J’s Soapbox: Online Relationships Are Not Fairy Tales

awkward Off the top of my head, I can think of at least three married couples I know who met originally through the Internet.  What makes their stories even more special is that they were all international – one of each pair had to leave friends, family and country behind to be with the one they loved.

Tell their stories enough times and they start to sound like fairy tales.   And don’t get me wrong, they are inspiring – happily married couples always are.

But no one ever thinks about the slow start to some of these relationships, the stress dealing with Big Life Decisions and immigration to boot, or the everyday struggles that any new couple has living together for the first time.  Similarly, many people expect to jump right to their own Happily Ever After, and it seems like those expectations are even higher when you’re searching online.

For some reason, it’s ok to start slowly if your love interest is someone you met walking the dog.  However, if it’s someone they’ve met online,  some start overanalyzing feelings based on one email.   You wouldn’t expect to set up a romantic evening based on one introductory conversation in a grocery store, so why would you do so on a wink?

The unreasonable expectations for online dating don’t stop at the first-contact stage.  If a typical, met-while-dog-walking relationship ultimately doesn’t work out, the parties involved, and friends and family around them, might attribute it to an actual cause – “She hated my dog” -  chalk it up as a learning experience and move on.

I’ve known people who seem to think that relationships started online should be held to a higher standard.  If a relationship that starts online ends, they don’t think “Oh, it didn’t work out.” It often becomes an indictment of online dating itself.   Or, worse, their friends and family will smugly say, “Well, I knew when it started over the Internet…”

Why do so many people hold online dating to a different, higher standard?  Why must all relationships started online be instant Twoo Wuv and last forever?  Online dating is just another tool to find people – maybe people that have more in common with you than the people at the neighborhood bar, but still, you’re just meeting them.

Relationships always require a certain amount of work to last, regardless of how they begin.   And not every two people are perfect for each other.  I want everyone to find their Happily Ever After, because I wholeheartedly believe it is possible – but I think reaching that goal is all the more likely when you’re not waiting to fall into a fairy tale.

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