February 20, 2010

Online chats strengthen my marriage

Today, I posted on Facebook a simple message that my husband won't see because he blocks FarmVille:
"27 years ago today, I had friends and family over to celebrate a big step for me: My house. Boy, wasn't that a major step - a single woman buying her own fixer-upper. When people came to the party, most learned that the guy I met through my job three months earlier and I had tied the knot that morning. A mere 12 months later, another surprise - the woman who could never have kids popped out a beautiful 11-pound girl on Leap Year Day. Ain't love grand!"
As we celebrate a marriage that, to his disappointment, I decide every day to continue I realize that contrary to what some believe my online chats with others is why I choose to stay with the greatest man who walks in my community. (His disappointment is that I choose every day, by the way.)

No smooth path here

Like most marriages, we have our ups and downs. But this week two friends helped me understand what fuels the ups.

I was chatting with a long-time friend who asked if my husband minded me being online so. He followed that up with this about a former partner, who had objected to his computer time:
"XXX must have thought I was in some chat room with someone, which was NOT the case!
That's what you call a stop moment: Whoa, am I doing something wrong by chatting online? You know I was recalling the TV and radio shows where spouses link chatting with cheating even though I know my friend and I see our chatting just like shared coffee at Starbucks. Not cheating, but continuing our friendship.

Twice in one week? Anniversary week?

That reminded me that just a few days earlier I discovered a pattern of mine: I meet what I can only call soul mates. Lately, those people are online as my places for physical interaction dwindle. But I've always been fortunate to get to know people who uncover my soul with their questions, their observations and, even, their throwaway remarks. They listen and I listen.

This discovery and the chat question stunned me at first. Am I being unfaithful by chatting with others instead of my husband? Or am I becoming more interesting to him by learning new things about myself, others and the world around me.

Online prompts = insights

For instance, on a recent road trip with my husband his comment about traffic - he's a transportation planner who can tell you the different types of traffic barriers as we go by - reminded me about a recent online discussion on driving in Cairo, Egypt. Who knew that city and its transportation woes was an interest for him? But it led to a very interesting discussion for the next hour.

I cannot imagine we would have ever discussed Cario traffic or that he also would like to visit the area  without this online prompt.

Learning to see

Still, I panicked this week when I recognized that a new friend really isn't all that new. Oh, it is a different person but he is very similar to other angels who have appeared in my life. Recognizing the pattern shocked me into silence and a period of self-hatred for once again failing to achieve the fairy-tale perfection of marriage.

The back and forth centered around my discovery of how American I am despite being certified in several diversity awareness programs.

A dinner at a Arabic restaurant, a remark about the man's photo on my Facebook page during a Facebook 101 class and another friend's remark drove home to me that I might know about different cultures but I don't always act with knowledge.

And all of that made me realize how important treating others right is to me, a core value.

Diversity uncovers what love is

See, nothing confidential, just a deep conversation. But, like a bolt of lightning, I realized that I often have these types of conversations outside my marriage. Am I cheating on my husband this way?

Remember, despite my feminist leanings I did grow up watching Leave It To Beaver, reading Cosmos and listening to fairy tales where the prince is enough for the princess forever and ever. And as a former practicing journalist and long-time online fanatic, I know how addicting someone can be.

I shut down and had to think before I remembered other core beliefs, beliefs like:
  • No one person can be your universe
  • You are responsible for you, you alone.
  • You are responsible for bringing something to the partnership.

Some things don't change

Seeking knowledge, making and keeping friends and sharing online and off is how I survive, how I grow, how I am.

My husband knows that - I finally acknowledged his interest while hosting a birthday party in honor of another friend who wisely suggested I wake up and notice my admirer. (Yes, this designated driver took birthday boy to his home before meeting my husband-to-be for time alone. Yes, birthday boy said later he regretted not waiting a day to share his observation.Yes, birthday boy is/was one of my angels.)

Just like my husband knows writing - in my blogs, in my journal, on Facebook - keep me sane, my husband knows I have to keep interacting. After all, he didn't fall in love with a shy person. He's not going to stay in love with a mouse.

And I'm going to keep on choosing everyday to love him and stay with him through ups and downs, through online and offline friendship, and most of all, through life.

(Happy anniversary to my number one fan)
Related posts include:
My house became a home


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