He called his mom and told her the date was horrible and awkward. Kyle Krauss had spent more time talking with Mary Gracyalny’s friend than with Mary, whom he’d met on CatholicMatch.com, a faith-focused, subscription-based online dating site.

“We went out to IHOP and he talked more to my friend than to me – I didn’t know what to say,” Mary, 27, said in After dating for six-and-a-half years, Mary and Kyle Krauss were married June 29, 2013, in Sturgeon Bay. The couple met on CatholicMatch.com in 2006. (Submitted photo courtesy Mary Krauss)an interview with Catholic Herald’s myFaith, explaining she was nervous because she was not only shy, but also inexperienced in talking with guys.

They continued chatting online, and decided to meet again because she was traveling to a funeral with her cousin in Sturgeon Bay, where Kyle was.

This time, they hit it off.

That was the summer of 2006; they married June 29, 2013, at Corpus Christi Catholic Church in Sturgeon Bay.

Finding “the one” online is an increasing trend, according to a study published June 18, 2013, in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America,” a multidisciplinary scientific journal, that said more than one-third of marriages in America begin online.

The University of Chicago study, commissioned by the eHarmony online dating website, found one-third of the nationally representative sample of 19,131 respondents married between 2005 and 2012 met online, with 45 percent of them meeting on online dating sites; 20 percent on social networks; and 35 percent through chat rooms, forums, blogs and gaming sites.

It also reported marriages that began online, compared with marriages that began through traditional venues, “were slightly less likely to result in a marital breakup and were associated with slightly higher marital satisfaction among those respondents who remained married.”

Why online dating is popular

Online dating appealed to Mary, a children’s librarian in Green Bay, because she could get to know someone without being nervous, and she was able to meet someone with similar beliefs.

“It was just I wasn’t sure exactly what I was looking for except that I had these standards I wanted to live my life by, and I was looking for someone with the same sort of feelings, and someone that wasn’t going to pressure me to have sex before we got married. …” she said, explaining she liked how the site asked members seven questions about the “somewhat debated” tenets of the faith – like whether they believed in sex before marriage or the use of contraception.

“I was encouraged by that, because I could limit the people I interacted with to those that I wanted.”

She had exchanged emails with a few guys with whom she saw no potential – one was in Kentucky, another in southern Illinois – but she remembered the picture Kyle, 30, currently attending UW-Platteville for electrical engineering, had in his profile, and one word that set him apart from everyone else.

“What I really liked is that he said he had an ‘insatiable sense of humor.’  Who says words like that? …” she said. “Nobody – nobody I know. That was really intriguing to me.”

They may not have met without the help of CatholicMatch, because Mary was working as a nanny in Mt. Horeb for the summer after finishing her freshman year at UW-Whitewater, and Kyle was working at Walmart for the summer, after finishing his junior year at UW-Green Bay.

“We met online to meet someone with the same values that was preferably already Catholic. I don’t know why someone would be (on a Catholic dating site) if they weren’t,” she said, explaining those things mattered to her because of her traditional, Catholic roots.

Mary hadn’t dated for three years, but she wanted to. She said she joined when her cousins, married in 2005, talked her into an online dating site because that’s how they met. Kyle asked his parents for a subscription for his birthday in 2006 after not finding anyone at school, work or among friends. She was 18, and he was 23.

Who does it?

A study on online dating and relationships published in 2013 by the Pew Research Center’s Internet Project found online dating is most common among Americans in their mid-20s through the mid-40s. According to the study, 22 percent of 25-34-year-olds and 17 percent of 35-44-year-olds are “online daters,” defined as individuals who have used an online dating site or mobile dating app.

The report also said general public attitudes toward online dating have become more positive in recent years, though a majority of the public views online dating skeptically. It found that 59 percent of all Internet users agree online dating is a good way to meet people, an increase from 44 percent who answered that way in 2005; 53 percent of Internet users agree online dating allows people to find a better match because they can get to know more people, up from 47 percent in 2005; and 21 percent of Internet users agree people who use online dating sites are desperate, down from 29 percent who answered that way in 2005.

Overcoming reservations

Distance caused issues for Kim and Joe Kenitz, who lived 12 hours apart when they met on CatholicMatch.com in 2010, but it didn’t stop them from getting married Aug. 4, 2012, at St. Lawrence Church in St. Lawrence. (Submitted photo courtesy Kim Kenitz)Joe Kenitz, 28, a trust analyst, and Kim Kenitz, 28, a stay-at-home mom, tried online dating, though both had reservations.

They signed up for CatholicMatch.com anyway, hoping to find someone whose values matched their own as Catholics.

“I think for me it was ideal, because for most people that do go out and try to date, they try to find a person and hope that their values correlate and I guess, by process of elimination, that can take a very long time,” Joe said in an interview with Catholic Herald’s myFaith. “I think with going online, you kind of knew there were some premises set before you met so you can develop a personal relationship.”

“You can ask questions sort of that you might not think to ask in person right away, online and that sort of helps, in a way, weed out the people that you might not really think are for you,” Kim added.

Joe and Kim, Germantown residents, liked that CatholicMatch.com members answered seven questions about the Catholic Church; both believed all seven.

“Which, for me, basically just means Catholic, and I always thought that if you start with that premise, as long as you work at it, most anything can work,” Joe said. “Obviously, God’s will is God’s will, but when I saw that, that was big, not to mention I thought, and do think, she is very beautiful, and that didn’t hurt.”

A connection that almost wasn’t

He and Kim, who were married Aug. 4, 2012, at St. Lawrence Church in St. Lawrence, and now have a 1-year-old son, likely wouldn’t have met without online dating. They almost didn’t meet with it.

Kim was living in Oakville in Ontario, Canada, when they met in 2010. That was 12 hours away from Joe, who grew up in Hartford.

She wrote to him first.

“I remember seeing his profile and after he had viewed mine, I clicked on his picture and I viewed his profile which said that he was best friends with his brother, he loved to cook, he was pretty big, at the time, on fitness, I believe,” Kim said.

 “And just, he seemed like a very nice guy, and I think I remember saying, ‘Hi, Joseph, nice profile,’ and that’s sort of what started it.”

Neither thought it would go anywhere because of the distance – Joe’s profile said he would be willing to be in a relationship within driving distance, Kim said.

“I was pretty sure Canada didn’t qualify,” she laughed.

“Yeah, I think an hour was my max, but then that was shattered,” Joe added.

But they continued talking because they had “seven out of seven” scores, which Kim said was “a pretty big deal” and Joe said was important because it seemed that many people on the website “just happened to come from a Catholic background” and agreed with only some church teachings.

“Once we started talking, we started to find a lot of areas that we agree on in life and we just kind of took a shot at it,” Joe said.

They chatted through the website until Kim’s one-month subscription was about to expire, and talked about keeping in touch via email. But before that, Joe told Kim he was going to deactivate his profile, because he wanted to see where their developing friendship would take him.

“That scared me a little bit because, at first, I didn’t expect it coming from him when he said he only wanted a relationship within driving distance and, also, he was all the way in Wisconsin,” Kim said.

He suggested meeting halfway, but Kim said “no.”

“If you want to meet me, I cannot, as a girl, leave my family, leave my house and go to another country,” she said. “The U.S. isn’t that far from Canada, but just going to another country and traveling to meet somebody that I met online, it just didn’t fit. It didn’t feel right to me.” Kim also had an expired passport and no driver’s license, because she always used public transportation.

Confronting obstacles

So, Joe drove 12 hours on a Friday, staying with her family for two nights and one day – even going to Mass with Kim and her family that Saturday, an hour after arriving.

They saw each other four times, communicating through emails, Google chat and Skype almost every day, before Joe proposed on Holy Saturday in 2011.

Getting married took nine months longer than planned, because they encountered immigration issues, including a typo on Kim’s fiancée visa, causing Joe to drive more than 60 hours in a week and a half; and spend a lot of money – between $4,000 and $6,000 in flights, immigration and attorney fees to settle everything.

But the online dating challenges were worth it, Kim said.

It gave them the opportunity to talk to a lot of different people, narrow their searches and “develop, I guess, a better sense of knowing what (we) wanted,” she said.

Be open to God’s call

Feeling skeptical about online dating is OK, according to Kim.

“But at the same time, if you really do feel like it’s something that God’s calling you to do, you should not give up on it and continue to pray and have faith that he will lead you to getting married … ” she said. “And always remember to stay true to the person that you are and make sure that you’re not compromising things.”

Joe said the best advice he can give is to not give up early.

“Most of the relationships that happen nowadays, people think they just have to work naturally otherwise they won’t work, but at the same time, there’s a 50 percent divorce rate, so that tells you something about that,” he said. “I think if you really give an effort and commit, God will give you circumstances in life where if it’s not supposed to work, it won’t.”

According to the 2013 study on online dating and relationships published by the Pew Research Center’s Internet Project, 42 percent of all Americans know an online dater, an increase from 31 percent in 2005, and 29 percent know someone who used online dating to meet his or her spouse or long-term partner through online dating, an increase from 15 percent in 2005.

Getting to know each other

Marie and Brian Butler, who met on CatholicMatch.com in 2010, were married at St. Martin of Tours Church in Franklin April 14, 2012, and have a 1-year-old daughter and 3-week-old son. (Submitted photo courtesy Marie Butler)That holds true for Marie Butler, 32, a nurse, and Brian Butler, 33, a physical therapist/athletic trainer, of Germantown. The couple, who met on CatholicMatch.com in 2010, married April 14, 2012, at St. Martin of Tours Church, Franklin, and now have a 1-year-old and 3-week-old, each know at least one person using dating sites.
Raised in Catholic families, they tried online dating after experiencing little dating success.

“Prior to meeting Marie, I really only had one, what I would consider, serious relationship where I was engaged to a girl I dated from the end of high school through most of college,” Brian wrote in an email to Catholic Herald’s myFaith. “I believe she was not ready to settle down and I was looking forward to my profession, so it was a good thing we parted ways at that time.”

Brian, describing himself as a “homebody” and “shy,” said he went online to meet people with similar interests.
Online dating allowed him to “get to know someone and determine if there was an initial and mutual interest from the comfort of your home and before venturing out.”

Marie dated a few people she met in college and through friends, and tried online dating when she lived on the east coast for a few years, but had little success.

“I decided to start online dating because in my profession and personal life I was not meeting people with similar beliefs, values and interests as me,” Marie wrote in an email to Catholic Herald’s myFaith. “I was at a point in my life that I wanted to see where dating would lead me.”

Drawn to her profile, Brian sent Marie a note.

“I think it was the similarities that we were both in health care and what appeared to be her strong faith and family priorities,” he wrote.

“We started by chatting on the site, then went to email,” Marie wrote. “Shortly after, I taught Brian how to text. He didn’t text message before he met me. A few weeks into dating, he ended up upgrading his phone and getting a new phone plan.”

After about two weeks of exchanging messages, they met at Flat Top Grill in Wauwatosa.

Marie said they decided not to pursue anyone else online within a month of meeting each other. She knew she found love by Thanksgiving, and Brian knew by Christmas; they were engaged the following March.
Brian said he was nervous about the stereotype about online dating at first.

“But then I realized, I am missing a part of life and missing out on someone in my life, so I was willing to do anything to find someone to share my life with, but I also had the mindset as to not just settle but find one that I loved and wanted to spend the rest of my life with and grow a family together,” he wrote.

Marie was also skeptical at first, and thought she’d “look desperate.”

“I was afraid what my family and friends would say,” she wrote. “Finally, I became confident enough to give it a try (probably never thinking I would meet my husband on the site and it would actually work).”

Keep an open mind

Both said the key to online dating is having an open mind.

“Have an open mind and don’t be afraid to get to know someone via email or chats for as long as you need prior to meeting in person,” Brian wrote. “(I) think  that when both are ready to meet, (they’ve) probably have gained enough knowledge about the other that the first date will be a relative success and interesting since there will be more to talk about.”

Marie also said not to judge someone by their pictures or one answer to a question. “Give yourself a chance and keep an open mind. I found myself trying to find ways for things to not work as a protection from the stereotype. I even thought to myself at one point, ‘This guy is too skinny,’” she wrote. “I would have really missed out on a wonderful husband if I allowed this to happen.”