and that’s what we gave to each other. 

As we meet people, I think honesty is the best thing that we can give each other. Don’t sugar coat or wait to long to say and definitely don’t leave people hanging. That is just immature and unkind. It doesn’t matter if you went on one date or 10. When someone gives you their time, you owe them some honesty. The discomfort that it takes to be straightforward is the least you can give to someone who is genuinely interested in you.

Phew. That was a lot. We got through it together though. Now go and enjoy some Ella for me. I’ve got dinner plans to get to and in the morning, I’ve got the continuation of what could be another little fun story in the making, no matter how it turns out 😉    

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Online Dating for Dummies Part II

Online Dating for Dummies Part 1

Yes, for you. Online dating for YOU!

After a couple of years of clocking in to the online dating job from time to time, I have racked up some good, some bad, some funny, and some downright ugly examples of online daters. A friend mentioned that I should write about some of my experiences because sometimes they really do seem to just jump out of a book. I was toying with the idea of writing a dos and don’ts list for the online dating impaired but really, if we’re being honest, we are all a little impaired. Online dating can be awkward, unnatural, and downright confusing. And since we are being honest, it’s not just an online problem. It’s an offline problem too. We can’t seem to relate to people in real and meaningful ways in our everyday lives. Even when the connections present themselves in natural, face to face situations, we still choose the awkwardness of an online photo and profile.  Is this less of a risk perhaps? And since when was relating to people so risky? Or rather, when was that risk not totally worth it? 

While I was in Fiji, Ira and I were perusing the aisles of eHarmony, as girls will sometimes do, and one of the boys walked past and saw the rows of pictures and asked what we were doing. Ira smartly replied, “Shopping.” Well, we thought the conversation would end there when he continued after catching a glimpse of one specific match, “Well, what does he sell?” “Erm…”

Needless to say, the dating scene is uncomfortable for many of us out there, but why not try to make it a little less strange and a little more encouraging. Yes, you read that right. Encouraging. Because as much as I have been discouraged from online dating, I have also had extraordinary moments that have given me hope for my generation in the realm of relationships. Moments when I met great guys, even if they weren’t my guy.

So, grab your pint of ice cream ladies. And gentleman, grab some paper and pencil. You may want to take notes 😉

Story #1 Random Guy Whose Name I Don’t Remember (The Guy You Don’t Want to Be)

I got back from school a few nights ago and decided to check my inbox on eHarmony. Maybe that cute guy from New York wrote me back! Maybe he noticed how smart and extraordinary I am. Well boo, the New York guy didn’t write me back, otherwise, I’d be on a date instead of writing this post! But…dun dun DUN! Guess who did write to me! A guy whose name I can’t remember. Why can’t I remember his name? Read his email and you tell me:

Hi! You’re about to be impressed I’m sure 😉 Here are a few worthy details about me: -Rescued orphans from burning buildings -Toppled fascist regimes for the sake of the oppressed -Single-handedly defeated an alien invasion for the sake of all humanity (you’re welcome) I can personally guarantee all of the above is unverifiably true. Here is some boring stuff: -Looking for something long term. I know I am a sexy beast but not on here for that so please contain yourself -Good job! If you want to know what my interests are, just ask!

Well, where to start! First, thank you, I did do a good job containing myself. I feel very proud. Second, unverifiably? Not a word dude. Unverifiable, but not unverifiably. But you didn’t know you were talking to a linguist so I’ll let that one slide. Third, I would love to answer your questions about me…oh wait. You didn’t ask any questions about me. You showed zero genuine interest in me. You did however show that you are very interested in yourself and wow, I get to ask you questions about you if I want. Not a great first impression. Fourth, women who will make for great friends and future wives are not interested in your laundry list of accomplishments. Whether you are trying to be funny or not, we care more about your character and your genuinely tender heart.

And how can you reveal your character and tender heart you might ask, guy who is taking oh so many notes? It can be as simple as what this next guy did in story #2.

Story #2 Random guy who I will probably write to later tonight (The Guy You Want to Be)

Even though Mr. NYC didn’t write back to me…yet…another man did and he showed his character in a simple and modest way with this email:

Hi there! Have you been to the Cleveland Botanical Gardens yet this summer? They have a collection of treehouses installed that look really impressive. Seems right up your alley. 🙂 How are you enjoying teaching first grade? My mother finished up her teaching career in first grade. She had been teaching third prior to that, and when she told her third graders at the end of the year that she was moving to first, they were all upset because they thought she was being demoted! She loved first grade because she saw such a huge progression in her students’ reading ability from the start of the year to the finish. -Random guy who I’ll probably write to later tonight

Notice anything different here? A world of difference, right? He obviously read my profile, he shows genuine interest in me, and he spoke warmly about his mom. Three gold stars for guy #2! This kind of email actually makes me inclined to hear about his accomplishments because I am sure he has them, but he did not feel the need to boast of them. Instead, he started a conversation with me. Simple as that. He made it easy for me to respond by asking two questions, one that made a connection to something that I like and one that made a connection to what I do.

Man on the other side of this computer screen, if you want the girl to write back, make it easy for her in this same way. 

And maybe you are already doing this and just aren’t getting a response from anyone. Take heart! I know it’s tough for guys too. We girls can be a major let down when we don’t notice the good ones. I’ve heard my brother’s stories too and I pray that we can all hold on to hope. We don’t need twenty. We just need one. In the Lord’s timing.

Story #3 I Got Matched with the Same Guy Again!

Oh wait, no. You’ve just seen this same photo over and over again. You know the one, with the guy, smiling and holding the big fish that he just caught.

Top three photos that guys post onto their profiles:

  1. Look at the fish I just caught!
  2. Look at me standing next to my cool red, fast, car!
  3. Look at me…in my bed??

The photos that we actually want to see:

  1. This is me with my family on my mom’s birthday.
  2. This is me living in another country during that year after college.
  3. This is me, NYC guy with dimples…

Okay, the last one was a joke. But in all honesty, we are looking to see a life outside of things and toys. We are looking to see if you have people in your life whom you care about and who care about you. We are looking to see if you have interests outside of work and we are looking to see if you love life and if you can think deeply. Show us these kinds of photos. I know you’ve got them.

Story #4 The Second Andrew

I get matched with a new Andrew everytime I log on to my profile and I’ve dated TWO of them so far! While I was getting to know the second Andrew, he spoke about his small group and how many young people attend his church. Andrew and I lived 2 1/2 hours away from each other so I just had to ask, “Why don’t you date any of the girls from your church?” His response was, “Well, what if something went wrong? That would be really awkward.”

Hmm. Yes, that could be awkward and it would be a challenge for sure, but what if things didn’t go wrong? Or better yet, what if you took the chance, things went wrong, and you both grew beautifully out of something so hard?

Andrew and I had zero friends in common. We would drive far to see each other every weekend and we had zero accountability. That led to some dangerous moments here and there between a cute blonde girl and a tall, muscular hockey player. We also never had the gift of getting to know each other surrounded by the people who know and love us best and for me, that is no way to get to know a potential best friend/boyfriend/spouse. It didn’t make sense to me that he would pass up some great girls who were already in his circle of friends. That could lead to something wonderful. He would have accountability, friends to be honest when it wasn’t a good fit and honest when it was. And this actually provides more safety as I consider the hearts involved. If you have people looking out for you, they will help you to relate to each other appropriately and with caution as you progress through the getting to know you process. If we are going to ever learn how to relate well in potential relationships, we need help from the ones who know us best. I don’t think that this is an endeavor to process alone. That is why Ira joined in on the online shopping process with me. She was able to say, “NO, pass that guy up!” or “Oooo, that could be a good one for you.” I need the help of those around me as I date just as I need help in every other area of my life.

Story #5 The One Who Broke My Heart and the One Whose Heart I Broke

To be continued…mwah ah ah.

Tune in on Friday to hear more stories that I hope we can all learn from, but until then, post your own fun, crazy, encouraging dating stories in the comment section or shoot me an email with your funny tales.  

Online Dating for Dummies Part 1