By MARK D. WHITE
After ending my marriage of 15 years—the last few years of which, neither of us so much as blinked in acknowledgment of our anniversary or Valentine’s Day—I embarked on the search for love.
Over the last year-and-a-half, I met several women online (not through online dating sites but rather through random interactions on blogs and Twitter), intelligent, clever, beautiful, and kind women all of them. I thought this was fantastic—I was making meaningful connections with amazing women who appreciated the man I was. And since I value emotional intimacy more than physical intimacy, I found these close online friendships, which led to romantic conversations and sometimes love, to be exactly what I needed, regardless of the long-distance nature of the relationships.
As wonderful as these online connections were (often augmented by phone calls or Skype), eventually we would meet face-to-face. I thought that since we had formed tight emotional and romantic bonds online, after meeting in person the final piece would naturally fit into place and everything would be great from that moment on. I have long held to a romantic ideal that put the greatest emphasis on the meeting of two people’s minds, hearts, and souls, and if that connection were true, then the physical connection would follow. And that’s what happened with the first woman I connected with online, so I assumed it would happen with all the others.
What is “it”? Hell if I know, but it’s crucial. It’s the “click,” the spark, the chemistry (figurative or literal), the force that draws two people toward each other.
I took “it” for granted. I was spoiled by feeling it when I saw my first online love emerge from the gate at the airport, and when held her in my arms the first time I just knew. And once that relationship ended and I met someone else online, I was stunned that after months of amazing texts, tweets, phone and Skype calls, I didn’t feel “it” with her when we met. (Ironically, she was very concerned about “it” before we met, and I couldn’t understand why. Now I do.)
Sometimes I felt it, other times I didn’t—and the same for the women, of course—and there seemed to be no way to explain why it worked with some and not others, given that they were all intelligent, beautiful, funny women, the kind of women I have always wanted to be with. Luckily, with the women it didn’t click with, it didn’t take long to recognize that “it” wasn’t there, leaving us free either to either grow closer as friends or drift apart naturally once the promise of romance was gone. But it was still disheartening.
It still amazes me, and probably always will. Just when you think you’ve found someone that arouses your interest, makes you laugh, seems warm and kind, and is pleasing to the eye, it could still fall apart if “it” isn’t there. In some way it’s a complete game-changer, but it also confirms some other thoughts I’ve had. For instance, it reinforces my belief that focusing on your “type” is foolish—a person who seems like “just your type” may not do anything for you, and the person who’s not even close to your type may nonetheless make your pulse race. Restricting ourselves to people we think are our type merely limits our options for no reason. It’s much better just to trust your heart and wait for “it.”
As much as I hate to say it, given my romantic ideals—plus the fact that I come off much better online than in person—developing romantic relationships online may be overrated if the desired final result is an in-person relationship. As perfect as you may seem for each other over the internet, phone, and Skype, you may never know if you’re right together until you meet. Of course, sometimes it works, and it’s wonderful when it does—hell, it’s wonderful no matter how it happens! But if there’s that crucial piece, that “it,” that you can’t ascertain without meeting, then it’s wise to arrange a meeting as soon as you can, and bring the virtual into the real world. It can be incredibly disappointing to realize that a person you’ve developed feelings for, perhaps very intense ones, online does not “do it for you” in person—and the sooner you find this out, the better.
“It” isn’t everything, of course, but it has to be there. Now I just have to find it.
The Good Men Project is a cerebral, new media alternative to glossy men’s magazines. Founded by Tom Matlack in 2009, it’s become a social movement: an ongoing in-depth discussion asking “what does it mean to be a good man in these modern times?” Proceeds from The Good Men Foundation are used to support organizations that help at-risk boys.
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