Converting On-Line to Real Life

I’ve been married in real life to the same amazing woman for twenty years.  We met in person, not online.  Only eight people were on the internet in 1990.   We weren’t two of them.

But this weekend I’m preaching on the difference between on-line and real life relationship as part of our Like Me series. You can watch parts one and two of the series here on on iTunes (search Connexus Community Church).   I have some thoughts based on my experience with social media, some resources I’ve read and of course, what the Bible teaches about relationships.  But I’ve never been in an online relationship.

Many of you have. I’d to hear from some of you who have fallen in love on line.  Those of you who met and stayed together or met and broke up.

Some questions:

  • What got you into the relationship?
  • What was enticing about the relationship?
  • What was difficult?
  • How hard was the transition from on-line to real life?
  • What would you do differently?
  • What do you regret?

You can answer all or just one of the questions.  All comments are moderated, but if you want to use an assumed name…I’ll allow that on this post.


– Carey

PS.  The promised blog post on reaching people who don’t go to church is still on its way.  Thanks for your patience!


  1. Carey Nieuwhof on November 25, 2010 at 8:32 pm

    Thanks so much for the comments. It’s really interesting to see the differences… It sounds like these have been really great enriching experiences. That’s so awesome.


  2. OhioProf on November 23, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    Being in Carey’s age group (LOL), the internet was just being hatched when I was a graduate student. In fact, most of what comprised “social media” back then was a series of text based “Usenet’ groups that worked much like blogs, but on a common server. The WWW was soon to follow.

    One of my age-old hobbies when I was in high school, that I indulged in all the way through graduate school was the lost art of “things pen pal”.. There was a certain Old World charm to the anticipation and fun of receiving a hand-written letter in the mail, opening it, and writing a response. (I once had a very dear pen pal that I would, no kidding, swap 20 pages of writing with every 1-2 weeks).

    I was beginning to miss this old hobby of mine, and sought to revive it. There was a Usenet group called soc.penpals that was created for folks just like me, who were interested in this sort of correspondence from afar. So I thought I’d give it a try. I began corresponding, mostly online, with some six people who’d posted for pen pals on this group.

    Two of these pen pals stood the test of time.
    One of them in particular also had a mutual penchant for writing handwritten letters, So we agreed to switch to the old-fashioned postal venue. We would write about things random, things ordinary, and even things spiritual. We were both Christians, and in fact she attended a strong Christian university, so our faith was very much on the table for discussion. Over time, we’d read the same books, listen to the same music, and discuss them…sometimes deeply, sometimes superficially. (I must emphasize, this was an entirely platonic endeavor. Never once did it even remotely wax romantic. Ever.)

    This went on for six years, almost seven. Sure, there was the occasional dry period where one or the other would get distracted, busy, or preoccupied. I was, after all, smack in the middle of writing a dissertation. And she would venture twice during the summer to Jamaica on mission trips. We’d always resume and pick up where we left off.

    One spring, over Memorial Day weekend, I was invited to a wedding in Memphis. An old college buddy from a small group I was in, who’d graduated and moved away, was finally tying the knot, and had invited me to attend. Other members of our cadre would also attend. On a whim, since Memphis, TN, was sort of the geographical midpoint between my pen pal and me, I asked if she’d like to make a long weekend of it, as an opportunity to meet. I was close to the groom’s family so she’d feel welcomed by all, not just me. She could accompany me to the wedding and we could see the sights at Memphis. Separate hotel rooms, etc.–again, platonic and above-board. She said yes.

    The wedding was fantastic. And so was the rest of the weekend. It became something of a joke that I had to constantly remind the groom’s family members, as I’d introduced her to this group or that person, that she was just my friend (i.e. we were not “involved” or the like.) We spent a fun weekend touring Beale Street and all the other fun “gotta see” sites in Memphis.

    They say God has a sense of humor. I believe this. Fervently. As the long weekend drew to a close, we both had begun to realize that as well-intentioned, platonic, and well-behaved as we had been, that we both had enjoyed the time, and each other’s company IMMENSELY, and that we were both saddened that it was coming to an end. We both wanted to do this again. And soon.

    That summer, we spent a vacation near Orlando, Florida and took in Disney, Universal, many other Florida tourist traps, and even drove to Tampa to visit my old Almo Mater there. Our fate was sealed. Love had blossomed. We took it slow, involved all the right people, and made sure we were on the same page on every issue we needed to be.

    This would begin a long-distance relationship that would be a challenge for anyone. Frequent and long phone calls. Very frequent (at least twice a month!) flights between Florida and Ohio (expensive!!) which meant major bargain shopping for airline tickets! Holidays booked! This would go on for a good eight months easily, all while I was holding down a postdoctoral position and she was working full time as a teacher. This was the time to really and truly “flesh out” that real person beyond the 2-D image that you’re tempted to form in your mind as you get to know someone online or through letters. Something I came to define as the “Leah Brahms Phenomenon” for all you Trekkies out there.

    To make a long story short, we just celebrated 10 years of marrriage this past summer.

    Regrets? Sure, sometimes we argue, sometimes we get frustrated with each other (and yes, even with ourselves!) Sure, we don’t always agree on every issue. I let her down, and vice versa. Alas, we’re humans in need of the same grace from the same God as anyone else. But we’re happy. We minister together and on our own. We lead a smalll group out of our home, together.

    What a ride! And it’s not over! Sometimes it gets scary, sometimes it’s predictable. Sometimes, the ride breaks down, but you fix it, and you get back on it and get back to enjoying it! Woohoo!

    Still riding in the hand of God…. 🙂

  3. LM on November 23, 2010 at 11:34 am

    I met my husband online. It was on a free dating website after the expensive, ones that match you scientifically, didn’t help. My friend Jon told me I should try the site and assured me that I could block old men from messaging me (creepy 60 year olds!)

    It was my last shot at the online dating thing. In fact, I found him in what I said was going to be my last search on that particular site.
    It turned out that, as I was trying to decide whether I’d send him a message, he saw that I had looked at my profile, so he checked out mine and wrote me a message the same time I was writing him.
    We met in real like after about a week of emailing back and forth.
    What drew me to the relationship was that we shared common beliefs and interests. Plus, he had a job and a car. Now, that’s rare!

    Anyway, I decided that I would meet up with someone off-line shortly after finding them interesting enough online. I’ve heard that the longer you stay online the weirder it gets to meet in person. In fact, I’d met up with a couple other guys I’d met online. One, I thought we clicked. I didn’t hear from him again after our date! The other guy was nice but just very boring. I even gave it a second date with him but, nope, he was just too boring.

    Truthfully, when I first saw my future-husband in person, he didn’t meet my expectations when I met him in perso: he dressed poorly and didn’t sound as eloquent as he did on email. But, I gave it a chance and, by the end of our very long date, I found myself hoping that to see him again and again.
    The things that drew me to him online, were still there despite his ugly shoes!

    We were married 15 months after we met.

    I guess I should say why I went online, at 23 years old, looking for a good guy to marry.
    I was graduated from school so I didn’t have that nice pool of people around me every day to meet new people. My job is working alone in a studio so I didn’t really meet people that way. And, at church, all the guys were married!
    When I moved back from Ottawa to my small town in Simcoe County, meeting someone was even harder. There are few single men . Those who are single tended to be the type with no real job and no car. When you don’t live somewhere with public transit, not having a car is a bit of a turn-off.
    So, that’s why I went looking online!

    And that’s that!

  4. Jo-Anne Kyte on November 22, 2010 at 7:58 pm

    Over 10 years ago I ventured into the world of the internet with all its positives and negatives. I have been married for what will be 25 years this coming february so the relationship I speak of is not of a romantic nature. The relationships that have presented themselves to me thur my time online have however given me many blessings. One of my very first friends is a womyn who lives in Nova Scotia we met in a forum for weight loss. It was not long after we read each others posts in the forum that we connected thri a program called ICQ and later other programs. We talked daily each of us housewives raising boys who are pretty much the same age and husbands who worked long hours. When cams came to be we even sat looking at each other having our morning coffee in our jammies laughing over silly things, crying over the struggles we were having or just connecting in a way we had no way of knowing would be possible when we first began the journey online. One day I was given an a ticket to fly to Nova Scotia to see my online frined in person is was after 9/11 so I can say that as much as I wanted to be able to hug my friend I was scared to death to get on a plane. Thru many talks and many sleepless nights over this decison I bouard a plane December 5th the year I am not certain. My family was not all that crazy about me getting on a plane alone, flying to another province to meet and stay with a womyn and her family I only knew from the internet yet I was excited beyond words. As I walked thru the airport in Halifax I saw a set of doors open just ahead of me and there she was waiting for my arrival. I cannot tell you how it felt to meet my online friend for the first time face to face. I later wrote a story about this meeting and sent it to her. I shared it with my friends and family so they too could live my experience. We stood in that airport crying as we hugged for the first time. Those same emotions we both felt as a week later I boarded the plane back to Ontario. In that week I visited Peggy’s Cove, Lunenburg, Halifax and ran on the beach barefoot while snow fell all around me. The water was cold and I was having a fabulous time. Over the years we have had many moments that challenged our friendship, people who were not as real as we thought ourselves to be who played games amongst other things. Today we are very much the best of friends, we do not talk everyday like we did in the beginning, we do know in our hearts that we are there it only takes a call. We have supported each other thru the net while I said farewell to my Mom, while she went thru a horrible divorce, while I kids graduated High School, while I went back to school to be an Addictions Counsellor, and other life events. On the days when I wanted to quit becuase I felt to old to be in school and the struggle to find work after, to the Womyn I support thru my work She has stood beside me, celebrated my accomplishments and bragged about her girlfriend in Ontario who used to be the coffee girl at Wendy’s and now counsels womyn leaving abusive relationships. Since the day we met we have never looked back. This January she turns 50 and its my hope that I will be able to fly there to celebrate that milestone with her. Becuase of the internet and my wonderful experience with Linda I have met many people, some of who are still very much a part of my life. This past Sunday I brought with me to the service a friend I met online around the same time I met Linda. I think of the gifts I have been given thru these friendships. I am also very aware of the dangers that can be if I allow myself to be seduced by those less honest becaue of my own lack of self image. If I were to say what I regret would be that hiding behind a keyboard becomes to easy and so putting yourself out there meeting people face to face, voice to voice can be very intimidating.
    I am so very thankful for those friends from here, Australia, and Nova Scotia that have shared my life over these years and while some I have met face to face there are others I have not. Another regret might be that due to the distance and the expense I may never be able to hug some of those friends who have touched my life.

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