Online Prince- Offline Frog

Dear Toni-

I am a 57 year old divorced female who met a man online who I thought was the love of my life. He made the first contact and it took me by surprise because he was older than the age range I had specified and lived at a distance- which my profile stated I was not looking for. However, his email was charming and intriqued me and I decided there was no harm in writing him back and perhaps making a new friend.

One thing led to the next and before I knew it we had exchanged over 100 emails, each one longer and more detailed than the one before. We shared funny, sad and interesting stories about ourselves and our lives- and over time the phone calls began. It wasn't uncommon for us to have three to five hour conversations, and finally after about two months, we knew it was time to meet in person.

I made arrangements to travel to his location for one week because I have a sister who lives near him- which would give me a place to stay that would be close and convenient for us to get together frequently. He wanted to pick me up at the airport when I arrived, and that first evening was very nice. He greeted me with flowers and we went to a nice restaurant for dinner. We talked a lot and the conversation was easy and comfortable. I was surprised that he looked quite a bit older than his pictures and as it turns out, he was older than he said on his profile. I had suspected this before I met him but didn't think it would be a deal breaker. We spent the next day together and had a nice time again. The third date was when things began to change.

I became uncomfortable about comments he made regarding what I was wearing and how I didn't look like I had "in those jeans" in my profile picture. He also started to chastise me for talking about other people, even though I was only sharing funny stories in response to ones he had shared first. He talked a lot about himself, his past relationships and his ex wife- but didn't want me to talk about anyone I had dated or about my two ex husbands. I began to feel differently and took a day off from seeing him the next day. He was upset, said he missed me, and offered an apology and we got together the next day. Again, he made statements that hurt my feelings, was somewhat judgmental and short with me- and I noticed a jealous streak that made me very uneasy.

The last two days were up and down like this. I didn't feel the same as I had before we met in person, but was confused and needed time to sort things out. He drove me to the airport for my flight home and we had a pleasant good-bye. Two days later was Valentine's Day and I got a beautiful bunch of red roses. We talked that night on the phone and he abruptly became angry when I mentioned a close male friend in the context of a funny story. He lectured me and again told me not to talk about other people. I told him I had to go and would talk to him again soon. The next day, I emailed him to say good-bye. He has attempted to email me and I only responded briefly once that it just wasn't going to work for me. He was angry and made one or two personal attacks, but I ignored them and said good-bye.

I know this is very long, but wanted you to have enough detail to perhaps answer the following question. How could I have been so sure that he was the love of my life, then after just a few days together, find out I was so wrong? What was I missing during those two months that we shared so much and talked for hours? What makes the in person experience so different from the virtual one? - Real-life Dating Challenged

Dear Real Life dating Challenged-

The short answer to your question is that you fell for his charming conversation, funny anecdotes, over the top flattery and attention- and a sexy voice and intriguing photographs. I often refer to this as the one-dimensional relationship because what you see is what we see on an old movie set. It looks so real, there are streets, buildings with doors, windows and porches, water or mountains in the distance- but it's only a beautifully crafted facade. Just try to open one of those doors or step into that water and all you find is cardboard- crafted to look like the real thing.

In your one dimensional emails, picture sharing and conversations- your friend was able to present himself as a perfect guy. He listened deeply as you talked on and on about your deepest feelings. You couldn?t see what he was actually doing- where his eyes were, his facial expressions and if he were really listening or doing something else at the same time you were sharing.

Both of you were creating pictures in your head of what the other looked like in person and what it would be like in the presence of the other. These were constructed and not real images.They were made up of your past experiences, deepest desires and fantasies- and you were essentially seeing what you wanted to see. Without any evidence to the contrary, it is too easy to do this.
Then you met and the fantasy was confronted with a three dimensional reality - and this is when the disappointment began to be expressed by both of you. Neither of you thought the other looked quite like your profile pictures- and your conversation was suddenly punctuated by annoyance, boredom, unattractive character traits- and all the potential experiences we have when we experience someone in the flesh- warts and all.

This is why I always recommend that when two people hit it off online that they try to arrange that first in-person meeting as soon as possible. It's much easier to handle any potential disappointment before you have convinced yourself that he or she is the one.

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Toni Coleman, LCSW
Phone: 703-847-1768


Copyright 2008 Antoinette Coleman. All rights reserved.

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