There's no doubt that the Internet has changed modern life. In the blink of an eye, we can look up obscure information, order groceries, or connect with old friends. With the advent of dating apps, even true love is at our fingertipsor so we're told. But how can single Christians find their way from that first swipe right of interest on an app to long-lasting, God-honoring love?
Kristin Fry has her share of laugh-out-loud and cringe-worthy dating app stories, and she knows the fatigue that can come with digital dating. Despite the instant gratification that some dating apps advertise, true relationships are more than an interaction based on first impressions on a mobile device. In a warm, conversational style, Fry tackles a broad range of topics from evaluating profiles to first dates to maintaining healthy peer friendships even while dating. Kristin mines her own experience in the dating world but also includes insights from interviews with thirty married couples, and in-depth biblical study from Abraham and Sarah, the life of Jesus, the letter of Ephesians, and more.
This isn't just another how-to book for finding Mr. Right; this is a guide to help single Christian women navigate the new normal without forgetting their genuine identity in a God who loves them. By the end, digital daters will have the right tools for dating welland know that God's best is possible.
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About the Author
Kristin Fry is a speaker, writer, and consultant with nearly twenty years of ministry experience with twenty-somethings. She lives in Atlanta, where she serves with North Point Ministries. This is her first book.
Read an Excerpt
Everybody's Doing It
Everyone who's a fan of gymnastics remembers the 2016 Summer Olympics. They generated such widespread media coverage and notoriety it was hard to miss the news coverage, even if you don't like sports.
One event that didn't generate cheering and tear-filled eyes during gold-medal ceremonies, yet attracted plenty of attention: the surge in swipes among athletes during the Rio games. It's unfortunate that at a time when the country's Olympic celebrations should have centered around athletic performances and achievements, the media, instead, hyped the number of "hookups" happening among the athletes. Tinder reported a 129 percent increase in matches in the Olympic Village alone after the first weekend of the games. At the risk of making an unfair assumption, the intent of the majority of those matches likely didn't extend beyond a few hours. That's one unfortunate reality of dating apps.
Yet, dating apps aren't going anywhere. Well, let me rephrase that. Dating apps are going somewhere: up. By 2015, the mobile dating industry was generating more than $2.2 billion in annual revenue, with one in ten adults averaging over an hour daily on a dating site or app — numbers expected to continue increasing. Single men and women want to share their lives with someone. It's that simple. The result? We are willing to seize just about any opportunity that will help us find love.
When you think about it, our drive for this forever kind of love isn't that surprising. God created all humans for companionship, to do life with our friends and family (or framily), and ultimately, to do life intimately with just one person. In the Old Testament, Moses penned the following from God: "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him" (Gen. 2:18).
You and I were created by a relational God. In the very beginning, God hardwired us for relational intimacy. Because we were created in the image of God, to be a reflection and representative of God's nature and character, it makes sense that we would also reflect the way he is in relationship with himself, with us, and with the world. Even if you've had past experiences that have clouded your view of marriage, I still believe that somewhere inside of you, you think it's possible to fall in love and stay in love. Forever. And you want it to be possible for you. I believe God designed you like that.
It's no wonder numerous little girls dream of growing up and becoming wives and mothers. Maybe that was you too. Maybe it wasn't. For me, that was never my sole focus. It was a dream, but not my only dream. I have always been highly ambitious, and I hope my career is the platform where I can best steward my influence. That said, I also have an equal longing to meet a man who will partner with me, and I with him. The point in telling you that is this: wherever you fall on the spectrum of desire for marriage and companionship, it's okay. There is no right and wrong way to view your longing. It's okay, and it's normal.
It's also okay if you're looking into dating apps to find a genuine relationship with the hope of marriage. That's why you're reading this book, right? But before we go any further, there are a few things I want you to know in this chapter. First, you're not alone. Maybe you're embarrassed by the idea of going on Bumble. You may wonder if people will think you're desperate, or if they'll make assumptions about your intentions. If no one else is telling you this, then I want you to hear it from me: there are plenty of people on dating apps who, like you, are trying to live like Jesus and are also looking for forever love. It's also no secret that apps have changed the way people date, in ways that some of the generations before us have never experienced. This is okay too. Dating apps have brought both positive and negative changes to the dating scene. It's important to understand this if you're going to honor God in your relationships, respect yourself, and know what to look for in a match.
The Reputation of Dating Apps
I believe that the intent behind dating apps is good. What single girl wouldn't want as many options as possible if it will increase her chances of meeting the guy she's going to marry? However, the word dating can be applied rather loosely to certain situations.
But it doesn't have to be like that.
I do believe, though, that some of these less-than-ideal reputations of dating apps have caused Christians and non-Christians alike to be hesitant to disclose their use of them. In particular, I've spoken with very few twentysomething single girls who feel comfortable acknowledging they have a dating app on their phone. More specifically, they certainly don't want to confess their current boyfriend is the result of a swipe. At least not initially. One girl who met her boyfriend through an app told me, "After meeting my boyfriend, I was embarrassed when people asked how we met. I always darted around the question. I thought people were going to judge me."
Listen, I get it. People can be overly generous with their judgmental opinions. In turn, this causes us to exercise more caution than normal around topics that feel deeply personal and vulnerable. I've known plenty of girls who've begun a relationship with a guy they've met on an app. And of course, when you're in a new relationship, everyone wants to know, "How did you meet?" That's on the list of top five questions others ask when you start dating someone. More than one girl I've known has answered the question with a straight-up lie. For her, it felt like less of a risk to make up a story than to tell the truth. Because deep down, there is a fear for some women that being on a dating app means you're desperate.
What's Your Story?
I'm guessing you can relate to that fear — or at least know someone who can. I've worked with thousands of young single Christian women over nearly two decades. As a result, I've heard hundreds of stories about dating, relationships, and dating apps. Everyone has a story about how a dating app ended up on their phone. After all, apps just don't appear on smartphones. They are not preloaded when you purchase your phone from the store. You actually have to make a conscious decision to go to the app store, choose what you want, and download it. Maybe it was that time you swore you'd never get on an app — but you did. Or the time you said you'd never go out with anyone you met that way — and you did. For some of you, it was your New Year's resolution to date more. Or to date period.
The contexts are different, but the bottom line is the same: "Dating apps were not for me, but I decided to try it because [fill in the blank]." After all, it's hard to meet new people. You can only change your traffic pattern so many times before you run out of options. Let's face it. Even Waze is only going to give you so many new routes before you have to face reality: you're going to sit in traffic. There is nothing wrong with wanting to meet and date new people in hopes that maybe, just maybe, he will be your happily ever after.
So, you go for it. You download the app. You swipe right. So does he. It's been a long time since you were this excited about a first date. Or maybe this is your first date and your stomach is filled with butterflies and nervous anticipation thinking about the what-ifs? The date goes well. You float through your front door on a pillow of clouds. The next day ... nothing. The day after ... nothing. And, just like that, you feel more defeated than before you got on the app.
So you open up your phone and start swiping. But this time there is added pressure. Even though you both swipe right, you are now aware that there are still hundreds, if not thousands, of other options — all within a finger's reach. Maybe I should change my picture, change my interests, or rewrite my profile. Is this really the best photo of me? I look pretty, right? Will someone else think so? Within seconds, all these thoughts flash through your mind. You rotate a few pictures to the front and keep going. Because deep down, you are hopeful that happily ever after might still exist for you. But some days, it feels like it might not. I get it.
Or maybe you were just curious. Your friends were using the apps and they seemed to be having fun. They were meeting guys outside of their normal traffic patterns and friend groups. Dinner conversation among your friends increasingly revolved around whatever guy someone was messaging or going out with. It may have felt like hype to you, but you still wanted to know what it was all about. In fact, I'd bet that you know someone who met their husband through a dating app. And if you were being completely honest, a part of you felt like you might be missing out on something. So you thought, "Why not give this a shot?"
It seemed as though you had met every single guy within a fifty-mile radius. You were seeing the same faces, it was the same scene, and you thought, "Is this all there is?" Or maybe no one was asking you out. Ever. In fact, dating wasn't something you were comfortable with because you'd never done it. It was embarrassing. Family gatherings were all the same: "Are you dating anyone?" No. Still no. Just like the last time you asked. You spent Friday nights (and many Saturdays) on the couch with a chick flick. You prayed, you hoped, and you waited. Nothing. You thought, "God, am I doing something wrong?" As a single person, it can feel like a lot of pressure to try and put yourself out there.
For some of you, you never imagined being single at whatever age you are. Others of you love being single right now and dating is part of the fun. I remember, when I was nine years old, sitting in the bed of my dad's old pickup truck with my best friend. My dad had a camper shell that went over the bed of the truck, with a few shag carpet benches to sit on. It was the eighties; what can I say?
For whatever reason, my best friend and I loved to hang out in his truck on Saturday afternoons. We'd listen to Madonna on cassette tapes on our mini boom box and dream about the future. I distinctly remember saying that I would be married with two kids by the time I was twenty-five. That would give me plenty of time to get one or maybe two degrees and start my perfect career. That's how my nine-year-old brain worked. It never once crossed my mind that life would not work like that. Spoiler alert: it didn't.
I could go on with lists of reasons for downloading dating apps, but you get the point. We are motivated to do things because we have an expectation of a certain result. The same rule applies to how we date and who we date.
It's Not the Same Anymore
However you found yourself on dating apps, with more than twenty-five hundred apps to choose from, dating can still be challenging. As a culture we're constantly learning how dating apps are changing the way we date. Ironically, in attempting to simplify our world through technology, we've unintentionally added new layers of complication. For example, most of us have had the experience of meeting a guy we were not initially attracted to, but as we got to know him, he became incredibly attractive. Likewise, a lot of us have had the opposite experience. When you decide to take your dating life online, getting to know someone first feels like a luxury of the past that is no longer afforded to you. Instead, you get one profile pic to communicate everything you want to communicate about yourself. Choose wisely.
To make complicated matters worse, everything on the internet seems to live forever, including my Turkey Trot race time from 1998. When you create your online dating profile, you're also making a decision to allow your personal life to be permanently searchable for the rest of recorded human history. If you are hearing that idea for the first time, let me repeat myself: dating online means you are now publicly and forever documenting your private life. Be careful. (Ah, the things we do for love.)
I've spoken with many married men and women about dating apps. They typically listen with wide eyes and open mouths, since they have a hard time wrapping their heads around our style of dating. This is real, folks. Welcome to our world. But here's the good news: dating app stories are some of the funniest stories out there. With just one good dating tale, you can have an entire room in stitches. But when sides stop aching and the jokes wind down, a common response goes something like this: "I am so glad I don't have to deal with that." An even more interesting, yet equally common, response is: "Had I been given the option of hand-selecting all of the qualities I was looking for in my future spouse, I would not have ended up with the person I did." That's when the single people get wide-eyed.
Before dating apps, there was no option to prescreen your potential match for your most ideal qualities in a mate. This essentially means you're looking for a match based on unrealistic perfection. But technology never disappoints, so now we have that option. Insert the high-ten emoji. (Which Christians like to call the "praise hands." But nope, I'm still arguing for the high ten. Look it up.) The point is, as women, we know that we've only been matched with the men who are interested in the qualities we've listed.
In addition, as men are scrolling through their phones, our picture needs to be attractive enough to cause them to pause long enough to swipe right. There is no opportunity for the subtle glance or smile from across the room. The only opportunity is a quick decision on a screen. Women most certainly feel the pressure of this. Plus, we know that everyone to some degree is going to misrepresent themselves. I mean, really, are you actually planning on posting a picture of your "bad side" with "that face" in "that outfit"? It's doubtful. On the flip side, women are also forced to make a snap judgment based on a picture and highly edited information.
Dating apps have also opened up a whole new strategy to dating. There is a strategy to choosing your profile pics, your complementing pictures, writing your profile, choosing your interests ... and don't get me started about the initial messaging. (We'll talk about all these in coming chapters.) I know a few people who change their location radius to one mile or less when they go to church on Sundays. This increases their chances of being matched with someone who attends the same church. When my senior pastor and employer, Andy Stanley, first learned about strategies in dating, his response was, "When I was growing up, it never dawned on me that I needed one of those. There's a strategy? In dating?" Oh yes, Andy, yes. There most certainly is a strategy. That is the gift dating apps have given us.
Change Can Be Good
Dating apps have definitely changed the game. There is no question about that. For many, the changes have been helpful, but not without cost. The most common benefit of dating apps, as said by single girls who use them, is that they have taken the pressure off. One girl told me, "It's not that I had an overly serious view of dating to begin with, but I definitely have a more casual view of it now. Before, I felt a lot of pressure on dates. I think I'm now a little more willing to go out with people just to get to know someone different, even if I don't initially think I'm compatible with them."
The attention you get when you're on the app also feels good. A lot of girls are not getting attention from men in their day-today lives, and they want it. I'm not talking about the unhealthy, I-can't-live-without-it kind of attention. I'm talking about the normal, everyday compliments. (I will address in a future chapter how to recognize when your desire for attention goes bad.) But it does numbers for your self-esteem when you swipe right on an attractive guy and he swipes right too. Most girls struggle with feeling attractive. This looks different for everyone, but I've yet to meet a single girl who has not, at some point in her life, wondered if someone would find her beautiful. Particularly for the girl who is new to the dating scene, it's a confidence booster when you open the app to find three connections waiting for you. Actually, it's a confidence booster for anyone. Every girl needs to be reminded she is pretty. Every girl deserves that. Every girl. That can certainly be a benefit of dating apps.
Here's another thing I like about dating apps. Because apps have encouraged a more casual approach to dating, this allows girls who never would have been asked out the opportunity to practice interacting with the opposite sex. For example, I have a friend who ended a multiple-year relationship and realized she didn't know how to date. She decided to simultaneously download two separate dating apps for the sole purpose of learning how to date again. She wanted to feel comfortable having conversations with strangers, and being open to new people. She was also looking for an outlet to practice basic conversational skills within personal boundaries. I don't know about you, but to me this is a great idea. I appreciate the fact that dating apps give you the opportunity to practice healthy relational skills. If you need permission to practice dating, consider this permission granted.
Excerpted from "Beyond the Swipe"
Copyright © 2018 Kristin Fry.
Excerpted by permission of Kregel Publications.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Foreword Sandra Stanley 9
1 Everybody's Doing It 16
2 He Already Swiped Right 29
3 What Are You Looking For? 43
4 When to Swipe Left 57
5 Options, Part 1: Optionitis 70
6 Options, Part 2: The Roster 83
7 Friends You Want to Have 95
8 Relationships Worth Waiting For 110
9 Communication 124
10 Don't Waste Your Wait 139
About the Author 160