by Lucy O’Donoghue
My husband and I met online. One hundred per cent purely online.
Hey! It beats meeting in a bar! And yes, it’s the truth! We met on in September 2010 and four years to the day (with creative licence on the time zones and the dateline), we gave birth to our first child, a boy.
So yes, we met online. How on Earth?!
It was a long (hmm, maybe you could say lonely) Sunday afternoon in the Democratic Republic of the Congo where I was living and working when I decided to do another “batch” of messaging. I’d scroll through the new profiles on and fire off a personalised one-liner to anyone who seemed to make the cut. I think that day I must have messaged about 10 guys.
I occasionally like to remind Brutus that he wasn’t top of the list on that batch. It keeps him humble, ya know. But I wrote a short note with some comment about how much I liked camping, as he had said that he wanted to find someone who (among other things) wouldn’t mind the odd weekend away camping. More than four years on and we’ve still never actually been camping. Go figure.
After the initial camping-related banter, it took only a couple of emails before he got serious.
“Why are you on And why did you message me?” he asked.
Ergh. Way to pull out all the stops. How could I get around that?
“Well, yeah, I was trying to find my way to Eye of the Tiber and I got lost along the way … and yours was the first profile I could find to message and try to figure out how to get to Eye of the Tiber … can you give me directions?”
Or maybe …
“I’m not on . . . what gave you that idea? Online dating is for lame-o people. Who ARE you anyway? I didn’t message you! Stop stalking me! I’m going to send my dog round to beat you up!”
Alas, I’m no good at lying, so I told him the truth.
I was looking for a husband, and what he said about himself, his faith and what he was looking for really, really impressed me.
The pros and cons
Indeed, online dating, perhaps it’s getting a bit more acceptable these days. You tell me — I’ve been out of the game for a few years now. But I still get the feeling it’s something you sort of keep to yourself — until it works!
So if you think you might have a vocation to marriage and, well, the fish in the pond just don’t seem your type, here’s why online dating ain’t such a terrible thing…
Widens the options
Let’s be honest, sometimes there just aren’t enough fish in the sea you’re in, especially if it’s really important to you to try and find someone who shares the faith, or at the very least appreciates your faith.
I was driven to online dating not just because I was living in a tropical jungle in Africa where my selection of possible mates consisted of other aid workers (who turned out to be cowboys on several occasions), fat, greasy Lebanese diamond traders or United States military
contractors who didn’t do much else but swear, drink and speak lewdly about women (Brutus had some work to do convincing me that not all US military were like that).
Perhaps your options are a little more appealing, but there’s still nothing wrong with taking a slightly more proactive approach, right? As another dear friend said to me (and she, too, met her husband online!), “unless you’re looking for a guy who wears a brown uniform and delivers packages, he ain’t going to come knocking on your door — you gotta find him”. A-men, sistah!
Helps you consider what’s important to you
When you do have access to dozens of “candidates”, you start to notice pretty quickly what really catches your eye and what really puts you off. Unlike in a bar, however, those things are not just exterior but interior, how the guy (or lass) wants to share themselves in a few words online. I could tell that Brutus put a lot of thought into his profile and it was
immediately evident that he knew how to compose words with eloquence, and articulate himself with sincerity. Booyah. Try doing that over the din of a DJ.
Starting with communication
In the first few months of our (very brief) courtship and (slightly longer) engagement, we wrote more than 45,000 words to each other. After only three weeks of communicating by email, Brutus committed to flying 12 hours across the Pacific Ocean to meet me.
We hadn’t even spoken on the phone. Don’t worry, we spoke soon after that — well, that is, after he called at 5am on a Saturday and got my mother on the phone. How’s that for an intro to your mother-in-law?
All those emails, the many, many emails, the emails I printed and carried around with me and
read and re-read (long before I had a smartphone), became like a constitution, or a foundation, where we shared the things that mattered most to us. They provide an anchor — as do all the cards and letters we continue to write on special occasions — to our relationship; a very detailed and beautiful reminder of what attracted us to one another in the first place.
It forced us to communicate properly before getting too wrapped up in the chemistry.
Of course, there are a few pitfalls when it comes to online dating as a Catholic, but I think they could be better understood as challenges to be mitigated.
You gotta know yourself
Online dating is no substitute for the hard yards of actually knowing yourself, your weaknesses, your strengths, your emotional temperament, your interior life. Whether you
meet someone online or in a bar or at a Catholic summer school or on the jungle gym in primary
school, eventually they’ll see all sides. Don’t give in to the online temptation to make yourself out to be someone that you’re not, either to yourself or to anyone else. Eventually that’ll face-palm, big time.
Make sure you have a solid spiritual director and you share with him or her what you’re doing.
Be ready for the cultural differences
There are a couple of Australian and New Zealand Catholic dating sites, but if you’re especially looking Catholic, you’ll have to go wider. At the very least that means being willing to consider life in another country, namely, probably, the United States. How
does that feel? If it’s totally out of the question, then don’t set yourself up to be faced with a heart wrenching choice. If you think perhaps God’s grace can make all things possible and you’re ambivalent or open to that, move on ahead. But be ready, all the more so, for the cultural differences. These ain’t just quaint things like spelling organisation versus organization or speaking in fahrenheit versus celsius. In some cases it could be whole other languages, and in every case, it doesn’t stop once you’re married — it will be an added dimension to navigate throughout the marriage, though it can also make things more interesting, too!
There are still some weirdos
You still need to be a bit careful, but you’re all old enough, smart enough and ugly enough to know that, right?
So what are the options? To start, you can check out the Catholic Dating Sites website or the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website for marriage.
Lucy O’Donoghue from Auckland lives in Bangkok with her husband and their baby boy. She is studying for her MSc in Public Health, an MA in Theology, and teaches the Billings Ovulation Method.