I was talking to “Pamela” for almost 2 years. Finally, at a beer garden overlooking the Allegheny river I finally had the chance to meet her. After the first pint I had an idea that we had differences of opinions. She exceeded all of my expectations; I felt a wave of disenchantment and disappointment coming from her. By the third pint it was clear that I expected too much and came all that way for nothing. For a moment I regretted putting myself out there. I went to bed that evening rather depressed, wondering what was wrong with me. 1000 things could’ve been wrong with me that she did not agree with, looking back. I was happy for the chance to have finally met her versus having her as a possibility that I would maybe someday, one day, get enough strength to meet in person.
A few months later she told me that she had no romantic interest in me and wished to be friends. I agreed, knowing then that now it meant a distant acquaintance.
When people talk about long-distance relationship that started on the Internet(ie. Internet LDR), it usually involves deep thought-provoking conversation, instant messaging throughout the day and the occasional cyber sexual encounter. While many people talk about meeting each other, such an occurrence might happen or not. Both parties earnestly want to see each other in real life. Stories like the one I told above doesn’t help that.
People get afraid.
Finding an Internet LDR partner can be such a gift. You can see people, they can see you, and you have a wide variety of mediums to make your relationship work. But there comes a time where we have to come out from behind our respective screens and hold the hand of the person who was touching another keyboard in another room, far away.
To do that takes a different type of commitment than to figure out time zones for possible date nights. It is the desire to be engaged, though the prospect of success might be poor. Think about it, meeting an Internet LDR partner in real life for the first time is like meeting a possible partner in real life. It doesn’t matter if you’re on a blind date, connected through a message board or dating profile. Distance becomes irrelevant. All that matters is time. For someone who is local that real life meeting commitment happens in days or weeks. An Internet LDR could be months and years.
Sooner or later one partner would want to meet the other, willing to travel great distances to seek out the possibility of a real-life relationship. The other partner might be not want to meet for a variety of reasons. Those reasons have to be dealt with.
If the point of an Internet LDR is to meet, marry and live happily ever after, then the there has to be an overall commitment to make it work. Meeting in person is just the opening of this larger cluster that is a committed relationship. It’s not about promising to meet and never following through. It’s about having this virtual relationship with the understanding that it’s temporary and will be superseded by a real-life one.
Yet people think that an engagement ring, gifts and elaborate virtual encounters make a relationship. But what are they really? Is it someone who will never hesitate to tell you that they love you? Someone who willing to stand by your side in all encounters? What about that person who’s willing to travel to ends the earth, literally? A $2000 engagement ring delivered via special courier pales next to your former virtual lover placing a $150 ring on your finger. One is a financial commitment, the other one is a commitment of many resources. The former looks great to your Facebook friends, the latter appeals to your emotional and intellectual needs. The problem with gifts is they are material and somewhat ephemeral. You wear the ring, but the ring is a symbol of commitment. If after a period of time no action has taken place, the two of you are still apart, that symbol would look like an indictment of idleness.
Yes, again, it’s possible that nothing could come from taking a chance with this person. They might go ghost on you in the last possible moment. You find out they are really catfishing, not who they claim to represent. Finally, they could reject you for a variety of reasons. But what is the alternative? While there are some merits for having an Internet relationship that is not the goal for most people. When exchanges of love happens, intimate conversations ensue, people start thinking of each other all the time, each person want to know are they going to share their lives with this other person physically in a meaningful timeframe.
If you been afraid in meeting your Internet LDR it’s time to show some bravery. Pick a date that the both of you can agree that you will get together and make arrangements. If you and your partner live on the other side of the world and the both of you are financially capable why not meet in the middle? For example, one person lives in Calgary, the other lives in Johannesburg. Why not try to meet in Paris or Madrid? It doesn’t have to be fancy(a three-star hotel in Madrid gives a unique cultural flavor missing from better hotels) or particularly long (5 days should do it), but it should happen.
When you meet and hug each other it will feel like the beginning of something new. Hopefully that feeling to be with you forever, long after details fade away in memory.
About the author: Sean Mars, writer of A Google 365 Days blog is currently not in an Internet LDR. He lives in Detroit, Michigan.