Monday, April 13, 2009

Long-Distance and/or Online Romance: Nice, But At What Cost?

There is something very romantic about a long-distance relationship, especially for those who are prone to romanticism, i.e., the poets and writers among us. Ahem ;) :)

Oh yes, we loooove to write pages and pages about our deepest feelings, oftentimes peppering our love letters with "one-liners of love" that we might not have the guts to utter in person. The early months of dating long-distance can be quite infatuating for the romantics among us. It is a time when our heart's pencil is most sharp. With one well-written line, the romantic becomes the hero of their own creation; at times, becoming a larger-than-life character in their own plays.

At once charming and seemingly sincere, always penning just the right words to capture a new lover's heart, romantics start to feel as swept away as the objects of their affection do. In this way, two needs are filled: the poet's, because they need to pour out their hearts in written form...and the new love's, because they need to be flattered and romanced. It is a sweet, perfect world they share...a place where neither is flawed and life is always good.

Sadly, romantics ALWAYS (and I mean, ALWAYS!) fall hard when reality sets in. So do their paramours. Reality's harsh light, like overhead lighting in department store dressing rooms, can be quite revealing, showing every major flaw otherwise overlooked or disguised. That space of time between the charm of romanticism and the reality of real life can be quite a large pothole in the road of the poet's & paramour's relationship, out from which many cannot dig themselves. Those who do manage to climb out discover that they are no longer as infatuated with their new love as they were when the lighting was dimmer and the world was a dreamy self-created fantasy. Those couples who DO climb out and work together to meld the romantic with the realistic have the best chance of making it, but they may always feel that something was lost along the way.

Case in point:

Hubs and I met online in a widows & widowers chat room (at the time, I was researching chat rooms for an article I, as a freelancer, was commissioned to write about them). His posts to other survivors melted my heart. On the back-and-forth letters/e-mails we two hungry romantics sent to each other were written words like those of gothic novels, dripping with sweet sentimentality and love so divine, they would have made Satan himself swoon. It had been many, many years since I had been so hunted and chased, so flattered and infatuated. Hubs' words spun gold in my heart and wove a tapestry so intricate that I floated instead of walked, laughed instead of cried, and reeled with delight from the power of his silky threads of lovingly written words.

In my mind, he had become perfect, infallible, and pleasantly unreal, so unlike anything I had ever experienced. In my mind, I had created my own personal knight in shining armor who had come to save me from my painful post-divorce misery. With each in-person meeting/date, Hubs' armor became more and more dented as the reality of his normal human imperfections was revealed. Where, oh where was my white knight...and who was this clumsy-talking shy clown taking his place? (LOL!) I can't explain WHY I was so shocked....perhaps because I had built him up so much in my mind (with his help, of course!) as this mythical creature that ANY tiny imperfection reality revealed about him to me would messed with my sense of need. Whatever its reason, the transition was indeed painful.

However, long story short....Although the heady feeling that accompanies being romanced diminished, with time, the acceptance of each other for who we really were took hold as we began the slow process of climbing out from the pothole of long-distance romantic infatuation into a new reality - one that still included romantic overtures, but one that became solidly based in the daily give-and-take required for relationships to grow.

Reality is no picnic, and the knight gave me respite from the harshness of my daily living at a time when I needed the rest so badly. But with a LOT of perseverance and a willingness to create a new kind of love, we both tempered the poets inside of us with the imperfect people we were, and thus forged a more realistic yet still sentimental bond.

I must admit with great sadness that I miss the fantasy of the white knight...
Gone are the long, drippingly sweet pages and pages of uninhibited written confessions of his heart. Thankfully, in their place, my W has written in indelible ink upon my heart an unspoken love that I can count on to always be there.
Gone are the "all-nighters" when we would lovingly express until dawn's early light our deepest dreams and desires for our future, in whispered tones and with giddy anticipation. Thankfully, in their place, my W has worked hard in the real world to make a future for us that is mortgage-free and retirement-ready, thus securing my heart to his.
Gone are the days of revelling in each other’s romantically-eschewed perfection. Thankfully, in their place, we have faced the harsh lighting of reality, revealing all of our worst human imperfections, and yet loving each other in spite of them all.

Has it been easy? Lord, no! The transition from romantic fantasy to reality would have been MUCH simpler if only we had done the mature thing and revealed to each other in bits and pieces our human flaws. In short, while reality may be harsh, you cannot make a life with a fantasy.

Thankfully, once in awhile, when I least expect it, the white knight returns for a visit (usually carrying flowers!), if only to remind me that he still exists but in a different form. This new knight - a blend of the romantic and the realistic - is a better person in whom I can place my trust instead of putting my future in the hands of a created persona who was better at sweeping me off my feet than helping me sweep the floors of our family home.


  1. I just happen to be passing by when I read your post. Nice post and keep up the good work!

  2. This story sounds like a bit of what I'm going through . Seeing a widower long distance.We met once ..I fell in love he says he started to have feelings.He wants to stop talking like we have.he said he's afraid of a relationship .he's afraid he will lose someone again.I made a bit of a mess .I need to figure this out..I need to win him over . Please help