A man and a woman formed a romantic relationship as pen pals. They fell in love and decided to finally meet in person. The woman said, "I will be wearing a red scarf".
When the young man arrived at the meeting place, there she was, in her red scarf, waiting. She was not at all what he had expected. She was much older and much shorter than he had thought she would be. He was terribly disappointed.
He had two choices, he could just leave and she would never know that he had been there, and had rejected her. Or he could introduce himself and then gradually disengage from her without hurting her feelings. But, then he remembered the beauty of her spirit and personality that had given him so much hope and happiness in her letters to him. He forced himself to look past her physical appearance. That did not matter. All that mattered was she loved him. He knew that. And, he loved her.
He went over to her with the rose he had brought and introduced himself. She was gracious and kind. He gathered her into his arms and they embraced tenderly. Her letters, her soul, had meant so much to him throughout terrible times of loss and suffering. When they pulled apart, she had a strange look on her face. And, then, a lovely young woman approached. The older lady removed the red scarf, handed it to the young woman, and left. Here, truly was the lady whom he loved. She had tested his love. And, he had passed in flying colours.
"Love looks not with the eyes but with the mind", says Shakespeare in a Midsummer Night's Dream.
How so true in this case! But not always true for many men and women who meet online or start a relationship before they meet in person. For many the relationship ends when anticipation meets reality.
Often times, an online romance leads to nowhere, not because it had no chance of developing into a real relationship, but because one or both people get all caught up with the "idea" of the other person. The romantic feelings are real and strong, and the brain gets obsessed with this powerful emotion, but these strong feelings may be for an imagined person who does not exist. The person finds him or herself devastatingly disappointed when he or she meets the real person because they spent so much time and emotions loving someone else (who even doesn't exist). They were tricked by their own minds.
If you're had your heart broken by an online romance, you probably know what I am talking about. Everything seemed so purr-feckt until you met in person. Remember what that felt like? Of course you do. How can you forget?
How do you make sure your mind isn't playing games with you (again)?
There is no fool-proof way and there are no guarantees -- same as in all relationships. But there are two important things you can do to reduce the risk of having your heart broken by an online romance.
1. Make genuine effort to really get to know the other person
If you set out to find a partners using romantic notions, expectations and desperation you'll be disappointed when anticipation meets reality. That's a 100% guarantee you can cash on.
Don't let your romantic fantasies, unrealistic expectations and fears try to find love for you. Instead spend time getting to know the other person; not the person you wish he or she were but the person he or she really is. This requires curiosity, genuine interest in what the other person is communicating and a sincere effort to seek and find all the barriers and defenses he or she has built to protect him or herself. What are his or her values, dreams. goals etc? What are his or her insecurities? What pain or guilt from past failures and hurts does he or she struggle with? How does he or she make decisions or tackle problems? How does he or she react to change? Etc.
Listen to what he or she verbalizes, but pay even more attention to what is not being said; the "words" in the silences. And do not be afraid to ask if there is something he or she needs to share. Your objective should not be to discover information about him or her so that you can use it as a weapon of control and manipulation (most people can sense your intentions and emotionally shut you out) but rather gather this information so that you can honour their fears, accept their actions and really see the person for who he or she really is.
2. Be completely honest with yourself and with the other person right from the very beginning
True love requires us to be emotionally honest not just with others but with ourselves. To be completely emotionally honest is to expose our most vulnerable aspects. Many of us find this difficult to do because we have been trained from childhood to be emotionally dishonest with ourselves and with others. We have this inner sense of how much emotional vulnerability we can risk and how much love we can give to get love.
This imprint of quantitative measures of affection or love based on childhood lessons shapes our behaviors, beliefs, and expectations of all our relationships. Because we (erroneously) believe that our words, actions, efforts or contributions are always going to be measured and judged by others in this quantitative way, we do things in ways that we think will give us a favourable score: exaggerate those qualities that we think are more favourable, gloss over those we think will bring down our favourability score or simply hide away the "ugly" truth altogether.
The sad reality of life is that you can never be truly loved if you are not truly known. So if you want to experience true love, you must allow yourself to be truly seen and known. Only and only then can you be truly loved, or feel truly loved for who you really are.
And don't be shy about finding out just how much the other person really knows you. I have had experiences with guys who after knowing me for only a few weeks told me they knew instantly, from the minute they met me that I was the woman they had been waiting for all their lives. When I asked them what it was about me that made them so sure, they described the woman that they've been dreaming about. The woman they described wasn't me at all. They were often women these men wanted me to be. They either had not been listening to who I told them I was or listened but had somehow managed to convince themselves they knew me better than I knew myself. As it turned out, they didn't know me well enough or didn't know me at all.
If you're confident that you're a great catch and believe that you have great qualities, taking the risk of finding out whether a man or woman who says he or she loves you, sees you for who and what you really are, is well worth it. Your long distance heartthrob or online crash may well ace the "love test". How oh-so romantic is that?!
In short, if you're considering dating from a distance or are in an online relationship, make sure 1) your brain is not obsessed with an imagined person who does not exist and 2) you're giving the other person the opportunity to really get to know you and soak in the beauty your spirit and personality. When anticipation meets reality, he or she'll remember all the things that gave him or her so much hope and happiness.
You have a choice in the kind of emotional chemistry and relationship dynamics you create!