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.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at [email protected].