My three-year-old daughter, Madison, is insistently squawking at her older brother, "M-a-a-a-t-t, SHARE!!!" "Mo-o-om!" Matt yells, only to be drowned out by their twin baby sisters' screeching. Where am I in the midst of this chaos? I'm sitting dreamily in front of my computer, smiling while typing away.
I'm having an "online" romance with the man of my dreams, Bobbythe man I married 12 years and 4 children ago. It started after we rented the video You've Got Mail, starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. It was so romantic to watch their characters' online relationship blossom into love because of their deep friendship.
Rather sheepishly, I asked my husband that night if he'd be a sport and start an "online" romance with me. He smiled and said, "You're kidding, right?" My look must have said it all, because that night, he was the first to write!
Not actually having e-mail, Bobby did the next best thinghe created a file labeled "You've Got Mail" to add to from our home computer.
As he typed, I meandered in. "Out!" he shouted, eyes sparkling. Ooh, I thought, this could be even more fun than I imagined.
My husband finally left the computer, and I slid into the still-warm seat and opened the file. I smiled when I saw four brewing coffeepots pictured on the screen. I excitedly began to read: "I like coffee right after I eat. It makes the meal taste better. Sometimes I wish life simply consisted of drinking coffee and eating dessert at an outdoor restaurant."
How cool to read Bobby's thoughts! I knew right then, after reading just one paragraph, that we'd discovered a jewel.
Soon we were both hooked. Each day we'd rush to the computer to check our "mail." I found myself thinking, My husband's really neat. What a change from the usual, How could he forget to take out the trash?
More than a year later, we're still writing regularlyand I still anticipate what he has to say!
Resolving minor conflicts over the computer is also a godsend. I write to Bobby as a friend, not as the enemy I sometimes think he is when there's a conflict. I briefly state how I'm feeling about a particular issue, then ask for his thoughts. It's worked well most of the time. Occasionally he's conveniently forgotten to respond to the issue. I then teasingly bring it up again in my next message. He always responds the second time, even if it's just "I need more time to think about that one." One thing I've never done is let him have itnot because I've never felt like it, but because it would hurt this avenue of romance. I'm not willing to give that up. Instead I simply ask for his opinion. He gives it and we move on.
We've also become better listeners. I have a bad habit of hearing just one sentence, then forming my rebuttal while my husband finishes his point. That's great for a debate team, terrible for a marriage! But a discussion over the computer is perfect. I can focus fully on my husband's message before typing in my reply. Being able to read his perspective draws me to him, so my response is kinder than it would be face-to-face.
Our "online" romance's also put the mystique back in our marriage. Instead of being the mother of four children who's been up three times during the night and smells like baby spit-up, I'm the sophisticated woman conversing intelligently with her lover. As a stay-at-home mom, I love to sound as though I'm an important executive dealing with demanding "clients." That sounds so much better than me whining about how tough my day was!
We've also enjoyed encouraging each other. It comes naturally with "online" communication. When I read about Bobby's new project at work, I can say, "Wow, sounds neat. Great idea!" We've been able to rediscover who we are outside our roles within the family. Online, I'm not first and foremost the wife and mother; I get to be the friend. Overall, rediscovering the man Bobby is has given me great respect for him. I'm a fortunate woman to have him.
So I let the kids fusswell, within reasonthey are toddlers, after all! I'm communicating with an incredible man and nothing's going to stop me.
Lisa D. Cowman is a freelance writer who lives in Ohio.
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