Conscious Love: Online Dating for the Spiritually Minded
I stare at the blank form on the website — the one that invites me to open my heart and pursue my soul mate via a labyrinth stocked with eligible men. I breeze through the questionnaire: How “green” am I? What are my spiritual beliefs? What is my ayurvedic type?
This one give me pause. What did I learn in that Vedic astrology session … ? Oh yes! Happily, I type the word p-i-t-t-a in the space. But what exactly does that mean? I could not recall, so I hit Google. Pitta is “ambitious by nature but also can be demanding and abrasive.”
Yikes—do I really want that on a profile if I’m trying to get dates? Absolutely, I decide. This is a website for “conscious singles,” and men who populate the site will be interested in the true me —and not a false picture of someone younger, sleeker, and more deferential.
I think. Hope does spring eternal.
Despite having written about single life for more than a decade, I had never dated online in any serious way. In that regard, I was singular among my single friends—the Luddite left on the platform at the train station. After all, according to marketresearch.com, the dating services business is now a $2.1 billion industry in the U.S. alone, with niche websites gobbling up ever-larger slices of that pie. Still, I remained gun-shy—thanks to overexposure to online dating’s downside.
Readers of my early ’00s newspaper column emailed me with hundreds of horror stories, and sometimes their experiences would bring tears to my eyes. One woman waited for her first date with a man she’d met online, sitting at an outdoor table at the appointed place and time. A car pulled up close and slowed down; she thought she recognized the driver as her date. He gave her the once-over, and just as she raised her hand to wave, the car sped away.
And that was only the tip of the iceberg. Stunning tales of similarly dehumanizing behaviors abounded, and it also became clear that pretty much everyone was lying on their online profiles, often underreporting their age and weight. No, thanks, I thought.
I was more than capable of getting into my own romantic scrapes and didn’t need a website to exacerbate my bad decision making.
But just recently, I heard of an entirely new niche in the online dating market, for “conscious singles.” In this case, being conscious means living life in a thoughtful way, following a spiritual path, valuing nonsuperficial things when seeking a life partner. My heart leapt up. Perhaps my age (middle) and shape (no longer thin) and strong personality (pitta, remember?) might not be detriments in this brave new dating world.
“You should try it!” urged my friend Marc, an herbalist in San Francisco who met a wonderful woman on ConsciousSingles.com. “It’s basically for people who are sick of the factory vibe of the huge sites like Match.com, OkCupid.com and eHarmony.com. The values are different, and it’s much easier to find people who are on the path.”
There are sites for vegetarian singles, Buddhist singles, environmentalist singles, and more. To Sierra Faith, a dating coach who specializes in spiritual singles, the growth of these sites is a reflection of our changing times.
“We are living in an age where spirituality is becoming more important,” she says. “So having a partner with whom you share these beliefs is a no-brainer.”
“There have always been sites that match people based on religious beliefs, like JDate, ChristianMingle, even sites for Mormon and Muslim singles,” says Faith. “But so many people on sites like Match.com check the box that says ‘spiritual but not religious.’ So it’s about time we had a proliferation of sites that focus more on things like character, beliefs, and spirituality, rather than religious dogma.”
Faith says choosing a niche site is smart for people who aren’t interested in dating 100 people in order to find someone to whom they can relate on a deeper level. “I would equate using a niche site to going to Bloomingdale’s instead of Costco,” Faith says with a laugh. “You’re bound to find a higher quality there. And you are matched for more important reasons than that you both don’t smoke. You’re matched because you’re both Buddhists, or care about the environment. It’s exciting to take a swim in that pool.”
The only downside, she notes, is that