#makeITsafePH. I have been lucky that my online romantic affairs were not harrowing and toxic experiences. In fact, they bring me pleasant memories. The first internet affair of the heart started out without any intention to meet the man of my dreams. When I posted my email address on the virtual bulletin board 18 years ago, it was to correspond over the net with people outside my world. This is the modern version of our pen pal of old where strangers from across the globe made friends with each other by sending letters to and fro the post office. What we now term as “snail mail” had been replaced by email which sends and receives messages faster, and is just as exciting. A girl in Japan that I chose to correspond with remains a good friend and she had even visited me and became a houseguest.
Purely platonic friendships that are created from our web connections bring us thrills. Yet, bigger thrills are experienced when a friendly beginning develops into a friendship that brings stars to our eyes. My first on-line boyfriend became a boyfriend in a happening that surprised me no end. You see, our correspondence started out on a friendly note. In fact, very friendly since he was a Pinoy though based in the U.S. He was a lot older than me which made him an unlikely candidate for a romance. He was also divorced with two grown children. These two factors were minus points for me for I didn’t want any sabit.
It was also around this time that I was corresponding with four other online friends. They were all males who picked my name from the “board” and these were the four that I also narrowed down to after going over a dozen potential email pals.
The initially innocuous friendship featured a lot of intelligent exchanges and wholesome ribbing. It would take some months before the unexpected happened. I just found myself more focused on him and had episodes of the bane of normal, warm-blooded humans – the dreaded sleepless nights. I was mooning over someone while the rest of the world was in deep slumber.
It was good while it lasted and the online affair lasted for less than a year. The distance did not make the heart grow fonder. Instead, in its natural yearning for personal, face-to-face interaction, it wallowed in ennui from lack of growth. The lovers had different life goals – while he was gearing for eventual retirement, she was looking forward to finding her niche in life (which did not include settling down in the U.S.)
My reluctance to move to the States was also the reason why my second online romance didn’t go beyond its second year. I had several significant concerns running through my mind all pointing to whether the guy was worth the uprooting from my country and growing roots in his. This takes me to the two sides of every story, including love stories. The pros and the cons. The positive and the negative.
Online dating can have its benefits. The distance can be a boon to either party who prefers to proceed with caution in the relationship. He or she can find space in the non-physical set-up and safely come up with a plausible excuse for not immediately answering an email, or for not picking up the phone promptly. The physical impossibility to be together also prevents Boy from meeting Girl and indulge in premarital sex which they might regret later. Maintaining a relationship online arms one with more objectivity than up-close encounters where both parties will be putting their best foot forward. And to sustain the relationship, there is bound to be more intelligent exchanges of ideas which is more important than just mere good looks to keep the other interested.
My two on-line boyfriends were intelligent, decent, and hardworking fellows from good families. They were not bad-looking either.
Conversely, the lack of actual physical encounters also steals opportunities for the man and the woman to observe the other’s habits, manners, interactions with other people, family culture and personal quirks. My second on-line relationship caused some doubts to form in my mind. When Online Boyfriend #2 sent me a bouquet of roses for Valentine’s Day, I went berserk when the flowers arrived on the 15th. “How dare he send it past the important date!” What an immature reaction to such a petty matter. I would have been a wrong choice for a wife at that time.
Being far apart can take a toll on the imagination. “Is there someone else?” “Why isn’t she picking up the phone?” “Why didn’t he call?”
Online dating also carries the danger that the person one is corresponding with is not who he or she really is. A former classmate of mine who was in the Philippines was smitten enough to fly to Chicago to meet a man she was dating online. She discovered to her utter dismay that the address he gave her was non-existent! Needless to say, the guy disappeared from her life, too.
Males, being visual, can be taken in by the physical assets of the girl who, more often than not, would be all dolled up in the photographs she would send to the boy. The females, more emotional beings, can have their feelings manipulated by the males.
It pays to be mature and sensible when approaching love. We tend to have romantically impossible ideals of who our potential mate would be. That mate is 100% as flawed as we are so we should not put anyone on a pedestal, nor allow them to shortchange us either. Setting a sound and healthy standard for ourselves and for our ideal mate can guide us in choosing whether to be just friends or to take the relationship further. It also helps to confide in friends who can give us a dispassionate view of the love affair since the stars in our eyes tend to hide a person’s true character. Let’s borrow a tenet from the world of Finance: if this person is too good to be true, he probably is.
As one Catholic prayer leader exhorted single and searching young people, it is better to remain single than to be miserable for the rest of your lives.