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I Fell In Love Online--But Here's What Happened When We Met In Person

In the romantic transition from online chats to real-life meetings, the reality inevitably turns out more than you planned on and less than you had hoped for.

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“I think I already do,” I said.  We were both crying.  

“Allison, I love you,” he said.  Hearing him say my name sounded so much better in real life than over the phone.  “I’ve loved you since before we even met.”  He pulled me on top of him and slipped inside me again.  Everything between us felt so right.

“I love you,” I whispered over and over into his ears, the nape of his bearded neck, his chest, his arms, practically every inch of exposed skin.  “I love you so much.”

And I did love him.  But even so, I would lie awake at night next to him on that overturned mattress and silently think, This isn’t going to work.  The same thought flooded me as I stood making pumpkin-oat pancakes and crisp bacon in his kitchen while he uploaded pictures from the day before onto Facebook and tagged our smiling faces.  I thought about how it wouldn’t work while we walked to a movie theater and he complained about the sun, of all things, as if there can ever be too much sunshine on a day off from work with your lover in tow.  It came over me as we drove to a petrified forest and the Pacific Ocean.  It came to me when he stood on the rocks next to me and didn’t reach out to hold me in the freezing wind.  

He said as much in that moment on the rocks.  “I don’t know what I could add to your life,” he told me.  Why didn’t I believe him?  Why didn’t we both heave sighs of relief that the truth that lives at the core was finally out in the open?  I was a coward who didn’t want to let go of the love that had finally found me, even if that love was ill-fitting and wearing me down with impossibility.  

“My life is less lonely with you in it,” I said.  That much was true.  I got a rush every time I opened a text message with his name and number, every time he sent me an email or a Tweet or posted to my Facebook wall.  I’m almost positive he felt the same way about me.  But it didn’t change the facts: we weren’t compatible in day-to-day living, we strained to make conversation after a few days together, and our physical connection wasn’t the all-consuming love affair that either of us had envisioned.   

Still, he kept telling me how happy he was to be with me and he said that I was welcome to stay with him any time.  We had made our relationship Facebook-official days before and now we talked about living together in his city the following year.  How could I tell him that my gut was saying no?

Despite days of tension and my internal uncertainty, that day we found an abandoned state beach park and I pulled him to me, demanding that we make love right there.  We did.  It was everything I had fantasized: a man I loved on a secluded and empty oceanfront, taking me on the adventure of a lifetime.  After we cleaned up, I drove his car for the first time on unfamiliar highways to his friend’s house three hours away as he slept in the passenger seat beside me.  As I drove, I sang along softly to Alanis Morissette on his iPod: “You’ve already won me over in spite of me.  Don’t be alarmed if I fall head over feet.”  We got out of the car, but he stopped the both of us in our tracks on our way to catch the bus that would take us back to his apartment.

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