But lately, he’d been acting different. He stopped sending his goofy texts and doesn’t really respond properly to messages. I felt that something was wrong, but I waited to see whether there was actually a problem or whether he was just stressed about exams. Finally, I was just really annoyed by the whole thing and I asked him why he’s been so serious lately. This is what he said: “Well, it’s just that I’m not feeling anything. I thought I would feel something, you know, about us. But it was better when we were friends. When you’re in a relationship you should feel something else. I’m just not feeling it.” Then I asked him why he’s waited all this time to say this to me, and whether he thought that starting the relationship as long distance wasn’t a good idea. And since we were so close when we actually started dating, neither of us felt any difference when we started dating. He said that dating a best friend is always a treacherous path.
Do you think that because we haven’t met in person yet, that’s the reasons we wouldn’t have feelings of intimacy that should be there in a relationship? I know that talking on the phone and talking in person are two completely different things. Am I wrong to be upset about all this? I know that I would rather have him in my life as my best friend than not at all, but I still really like him a lot. We’ve agreed to sort it out in person when we meet, but in the meantime I’m really confused and would appreciate some advice. — Confused in Australia
Woah, talk about burying all the important details toward! You started “dating” while you were away on an exchange program? You actually haven’t even met in person yet? You’re going to meet in two weeks? This is the kind os information an advice columnist needs right upfront. Also: How far apart do you live when you aren’t studying abroad? When you say you two are going to meet in person does that mean that one of you is going to visit the other or is one of you moving or do you share a hometown that you’re both going to for the holiday? How long will you have together? So many important details left unanswered!
Based on what I do know though, I can tell you this: you are not in a relationship with this guy. Pen pals? Sure. Maybe you’re even “intimate” pen pals, in the sense that you’ve shared a lot about yourself and feel a strong connection. But that kind of intimacy is very different than the kind of intimacy you share with someone in person. It’s no wonder this guy doesn’t feel anything “different” since upgrading your relationship status. Nothing between you changed. I mean, how can you say you’ve been “dating” when you haven’t been on a date? How can you say you’re in a relationship when you’ve not communicated face-to-face, without a couple of screens between you? That’s not intimate. Touching, kissing, being alone together in silence, listening to your hearts beating, feeling the warmth of your body heat — that’s intimacy. It’s the kind of intimacy you can’t get over the phone or Skype or email.
However much closer modern technology may bring us, it’s not the same as being in each other’s presence. So, sure, you can be friends with someone you’ve never met in person before — this site is a good example of that. But best friends? Lovers? Boyfriend and girlfriend? No. Not if what you want is an authentic relationship where your best angles aren’t always prominently featured on the screen just so, or your words aren’t carefully crafted before hitting “send.”
In reality, we are much more imperfect than we are on our various screens and through our online personas. We are more imperfect, and much more beautifully layered in 3-D. Our laughs are louder. Are anger more tempered. Our time more filled with tedium. We are boring and exciting and wonderfully complex and witty.
Before you decide whether this guy is boyfriend material — or even best friend material, for that matter — I urge you to learn who he is in the real world. Does he give you chills when you touch? Is there a way his hair curls just so around his ear that you’ve never noticed on Skype that makes you feel sort of giddy? How does your body feel against his when he pulls you in for an embrace? There are so many ways you will better know who this person is when you meet him and how he fits you and your life that will guide you to more informed decisions about your future together.
And you may decide that knowing someone in the flesh is so much better than knowing someone long distance and that you’d rather keep yourself available to someone who can take you on real dates. That’s good too. That’s better than good, actually.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.