Ask someone what they think about using a ‘personals’ ad and you are likely to get into as big a discussion as religion or politics. Perhaps because it is viewed as anything from tampering with fate to a practical way of meeting that elusive mister or missus ‘Right’.
Let’s begin with what’s out there. Before cyber-space became publicly available the penpal, or ‘lonely hearts’ clubs have been around since the 1950’s. With the proliferation of the newspaper into society it was now possible to centralize ads from a variety of places into one location where anyone could easily and anonymously make known their search for companionship. Since then the idea has been refined into a business in itself which has taken advantage of each new media to come along. Now there are companies providing essentially the same service using voice-mail, video-tape indexing, brochures and of course.. Internet on-line personals with specific parameter filtering. Placing a personals ad has not only become easier, it has become global with lightning speed accuracy.
But all these advances in the technology of the method still leave us with the same basic questions; ‘Does it work?’, ‘Is it safe?’, ‘Is it moral?’, ‘Is it only a last resort?’. Anyone who has placed or considered an ad posting has undoubtedly asked themselves several of these questions.
To examine the idea in itself, it is actually a very efficient system. The situation is that there are a massive amount of people in any given area who would like to begin a new friendship or romance scattered across the city with no way of contacting each other beyond the usual course of business. Some people are shy or work too many hours to find time for much socializing. Others are tired of being assessed by their money or beauty and would like the chance to converse via the anonymity of e-mail in an attempt to be known for who they are, not what they have. So by making it possible for them to find each other in one printed or cyber location brings together people who might otherwise not meet. This is where things get tricky since this has the potential to be either a great thing, bad thing, disappointing or stressful thing or… the dreaded nightmare thing.
Addressing our first question, “Does it work?”, I can say without a doubt.. yes, it does work. I can also say just as confidently, it does not -always- work. I can list the couples that I know personally who have had a satisfying relationship as the result of a matchmaker medium on one hand. However, I’d need a database to keep track of the dead-ends and horror stories from either people I’ve known or my own experiences. The issue does not seem to lie so much in whether or not Personals Ads work or not, but how you make use of them. It is not a magic wand nor is it a complete waste of time. I think of it like a visit to any public place, perhaps you will meet someone there, perhaps not. Some people meet in a grocery store line, but that doesn’t mean the more time you spend in a grocery line that you will be more likely to meet your soulmate. It could just as easily happen at a party, auto accident, funeral or friend’s wedding for that matter.
“Is it safe?” First off, no matter how trusting a person you are, when placing or answering a posting you must become as suspicious as the day is long. As you get information on a person remember that it takes time and reinforcing behavior to affirm what a person may tell you over the phone or across e-mail. Remember you know nothing about this person except what they tell you, and what you may not know is that they will not stop at blatant lying to bring you into their life. Unfortunately there are many people out there who either are purposely out to take advantage of someone else’s vulnerability for companionship or are so ‘zoned’ on having someone in their life that they will tell you whatever it is they think you want to hear. Anyone can be on their ‘best behavior’ for two or three dates. Perhaps they really are sweet, attentive, courteous and loving. Or maybe that’s a front they can only hold up for a short period before that drinking problem or violent temper comes out into the open.
And this does not apply only to women in fear of abusive men, but to men as well. Some people in life have been through some real hell and are not exactly ‘all there’ despite first appearances. One such man I read of in an article met a woman via a newspaper ad and within weeks he asked her to move in with him. It wasn’t until a few months later he found she had over six different driver’s licenses all with different aliases and appearances from several states. Upon notifying the FBI she later made bail and went directly to his apartment where she shot him several times. He survived and she went to prison.. but obviously she neglected to bring up these little bits of character history in her penpal posting.
Secondly, don’t feel you have to ‘decide’ on a relationship with a new penpal right away. If you are getting rushed into that by the other person, count it as a red-flag. There’s nothing wrong with hanging out ‘as friends’ to give each other time to see what’s what. I won’t say this is easy, especially if you’ve been wanting a relationship for some time. The sense of destiny and those first few weeks of time with a new friend can be literally intoxicating. But remember it is actually less grief to take the time knowing someone than it is to escape the wreckage of presumptuous promises made in haste.
Third, although many on-line forms will ask you if you are looking for a ‘long term relationship’ or ‘marriage’.. I suggest, do not write that down. Even if you are looking for that, begin with ‘Friends First’ as your posting heading. Again, it is easier to let friendship turn into love than to back-track love into friendship. In fact it is impossible with some people and even the friendship becomes unworkable.
Fourth, be honest. Don’t lie about your looks, weight, financial position, marital status, kids.. or that you camp every other weekend when you haven’t slept under a tree in years. To do so you start things off leading the other person looking for someone you aren’t. Many people feel uncomfortable revealing their looks or weight thinking they are too heavy or unattractive. But the reality is that you want someone who loves you for who you are. Despite what the movies and magazines say, there are men I know who prefer heavier women over slender. Other men I know don’t trust glamorous women and are wanting the ‘plain Jane’ they can give all their affections to and have a sense of trust with. For every shape, size, interest, I.Q., amount of kids.. whatever, there is someone looking for that preference and the best thing you can do for yourself and them is to simply be honest in who you are and who you are looking for.
“Is it moral?” Believe it or not I have had -many- long discussions, arguments really, over the theological implications of ‘playing cupid’ with a personals posting. In the final analysis I have found more evidence and reasoning that there is nothing at all wrong or immoral about it unless it simply would betray a person’s own personal bias against it. Though I have discussed the ‘trust God’ issue many times, I know some people are still against it ‘just because’. To those people I say, ‘Then it is best you don’t involve yourself in it, but do not restrict others from a good thing you don’t allow yourself.’
At the center of this argument is the premise, “You should trust God for your mate, this Personals Ads thing is taking it into your own hands.” The problem with this argument is that it is wrongly exclusive. It assumes you cannot trust God and take action at the same time. Unfortunately people are under the assumption that ‘trust’ means doing nothing until something happens. I could cite many people in the Bible who trusted God by acting, not by sitting around. Sometimes trust does mean waiting, other times, it does not.
A good example of this is the man who finds himself laid off from his job. He knows God wants him to support himself, but is now unemployed. So he prays, asks for God’s will and trusts God will direct his steps to the right job. Does that man then sit on his porch and wait for someone to offer him a job? No. He gets up off his knees and scans the classifieds where those offering jobs are hoping to meet with those in need of jobs. He interviews and takes each possible job on an individual basis. Has he betrayed his trust in God by searching for what he asked? Not in the least. Neither has the person who trusts God for a mate who then acts on that trust. It cannot be argued that marriage is a greater issue of fate than one’s job since one’s job determines the new friends one will know who can then be a major part of one’s destiny. Marriage is a deeper relationship than newfound friendships with co-workers. But not even the most insistive believer will say that one’s job is not an important part of one’s life in which trust with God is not essential.
As I said, not all conventional ‘play it safe’ moralists agree with me, nor do I expect them to. But there are such things as issues of conscience I won’t go into here that allow for differences between Christians on non-essential issues such as this.
Finally, there is the nagging issue.. “Is it only a last resort, only for those who have failed in meeting others in all other venues?” To this the answer is, ‘No.’ There are many ways to meet people in this world and a personals ad is simply one of them. It should not be the -only- venue you are using, but it makes for an interesting way to broaden your exposure to new friendships. It can be argued how dangerous it is to use one. Granted, that has truth to it. I have read of young women lured to dates and finding themselves raped and abandoned. I have heard of men drugged by women and waking to find their apartment trashed and robbed.
However the same can be said of meeting people in passing on the sidewalk, in a nightclub, at the beach or even.. the library. The serial killer Ted Bundy would pretend he had a cast on his leg to get help from unsuspecting women in the college parking lot. Does this mean even the parking lot is to be avoided for fear of meeting the wrong person? No, what it means is that there are also plenty of happily married couples who can tell you they met in a parking lot at college. It also means that if you find yourself meeting someone in a parking lot.. be careful.
Much like a prescription, hammer or automobile, making use of a personals ad service is something that can be used with caution to either improve or hurt your life. Like any other adult decisions it is not a simple matter of ‘all lights green, proceed’. It is a method for meeting people that requires maturity and a bit of discretion and patience to both avoid unnecessary pain and perhaps find the answer to one’s desire for friendship and possibly love.
Henry Velez is a writer, traveler and vlogger currently living in the Philippines. He has written extensively on social issues, relationships and travel.