DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I never paid much attention to the love-related side of your internet work, but now that I’ve found myself in a bit of a situation you were the first one that came to mind when I thought of where to get help.
I met this girl a little over a year ago through a forum that we were both a part of. It wasn’t an online dating site or anything, just a casual forum. We got to know each other through the group that we were both a part of and on a whim I started sending her messages several months ago. Eventually we realized we had the same tastes, personality and sense of humor, and I started having long conversations with her almost every day. At first we just talked about anime and music, but after a while we started talking about our personal lives, and we would vent to each other about stuff that was bothering us whenever we could. We’d frequently do Skype video calls with our longest conversation lasting four hours, and consider each other good friends and speak to each other as such, with a majority of our conversations consisting of us throwing joking insults at each other. As far as I know, I’m the only one she does this with as well.
As you probably guessed, I’ve fallen for this girl, though it embarrasses me horribly to admit it. While I have had some female friends in real life, I never felt like I could connect with them or talk at length with them the same way I could with this girl. I really do feel like we can say whatever’s on our minds to each other with zero consequences, and I want to talk to her 24 hours a day if I could. It’s gotten to a point where I’ve felt the need to force myself into the conversation whenever she shows up or is even mentioned, and whenever I go out my mind sometimes drifts to what she might be doing right now or whether or not she’s talking to someone else. I realize it’s incredibly pathetic to think that way about someone you don’t even really know but I just can’t help myself.
The problem is that we live in entirely different continents with any chance of meeting each other in real life being incredibly slim, making a relationship a pipe dream to say the least. Plus, we frequently make fun of another internet guy who creeps on her and she makes it clear that she thinks the concept of having feelings for someone through the internet is ridiculous. I’m worried that if I tell her how I feel, she’ll come to view me the same way as the internet creepers and passive-aggressive friends who have confessed to her for stupid reasons in the past that she frequently complains to me about. However, ever since I’ve fallen for her, I’ve started “jokingly” flirting with her as a way to express myself, which never seems to bother her at all. When I insinuated I was being serious at one point, she told me that the reason she was okay with those jokes was because she knew there was no way I would ever like her, since she’s too “s--t-tier”. This makes me feel really uncertain on what her reaction would be if I told her the truth.
Doc, I’m fairly thick-skinned when it comes to criticisms, so I’d like you to be honest. Am I creepy or pathetic for falling for a girl this way? Should I tell her how I feel? I don’t want a relationship or anything like that since I know it’s pretty much impossible, but I just can’t stop thinking about her. Is there any way to move past this while still being able to talk to her like normal? I’m a 17 year-old with pretty much no experience in this kind of thing, so I’d really appreciate some help.
– Only An Ocean Away
DEAR ONLY AN OCEAN AWAY: I don’t think you’re pathetic or creepy, OaOA.
I do, however, think that you’re setting yourself up for a fall. I think you’re good friends and have a great deal of emotional intimacy, and from the sounds of it, she’s the first person who you’ve really been able to relate to this way, and it’s heady stuff! It’s also “safe”, in a way that your female friends aren’t because you’ve got an entire ocean between the two of you. It allows you to feel more secure and confident because that distance means that you don’t have as much at risk; you know that a relationship is impossible because, hey, you’re in opposite corners of the world!
But I’m going to draw the line at saying that “yeah, you’re in love with her”. You’re basically dealing with what’s known as “limerence“… basically a crush. That obsessive, constantly thinking about her? The way you kind of clam up when you think about trying to actually tell her how you feel and the nervousness about your feelings not being returned? These are all classic symptoms of a crush, and these can be made all the more intense when there are obstacles in the way. Like, say, an entire ocean. In short… you’re crushing on someone and it’s kinda making you crazy.
So I’ve got good news and bad news. And I’m going to give you the bad news first.
The bad news is: I think you’re kind of screwed on the relationship front. To start with, there’s the long-distance issue. Long distance relationships when you’re in the same state are difficult enough. Long distance relationships when you’re in entirely different countries are harder by orders of magnitude. Long distance relationships when you’re in entirely different countries AND there’s a global pandemic that means that most countries won’t let Americans in… well, that’s an even BIGGER complication. The level of effort and expense it takes to maintain a trans-continental relationship is immense. Now to be sure, it can be done. In fact, I oversaw the wedding of a couple of friends of mine who were living halfway around the world from one another… but part of what made that work was that one of them had already made plans to pull up stakes and emigrate. Knowing there’s a definite end-date to the separation can help keep the relationship alive and ease the tensions that arise from the distance.
This is magnified by the fact that you’re 17. You’re still riding out the emotional and hormonal equivalent of Space Mountain, which means everything is crazy intense. The constant hormone flux mixed with the f--ked up prison-system lifestyle that is high-school means that half the time, you have no idea whether you’re coming or going. So you’re now stuck with these crazy feelings you barely know how to handle and no real way of releasing them and you don’t really know what to do. Then there’s the fact that you’re within a year of graduating from high-school and (presumably) heading towards college. High-school relationships rarely survive the transition to college for many, many reasons. College is the first time you’ll be truly on your own and surrounded by people your own age – all of whom are there for the same reasons you are. You’re going to be watching your social circles change as your identity starts to mature and shift and you find out who you really are… or at least who you’re trying to be. This would test any relationship… but you’ve got an extra wrinkle on yours.
Namely: you’ve never actually met in person. And no, Skype calls don’t count. This is the thing about online-only relationships: they’re not the same as ones where you meet in person. Now, this isn’t to say that you can’t have a legitimate emotional bond with someone who you only know online – over the years I’ve made more friends than I can count that started off as text in a forum and I’ve watched more relationships and marriages that began online than you’d believe.
But what made them work was that they weren’t actually “dating” until they met in person. You can have an emotional bond with someone, sure… but that’s not the same as romantic love. We like to think that love is pure and about the soul and the mind but in reality… it’s as much about the body as anything else. Not just in the sense of visual attraction but in the myriad little ways that we’re barely aware of – the way they smell, the way they feel when we touch their skin, even the way they taste when we kiss. There’s a physical, even pheromonal component to attraction and without a meat-to-meat meeting, it’s just not going to be the same.
It would be one thing if you were in a position to possibly visit in person… but at age 17, there’s a hell of a lot of barriers in the way. And before you think it, going to college in her country is not advisable.
So I’m sorry to drop all of this on you, and I know it sucks.
The good news though is that this is going to be fairly easy to get over. I don’t recommend getting out of contact with her – you’re legitimately friends – but I do recommend that you don’t treat this as a potential relationship. The two of you are close and that’s a good thing; it’s an amazing thing to have such a tight bond with someone. But right now, the way you’re going about things is going to keep you from finding other, just as amazing relationships in your town, and passing over those for a future relationship that is mostly fantasy at this point is a bad idea.
So here’s the Doc’s advice. Live your life. Keep your friendship going. You may find that over time, the two of you may drift apart… it’s sad, but it happens, especially at your age. Pursue relationships in your area. Get ready for college and the adventures that’s going to bring.
And after you’ve got a couple more years of living under your belt… well, maybe you can save up some cash and take advantage of the student travel programs that’ll be available to you.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org