September 21, 2023

Can Modern Dating Be Saved?

Inside This Episode

Hosts of “The Heart of Dating” podcast Kait and JJ Tomlin offer advice to Christian singles on navigating the modern dating world. They unpack some of the biggest issues they’re seeing with singles today, from unrealistic “types” to premarital sex. Kait also opens up about her dating history, including a string of abusive relationships, and how she worked through the trauma and retrained her brain to attract healthy relationships. And finally, the results of Maybe God’s Operation Matchmaker are in, as host Eric Huffman worked all summer to set up Christian singles in the greater Houston area.

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Julie Mirlicourtois: Hey, Maybe God family, welcome back. In case you haven't heard us mention this before, we've got a very special invitation for all of our Washington, D.C. area listeners. On Wednesday, October 4, Maybe God's first documentary, called Across, will premiere on the big screen in our nation's capital, followed by a Q&A with producers, cast, and immigration experts.

The event will take place at the historic Miracle Theater, and Mark Batterson from National Community Church will be there to introduce the film. We hope you'll come out and join us for this free Washington, D.C. premiere of Across. The Eventbrite link is included in today's show notes. Please feel free to share this invitation with anyone you know in the D.C. area. And of course, don't forget that you can also stream Across anytime by heading to

One more thing before we get started, I'd like to extend a very special thank you to the sponsors of Maybe God's Operation Matchmaker. Coppa Osteria is hands down the Maybe God team's favorite Italian restaurant in Houston. It was a short drive from our studio. Coppa Osteria's romantic outdoor patio and delicious Italian food made it the perfect spot for our first two blind dates set up by host Eric Huffman. So thank you to the entire team at Coppa.

[00:01:09] <music>

Julie Mirlicourtois: Now, on today's episode of Maybe God…

Kait Tomlin: It was after a really horrible night of abuse and... I won't go into all the details because I don't want to trigger anyone. But it was really, really horrific. I actually was so in shock that it was a Sunday during the day, and I was so in shock that I went to church right after.

Julie Mirlicourtois: Relationship coach and Heart of Dating podcast host, Kait Tomlin, opens up about past relationships that led her to completely re-evaluate the way she approached dating. Plus, her new husband, JJ, offers pointed advice to single men.

JJ Tomlin: Our beauty compass is so skewered. Like with the advent of Instagram and even Photoshop, we just have such an unrealistic idea of what beauty looks like. And it's infected us that we think we can go out and find an Instagram model who loves Jesus with all of her heart and soul.

Julie Mirlicourtois: And Maybe God host, Eric Huffman, plays matchmaker, sending some brave Houston singles out on blind dates.

Eric Huffman: So here we are. Ladies and gents, welcome. I'm really nervous.

Christina: Are you?

Eric Huffman: Yeah.

Christina: I'm excited nervous.

Eric Huffman: I feel like I should be, as nervous as you guys should be.

Julie Mirlicourtois: That's all coming up on Maybe God.

[00:02:29] <music>

Eric Huffman: You're listening to Maybe God. I'm Eric Huffman. Churches typically do a decent job of ministering to children and teenagers, married couples, and the elderly. But when it comes to unmarried adults, congregations and pastors miss the mark all too often, which can leave Christian singles feeling incomplete, inadequate, and well alone.

As a pastor, I feel a great burden for my unmarried brothers and sisters. So earlier this year, I decided to spend the entire summer focusing on the hopes and dreams of single Christians in the Greater Houston area by launching a brand new project called Operation Matchmaker.

I thought to myself, If we can just find a way to get all these lovely Christian men and women together in the same room, or at least on the same Excel spreadsheet, I and my team at Maybe God could play matchmaker and send a few couples out on their first date together.

If that all sounds like a bit much from where you're sitting, consider these stats. According to the latest data from Pew Research, 31% of all adults in America are single. But among those single Americans, only 49% of them are dating. And among all of those American daters out there, only 36% of women and 22% of men say that they're looking for an exclusive long-term relationship. Add all that up, and it means that only about 4.35% of our population is single, dating, and looking for an exclusive, committed relationship.

Now, if you're not single and you've wondered why your single friends seem so discouraged about dating and relationships these days, this is probably why.

Once we opened up the application process for Operation Matchmaker, I was blown away by the response. Hundreds of people expressed interest in being matched by a podcasting pastor like me. Within a few days, however, I began to pick up on a pattern in the applications that were coming in.

For every 4 or 5 female applicants, only one man would apply. As I soon learned, this kind of disparity between single men and single women seeking serious relationships is one of the many fundamental problems causing havoc and heartache on today's dating scene.

As a way of getting to know some of our most Mashable singles, I decided to hop on Zoom for a quick chat to find out what led them to apply.

Woman: I feel like there's no harm in trying this out, so I'm open to this.

Eric Huffman: Can't be worse than Tinder.

Woman: Right. Or like what I'm already doing, which isn't really much.

Man: As I see all my friends, they're married, they have kids. Unlike the single one, that's not so... Well, my priorities have changed over the past several years to put more time on myself in relationships, and not so much for work.

Woman: In this phase of life, I've been trying to submit to God more and ask Him to help me trust Him more. And I've never really trusted Him with this part of my life, like the dating part. So when this Operation Matchmaker came up, I thought, you know what? Let me challenge God and let me see what He can do with this.

[00:05:58] <music>

Eric Huffman: What do you think makes the dating scene these days so difficult to navigate and be successful at?

Woman: I think the online dating platform has made it easier to connect with people, but also harder in a sense.

Man: I'm not a dating app kind of guy. Like, that's just not my forte. I'm a people person, so I like meeting people in person. Whether that's good or bad, if they're interested or not interested, I'd rather meet somebody in person.

Woman: What's wrong with the dating scene is that people are quick to want to see if they're physically compatible, and so things get physical really fast. And that's not my style. I would rather get to know you on a deeper level than jump into bed with a person.

Man: There are some dating apps that I'm on right now, and some of the women that do reach out to me, I'm like, they're kind of crazy.

Woman: I had some bad experiences with a few guys, and even one that I met through a Christian dating app, he tried to convince me that God wanted us to be together and was forcing it on me. Somebody had called my work, and this guy was like, "Hi, you don't know me. I saw your profile on Hinge. You took my breath away. I felt like I'm such a big gut intuition guy, and I just had to find a way to reach out to you." I was dumbfounded by the whole thing, and I was just like, What is happening?

Eric Huffman: Wow.

Woman: One of the things about dating apps that was so hard for me was having to curate a vibe or curate this personality that would make another man quickly say yes or quickly swipe. I just found that really hard.

Woman: It feels like a job, having to get on there and match with the people. I dated a guy, and then he turned out to be homeless. So I was like, God, what's going on here? I know you have the husband for me, but it seems like everything I'm doing is ending in a way that's so comically horrendous and bad and not of God that I know that the answer is for me to just stop trying.

Eric Huffman: So in case you haven't heard me say this before, I don't exactly have a ton of dating experience in my past, unless you count walking around the skating rink with girls in the eighth grade. I met my wife on the first day of college when we were both 18. We got engaged at 19 and married at 20.

So after talking to a few of our Operation Matchmaker applicants, I knew that I desperately needed to seek some advice from experts who could tell me what's actually going on with modern dating. That's how I came across the hosts of a very popular dating podcast called The Heart of Dating. Kait and JJ Tomlin have only been married for about a year, and long before she met JJ, Kait established herself as a successful author and relationship coach. She launched The Heart of Dating back in 2018 when she was still single.

Kait Tomlin: So if you had said to me about seven or eight years ago, Kait Warman, my previous name, you are going to be coaching single people and helping them to date, I would have laughed hysterically and been like, "That will never happen. Ever."

And yet a little over six years ago, I went through another massive heartbreak. I faced a choice of whether to just let this heartbreak destroy me and go down that downward spiral as many people do, asking, what if I did this differently, or I should have done that. And for the first time in my dating history, I really decided to not do that. And instead, I focused on what God wanted me to do to move forward.

And in pressing into God, I started feeling God call me to start a podcast. And as I pressed in deeper, it was so clear that He was leaning me to talk about dating. I was like, "God, I think maybe you have the wrong girl, like maybe somebody else. Have you seen my dating life and my history? Like, really, you want me?

Eric Huffman: Like Moses at the burning bush: anyone but me.

Kait Tomlin: Exactly. Anyone. Anyone else, literally, could there be? As I reflected later in my life now, I look back and I see how ironic it is that so many instances in the Bible, we see God choosing the unexpected person. And you see that over and over. And God's like, "No, you're good for it. I'm choosing you. I see more than you can see."

So I started this podcast really out of obedience. And I was scared. I was like, what are people going to think when I share my story? What was awesome was God started building a confidence within me to be vulnerable and share parts of my story that I had never shared publicly.

Eric Huffman: Kait, if you wouldn't mind talking about some of those. You mentioned how years before the podcast, you know, dating for you was hard. Tell us a little bit more about that, if you wouldn't mind.

Kait Tomlin: Totally. So my parents did let me start dating a little on the earlier side. I wouldn't necessarily recommend this age, but I started dating around the age of 14. And I dated for 10 years back to back. And when I look back from 14 to 24, I'm 34 now, I did not stop dating at all in those 10 years of dating.

A lot of this also tied back to some childhood wounds that I've now since reconciled with, that I was missing a kind of love that I really wanted in my familial dynamic and I wanted to be seen so badly in my familial dynamic, that one of the things I turned to was men. And from a young age, I was like that quote-unquote, boy-crazy kind of girl. At the age of 15 to 16, I had like 16 boyfriends that year, just flew through them one after the other. And then I had a long-term five-year relationship. I broke up with him, jumped immediately the next month into a new relationship, broke up with him.

Then I got into a really horrible two-and-a-half-year abusive relationship. And that relationship was abusive in every way. It started emotionally abusive, and through time became verbally and physically abusive.

Eric Huffman: How old were you at that point, Kait?

Kait Tomlin: I was about 21.

Eric Huffman: Okay. And did that start off good?

Kait Tomlin: It started off okay. A lot of my relationships started off where I wanted the guy to like me so badly. So I performed a lot in dating. And I was doing that with this guy and he thought I was amazing. We had this connection. It started off pretty awesome, to your point, but it wasn't long into it that I started seeing him flirt blatantly with women in front of me.

So part of that relationship was there's a lot of cheating involved and a lot of lying, manipulation. For me, I had never dealt with anything like that before. And I was like, "Wait, this is not right." That's when the process of gaslighting started beginning. And for somebody who doesn't know what gaslighting is, it's basically when somebody takes you so off guard, and they put something that's so clearly their fault onto you. And it happen so quickly that you don't even know really what to do. You're like, "Wait, wait, this is so clearly not me, but is it me?" Eventually, if you are gaslit enough, you start questioning your own sanity, which is a part of my story and really sad part of that journey.

Eric Huffman: Eventually, Kait says, the relationship turned physically abusive. And what made it even worse is that her boyfriend was on staff at the church she attended.

Kait Tomlin: There was a lot of shame on my end a lot of denial, a lot of "I can't believe this is happening". But it was after a really horrible night of abuse... I won't go into all the details, because I don't want to trigger anyone. But it was really, really horrific. I actually was so in shock that it was a Sunday during the day. And I was so in shock that I went to church right after. Like I didn't know where to go after it happened. I didn't even fix my hair. I didn't even look at myself in a mirror.

I walked into church and some of my friends saw me and they're like, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, what happened?" I started crying. And I opened up to just a few people, who then convinced me to call the police. And that's where I got a restraining order on this guy. So I broke up with this guy for a season. And the story is very complex and long, but we did end up getting back together. And then it ended again in a very horrific, abusive night.

I had just gone on a vacation with the pastor of this church, who was marrying two friends of mine. So a friend of mine convinced me to go and tell this pastor and his wife. And it took every courage in me to go and tell this pastor and his wife. I was so nervous. I still remember that day so clearly. And the pastor cried and wept and he prayed over me and he promised me a lot, but basically, after that I never heard from them again and nothing ever happened to the guy.

Eric Huffman: Wow. Kait, I'm just so sorry that all happened, not just the abuse, but the church's inaction and broken promises. We must do better.

Kait Tomlin: Yeah, you're the first person that's ever asked me that on a podcast of all these years. So thank you for asking me that.

Eric Huffman: No, it's devastating and just doubly devastating when the church doesn't act like the church should.

Kait Tomlin: Thank you.

Eric Huffman: What did you learn coming out of a situation like that how to retrain your mind around dating and things? What are some of the common sort of stumbling blocks for folks in your situation trying to start dating again?

Kait Tomlin: For anyone who's in that circumstance or who has been, you know, the stat is that on average an abuse victim will go back to their abuser about seven or eight times on average. And I went back more than that. So people around you, a lot of times they're going to say, "Just don't go back to that person. They're awful. Why would you go back?"

And you don't understand how much of a mind game there is happening and how low you think of yourself because of most likely the emotional abuse that is almost always attached to physical abuse. It is very hard to release yourself from the abuse cycle. And there's a cycle that keeps you stuck. It's almost like a drug.

My therapist helped me to realize I had to remove every element of seeing this person and any temptation. And even friends that were attached to this person, for me, for a season, I had to remove myself entirely from all of that. So the blessing in all of this, Eric, was actually that I did switch church communities. Not that I would recommend that for everyone, but for me, it allowed me to be in a safe community. I had a new community of friends that were actually way more supportive and understanding. I got to really separate myself from this person.

Also, Eric, I had to separate myself from dating and men for a long season. I realized in this process that I do not blame myself for what happened in that relationship at all. However, I can recognize that before getting into that relationship, there were views I had about myself that led me to be more susceptible to believing the lies of this abuser.

Eric Huffman: Sure.

Kait Tomlin: So I had to realize for myself, "I need to figure out who Kait is outside of men, outside of dating. I need to know who God says that I am." Because at that point, I felt so much shame and I needed to figure out who is Kait with God, period, dot, end of sentence.

Eric Huffman: Is it common for people in a situation like that to find someone else who's the same profile, like the same type of person, and just end up in another similar situation? Maybe subconscious traits that you're drawn to because of whatever unhealth exists in you and whatever flawed thinking exists in your mind? Like you just end up making the same mistake, but with a different person?

Kait Tomlin: 100%. Usually, with abuse victims and people in general, you're usually trained towards a certain kind of person. And oftentimes it comes from childhood woundings, and you don't even realize you're not even conscious to it. So, yes, of course.

And I did date abusive guys after this guy. They weren't as grossly abusive, wasn't physically abusive, but there was emotional abuse or cheating or betrayal. But I do believe, and what I want to empower people is, if you really analyze your own wounds and what has gone on in your life to make you attracted to somebody like that in the first place, you can retrain your brain. You can learn what signs and signals will be going off with somebody who potentially may be abusive. You also need really strong systems of wisdom. And I did not have that.

Eric Huffman: What systems of wisdom are you talking about?

Kait Tomlin: So what we talk about now is we have a life board of advisors, and we teach that on one of our programs. And what I mean by that is having certain people on that life board of advisors, which can pour into you that know all parts of you, your struggles, your story, your past relationships.

These aren't necessarily peers, maybe one or two peers, but this is an older, wiser couple that is a couple you want to model your life like or your future relationship like. This is ideally a spiritual mentor. This might be a therapist. These are people that you have specifically sought after for wise counsel... they are your bumper system. So in life, and especially in relationships, and especially if you've been through abuse, you need that system. And I did not have that system.

Eric Huffman: I truly admire Kait for being courageous enough to open up about some of the darkest moments of her past, especially since she shared these struggles with the world while she was still single, just to benefit and bless thousands of other people who might share a similar story.

JJ's story, on the other hand, could not be more different from Kait's.

JJ Tomlin: I grew up as a missionary kid. My parents didn't allow me to date until 16. I didn't even date and take advantage of that in the sense of it was really practical in the sense of I'm like, "Okay, I'm 16, 17, I'm graduating in a year. Why would I start a relationship only for me to, you know, have to do...?

Kait Tomlin: Literally opposite mindset. I'm like, "Yes, let me date everybody." And JJ was like, why would I do that? That's not logical.

JJ Tomlin: Exactly. So that was kind of the foundation, like very pragmatic, very practical about it. My dad was very, very clear, "Do not waste your time." And then for me, I think I woke up around 26, 27 years old after just kind of praying and being on the sidelines, maybe casually dating, but really nothing of any kind of major extent. You know, it was almost like Lion King, you know, it is time.

But I've been praying about it, like, God, if you feel like this is a good time, I want to date when you feel like it's a good time for me, not when I think in that sense. So I started dating more and more, a little bit in my church community, a lot on the dating apps. And then Kait and I met, I'd say maybe about a year later after that.

Eric Huffman: A few years ago, Kait was the keynote speaker at a national conference for single women. And JJ was invited to the event virtually as one of the featured bachelors. After his part of the event was over, JJ decided to stick around and listen to Kait's talk.

JJ Tomlin: She was the most beautiful four-by-six digital pixels I've ever seen. And I was very intrigued. But then I heard her story, much of what you just heard, and just how much healing and who she was in Christ today and I was captivated by that character. Because if it was just based off like looks alone, or how charismatic and fun she was, I probably would not have asked her out. But I heard her story-

Eric Huffman: Wait, I'm confused. Hold on. I was expecting you to say the opposite. Like, based on her looks alone, I totally would have been in, but then I heard her story... So what is it about you that... because I'd say nine guys out of 10 probably would have said that the opposite way.

JJ Tomlin: I mean, dude, and I would have said that. I hope I can call you dude. You seem very easygoing.

Eric Huffman: I like that. Makes me feel young and hip like you guys.

Kait Tomlin: There you go. Well, you know, in college, I had this guy who, you know, very attractive, handsome. I played football with him. He could have gotten any girl. And he ends up dating this girl that most people would not have pictured them together. And I just remember asking-

Eric Huffman: My kids would say she's mid. She's mid.

JJ Tomlin: Right. Yeah. She's mid. Yeah. And he had the [riz?], right? So anyway, I'm like, "Dude, what's going on here?" He goes, "You know, man, I'll be honest with you. You clearly don't get it. She loves Jesus so much, It is the most attractive thing I've ever seen in any girl I've ever met." And my mind was blown because I never heard it put like that, especially from a guy who could have gotten almost any girl he wanted. And from that moment, I was like, that's what I want. That's my top priority.

Eric Huffman: Wow.

JJ Tomlin: You know, we teach five buckets of attraction and the spiritual attraction is that top priority.

Eric Huffman: JJ knew right away that he'd found a woman worth pursuing. When he reached out to Kait for the first time through the event's organizers, she wasn't so sure. This former New York City fashion expert knew right away that JJ wasn't her type.

Kait Tomlin: JJ rolls up and he is five and a half years younger than me. He had blue hair. He lived in a different state. He had a black earring. And when I went to his Instagram to do some light, acceptable stalking, it was the weirdest Instagram because every photo was a different hairstyle and a different look. I was like, "I don't even know who this guy is or what he really looks like."

But what I could see and seeing past all that was I liked that he didn't care what people thought about him. Because most people who care what people think about them are not going to post those kinds of photos all over their Instagram. And I appreciated that. So you know what? I said, "Fine, I'm going to give this young chap, this young, if you want to go Gen Z, simp, one date. Well, I don't even know what a simp means to be honest with you.

Eric Huffman: No, you're okay. You're all over. It's fine.

JJ Tomlin: It's close.

Kait Tomlin: I was like, "We'll see. I'll give him one date." I didn't think anything of it. And here we are.

Eric Huffman: So you started pursuing her right away?

JJ Tomlin: Yeah. We started going on FaceTime and long distance for about four to six weeks. And then after that amount of time, we were both praying that it would be clear or not on whether or not it was a good time to visit and actually see. So I went down to LA and we had a wonderful four days together. Long distance is awesome because it really weeds out serious relationships and serious matches and contenders like you have to decide pretty quickly, is this person worth investing in or not?

Eric Huffman: Did you feel the hesitancy from her about you not being her type? Was it hard for you to convince her to give you the time of day?

JJ Tomlin: I felt the hesitancy off the bat, and it didn't bother me at all because I was sure about who I was. So I wasn't looking at her for any validation or any opinion on JJ. I knew who I was. And I also knew that I was in a fun phase of fashion in my life. I always knew that my cleanup days were coming.

Kait Tomlin: I definitely asked him that question on one of our dates. I was like, "So I'm just really curious to know, you have unique style and I want to know how important fashion is to you?"

Eric Huffman: Is this a phase or is this a forever thing?

JJ Tomlin: That's exactly what she asked.

Kait Tomlin: Exactly.

JJ Tomlin: I knew one day, I wouldn't be able to dye my hair any color or wear earrings or whatever I wanted. I knew one day that that was going to be coming. So I was happy to forfeit that if it meant pursuing Kait. I was pretty sure about her. And that's the one thing by far and away we teach and preaches. There's no substitute for the guy being sure about the female and wanting and being ignited to pursue her.

Like you hear story after story of the guys hanging around however long it takes, you know, like Jacob, like they have the object of their eye, and they're willing to wait, wait, wait to pursue, pursue, pursue. You don't necessarily hear the opposite often at all. Like the girl was super, super sure about the guy. She consistently waited and pursued him was just faithful. And he was super unsure, super unattracted at first, but warmed up over time and they got married. You don't really hear that story.

Eric Huffman: No, yeah.

JJ Tomlin: Almost ever. I'm not saying it can't happen. We're big believers in the sense of the guy doesn't have to know if they're the first date. Like we're not talking about that crazy amount of pressure.

Kait Tomlin: We're not talking about knowing if you're going to marry them, just knowing that you want to pursue them and there's an ignition in your heart, so to speak, towards that person and a fire to pursue them on the guy's end specifically.

Eric Huffman: So your advice to guys is like, If you don't have that, just stop. Like don't waste her time, your time, whatever. Is that it?

JJ Tomlin: It's been about a month, you know, and you guys have actually been going on dates and it's gray. I understand it's hard and you really want to be patient and give this girl a chance. But for the one that I would love to call my wife, don't you want to be ignited? Like don't you want to be really tenacious and kind of sure, not the mistaken infatuation all about what she does for your life and how hot she is and all these things.

Like don't you want to be ignited and sure about her character and who she would be as a wife? So I just say like at that point, it might be hard, it might be unclear, and it does work out sometimes. But if I had to give prescriptive advice in that sense, I just say if it's gray, give it away because another guy is going to be ignited to pursue her. And if you're not in that boat up front, that's okay. But it's probably time to just-

Eric Huffman: Sure. Here's a question. And I don't mean this as any kind of criticism of this approach. I just want some clarity. It feels like that could lend itself to more of a feelings-based approach to dating. Like if you don't feel it with this girl, you need to move on and let someone else feel it for her. And I do get that. I think attraction is important, whether it's spiritual or physical or whatever it is.

But I think sometimes because the issue in the modern scene is so many options, it's like I feel it, but not enough. I feel it or maybe I don't feel it as much as I would if I went back to Tinder and found someone hotter. Or, you know, like the unlimited options could be prohibitive in terms of ever locking anyone down or like, you know, anyone ever.

JJ Tomlin: I mean, you're right. Because here's the reality. It's so funny you say that. And I actually agree. You know that today, right now, we are more single than ever before in history. We have an adult population that's 51% single. What's ironic about that is we actually have more options than ever before, like exponentially more options than your local bar and church and neighborhood. You could date all across the world if you want. So it's not a lack of choice issue. There is a degree where we're just not making the choice.

Eric Huffman: Oh, it's an abundance of choice problem. Like the more choices you have, the less likely you'll make a choice.

Kait Tomlin: I just want to say too, something we specifically teach in our intensive programs or talk about on our podcast is also trying to help people figure out why they've been picking unhealthily, why they're not staying in relationships, why they're afraid of commitment. Like, you need to come in with a healthy vision of dating, what you're looking for in a healthy capacity.

For example, you're a man that has a high addiction to porn or you put physical attraction ahead of so many other things, we have to get those things in line before you're dating. So this isn't necessarily advice to just like the average Joe is, hey, when you need to do this kind of healing work. We teach and really help people work through their types and rethinking their types and really having a healthy view of why they're attracted to certain people and who they should potentially be attracted to.

So after doing that work, then it's like, okay, yeah, take JJ's advice. But if you're just sitting there and you love the options, then the gray give-it-away is going to lead to somebody who potentially just never commits. And you see like the 45-year-old guy who literally is like, yeah, I'm just still single and I can't find options. And I'm like, All right, we got to fix some things there, you know?

Eric Huffman: And I'll tell you, that's a tough case to make for somebody who's not in love with Jesus or who's not serious about their faith and doesn't have any sort of higher reason to love a woman. Well, I'm picking on guys only because I'm a guy and I know guys more than women.

And a lot of guys, it's hard to sell them on the benefits of marriage these days. Like it's just hard to sell them on the value added to them because most of them, I'm talking about nominally religious guys, like sort of halfway Christian guys or non-religious guys that are just, they're getting sex already, or at least they're getting unlimited porn, whatever kind they want, whenever they want it, whatever. Or some of them are actually getting sex with women on demand basically. They're doing great at work. They don't really care to have kids or they know that they could have kids at 50, unlike a lot of their female counterparts, you know?

JJ Tomlin: Right.

Eric Huffman: So there's just... it's like, why? And if you don't have a commitment to be faithful and to raise a Christian family, if you're not a serious Christian, it's really hard to figure out why. I think that's part of the reason why so few people are getting married. Women still seem to be more attracted to the idea of marriage, but I think that's about biological clock issues maybe more.

Kait Tomlin: Exactly.

Eric Huffman: And men are just checking out. And I think this is sort of up in the ante for Christians and churches. Like you mentioned earlier, Kait, to talk more about the value of dating and the values we should have while dating, you know? Because it must be about marriage and raising a new generation of Christians that will change the world in Jesus' name.

JJ Tomlin: That was so well put. And if I am a Christian and I do love Jesus, my top priority is the kingdom and producing and working in the kingdom and laboring in the kingdom. So that's why if your top priority, your top attraction is their character and spiritual character and who they are in Christ, you go out with a different lens. And what you're describing is such a real phenomena of, I would just call like a passive life. Like, why would I get married? I'm having fun. I'm playing golf two or three times a week.

Kait Tomlin: I don't need any... not extra commitments. I don't have to think about somebody else's situation.

Eric Huffman: That's right.

JJ Tomlin: You can tell. And I had bits of that I would call like infecting my life. Absolutely. It's hard not to, unless you're surrounded by guys who have that same priority. That fun lifestyle, that is the ultimate priority of the life is to have as much fun as possible.

Eric Huffman: No, that's true. That's why I think Christians have something very specific and important to say about marriage. Because Christianity, at least, it's supposed to be intensely anti-selfish, right? It's just about loving God and loving others first. And marriage fits in great with that because people that really stick it out in marriage learn to put someone before themselves. I think that is so anti-culture right now. But it's something we don't talk about enough from a strictly Christian perspective.

I don't know how marriage survives in the culture out in the world another generation or two because it just doesn't seem to be self-serving enough.

Kait Tomlin: Yeah, I agree.

Eric Huffman: My conversation with JJ and Kait about men being overwhelmed with all the options and not wanting to commit to marriage reminded me of a young woman that I heard about through someone on my church staff. When I first heard Savannah's story, it sounded like something you'd see in a soap opera, almost too dramatic to be true.

Sadly, everything that happened to Savannah is 100% true. Even more shocking was when Savannah told me that every time she's shared her story, other people have surfaced to say that something similar happened to them. We decided to include Savannah's story in this episode so that our listeners will know just how deceptive and discouraging today's online dating scene can really be.

Savannah: I actually told myself that I would not do online dating, but I was talking with one of my friends and I think she had used multiple different online dating sites for a period of time and mentioned Tinder. I was like, "Well, I guess I'll try it and see," because I had been single for a little bit.

Eric Huffman: Savannah was living in a small town at the time, so the pool of men to date was pretty small. And she ended up matching with a man, we'll call him Tom, who lived a couple of hours away. She was immediately drawn to his good looks and she liked that he advertised himself as a family-oriented Christian man. They started talking right away and met for the first time in person a few weeks later.

Savannah: Within the first month or two, I was like, "Man, I'm going to marry this guy."

Eric Huffman: Really?

Savannah: Yeah. I mean, I really liked him and my family really liked him. And I want to say that was the first boyfriend that they had ever liked. So that settled on me.

Eric Huffman: So take me through the sort of dating to commitment to engagement. Like how quickly did that all take shape?


Savannah: From the time that we met on Tinder to, I guess, being official, it was probably about a month or a little over a month. So we called it official in December of 2015. And then we got engaged January of 2017. And then we're married in May of 2017. So within about a year and a half altogether.

Eric Huffman: So at what point along the way did you start to sense that something wasn't quite right?

Savannah: So shortly after we had gotten married, I guess the way he was acting, his behavior was a little different.

Eric Huffman: The honeymoon phase ended quickly. Within a couple of months of their wedding, Tom started spending a lot more time on his phone. Savannah could tell that her new husband was often distracted and seemed a lot less interested in their relationship. Whenever she would pick up his phone to hand it to him, she says that he would get jumpy and quickly take it from her.

Savannah: It wasn't until we had been married for almost two years, we had just gone back from vacation and it was a Monday and he said that he was working late. So I was like, Okay, fine. Nothing out of the ordinary. He worked late all the time. So then he had a work phone and a personal phone, but he had it set up to where all of his work stuff could be transferred to his personal phone.

So I guess I just had a gut feeling to look at it. And there was a text message saying that he had tickets to a movie that night. I was like, "Well, that's weird. He said he was going to work late." So I decided to drive to the movie theater. So I got there and his car is there. And then I saw him come out the front and I had driven up towards the front door and rolled down the window to try to get his attention. And he was by himself. He wasn't with anybody. And he just totally ignored me and just kept walking. So later on, when we got home and talked about it. He had been there with another woman.

Eric Huffman: How did he explain himself?

Savannah: He just kind of cowered it down in a way. And then eventually I got it out of him that he had been talking with this girl kind of on and off. He said it was online. I think it was one of the dating sites. I'm not exactly sure which one. But yeah, he said he had only met her in person one time prior to the movies. But for me, I'm like, I don't know if that's really true.

Eric Huffman: So did he admit to a sexual relationship with her at the time?

Savannah: He did not. He said there was nothing physical. But again, I honestly don't believe that.

Eric Huffman: Yeah, that's almost never true.

Savannah: Right. Yeah.

Eric Huffman: Not to make light of this, Savannah, my heart breaks for you. And I know how devastating that must have been. Maybe I don't. Maybe I can only imagine it, you know. But can you just kind of take me there on a heart level with that? Because that was like the first moment you knew something was really off with this man you've pledged your life to. How did it hit you at that early stage in your marriage to feel, you know, betrayed, obviously. But what else was going on there for you emotionally?

Savannah: I definitely had a mix of emotions. I definitely bawled my eyes out. But I also was like, in my mind, Oh, I knew it. It was almost like a sense of relief in a way that I had this gut feeling, and then that just solidified it.

Eric Huffman: Savannah was never someone who wanted to get a divorce. She was willing to forgive Tom and just move on if he was willing to change his behavior and recommit himself to their marriage. And Tom said that's what he wanted, too. He wanted to make it work. So they started in couples therapy together. But it wasn't long before she realized that Tom was yet again talking to other women.

Savannah: He had in the notes section in his phone kind of like these fantasy stories typed out. So that was him-

Eric Huffman: His stories?

Savannah: Yes. And he would use other names. So, yeah, when I brought that up to his attention, he's like, "Oh, I wanted to use a different girl's name instead of yours, because I was like mad at you at the time or whatever. It wouldn't surprise me if it were actually true, but not fantasies.

Eric Huffman: So the conversations he was having that you were seeing occasionally, were they sexual in nature? So he was always reaching out to girls for some kind of sexual something?

Savannah: Yes. And pictures sent to him. I never saw him send any pictures, and he denied ever sending pictures.

Eric Huffman: So at what point did everything hit the fan for you when it was just enough is enough? Like at what point did it reach sort of its maximum?

Savannah: So we then moved to Florida in 2020. Again, I think just my naive nature was like, "Oh, completely different state, start of a new life together, new job, you know, this will be great." And that's not the reason why we moved. But in my mind, I was like, Okay, we had gone to counseling, and then he had also started going to counseling individually.

And then shortly after we moved here, I had found out that he had been talking to one of... I believe it was the girl he went to the movies with. So the very first instance that I had found out he had still been talking to her on and off. I again looked at the phone that he had left at home, and his location was on and he was not where he said he was going to be.

So I decided to drive to that place. So I get there and he's outside of his car talking to a woman. So I pull up and roll down my window and ask him when he was coming home. And then I drove off.

Eric Huffman: Wow. You're much more merciful than most people would be.

Savannah: That was the final straw. The short amount of time that we had been here, and just, you know, already a couple instances.

Eric Huffman: Did he continue it to that end to access the apps and things? Like to the best of your knowledge, was he still on dating apps?

Savannah: I did eventually make a fake profile.

Eric Huffman: You did?

Savannah: I did. Yes. I knew he would pop up soon after making it because, you know, it's based off location. So he popped up and we eventually matched and started talking. So I talked to him on there for about a week.

Eric Huffman: What was your goal?

Savannah: I think eventually I was going to like set up a meeting time and place to see if he would follow through with that.

Eric Huffman: So the whole time you're in the same house under the same roof, he's off in whatever corner of the house on his phone talking to someone he thinks is another girl on an app, which is really a fake profile that you in the next room are talking to him on.

Savannah: Yes.

Eric Huffman: That's wild.

Savannah: Yeah.

Eric Huffman: So after that, I mean, you were, I guess, from what I'm hearing, done.

Savannah: Yes. So I moved out not even a year after we moved to Florida.

Eric Huffman: Wow.

Savannah: Yeah.

Eric Huffman: What a turn of events. As you think back on it all, if you're talking to a young person, let's say a young woman about dating today and she's single and, you know, exploring all her options on the apps and things, what would you say to her?

Savannah: I would definitely say be careful and to take your time. I do feel like I did rush it. Getting married and all that, even though we were long-distance. And I think too, just in general with anything online, it can be... I mean, it can be dangerous if you meet someone in person as well, but especially online, because they're showing all of their best qualities, all of their best pictures. So just really taking the time to getting to know that person.

I think too, with my experience, I wish I would have been able to... because of course I met his family, but I wish I could have talked with or known friends that he grew up with or, you know, people from his old church and things like that.

[00:44:51] <music>

Eric Huffman: I really like what y'all do around Date the Unexpected and really pushing back against people's idea of their type. Like my type is this thing, you know, this one little tin type thing. I'm curious about y'all's experience with people and their types. So do you sense any differences, broadly speaking, between the mistakes men make when selecting their type and the mistakes women make?

Kait Tomlin: Sometimes yes. JJ can speak to the guys. You know, what I often see for ladies, this isn't all the time, but oftentimes our type is derived off of something that was missing in our childhood that we're looking for in another person, and or it's coming from deficits in ourselves that we're looking for in another person.

So if I don't believe I'm very attractive, I want to be with someone that maybe is in a higher attractiveness level than me, because if I'm with them, it will make me feel more attractive. But if I'm with someone who's as attractive as I am or below, that would make me not attractive. And then I would have to face the fact that I really don't believe I'm attractive. So I will only say my type is our guys that are X attractive or have these things because I'm looking for those deficits to be filled by being with that person versus first healing those things.

Similar. I see women... Ooh, this one always stirs people up, but with height. It's a big, big, big one where women are like, "I want a good godly man." And I'm like, "Here's a guy." And they're like, "He's five-six." And I'm like, "Oh my gosh, who cares? He's an amazing, godly man." And the main things I hear with the height one, which is a big one, is "I don't feel feminine enough. I don't feel safe." I'm always like, "I'm sorry, but I see Tom Cruise in these Mission Impossible movies and he's got it going on and he is five-six. Now-

Eric Huffman: He's keeping the whole world safe in the Mission Impossible movies.

Kait Tomlin: Exactly. So height does not dictate safety, but really underneath that is a level that they don't feel feminine and they feel insecure about their bodies. So there's something to do with that where they have to work through that first.

Eric Huffman: It's deeper than it seems, right?

Kait Tomlin: Right. And when you're on dating apps, Eric, it's like, it's so easy, five-six, swipe left. Like certain ethnicity, swipe left. Like there's certain things where he's not attractive enough, oh, but he has a great profile, mm, no, he's too nerdy. Swipe left. And I'm like, go for the nerdy guy, the nerdy Christian guy, the solid character that's like a little bit shorter, that's your guy right there.

Eric Huffman: Absolutely.

Kait Tomlin: Anyway, I always tell women, please be more open-minded and know that sometimes you're drawn to things that really aren't going to help you or make you happy, quote-unquote, in a relationship as you think they would. What do you think about men?

Eric Huffman: Yeah, what about you, JJ?

JJ Tomlin: I mean, ironically, it's not far off. And Eric, I'm sure you could name it, the number one thing that guys look for first and foremost-

Eric Huffman: Intellect.

JJ Tomlin: Yeah. Personality with quotation marks, right?

Eric Huffman: Yeah.

Kait Tomlin: Personality.

JJ Tomlin: Man, it kills us. Our beauty compass is so skewered. Like with the advent of Instagram and even Photoshop, we just have such an unrealistic idea of what beauty looks like. And it's infected us that we think we can go out and find an Instagram model who loves Jesus with all of her heart and soul.

Kait Tomlin: And doesn't have any emotional problems.

Kait Tomlin: And is like likes golf.

Eric Huffman: And wants us.

JJ Tomlin: Right. That's the biggest miracle that we're actually handsome enough, right? Right.

Kait Tomlin: And they love football.

JJ Tomlin: Right, and they love football. They happen to play golf and they're low maintenance.

Eric Huffman: And they're virgins. All of it.

JJ Tomlin: And they're virgins.

Kait Tomlin: Oh, and they're virgins.

JJ Tomlin: And they're working. They make six figures. Just like we have such an unrealistic physical expectation. And I get flack for this because obviously, I have a beautiful woman to my left. But I'll tell you this. I always look back and think about my times in the small groups filled with women who I might not have gone in and been like, you know, that's a model right there.

You know, just they might not have caught my eye initially, but I will tell you one thing. After three months, after six months, after a year of being in a group with them and seeing how much they just love Jesus, how selfless they were, how patient they were, how kind they were, I all of a sudden would turn around and look at my friend and be like, Dude, this girl is so attractive to me. And I don't care if maybe she's not a 10 out of 10 with a perfect body. She has grown so much in attractiveness to me.

Kait Tomlin: Which is why you do have to give more people a shot in order to see if you can feel that way.

Eric Huffman: I love what y'all have to say about that on your podcast about, you know, even if it's just somebody you put in your friend zone, like you've been in a friend zone for a while, like that's probably your top candidate. I've felt that and shared that similar advice with some of my single friends. But you know, it's kind of going back to what we were talking about before with like the if you feel ignited, I think was the word you said to pursue someone.

I think we're saying the same things but we're just saying it differently. I just think it's a choice you make to be around someone. And you feel the attraction because you've made the choice. You don't make the choice because you feel the attraction.

I think that's what you're describing, JJ, with these small groups. Like you chose to sort of spend time with this person, even if it was just in a small group setting. You chose to be around them. And the more you were around them, the more you wanted to choose them. I think that is one way we break through the paradox of choice thing we were talking about earlier with all the options that we have. It's like, I'm not gonna make my choice until I feel more for someone than I feel for everybody else. It's like, well, that's not quite right. Like, how will you ever know that you feel the most for this person? Maybe tomorrow you'll meet someone you feel more for, it's like...

JJ Tomlin: Right, exactly.

Eric Huffman: You make the choice and then you feel that the more you make that choice.

JJ Tomlin: Yeah. And theology goes back and forth on the idea of the one in Romans 9 and what you can argue is God knows everything before you even decide. But one phrase that really helped me put it in perspective is the only one that exists is the one that you choose. And in that sense, love is forged and it's not found, right? So it's an idea that is built over time and it's choice, not a divine, you know...

Kait Tomlin: Drop out of the sky moment.

JJ Tomlin: Exactly. But ultimately, and I've told Kait this, I've laughed all the time, behind the scenes, one of my controversial opinions is I honestly think that you can marry someone and if Jesus and the kingdom is their top priority, you can make it work if that's your priority. And you can have a great marriage. Why? Because that's what was done for centuries. 

Kait Tomlin: It was, literally. They didn't have a choice.

Eric Huffman: Totally agree.

JJ Tomlin: But if you're okay waiting, you can wait longer now than ever before and still have an idea of a family and a unit. But I totally see where you're pointing to and I agree, ultimately, it is a choice that you just make.

Eric Huffman: Yes, I totally agree. And I think that, gosh, if people understood that it's not about finding your one and only, like your true love or whatever, like Disney told us. And I think people kind of know this, but still we're looking for it because we want that spark of sparks, you know? It's like, well, you'll have it if you choose the person. And if you choose the person, you both love the Lord and you're both pursuing Him together and you're spending time together, you choose each other, the spark will spark. It will blow your mind. But if all you're looking for is the spark up front, you're gonna have a life full of a thousand one-time sparks that went out.

Kait Tomlin: Well, what I'll say to that really fast, Eric, is I heard a pastor say this a long time ago and it always stuck with me. With the whole chemistry sparks thing, you can have chemistry with so many people in your life. You may even have chemistry with somebody when you're married. You may meet someone and say, oh, emotionally we really click.

And, you know, you have to make a conscious decision. Just because I have some sort of chemistry with this person of some kind... I'm not talking physical, I'm talking like the other, you know, whatever. And they might be attractive. That's besides the point. Am I going to say to myself, oh, well, maybe this is not the person I should be with because me and my husband, we've been having issues and that chemistry isn't really there as strong as it was. And I have chemistry with this person, so maybe I should be with this person.

There's going to be a thousand decisions like that you're going to have to make in married life. You can have a chemistry or a spark with somebody and it doesn't mean that is supposed to be your person. And for me with JJ, it was much more of that slow burn, but it was more... Once it burned to a fire, it was amazing, but it took some time. I prefer relationships that start in a slow burn.

And I actually think, and I've seen it for so many close people in my life and people we've counseled, some of the best relationships start with that slow burn. So don't eliminate something just because it's not, oh, a Disney relationship off the bat, you know?

Eric Huffman: I agree with Kait and JJ that some of the strongest relationships I've seen started as a slow burn, but that's hard in an age where things move so fast. It reminds me of what comedian Chris Rock said on a recent Netflix special about modern dating and intimacy. I can't quote him verbatim because, well, this is still a family show, but basically Chris Rock pointed out how odd it is these days that having sex is less intimate than holding hands. He said he's had all kinds of sex with all kinds of women and barely remembers any of their names, but he's only held hands with maybe five women in his life and he knows each of them intimately.

Chris Rock: "I can't tell you every woman I've... But I know every hand I ever held."

Eric Huffman: Now, maybe you can relate to Chris Rock's perspective here, or maybe you can't relate at all. The point is that this mentality is now the norm that faithful Christian singles are up against while navigating today's dating scene.

As part of Operation Matchmaker, we hosted two events for Houston area Christian singles. I didn't expect the kind of turnout that we got. Somewhere around 150 people packed into a brewery with no air conditioning in the middle of the hottest Houston summer on record. There were definitely more women than men, and the women had a lot to share about the topic of sex and dating.

Woman: What is the hardest part of the dating scene these days?

Woman: Finding quality people that actually want to be in a relationship that leads to marriage. I think there's plenty of people out there if you're willing to just... If you just want to have sex?

Woman: I was going to say that's the most challenging thing is these sex expectation. Three dates and then they disappear if it's not there.

Woman: Oh, I literally had a guy tell me, we went on four dates, and legit told me, every guy has a number of dinners he'll buy before he expects something in return. And I said, well, your number is clearly four.

Woman: They call it hookup culture.

Eric Huffman: Hookup culture?

Woman: Yeah.

Eric Huffman: How does that mess it up for you?

Woman: Because I want to establish a deeper connection with someone before reaching intimacy. And I feel like most people skip that step and then don't even dive into the deeper part of relationships.

Woman: I've had one guy ask me, how many dates does it take before I'm open to doing that? Wanted me to give him a number because he said, "I will wait, just tell me the number." And I was like, "Good night, sir. We're done."

Kait Tomlin: So we did a whole series on sex earlier in 2023, which I highly recommend for singles to listen to. I think often when the topic of sex comes into the room, it's like, singles, close your ears or get out of the room or don't listen to this. It's like this forbidden fruit, which I understand. Definitely, there is a value to waiting to have sex for marriage, which is what we teach and what we did as well in our relationship.

However, I think we do have to have healthy conversations around sex, sexuality, our sexual ethic. The purity culture was a hard point in time that really did some damage, though I know it had some good intentions. And so we can't just say, never talk about sex, don't think about it, or you'll get chlamydia and die, you know? And that's kind of like-

Eric Huffman: Is that a sermon? I never read that.

Kait Tomlin: No, seriously, like don't even think about it. That's from Mean Girls, the movie. But literally, that's kind of how it's treated. And I'm like, that doesn't help us. We need to talk about what do you believe about sex? What is the purpose of sex in marriage? What is sex designed to do? What are some realistic things to expect when you come into marriage with somebody with sex?

And I'm not talking necessarily all the explicits. I'm just talking about how we need to reduce the fairy tale of, on my wedding night, I'm going to have the hottest sex in my life and it's going to be the best thing ever for all of my years. And our friend, Sam Collier, said this to us the other day. He was like, before you get married, the enemy is constantly trying to make you want to have sex and tempt you to have sex. And after you get married, the enemy is trying to make you not have sex at all with your spouse.

Eric Huffman: Wow, that's good. It's funny, when it's no longer forbidden fruit, it's not even that appetizing, right? It's like, come on, right?

Kait Tomlin: Right, I know.

JJ Tomlin: It is true.

Kait Tomlin: And the reality that for some people and some women who are virgins, it may be very painful. It may be really hard. When you get into marriage and you have those experiences, you feel like the lone sheep, and it will cause so many more issues in your marriage because you didn't talk about the possibility of these things beforehand.

Eric Huffman: Know exactly what you mean. Now, when it comes to singleness, do y'all get specific with singles that are wondering where to draw lines physically? What's the advice you give people when they're trying to figure out what to do and what not to do on the dating scene?

JJ Tomlin: Yeah, we love this question. I mean, the classic question is how far is too far, which is hilarious because the question itself is kind of reflecting the theology and the priority of their life. Where else in your life do you ask, how much gray action can I get away with and then not be called sin? How close can I get to the line?

And for me, I'm like, well, for me, you just revealed the priority of your life, and your question in the sense of why is the question not how can I glorify God as much as possible when it comes to physical boundaries and relationship, right? That right away changes my entire stance and how I act from that point because the priority and the object of my eye is pleasing God and honoring Him and honoring my partner.

And that starts with, I think, the theology of sex. Right. And that's where the church, I would say, is where we drop the ball is we should be the most pro-sex, champions of sex, most quick to talk about sex in the sense of it's an amazing thing. And if we wiped all of our assumptions and looked at the Bible and started there and talked about sex, God's not shy about it at all.

Eric Huffman: I couldn't agree more with JJ here, especially on his last point. Modern culture has made sex so disposable that it's led people to see each other as disposable too. Ungodly men are out there using women sexually and ungodly women are using men too. Everyone is chasing what they think they want, but no one's really finding what they need. And too often, the church's only response has been just to point fingers of judgment when we should be telling the whole world that God made sex. He invented it and He made it wonderful and good. He made it so good that it shouldn't be given away haphazardly because it's designed to be explored and enjoyed in the safe and intimate confines of covenant marriage.

Now, earlier in this episode, I promised to tell you all about some of the couples that we set up as part of Operation Matchmaker. Well, the first date took place at the end of August and yours truly decided to play Uber driver for the night.

Eric Huffman: Hey.

Christina: Hi.

Eric Huffman: How are you, Christina?

Christina: Good. How are you?

Eric Huffman: Good. So here we are. Ladies and gents, welcome. I'm really nervous.

Christina: Are you?

Eric Huffman: Yeah. But I feel like I shouldn't be.

Christina: I'm just excited nervous.

Eric Huffman: William and Christina were an obvious match, at least in my mind. When I talked to him, he said that he was looking for a kind and caring Christian woman. And if she's Latina, that would help, he said. And well, that's Christina in a nutshell. And she told me that she'd like to find a taller guy who's a Christian and who's ambitious and I quote, "hopefully not a creep". And I think that's William.

So we're going to go have dinner. Well, y'all are going to go have dinner. We're going to drop y'all off. Y'all know anything about the plan?

Christina: No, I didn't even know his name.

Eric Huffman: Yeah, I know. He didn't know yours either. William.

Christina: Okay. Yeah, I got that.

Eric Huffman: William, Christina. So we are going to a restaurant called Copa. It's in Rice Village. It's one of my absolute favorite local spots. My wife and I go there for date night all the time. And y'all both been there?

Christina: Yes.

Eric Huffman: You like it?


Christina: Yes.

William: It's great.

Eric Huffman: Awesome. So, William, why don't you tell Christina about why you decided to throw your name in the hat for Operation Matchmaker? Because that was a gutsy move.

William: It was a gutsy move. It's not something that I have done in the past or that I would say, Christina, was necessarily looking for. But some of my good friends sitting around brought up this generous networking pool that Pastor Eric had put together. And I said, "That's pretty interesting." And a friend of mine pulled out his phone and started firing questions at me and said that I was gonna be in the pool, whether I liked it or not. So that's really what kicked it all off.

Eric Huffman: So what about you, Christina? What led you to say, "All right, I'm in for this crazy idea"?

Christina: I mean, dating around here has been pretty terrible. So I figured I had nothing to lose by applying and seeing if by chance something would work out.

Eric Huffman: Well, that's really sad. But I totally get it. Having a close look at the dating scene lately, I totally get what you mean. It is a difficult place to navigate. All right. I'm going to pull right around here. The valet guys aren't going to be happy with me. All right. I'm going to get a picture real quick.

William: Are you going to selfie it?

Eric Huffman: I'm just going to selfie it. It's not going anywhere until you guys get married or whatever.

Christina: Oh, my gosh.

Eric Huffman: One, two, three. Excellent.

William: Cheese.

Eric Huffman: Cheese. As with any blind date, William and Christina had their share of awkward moments that night. But all in all, their first date was a success. Time will tell what the future holds for these two. Nevertheless, I was relieved to have our first attempt at matchmaking go so well.

As the summer unfolded, we decided to host more events for everyone who applied to Operation Matchmaker. Instead of everyone just waiting for me to set them up, we wanted to challenge the applicants to take matters into their own hands by playing our version of an old game show from the 1970s called The Dating Game.

Woman: Contestant number one, if you could describe yourself as an animal, what kind of animal would you be?

Man: I guess I'm super tall, so the logic there is maybe a giraffe. But I feel like that's probably a little bit more dorky than I would imagine. So I'm going to go with a yellow lab. I don't know. That's like all Americans. It's really hard to hate a yellow lab, I feel like.

Woman: Awesome. Great answer. Love it. Okay, contestant number two, what is your ideal Saturday?

Man: Saturday, I would say we're going to Kyle Field and we're going to watch the Aggies win together. And then after that, we'll scoot back to Houston and catch a show at White Oak and then dinner wherever you want and dessert at Amy's Ice Cream because it's the best ice cream in town. Unlimited toppings.

Woman: Love that. Okay, contestant number three, you've just been told you have a few months to live. What do you do?

Man: Here's what you do. You liquefy all your assets and you travel for the next three months. Can I get some cheers in the crowd?

Woman: Yes.

Man: There we go.

Woman: Agreed.

Eric Huffman: As awkward as that whole thing might sound, The Dating Game show may have been our most successful attempt at matchmaking. Margaret ended up picking contestant number one, the yellow lab, and they've already been on a couple of dates and they really seem to be hitting it off.

I often tell single folks in my church that the only real purpose for dating is to find someone to marry. But even when somebody dates with that purpose in mind, the unlimited options and inherent superficiality of modern dating are enough to make the pursuit of marriage seem impossible for many people. I've seen lots of single friends who've responded to that hopeless feeling by compromising on their core values and their priorities in a desperate attempt to not drown in their despair.

Oftentimes, they'll say that they still hope for the same long-term outcomes of marrying a Christian and having a family. But in the short term, they often decide that it's better to have fun with fools than to be virtuous and all alone.

If you're listening now, and this describes your current situation in any way, I want you to hear me say that I truly understand as much as I can, and I hope that you'll get connected with a Christian community, whether it's a church or a small group, or just a group of Christians who see you and take your dilemma seriously.

But before we wrap this episode, I also want to offer a challenge to our single listeners. This part's not super easy to say, but I believe that one of the most important things that one of the most common recipes for heartache on today's dating scene is looking for a specific type of person without becoming the type that that type of person is looking for.

Think about your ultimate dream date for a second. You know, the kind of person who turns your world upside down, the one you want to take home to mom and dad, the person you can imagine sharing your whole life with. And then ask yourself, honestly, would that person you have in mind right now be excited to date the person that you are today?

And if the answer is no, for any reason, the next question should be obvious. How should I change the way that I'm living and the choices that I'm making so that I'm becoming the person that my ideal person is looking for? Real romance doesn't start on an app or on your screen or at the club or the bar or the gym. It starts in your mind and in your heart and your deepest thoughts, in your meditations, on your knees, in your prayers, and in the priorities that you set.

And I believe that making Jesus your top priority is the single best decision that any single person can make. Why? Well, I think that's because He is the most loving, most magnetic person that the world's ever seen. And the more you make Him your priority, the more like Jesus you will become. Until one day, you'll look in the mirror and you'll see the person who's ready to turn your dream date's world upside down.

Julie Mirlicourtois: If you have comments about today's episode, please email us at [email protected] and engage with us on social media. Today's episode was produced by Julie Mirlicourtois and Eric and Geovanna Huffman. Our associate producer and social media lead is Adira Polite, Mark Calver is the director of all of our full-length YouTube videos, and our super-talented editors are Justin Mayer and Shannon Stefan. Thanks for listening, everyone.