My personal search for meaningful relationships began with the quest for romance. Romance implied closeness or sharing, as well as intimacy. This closeness as in "true friendship" seemed to have priority over all other values when seeking the right romantic short- or long-term encounters. Humor is a necessary ingredient. Recently, I have required dentures. It's amazing how this alters your idea of being attractive. Learning how to eat and speak all over again is enough to have to deal with, so I certainly wouldn't have a clue about the logistics of a passionate kiss! Replacing one loss with another, I now have started to add girth to a once svelte and shapely form. Maybe that's just fine, too - who am I looking for, a 24-year old Adonis?
The 21st century multi-tiered and -taxed lifestyle has spawned a need to create a new paradigm for happiness and self-fulfillment - and perhaps a new format for romance. That seems like a big assignment and perhaps an impossible one. Yet nothing else in our lives has stood still, so why should we romantics be frozen in time? What used to be traditional romantic protocol has disappeared along with Marcel perms and gloves. With this global information age and the internet, we may not marry the boy or girl next door, but jet across the Atlantic or Pacific for yet another experience with a new and different specimen.
And, that's exactly where I headed. Like a true modern-day pioneer, I ventured out beyond the back yard and went West, East, South, and North. Wherever I pitched my tents turned out to be fertile territory. In the Southeast/Deep South I found courtesy and gentile traditions; in the Northern Midwest, I encountered the more stoic descendants of miners, many of Norwegian heritage. In the Southwest, I dipped into the emotional heat of Latino/Hispanics... with much gusto, I celebrated the ethnicity of America's great melting pot.
Like many others seeking romance, the Internet turned out to be a virtual gold mine of untapped potential. Risk was everywhere, and so was adventure. Behind the veil of copious emails, one can voice hopes and dreams that might never be shared should we meet in person - especially if we perceive the "stakes are high" and we don't want to disappoint or be disappointed. We can also choose to be as romantic as we wish, without destroying the essence of ambiguity and evasiveness - two important ingredients for any introductory experience on the Internet. We can be free with compassion, kindness, tenderness, and even hint at forthcoming passion, knowing the recipient doesn't need to be Mr. of Ms. Right. But just in case, we've got our bases covered.
Posted profiles on the Internet match sites can be fascinating and deliberately misleading - which is part of the gamesmanship. I tend to go for profiles that stray from mere multiple choice "yes's and no's" or list of adjectives. I like narratives with a flair that deliver personal experiences flavored with humor, pathos or deeds of derring-do. This indicates there's a pulse and blood actually circulating. Sometimes you just jump, and learn to fly on the way down.
The ability to take risks without expecting every encounter to work out is the most important ingredient for preparing any romantic stew. Positive values and outlooks, a "destiny path" and a set of goals form the basis for any lasting relationship. Self-help material abounds and I suspect their popularity is the ease with which they give us the illusion that we have already achieved those lofty goals ourselves, when in fact we are only vicariously experiencing the success of others. It has been my personal experience - and what better teacher can there be but the bruises and scratches from our own life's catwalk - that whatever our needs, whatever our desires - regardless of how much wisdom we've culled from others - ultimately, we have to do that work ourselves, our way! We also need to find a path of service that suits our own calling and connection to the God Source.
One cannot possibly expect another human being to fill every one of our needs or respond to all of our desires. Yet, Western culture focuses on individuality, and when we stop to think about it, we realize that our contemporary lifestyle, although rich with social interaction, is essentially a one-on-one type of existence. This means we almost set ourselves up for times when we feel lonely. Here's a reality check: It takes time to build a relationship. Perfect synchronicity of belief systems, backgrounds, etc., is both unrealistic and unavailable.
I wouldn't be human if I hadn't been emotionally bruised a few times from some of these Internet match encounters. And yet, I'll be the first to tell you these experiences have been a terrific education. I am grateful for each; they have not only taught me about what I didn't want in a romantic relationship; they also showed me how to be more discerning. And most of all: the failures did not stop me from trying again.
I'm the kind of person who needs commitment, especially when sex is involved. Lust is grand; those rampaging hormones are the best reminder we have about the power and beauty of the life force energy. But when you add that radiance that comes from "true love" and appreciation, you have an unbeatable set of ingredients for a delicious Romantic Stew.
Ayn Rand suggests that love and sex in a relationship that includes intimacy, are our response to our highest values. Let the sex be the spices and herbs; let it be tenderizing ingredients. But the "meat, vegetables, and potatoes" of a love relationship should be a deep and lasting friendship that consists of trust, honor, respect, lots of laughter and shared experiences of growth. As in the song, "there's more to us than surgeons can remove." Don't be afraid to turn up the volume.
Becky Ruff is a professional copywriter and editor as well as an entrepreneur who has founded and managed a variety of companies offering support services to busy professionals and parents. She has two daughters, a son-in-law and two grandchildren, and resides in Montana.