3 Tips for Intentional Online Dating

My husband and I met on Tinder. 

A lot of people have asked us how we could find a serious relationship, love, and even marriage on an app with such a reputation.

Going out to meet people in real life has obvious advantages for getting to know someone, but there are many reasons to look at dating online or through an app. My husband and I turned to the app because we lived in the college town we grew up in and it was hard to meet new people. I know others who use dating apps to screen people or because they’re short on time to mix and mingle.

Just like dating IRL, digital dating can be done poorly or it can be done well. Like anything in life, it just takes a little effort and intentionality.

I’m not here to judge your gym mirror selfie or give you winning pick-up lines or other silly online dating rules — you can decide how you want to present yourself to the world. Instead, here are a few things to think about while you’re swiping, chatting, and dating to remain intentional in the way you use dating apps.

1. State your intention.

Thinking about that first message you send to a match is always intimidating. So while it was never intriguing to receive something like “ur cute” or “hey what’s up,” I tried to not let that deter me from responding. I wanted to cut people some slack because it’s not easy to get the ball rolling in a conversation.

One of the first questions I asked any of my matches was always, “Why are you on Tinder?” (or Bumble or Catholic Match or Farmers Only or whatever it may be).

Before you find out if you have anything in common, you need to know if you’re looking for the same thing. If you’re hoping to match with someone who could become your spouse, the last thing you need is to waste your time on someone looking for a hookup. And if you’re there just to meet new people and date casually, you’ll be more successful and have more fun by finding someone who wants the same.

If you’re confident that you’re on the same page about why you’re swiping and what you might get if you meet up, then you’ve overcome the first big hurdle of online dating.

2. Keep it real and do what you love.

One of the best nuggets of wisdom my dad has ever shared with me is that “dating is just a way to get to know someone.” Keep that in mind when you’re deciding to take things offline and move forward with meeting a match.

I took almost all of my first dates to my favorite coffee shop. Whether it was 9 a.m., lunch, or 9 p.m., it was important to me that I felt comfortable as I shared more about who I am and learned about who they were.

That doesn’t mean you can’t go on an adventure! Two of my most memorable second dates were to a jazz festival and to a premiere of a documentary on the Irish revolution. I wouldn’t have gone to either of those events alone, but they reflected the interests of my dates and it sounded more fun to me than disc golf in the rain (a date I once turned down).

No matter where you meet, dating with intentionality means discerning whether or not you might have a future with someone — and focusing your conversations accordingly.

For me, that looked like intentionally mentioning my core values and seeing how my date reacted. You don’t need to blurt out that you want eight kids, but try to work an interest in family life into the conversation. On every first date, I made sure to mention that I went to Mass, that I eat a plant-based diet, and that I’d like to travel the world while staying based near family in northern Indiana. I didn’t need a date who had the exact same lifestyle choices or life goals as me — but I needed to see his reaction to some of the things that are most important to me.

3. When it’s over, end it.

Not everyone needs to be a perfect match. Intentional dating isn’t about perfection, it’s about honesty.

So when you start to get the sense that it’s not going to go anywhere, that means it’s time to move on. Whether it’s after just a few messages or several IRL dates, one of the most important elements of intentional dating is to not let things drag on longer than they should.

You don’t need to be overly picky, but it’s helpful to have realistic standards when you’re dating with marriage in mind. By ending a relationship (or acquaintanceship) that you’re not excited about, you can stay focused and ready to find the person you’re really looking for.

Just thank them for the time you’ve spent getting to know each other and kindly share that you don’t see it going any further.

And if you’re on the receiving end of the breakup (or ghosting🙄), just say “thank u, next” and move on. No matter how painful it feels at the time, you’ll surely survive the breakup.

Finally, remember that you’re under no obligation to date — digitally or IRL. There’s still a lot of pressure (though not as much as in the past) to be searching for that special someone, but there’s nothing wrong with making the most of your single years until you’re ready. Just don’t let a fear of settling down be the thing that holds you back.

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