A few years after my divorce, I signed up for my first online dating site. It had been over 25 years since my last date (!), and this Jewish “matching” site seemed to be the least scary way to go. The whole idea of online dating was completely foreign to me; from how to write a profile essay to what photos to post, I was lost and overwhelmed.
After a few dreadful mismatches, I received a lovely email from “Alan”, a widower. It was a Saturday night. He asked if it would be okay to call me, simply to hear my voice. I said yes.
The call lasted three hours. It felt like an instant connection. We “got” each other. From our shared world views on religion, to our agreement about the importance of taking responsibility for our actions and the similarities in our helping professions, we had so much in common. I loved the sound of his soothing voice; gentle and romantic, loving, and calm.
He was a deep and thoughtful guy, passionate and proactive in his life, doing great work. As a single dad and widower, he seemed to be managing his four kids with an ease and grace unlike other men I’d met. And thus began an intense and somewhat frenzied email/phone communication.
In his third email, he sent me this poem:
Come to my garden in spring
There will be wine, flowers and pomegranates
If you do not come, these do not matter
If you do come, these do not matter.
Following that evening’s phone conversation, I wrote him this email:
I am wide awake from our great conversation. I am really enjoying getting to know you. I think it’s a good sign that with each connection, I yearn for more.
I once heard a psychiatrist say that his marriage was like a good book. He couldn’t wait to turn the page each day. I have thought that was a good way to see a great relationship.
So far, I am enjoying turning your pages!
good night….sleep well.
And he responded:
To paraphrase Rumi (last Rumi reference for a while, I promise)
When you are with me, I cannot sleep
When you are away from me, I cannot sleep
Thank G-d for these two insomnias
And the difference between them.
You’re probably rolling your eyes by now (Rumi poetry before they even met?? Is she insane? Yep, a little. But more on that later). I was new at dating. And I loved every email. We went back and forth like this with emails and phone calls, sometimes three or four in a day. This was before smart phones, so there were no texts. Otherwise, we’d probably have been texting all day long!
I was restless, hardly able to sleep in anticipation of our first meeting. We had scheduled our first date for a Monday, but because the connection was so amazing, we moved up our first meeting for the Friday before. We didn’t cancel Monday’s date, though. We were so positive the first date would go well, we’d be looking forward to seeing each other again a few days later.
We couldn’t wait. We were sure this was it, the relationship that would take us both off of the online dating market for good.
You can probably imagine where this was heading.
When we finally met, Alan was nothing like I envisioned. In fact, he was hideously unattractive to me. I’m not kidding. His teeth were grossly malformed and discolored. He was short and had bad posture. He was dressed poorly and smelled like mothballs. I consider myself to be a pretty open-minded person, but I repulsed. The only photo he’d posted online was out of focus, dark, and he was not smiling. Now I knew why. This was the guy I had fallen for?
It felt like all that I had hoped for was suddenly dashed, like all the air was let out of a balloon. Because essentially that’s what our “relationship” was, a bunch of air that we had both fantasized into a relationship.
I had been so disconnected and unhappy in my marriage for such a long time, I sorely missed having a close connection to a man. Throwing some crumbs of attention and affection my way was all it took to fuel my fantasy. That’s why I fell for potential and built a pseudo relationship with Alan.
Have you ever fallen for potential? It doesn’t have to be as extreme as it was for me and Alan. Perhaps you spent too long on pre-date emails and phone conversations? Maybe you revealed too much about yourself too soon, excited to connect with someone who finally “gets” you?
What I’ve learned through heartache and many hours of time spent in fantasy instead of reality is:
Don’t fall for potential. A man is not your boyfriend until he earns that place in your heart.
You don’t really know each other until you’ve spent a significant amount of time together. So, keep the first phone conversation brief. Limit it to a half-hour tops. The purpose of that first call is to decide if you want to go on a first date. If the answer is yes, go on that date as soon as possible. Nothing replaces the energy you feel on a face-to-face exchange. Keep the date short, an hour-and-a-half maximum. (This from a woman who’s been on 8-hour first dates!) If there is potential for a relationship, you’ll both invest slowly, building intimacy one conversation and one date at a time.
A pseudo relationship is just a fantasy. It’s a projection. It’s about falling for potential, not a person.
Take it slow and take off your blinders. You’ll invest less emotional energy, reserving your heart for someone who IS your boyfriend, a guy who has earned that title through the investment of time and energy. Build a true relationship based on trust, inspiration, teaching and learning, and of course attraction.
Please share your thoughts about falling for potential or sharing too much too soon. I want to hear what you have to say!
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