Going from On Line to Real Life

It's wasn't that long ago that couples who met on line were a rarity. They used to be invited onto talk shows and radio shows, to explain how this amazing feat happened - that someone you met on the internet could become a real-life boyfriend or even a husband.

Nowadays, it seems you can't turn around without running into someone who met someone on line, or is dating someone on line, or has a sister whose best friend is marrying her on line beau. It seems so easy to go to match.com or datingfaces.com, click on a few links, and find the Perfect Guy or Girl. How well does it really work, though?

Like everything in life, you need to be realistic. It's like Love at First Sight. Sure, somewhere in the world is a couple that looked at each other once, *happened* to be exactly perfect for each other, married and lived together with no fighting and perfect harmony. However, for that one random lucky situation, there are 999,999 other couples that THOUGHT they were perfect at first glance, built up unreasonable expectations and realized quickly that when they actually got to KNOW each other, they were like night and day.

The built in problem with internet romances is that they SEEM really close, really quickly, and that they are a 'best of' relationship. That is, the person you're chatting with is there when you want to talk, but when you want to be alone, you can simply go somewhere else. You don't have to deal with his bad habits or her continual whining. You get the BEST of this person. Even when you're talking about unhappy things, there's a bonding going on, the sharing of the burden. So even this seems good.

It's very, very common for people who chat over the internet to say that they know EVERYTHING about each other, and that they talk more to this person than to any real life person. This can certainly be true. But on the other hand, you're in essence pen pals, meaning that each person is "presenting" him or herself, either consciously or subconsicously. People want to be liked. So whether they realize it or not, they present the parts of them to get them liked. They shield or play down the parts that aren't so likeable. If you say you love gardening, they play up their gardening interests. It's a self feeding cycle. You get drawn into feeling SUPER close to each other, when if you met that exact same person in real life, you'd have a much more realistic view of how well you two really would work together.

None of this is really "bad". Again, it's normal. You build up sort of a sugar-coated version of each other, you have tons of fun talking to each other, you have someone to talk to and confide in. It's always great to have friends to talk to, and on the internet you can share your feelings and emotions and have that outlet. It's like having a live diary or journal, and can be VERY good for you.

However, the difficulty comes when you decide to make that leap from on line friendly chatter to real life boyfriend-girlfriend. You might believe that what you have is "as real or more real than couples who live together." It's simply not. There is an entirely different layer involved with daily having to interact with someone, sharing your personal space with them, dealing with the bad habits, dealing with the differences in sound enjoyment, physical touch enjoyment, mess enjoyment, etc. New couples tend to focus on the 'great benefits' - mostly the sex and contact. Sex and contact are great at first, but as any couple that's been together for more than a few months can attest, it's not everything. After a few years, it's far less important than the ability of you two to LIVE together, day in, day out, through grumpy mornings and cranky evenings and burnt pasta and missed appointments.

Yes, you two CAN be happy together, just like any other couple CAN be happy together. But if you are, it will have little to do with the on line part of your relationship. All couples end up knowing about each other, and it rarely affects their ability to last together as a couple. Instead, what will be key in you two working together as a real life couple are the exact same things that are key in *every* relationship, no matter how it started. These things include:
  • That you trust and respect each other.
  • That you're able to discuss issues FACE TO FACE that are difficult, without yelling and hostility.
  • That you can compromise and learn to 'agree to disagree'.
  • That you truly have fun doing things together.
  • That your levels of home cleanliness and lifestyles can find a common ground.
  • That you are both secure in the relationship and not overly jealous of each other.
  • That you both maintain friendships outside of the relationship and do things with those friends.
If you start the transition knowing that it will be work, and that if you work together you can find success, then your relationship will have a good chance of succeeding. But if you go into the transition from on line to real life thinking "we're already perfect for each other, so this will be great!!" then you'll probably be disillusioned as soon as the rush of lust and new-love-passion die down. You'll be left with unhappiness that your dreams of happily-ever-after didn't materialize all by themselves.

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