After years of online dating, pining, whining, attending weddings alone, announcing and renouncing my spinster status, I’m engaged!I feel incredibly blessed. But I’m taking time to reflect on the journey that led me to this place.For us, it was a serendipitous story of knowing each other as young teenagers, growing up and losing touch, and finding our way back to one another.

So despite all the hours I invested in online dating and the time I put into creating a great online dating profile, I didn’t end up meeting my husband-to-be there.

But that doesn’t mean that all those years of online dating were wasted or fruitless time. In fact, I think it’s because of that time and effort I put into online dating that I ended up being able to say yes to this man.

My journey, faith, and life were all impacted by online dating—for better or worse. Whether you’re thinking about giving dating websites a go, or are already looking at profiles of potential partners, here are the five most important lessons I learned from my time spent on dating sites.

1. Say yes to things

I’ve never done improv comedy. Thinking on my feet isn’t something I’m known for. But I know that the most basic premise of performing improv is to say, “Yes, and . . . ” to whatever your partner says.

Without this mutual agreement to accept whatever is coming next, improv can’t exist. The “yes” is the key to collaboration, while the “and” is the key to building something even better.

I told myself that saying yes to online dating was the first in a series of necessary “yeses”. By saying yes to dates or people you might ordinarily say no to, you accept the opportunity to grow.

A philosopher I studied in grad school said, “A thing can only be defined by what it’s not.” Diving heart-first into dating means we can say yes to trying new foods, new experiences, new potential matches, new sports—and learn who we are along the way.

Thanks to my time on online dating sites, I learned I do not like speed-based competition (thank you, backyard olympics with a guy who will remain unnamed) or the Ungrateful Dead (thank you, blind date setup).

2. It’s okay to pass

Another lesson I’ve learned is that it’s okay to say no. In fact, when you say “no,” it makes your “yes” more impactful. Someone who can say “yes” and “no” with confidence is is someone who knows who they are and what they want.

All of your matches won’t lead to long-term relationships. In a lot of cases, you might just not click at all with someone who you meet through online dating sites or dating apps.

It is really hard, especially on a site like Catholic Singles, to accept that not all online daters are your perfect match. When the fundamental quality is there—a Catholic foundation—it can feel nit-picky to say, “I’m glad you love Jesus but you also love the Simpsons and I just cannot get on board with that lifestyle.”

But that’s online dating. That’s compatibility. You’re entirely within your rights to politely say, “I’m not interested” to people you meet online or off.

3. Don’t take yourself (or online dating!) too seriously

I’m a writer. So when I apply for jobs, I feel an added pressure to make sure the cover letter and resume are exactly right. If I can’t write a flawless cover letter, who would hire me to write anything else?

That pressure always came screaming back to me when I tried to write a dating profile. I’m willing to bet you feel the same way about your dating profile; writer or not.

Don’t agonize over having all the answers or behaving like the perfect match right when you read through a person’s profile. I know it’s tempting to try to fit into a mold they’re looking for, so that you can sort of get a leg up on the competition.

For instance, if I guy I met online said that he loved tennis, I may be tempted to respond, “Oh my gosh, I’ve always wanted to try tennis!”

But that’s a total lie. I haven’t always wanted to try tennis, and I hate sports. Moreover, I hate sweating. I hate running. I hate shorts! Those are all vital ingredients of tennis.

I wouldn’t call it kittenfishing (one of many internet dating trends), but it’s definitely not being honest. It’s not born of a dishonest place; more of a place that I wanted badly to be interesting.

The less I tried to do that when I was on online dating websites, the more I became okay with just being myself and not stressing over having the right answers. When I finally got to my fiancé, I wasn’t preoccupied with being any particular version of me—just the real one.

And guess what? He loves me

4. Remember that you’re worthy of love

Unfortunately for a lot of people, online dating makes them feel the exact opposite of lovable. But here’s my challenge to you: use it as a chance to also get to know yourself, and how truly awesome you are.

By saying yes to new things and letting my guard down to the “right” answers, I wound up in conversations and situations that I wouldn’t have learned about before. No one had ever invited me to throw axes before. This invitation led me to see myself as courageous. This led me to realize how attractive and loveable that courage is!

Take the things you’re learning about your dating partner as an opportunity to answer your own questions, and find those loveable qualities you possess too.

5. Allow yourself to be surprised

Here’s a totally wild, totally true story. In 2015, I had been to no fewer than 12 weddings where I knew both the bride and the groom. Everyone I went to college with got married in the five years following college.

The Lord will never cease to totally surprise us when our hearts are open to it. He wants to leave us dazzled and in awe of what he can do.

Online dating can sometimes leave us feeling more bamboozled than impressed. But today, I encourage you to embrace the moments when you are totally surprised by something wonderful. It’s not happy coincidence—it’s an intentional part of the plan God has for you. Even the potential matches you don’t wind up with.