Love At First Site

With a few clicks of the mouse, ladies can browse for their long-awaited knight in shining armor and men can search for their lovely maiden. Unfortunately, they can just as easily find a fire-breathing dragon disguised as the knight in shining armor or a woman who’s anything but lovely. It’s hard to know the difference when you’re browsing for love online.

According to Nielsen/NetRatings, an estimated 21 million Americans—a quarter of all U.S. singles—visited a dating site in December of 2003. Furthermore, Americans spent $313 million on U.S. based dating sites in 2003, and according to Internet market research firm Jupiter Communications, figures may reach $642 million by 2008.

We’ve all heard the stories of teen girls meeting some freaky pervert online. But the large number of marriages that are being formed online reveal that not all relationships formed over the Internet turn sour. One online dating service, eHarmony.com, is determined to see that all of the matches formed through their services are successes. In fact, eHarmony.com Inc. received a U.S. patent in May, which credits the company for having a “method and system for identifying people who are likely to have a successful relationship.” eHarmony’s method: They scan people using a loaded list of questions and aim to find prospective matches for singles whose psychographics and demographics are compatible according to marriage specialists.

However, eHarmony, which charges $250 per year, doesn’t promise wedding bells or even a first date. Researchers turn down one in five people who complete the free questionnaire and, according to the index, aren’t the marrying type. One couple that eHarmony found to be the marrying type is Tim and Jennifer Schmidt, who just tied the knot on April 24. At 32, Tim who is from Wellsburg, Iowa, had come to the point where he wasn’t sure if he would ever be married. He said his original intent was to be married soon after high school, but nothing seemed to work out. Tim feels like his time of singleness was a time in which God tested to see where his heart really was.

“I think it’s important that a person come to a place where you can be content being single,” Tim said. Tim had never even considered the possibility of trying to hunt for a mate on the Internet. “I always looked down big time on any idea of online dating,” Tim said. “It just always seemed to me for people who were desperate and really didn’t care what kind of person they got.”

He would have perhaps never tried online dating if it hadn’t been for the prodding of his father, who heard a Focus on the Family radio broadcast with Dr. Neil Clark Warren, the founder of eHarmony.com, which interested him. Tim hesitantly logged on to eHarmony.com and filled out the complex free questionnaire, which took him two or three hours to complete. He originally decided to see if there were any women compatible to him in the near vicinity.

“I put down anyone within 30 or 40 miles, but there wasn’t anyone there,” Tim said. “I opened it up to anywhere in the state, and I still wasn’t getting any matches.” When Tim decided to search for anyone who was compatible to him in the entire U.S., he started getting more hits. But after about two months of searching, he still hadn’t found the girl he was looking for. “I had decided I was going to unmark the box to re-subscribe,” Tim said. “But it said that it had automatically charged my credit card to sign me up for another month.”

It was two days later that Tim noticed the name of a girl in Oklahoma. He quickly discovered that Jennifer had the type of family values and close relationship with God that Tim was looking for in a wife. He waited six weeks before calling Jennifer on the phone, and during the wait, he took the initiative to make it a family ordeal. “I got phone numbers from her best friend, her brother and her brother’s wife and I used that opportunity to talk to them and find more about (her). I gave her dad a couple of my brother’s phone numbers and let them find out about me too,” Tim said.

Just a short time later Jennifer and her parents went to Iowa to meet Tim. The visit helped the two realize that they were meant for each other, and it was only a matter of a few months before Tim proposed to Jennifer. “Only God could have brought us together,” Jennifer said.

While the Internet helped the Schmidts find true love, they offer precautions to anyone looking for love online. “Don’t go into it unprepared,” Tim said. “Know for sure what you’re looking for in a person, go in with a game plan. Go in with a counsel of friends.”

The Schmidts said they are glad they used eHarmony instead of another online dating service, but they said ultimately, they believe it was more than eHarmony that brought them together. “I think eHarmony has a realization of what it takes to make a marriage work,” Tim said. “But more than eHarmony, I recommend people have a relationship with God and look to Him as they seek a mate.”

Another Christian couple that found love through the Internet is Brad and Julie Sanders. Brad used AOL Instant Messenger to search under the common interest of Christianity and ended up finding Julie. Julie believes his instant messaging her was more than just a coincidence. “I believe that God orchestrates these things,” she said. “I honestly believe God prompted Brad to instant message me that night.”

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But Julie also gave cautions to people using the Internet for dating purposes. “Look under common interests. Don’t give any vital information unless you’re confident who you’re dealing with.”

Both couples stress the importance of taking your time while dating online and relying on the counsel of friends and family. According to a study by sociologists Robert Brym and Rhonda Lenton, 25 percent of online dating said they had given inaccurate information in their online personal ads. You can never know if the person on the other end of the DSL connection is really who they say they are until that relationship, like any face-to-face relationship, grows over time through trust.

God works in mysterious ways, and there’s no doubt that He can use the medium of technology to cause “two to become one.” But just like any other dating relationship, these couples encourage singles to follow Proverbs 4:23: “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is where your life comes from.”

[Lindsay Goodier is finishing up her time at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla. as a journalism major. She has never tried online dating but is a little more open to it after writing this article.]

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