Christian online dater Ivan Mak would like to see a more supportive attitude towards online dating in the Christian community so that Christian daters are better supported to make wise dating decisions.
The risk he sees for a Christian online dater is that they will date people secretly for fear of being judged by their friends, which can lead to mixed results such as loss of integrity in their faith and values.
Ivan, who turned to online dating two years ago, believes it’s a good way of looking for a life partner, provided it is not used as a crutch.
“I think it takes self-reflection and awareness of where you’re coming from, what you’re looking for and your intentions, whether there’s integrity and honesty, whether you’re coming at it from a right approach,” he tells Eternity.
“Before going into online dating, you want to be very introspective, work out what your internal worldview is. And I think, especially as a Christian, one of the things that I would recommend you do before going into online dating is making sure that you are accountable.”
Ivan, a contributor to Eternity’s Love Online podcast, says the main reason he decided to participate in the podcast was the poor reputation online dating has in Christian culture.
“I wanted to change that dialogue in our culture to make it like okay to go into online dating,” he says.
“And so that if there are people who are interested in online dating and tell their friends, their friends are not reacting in a really judgmental way, and they’re actually supportive and able to kind of walk this journey with them.”
“I wanted to change that dialogue in our culture to make it like okay to go into online dating.” – Ivan Mak
Ivan says his Christian friends didn’t agree with online dating and saw it as an idol to be overcome, which deterred him from wanting to share his experiences. But having been at the same church for nine years, he related to all of the women there as sisters and needed to meet new people.
“As a Christian, it was like there is now this option to just meet people and have coffee and just chat with people. If I didn’t want to pursue anything I didn’t have to, and I could do it at my own pace. So I explored it and it was fine,” he says.
While Ivan has not met his life partner yet, he has not had a bad experience, perhaps because he’s a guy but probably because he establishes certain specifics about someone’s faith and life goals before he meets them.
“I’m quite missional in my faith. I really care about certain kinds of topics, such as justice or family values and all that kind of stuff,” says Ivan, who works for the government in a social policy area.
One of his dates was Sydney musician Luciana Valentina, who appears with him in the Love Online podcast. In the latest episode out this week, they reveal how they dated for a couple of months last year before breaking up through a combination of miscommunication and busyness.
“I had recently broken up with an ex-boyfriend and it was not a very nice ending,” Luciana tells Eternity, explaining why she turned to a dating app when she started looking for a serious relationship again.
Both agree that the online framework adds a layer of complexity to negotiating a relationship.
“It’s different because if you’re dating someone that you know in real life, there’s a context to them, like you probably have mutual friends and mutual community,” says Ivan.
“Whereas online, it’s always in a void and it’s in a vacuum. So when you meet them and you talk to them, you almost have to do a little bit of guesswork or put more effort to initiate and get to know them in their environment. And there’s a sense of, ‘Oh, I don’t want our worlds to collide yet because I just met you. I don’t even know if I want you in my life. I don’t want you to know my friends. I don’t want my friends to know you.’ And there’s a bunch of this personal drama that you don’t want to be involved in, especially if you’re going through a lot of dates, whereas in real life, you avoid that.
“So there’s pros and cons because there’s no strings attached in online dating, but then you also like have to put more effort into getting to know someone than someone you know personally.”
“There’s no strings attached in online dating, but then you also like have to put more effort into getting to know someone than someone you know personally.” – Ivan Mak
Having fallen in love and married the man who was her best friend, Luciana agrees that dating online is very different.
“With online dating, you’re basing a lot of what that person is on what they put forward. So it’s definitely more aesthetic, it’s more superficial in a sense, because it’s like a 2D version of that person, and you have no idea what they sound like, what their opinions on, so it’s difficult to get to know a person,” she says.
“Sometimes I found when I was online dating that I could sound like I was being really persistent or annoying when I was just asking questions to get to know someone, and I find that that’s just not that hard when you’re in person.”
“Always be open to the real world because there’s always something right in front of you that you might miss out on.” – Luciana Valentina
Luciana says she does know people who have found love online, including her mother, but when asked if she would recommend online dating as a way of finding a life partner, she is equivocal.
“Yes and no. I would definitely recommend it because, you know, God, doesn’t give you a chair. He is going to give you a tree and you have to make the chair,” she says.
“When it comes to it online dating, you can find some amazing people. You can find a connection and sometimes there’s a chance of meeting someone, but they’re actually not the person that you’re supposed to date and you end up meeting their friends or something like that.
“So I personally think, try everything that’s good in God’s eyes, of course, and then go from there, but always be open to the real world because there’s always something right in front of you that you might miss out on.
“I’ve got Ivan as a friend, which is great. I’ve got some other people that I went on a date with once and now we literally just really good friends. It’s actually been a fantastic experience in my opinion, with the sad parts, but overall pretty good.”