Just because you’re on a Christian dating site doesn’t mean that everyone you meet there will share your views on love, sex and marriage, says Abigail Thomas. In fact, her research showed just the opposite


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Jo* is in her 20s, and is a community worker in Birmingham. She was signed up to a Christian dating site by a friend as a birthday present. “It felt like a slightly offensive gift,” Jo said, “but I thought: Maybe God can work through this.” Once her profile was set up, she started making connections; some conversations were relaxed, others were very odd.

She exchanged numbers with one man who sent off-key karaoke voice notes, recited poetry and invented rhymes about her name. More worryingly, other potential (Christian) suitors went straight to marriage and sex. “Within minutes of our first call, one man stated that he needed a wife and said he wanted me in his bed.” Jo blocked him after he wouldn’t stop sending messages and inappropriate photographs.

When she began what seemed like a promising relationship with Ben*, there were enjoyable walks and a picnic in the countryside. When Ben picked Jo up in his car one evening, she was expecting a romantic moonlit stroll. Instead, he pulled into a lay-by and laid his seat flat. The next day, Jo explained to Ben that she had “felt scared, had no mobile signal and I didn’t know where I was.” He apologised, but made an excuse for his behaviour.

A Christian ethic

We may assume that the people we meet on Christian dating sites will share our views on sexual ethics, but this may not be the case.

Vicky Walker is author of Relatable (Malcolm Down Publishing), a book based on a “real life love” survey of 1,500 people, most of whom were still Christians, although some had left the church after bad experiences. She remarks: “What was really prominent overall was the wide spectrum of behaviours from people who called themselves Christian.” The survey discovered that there was an exact split between Christians who waited, or planned to wait, until marriage to have sex, and those who didn’t (40.6 per cent each).

Half of the respondents agreed with the statement that: “Christian culture emphasises abstinence over teaching about healthy relationships”. But perhaps the most disturbing finding was that a quarter of those surveyed had experienced unhealthy sexual or romantic behaviour from people who called themselves Christians.

There was an exact split between Christians who planned to wait until marriage to have sex and those who didn’t

According to research published by King’s College London last week, a fifth of British males aged 16-29 (Gen Z) look favourably upon Andrew Tate, a self-identified misogynist famous for creating online content that teaches men methods for coercing women into having sex with them. Jo’s experience should wake us up to the tragedy that this isn’t just happening outside the Church; there are some men on Christian dating sites who share his views.

Jo did have some positive dating experiences. One new Christian was “very respectful and was on fire for the Lord.” His strong opinions on flat earth and Covid meant the relationship wasn’t compatible, but left Jo feeling hopeful. But how do you avoid disastrous dates? Here’s some top tips:

1. Don’t assume the person shares your views on sex

When pornography and sexualisation is the norm, don’t assume that just because someone is a Christian, they will automatically hold the same views on sex as you. In Jo’s experience, Christian men found abstinence as difficult as non-Christian men. Have a conversation about boundaries at an appropriate point.

2. Don’t over-invest in a relationship before you meet

Amy met her husband, Mike, on a Christian dating site five years ago. After a few phone calls, Mike suggested a date. “I was relieved because I think you can tell a lot from meeting someone. I didn’t want to build up a fanciful idea of what someone was like through texts and phones.”

3. Don’t be too intense

For Amy and Mike’s first date, they played crazy golf. “Mike is very shy,” says Amy. “It was good to go on a date where we didn’t have to sit across from each other, instead we were laughing about bad golf shots!”

For Jo, an ideal date involves “a big fat laugh, and someone who is open, and doesn’t put too much pressure on you.” Think off-key karaoke is a winner? Think again. Writing poems after a first date? Just odd. Take a step back and ask: “Am I being too much?”

4. Don’t take things too far, too fast

Jo got to know George* by phone for a month before travelling over 300 miles to meet him in person. George paid for Jo to stay in a hotel, while he stayed at home. When he took her to church, he introduced her as his girlfriend, to Jo’s great surprise: “We hadn’t even had that conversation!” After hearing an argument with his parents, Jo felt the relationship wasn’t going to work, but when she explained this to George, he became angry, shouting at her on the phone for 20 minutes. “It was only the first time we had met,” says Jo. “I certainly wasn’t ready for the level of commitment he wanted.”

5. Don’t think dating is the be all and end all

After all, says Jo: “The Bible teaches that marriage won’t last into resurrection life!” Instead seek out friendships that are going to draw you closer to Jesus. And ask yourself: How are you drawing those around you closer to God?

6. Don’t push others into dating

Trust people to make their own judgements and don’t sign someone up to a dating site without their consent. Jo says she has even been warned that her body clock is running out! Don’t be that person.

7. Don’t ignore red flags

Do they want you to get married and have children together immediately? Do they suggest you leave friendships behind to focus solely on them? Do they tell you what they want you to wear? Do they say: “If you really love me then…”

These are warning signs of an abusive relationship. In healthy relationships, couples spend time apart and together, have their own interests and friendships, and are free to make their own choices. As with sex, don’t assume that these warnings don’t apply to Christians. Unfortunately abuse happens in Christian relationships too.

8. Don’t be closed minded

Amy says: “I had to get over my idea of online dating as a last resort. In the Bible, there are only two instances where God tells someone who to marry: Joseph and Mary, and Gomer and Hosea. Other times, he guides people. God gives us a choice.”

Dating should be a fun way to meet new people, enrich your life and explore the possibility of commitment. The contrast between how we may assume Christians would behave and Jo’s experience should shock us - and push us towards more accountability and openness about how single people are treated, as well as better teaching in the Church about healthy relationships.

Jo won’t be signing up for another dating site any time soon, but she is still open to finding someone special. But for now, she is trusting God: “If I end up meeting someone, great. But if I don’t, I’ll continue to plug into what God has for me.”

*names have been changed