Online dating—it’s one of the deep, dark secrets of my youth. Ok, well, maybe it’s not that deep or dark, but it is one of the facts about my life that is not widely known. Until now, that is. My foray into the world of dating websites was made somewhere between my first and second year of graduate school, right about the time when I decided that the dating pool at my college was hopelessly dried up. It seemed like a good idea at the time…
But my online dating adventures are not what this post is about. We’ll save that for another episode.
Internet dating didn’t exactly work out for me, but more and more Christians are “using a mouse to find a spouse” with good success. Yet in spite of the growing popularity of online dating, many singles still hesitate to sign up out of fear of becoming tangled in the unknowns that may await them on the other side of the world-wide web.
It is for those singles that Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott have written their little book dot.com Dating: Finding your right someone online—Avoiding the liars, losers, and freaks. As psychologists with years of experience in marriage and family relationships, the Parrotts describe themselves in the book as being “dedicated to seeing the divorce rate reduced dramatically in our lifetime and seeing stronger and more vibrant marriages, particularly among Christians.” They are enthusiastic supporters of online dating when it takes place in the context of faith-based websites designed to carefully match singles seeking serious relationships. In the introduction of the book, the Parrotts explain that through their research they became so convinced of the merits of such dating sites that they cofounded one of their own, MyRightSomeone.com.
In Part One of dot.com Dating, the authors deal with a number of myths often connected with online dating—the idea that it carries an embarrassing stigma, that it’s reserved for the desperate, that only weirdos populate such sites, etc. As they cover these topics, the Parrotts provide wise advice by encouraging readers to check their motives before signing up, to avoid poor means of decision making (e.g.,“putting out a fleece”), and to avoid isolation by seeking involvement with Christian community as well as by soliciting biblical guidance from church leaders during the dating process. Along the way, the Parrotts share numerous statistics and interesting anecdotes, all of which make for quick and enjoyable reading.
The second part of the book consists of a series of chapters designed to help readers answer the question, “Is Internet dating right for me?” It is at this point that the book really breaks down for me, because although I’m sure the authors’ enthusiastic promotion of online dating is sincere, it does bear a strong resemblance to a sales pitch. The Parrotts describe online dating as the solution for those “tired of waiting for love,” the way to “instantly and dramatically increase your chances for love,” a way “to use time and money wisely” and to “safeguard yourself from emotional pain and danger.”
Although I could quibble with a number of details about these claims, there is an even more pressing concern about the Parrotts’ portrayal of online dating. On more than one occasion, they state that online dating “puts you in the driver’s seat” and they emphasize that online dating will increase your chances of meeting your future mate. Although the authors also reference God’s will in the book, the overwhelming impression given in dot.com Dating is that online dating can give you control over finding “the one.”
For example, in Chapter Seven, the Parrotts say:
If you’re growing weary of waiting to find your right someone, you don’t have to keep waiting. Online dating has little to do with waiting. It puts you in the driver’s seat, helping you to be proactive about the fate of your dating life. You don’t have to sit home alone on Friday nights. And you don’t have to date duds just because your options are drying up. Online dating can broaden your prospects and help you find the someone you’ve been looking for.
Such counsel can be incredibly dangerous for the Christian single who is already struggling to trust the Lord while she waits on His plan. Waiting is an ongoing part of the Christian life, and as many women who waited longer for their wedding day than they would have planned will tell you, “It was all worth the wait.” Of course, I agree that singles shouldn’t be encouraged to sit at home and wait for God to deliver a husband to their door, but they should never be tempted to believe that the fate of their dating life is ultimately in their hands. I was disappointed by the Parrotts’ failure to emphasize the sovereignty and providence of God in regard to the timing of marriage.
Another issue of particular concern is the fact that the Parrotts encourage women to feel comfortable in the role of the initiator:
Online dating puts you in the driver’s seat. This is particularly important for women. You no longer have to feel as if you’re sitting around passively waiting for a guy to make the move. It’s cool for anyone to initiate contact when it comes to online dating.
While I realize that the issue of initiation becomes more complicated in the online dating world, I would still counsel a single woman to give men a chance to take up their God-given role as leaders even before the relationship begins. God won’t allow a woman to miss “the one” simply because she chose to trust Him to work out His will in His way. Regardless of how the culture may change, biblical roles for men and women retain timeless importance.
I believe the Parrotts have good motives in sharing their belief that online dating makes it easier for singles to meet the right person and establish successful marriages, but their neglect of God’s sovereignty and the vital role of the gospel in their counsel on dating and marriage is a glaring problem. Yes, science and psychology can make predictions about the success or failure of marriage relationships based on moral values, personality traits, and communication skills, but what they cannot do is to reckon the incalculable difference that God’s grace makes within the covenant of marriage.
In the realms of dating and marriage, we must never place our hopes for success on anything (not even the most sophisticated technology or scientific findings) other than the gospel of Jesus Christ. Only He can transform sinners into soulmates. In conclusion, while I do believe God uses online dating to bring certain couples together, I am unfortunately unable to recommend dot.com Dating as a guide to be used during that process.
Tyndale House Publishing provided a complimentary copy of dot.com Dating for this review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255