We’re secret lovers and I’m not cool with that, but I don’t see any other way. We’ve flirted with each other in years past and have come close to getting together, but I hesitated to go there. Two months ago I called him to check in on his sister who was having health issues. I hadn’t talked to him in 12+ years. To make a long story short, we somehow ended up talking about us and how much we missed each other. By the end of that conversation he asked if he could call me/text me. From there we started talking on the phone and texting each other.
We have a lot in common in the way of morals and values but enough difference to balance each other out. My heart feels right at home with him as far as these things are concerned. We talk about longing to be together. However, he doesn’t have vacation time with his job, and, although I have many hours of vacation time, money is tight.
We don’t talk long on the phone because his cell phone plan has limited talk and texting. I always feel rushed when we do talk or text. He doesn’t have a land-line. We do a whole lot of texting and talk on the phone three times a week. His phone doesn’t have features like skype or webcam. He said he would try to upgrade to an unlimited talk/text plan. Use of the word “try” has confused me. I don’t know if the reason is his finances or what, and I didn’t ask. We send our regular 7:30 a.m. “good morning” text messages and reconnect at 8 or 9 in the evening for an hour or two. However, I can see him login to Facebook several times a day during our regular work hours.
When we talk on the phone, I can hear how much he loves me. We have quality telephone conversations. But our text conversations, with their frequent long pauses, make me feel disconnected, like a pen pal. I just talked to him about scheduling telephone calls in the evening around his favorite shows. I don’t want
to harass him about this. I love spontaneity…like random text messages and unexpected telephone calls. I initiate spontaniety because that’s how I am. He used to be more spontaneous too, but that has tapered off. I don’t want him to think I’m being over zealous or trying to smother him. What advice can you offer me? — Not Just a Pen Pal
First of all, let’s get this out of the way: you are not in a relationship, long distance or otherwise. At most, you have a friendship with this man, but it is not a relationship. If you haven’t seen each other in over a dozen years and the only communication you have is through texts and phone calls, with no plans to visit one another, then this just isn’t a relationship. Does that mean that your friendship can’t eventually turn into a relationship? No. But you aren’t in one yet.
And I think you know that on some level because the subtext of your whole letter is basically asking: “Does he want a relationship with me?” And I can’t answer that question. The good news is that HE can. All you have to do is ask. Ask him if he wants what you want — a real relationship where you invest some effort, time, and even money. And then see if his actions back up his words. If he says he DOES want a relationship but he can’t be bothered to even change his phone plan so he has the time to actually talk to you, that doesn’t support his claim. See what happens when you tell him you have plenty of vacation time to come see him but not enough money to travel. Does he offer to help with the travel costs? Does he express sadness that you can’t afford to see him? Does he mention when HE might be able to come see you? If not, then that’s a pretty strong indication that he doesn’t want a relationship with you.
You say that your families are “close” and that you aren’t sure how they’d feel if you two were “together.” For argument’s sake, let’s say you two are related. Cousins, maybe. Would that have something to do with his lack of commitment to you? With his seeming hesitation in embracing a real relationship with you? Sure. And understandably so. It may seem exciting to be in a taboo relationship, but, if the anxiety of being discovered is so great that it stops at least one of you from moving forward, then what’s the point?
If you’re worried about what your family would think and you don’t know when or how you can afford to see each other and he can’t even bother to upgrade his phone and texting plan or get Skype (which is free!) so you can improve your means of communicating, then what’s the point? I say find someone locally to have real dates with. Go online. Tell your friends you’re looking. Try speed dating or singles events. Cast a wider net, because, I promise, there ARE other fish in the sea. Even ones outside your, um, familial and familiar circle.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at email@example.com.