Can faith and online dating mix?

Online dating gives us the unique chance to choose our potential dates — a particularly big challenge for those of us who value religion and a chiseled upper body. No one knows that better than Kerri Pomarolli, author of If I’m Waiting on God, Then What Am I Doing in a Christian Chatroom? In the book, she offers up true tales of her online dating experiences… like clicking on the hotties instead of the guys who shared her faith. Now an advocate for trusting God and using dating sites with a clear purpose in mind, she doesn’t claim to have the recipe for love, but she does have a few guidelines for single Christians online.

Q: What does it mean to be “waiting on God” for love?
A: For me, waiting on God was about getting to a place where finding a husband didn’t run my life. I couldn’t go three minutes without thinking about getting a date, and eventually I took a year-long hiatus from dating, which let me prepare for what God had in store for me. I don’t think we give God enough credit in our dating lives. We’re like, “I’ll do this, Lord, and then You just bless it.” And God’s like, “Hey, Kerri, I parted the Red Sea. I think I can find you a husband.”

Q: What mistakes did you make when you dated online?
A: My heart was totally in the wrong place. I didn’t pray about it. I was never intentional or really thoughtful about online dating. The first time I logged into a dating site was at 2 a.m. after having run into my ex and his fiancée on my birthday. I’d look at the pictures first and skip the profiles if the guys weren’t hot. I wanted an investment banker who looked like an Abercrombie model. But when it came time to pray, those guys thought I was a zealot.
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Q: What are some other unexpected wrong moves people might make?
A: Saving yourself emotionally for marriage is important. For the longest time, I’d spill everything on the first date: Here are my hopes and dreams, here’s my heart. When you break up with me, you can crumple it up and give it back to me. Online, especially, it’s so easy and tempting to be free and not hold anything back. I found out the hard way that you don’t have to be physically promiscuous to be vulnerable. How are you going to feel if you’ve had these soul-searching conversations, and then he stops returning your calls? Also, if you’re obsessive-compulsive about online dating, like I was at times, you might want to have a sponsor. It’s good to have friends who can hold you accountable, so they can ask, “How many hours were you on today?”

Q: What finally changed for you?
A: I started crying out to God for real help and understanding. I changed, and I did it without losing any of the things that God loves about me — not my fun, or my spontaneity, or my spark. I got to six months of not dating, and I was amazed that I was OK when I found myself at home on a Friday night with no date. That’s a secret struggle for so many of us, but God’s message is that He’s there and that we’re never alone.

Q: So how did you finally meet the man you married?
A: One guy I met online became a friend of mine, and he actually introduced me to my husband out in the real world. I met Ron on a comedy trip. He was this token Irish comic, wearing a red Hawaiian shirt, shorts, black socks — the worst! But he and Rich, our mutual friend, prayed for me before the show, and I thought that was the coolest. We became friends. Later, when we were traveling together on another trip, he brought my favorite doughnuts, and we were having a great time laughing and joking. I’d never wanted to date “the nice guy.” By the time that trip was over, I’d fallen for him and was like, “This is crazy, God!” I had been on a dating hiatus for about a year. I’d broken all my rules — never date a friend, never date a comic — but he was just so thoughtful. He called my father to ask for permission to date me. I never give guys like that the time of day, and there’s no way I would have seen Ron in that romantic way if I hadn’t had my eyes on God. But I did!

Jennifer Derryberry Mann is a columnist for Spirituality & Health and the former editor of Science & Spirit. She writes, edits and teaches yoga in Minneapolis.

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