No longer the refuge of the desperate and lonely, virtual dating can be a great way to meet your future spouse.
Online dating services, or online meeting tools, are portals that match applicants with each other by analyzing responses to questionnaires and pairing people with a high level of analogous responses.
In many circles using a dating service used to be considered taboo or at least tacky. It was only for desperate people, those who couldn’t find a suitable partner on their own. Obviously, lots of people were using these services, but no one wanted to admit to it.
Case in point: I recently attended the wedding of a young couple, both of whom came from extremely conservative Catholic families with high standards. I’d witnessed their chaste courtship, admired their all-the-bells-and-whistles ceremony, and was astounded when I went through the receiving line and discovered that they’d met online. They were the last couple I’d ever have expected to use an online dating tool.
After the wedding, I thought about what other couples I know who used an online dating service to meet. I came up with a good number of them, all of whom married their match. I’ve also recently met a few people—young and middle aged—who are currently in relationships that began online. This made me wonder who’s using dating services now and why. The results surprised me.
A web search brought up dozens of online dating sites geared toward a wide variety of demographics, both secular and religious. I interviewed a representative of CatholicMatch.com, the largest and most active website exclusively for single Catholics. Since its founding in 2004, CatholicMatch.com—whose clients range in age from 18 to 80—has seen thousands of couples marry as a result of meeting through their site.
And that’s just the ones they know about, said Robyn Lee. She is managing editor for CatholicMatch Institute, which provides dating and marriage resources for singles, couples, and church leaders. According to Lee, the objective of online dating sites is to get a snapshot view of a potential spouse to get an early indicator of compatibility.
“Many Catholic singles have trouble finding like-minded Catholics and are tired of the club and bar scene,” she said. “Since the internet and social media have become part of our daily lives, extending the reach of online technology into the dating sphere helps Catholics meet faith-filled people that they wouldn’t normally meet,” Lee added.
John and Mary Hathaway met through Ave Maria Singles in 1999 while John was living in Georgia and Mary in Virginia. John is a member of the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites. Mary was considering the convent before they met.
“The great thing about Ave Maria Singles was the detailed profiles,” John said. “We both knew plenty about each other before the first email.”
John’s first email really impressed Mary, and they subsequently exchanged a series of long emails during December, followed by their first phone conversation just after New Year’s Day 2000. It lasted four hours. After another four-hour conversation, them met in person and became engaged the same day. They married in July 2000 and now have four children.
The Escobedo family offers another online dating site success story. “I always wanted to marry and have children,” Cecilia Escobedo said. “I knew I wanted to marry someone who was a true Catholic in all senses, but I was having no luck meeting that person.” Cecilia and her husband, Gonzalo, met through Ave Maria Singles in July 2001.
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