Over the last couple of days since I received your letter, I’ve read it multiple times, thinking about how best to reply, what I would say to my own daughter (who isn’t even walking yet, but one day will be a teenager like you with hopes and dreams for the future and maybe someone special she loves), and what kind of words and advice I myself would have been most receptive to when I was your age. I was never in a position like yours — being in love with someone I hadn’t met in person — but I can imagine if I had been and if some adult told me I couldn’t possibly love someone I hadn’t officially met yet, I would have felt incredibly defensive. And I bet you’re the same. After all, who knows your heart better than you?
What you share with your boyfriend is special, I’m sure. I don’t doubt that there’s a connection and intimacy and trust you’ve built over months of speaking to each other over Skype every day. And I can imagine how much you must long to see each other, in person, where you can be together in a way that’s impossible to replicate through a screen. But, for now, that doesn’t seem to be a possibility. Certainly, moving to each other isn’t going to happen any time soon. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t continue getting to know each other, and building trust, and dreaming about your future/s, and even making plans for a time when you can see each other.
But I hope as you do this, you remain present in your life outside of your relationship. Continue fostering friendships at school and through any clubs or teams or special classes you take. Strengthen your relationship with your parents by sharing this part of your life with them. Focus on school work and think about where you want to go to college, what you might like to study, and what career you might want to pursue. No matter who you love or where he lives, your future belongs to you, as does your present.
At 16, the choices you make now will begin to have long-term impact on your life. Whom you open your heart to, how you spend your time, how seriously you take school, and what hobbies and interests you pursue will all shape who you become and where you go. This is the best time in history to be a female in America. You have options and choices and possibilities women before you only dreamed of. And while I can understand the temptation to plan your future around a love that feels intense and special and extraordinary, I can’t underscore this enough: The best choice you can make is to maintain your independence. The good news is that you can do this and still foster a happy and successful relationship. But the key is to put your own needs first. If you aren’t able to do that — if you find yourself waiting to see what your boyfriend wants or what he thinks about something before you decide what you want or what your opinion is — that’s a sign that this isn’t the right relationship for you right now. That’s a sign that you’re letting go of your independence, and that’s not a good thing. It won’t lead to a happy marriage, and it definitely won’t lead to a happy you.
I know this probably isn’t the advice you wanted to hear. You want to know how to see your boyfriend, right? And I wish I had an easy answer for you, but I don’t. You’re going to have to wait until the time is right — until your parents or his parents agree to let one of you travel, or until either or both of you is independent of your parents and can travel without their permission or financial assistance. Obviously, you have a better chance of this happening if you actually tell your parents about your boyfriend and what he means to you and how much you want to see him. But you have to appreciate that for them, adults who grew up in a time when people only met face-to-face and long distance communication was restricted to phone calls and hand-written letters, it’s hard to understand how two teenagers could fall in love and maintain a relationship without having ever met. Don’t be surprised if they simply don’t”get” it. But that’s ok. Because they don’t have to “get” it. If you work on fostering and maintaining your independence, you will eventually be in charge of your own life. And what a wonderful gift that will be. Just, please, don’t take that gift for granted.
Follow along on Facebook, and Instagram.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at email@example.com.
Emily M September 15, 2016, 10:24 am
Not that I expect less from you but I love this response. The love you feel as “puppy love” can be more powerful and intense than “grownup” relationships because you focus on it so intensely. When I think about the boy I loved when I was sixteen it’s almost like a visceral memory.
hang in there, LW, and keep communicating with this guy but don’t lose yourself in the process.
Adrienne September 15, 2016, 10:33 am
Corinthians 13:4-7 might be the “cliché ” verse for love. But if your love is what you think it is, then remember to be patient. Remember to be kind to your parents, because they only want what’s best for you (and so does your bf’s family). While it’s hard, your desire to have one of your families move cross-country for your boyfriend is self-seeking. Work towards making sure you have the grades and the resume to get into any college the two of you want to attend. If he had this same goal in mind, he’ll work towards the same. And you’ll encourage each other. Two years seems like forever; but if he truly is your forever is just a drop in the bucket.
rosie posie September 15, 2016, 10:36 am
This is truly a beautify crafted response. I can only imagine how long it took to delicately walk the line in answering the letter writer but Wendy has done an amazing job. This shows why Wendy is the best advice columnist out there today.
Miel September 15, 2016, 12:44 pm
I second this. Beautiful answer Wendy!
blink14 September 15, 2016, 10:45 am
LW, it may seem like this is the most important thing in the world to you, of all time, for your whole life, but you are only 16. Looking back on my high school years, everything seemed so extreme – the things that made me happy, sad, liking someone, being let down by someone, relationships with my parents.
I remember the excitement and adventure of talking to someone in an online chat room (back in my day, online dating didn’t really exist), and continuing those conversations over email, imagining who this person was and what they were up to.
I don’t doubt your feelings, I’m sure they are very real, but 4 months is not a long time. And to try to convince your parents to move after only 4 months? That’s going to be extreme and ridiculous to an adult. 4 months is a lifetime in high school, but when you are older, you’ll realize that 4 months is just a drop in the bucket.
Continue to get to know your boyfriend, enjoy your conversations, but don’t forget about your own life. Explore things you have an interest in, focus on doing well in school, and if this relationship lasts long term, then its time to revisit the idea of meeting up with your boyfriend in person.
One thing I have to stress – please, please, please do not come up with your own plan to meet with him. No matter how well you think you know someone, its never safe to go off without telling anyone and meet up with someone you’ve never met in person.
ktfran September 15, 2016, 12:06 pm
To your last paragraph. I totally agree.
I actually think, LW, that if you continue your relationship and get to know him a little more, you should involve both sets of parents in finding a weekend to meet. If his can’t afford travel and yours can, ask your parents if they will help. Either they travel with you for a weekend or they talk to his parents and set something up so you can go. I also advocate both sets of parents talking to one another.
I think it will also help your case with your parents to have a reasoned argument for why you should visit. Come up with some points and present it to them. Don’t get too upset if at first they refuse. Continually talking to them in a thoughtful way will help you.
Also, great advice Wendy!
MissDre September 15, 2016, 10:47 am
Wow, what great advice! Wendy, this is so incredibly thoughtful. So many people (myself included) would be dismissive. I won’t list all of the things going through my mind, because I don’t want to be discouraging after you’ve given such a thoughtful, constructive and positive response. Advice like this can apply to any of us at any age, and this is why I keep coming back to read DW day after day, year after year. You have such a good heart, Wendy! Joanie is very lucky to have you to help guide her as she grows 🙂
bittergaymark September 15, 2016, 12:13 pm
As usual — Wendy served up good, solid advice.
But seriously? LW. Please do enjoy the here and now. Don’t spend endless hours upon hours living in a virtual world with Mr Wonderful… Instead — keep this fine fellow on the back burner and truly enjoy your youth… Young love burns the brightest… but newsflash… everybody I know that ever truly tried to make a go of it long term ended up bitter and jaded and divorced by 26…
You haven’t even MET this guy yet. Don’t plan a future together. Plan a future meet up with him at some point, sure. But don’t start planning your future together.
RedRoverRedRover September 15, 2016, 1:35 pm
This is solid advice too. Don’t get so wrapped up in him that you forget to live your own life. That’s true of any relationship, and it’s true whether you’re 16 or 60. You’ll always come to regret it later if you don’t.
Cleopatra Jones September 15, 2016, 3:15 pm
Aww, BGM has a soft spot for the kiddos. 😉 I kinda like this side of you, BGM.
TeacherNerd September 15, 2016, 12:17 pm
LW: This most likely says something about me (and I’m sure there are those who would say, yes, it says bad things about you), but every single guy I dated was someone I met online. Guy #1 actually lived in another country and we only met twice, but I wasn’t much older than you and we were absolutely committed to each other for over two years. I was 21-ish when we broke up; I was 19 when we met, and at that time – late 1990s – my parents were routinely worried that I would be kidnapped, or worse, so my mother kept pointing me towards articles about women getting abducted, raped, etc., by people she met online. (NOT HELPFUL!) I eventually married a man I met in a chat room. These relationships can absolutely work, and if you are firmly convinced than you’re in love, don’t let anyone tell you differently. Fortunately, public opinion about online dating and meeting has changed a lot in 20 years, but I remember not being so open about where I met my boyfriends, because it was seen as a sign of desperation.
Waiting sucks. It SUCKS. But you can Skype with each other regularly – what I wouldn’t have given for than in 1995! – so keep doing what you’re doing. Build your cred, and things will work themselves out.
Moneypenny September 15, 2016, 1:00 pm
This is such a great, compassionate response. This is definitely one of those letters that could have been easily dismissed with a “you’re young, you’ll get over it” type of response.
I totally remember my 2-year long crush on a guy from high school, and it was *intense* to say the least. I know I could have benefitted a little more to be in the present moment in my life at the time. I hope the LW takes this to heart!
Ashley September 15, 2016, 6:59 pm
The romantic in me is pulling for these two crazy kids….at least to meet in person! if your 16, do you have a job? If you were able to save up money to visit would your parents let you go? It may take you till your 18 to save up enough to to go the way things are nowadays. FWIW, I do know some couples who met in high school and are still together. My parents being one. I’d say though, enjoy what you have. Marriage, kids, moving to be with someone,those are things for future you to deal with. Good luck.
saneinca September 15, 2016, 11:40 pm
Since you youngsters are into pop culture, here is a story that you could relate to.
Taylor Swift, when she was 16, had a crush on a guy. She wanted to date him but he wasn’t into her. She wrote a very popular romantic song about that guy Drew. Fast forward a year and her song was out and very popular. And the guy came back saying let us get together. She laughed at him and said she was so over him. She was by then not even remotely interested in him.
I know in teenage every feeling is heightened by hormones. Enjoy your feelings but don’t believe them. By next year, you could meet another guy and your feelings could change. So take things slow. If someone has to travel to see to meet each other, let that be your BF than you. You are safer in your house and town rather than in a strange place.
Findingtheearth September 16, 2016, 9:36 am
I think you need to meet with your parents and tell them. And then your parents and his parents should skype. Can you get a job to earn money for a plane ticket? Can he? I don’t know if I would let my kiddo travel for a 4 month romance at 16, but if she put time into earning money for a ticket, I had somewhat met his parent, and there was a solid plan in place, after 8 months of the romance I would probably feel okay with it
wobster109 September 16, 2016, 1:25 pm
Sorry to say, Wendy is way too confident in parents.
LW, only you know whether it is safe to tell your parents. If they are the type to mock you and demand you to break up every day and call you a worthless loser because you refuse to break up, then you are better off not telling. The list of things I wish I’d told my parents more about is exactly nothing.
Rangerchic September 16, 2016, 2:18 pm
Really awesome advice and not at all dismissive. I just hope the LW listens! I had a boyfriend who lived about 1.5 hours from me when I was in HS. (I met him through my best friend who lived in the same town). I couldn’t drive yet but I do remember my dad taking me up there once or twice to hang with him (and my best friend) Looking back, I think because my dad trusted my best friends parents that he let me do that. Otherwise, it would have been a big fat no. And it wasn’t really that far.
Fast forward…my now 21 yo daughter met someone online gaming and they became fast friends….then boyfriend/girlfriend after face timing multiple times. But he is in NY and we are in CO. Well, they decided to be friends because of the distance. Now, since she is 21, she could go to NY without my permission. But when she was contemplating going, we talked it over (I never said I forbid it or anything – after all she’s an adult) we talked about my feelings about it and her feelings, etc. If she would have been 16 when this happened…I would not let her go but would let him come here (supervising the entire time they would be at the house).
My advice is talk to your parents if you feel comfortable talking to them. If not, wees – wait it out, be patient, and please don’t loose your self, your identity to him or your situation where you loose all other friends. No guy is worth that and no guys would/should want that for you. So if he is telling you to not hang with friends to be with him or making you feel guilty for doing school stuff, family stuff, and friend stuff – he isn’t a good guy.
Heaven October 17, 2017, 10:11 pm
I agree with you Wendy, but to the one comment on putting him on the back burner I do not agree on. Its like your telling her to wait for something better to come along, when she has him. Yes she should spend equal amount of time with friends and equal amount of time on the phone with him in some way. Putting him on the back burner is a no go, still make him feel important