Advice

Miss Information

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I'm in love with a woman I've never met. How much should I risk to be with her?

Have a question? Email missinfo@nerve.com. Letters may be edited for length, content, and clarity.

Dear Miss Info,

I'm twenty-nine years old, attractive, stable, employed, and living in South Carolina. For the past two or three years, I have been talking to a beautiful, successful woman from L.A. after she randomly added me on Myspace. At first our conversations were fun and flirtatious, but soon it became the norm for us to spend hours a day on the phone with one another, detailing everything about our days and ourselves, without a care in the world. Eventually, both of us became comfortable enough with one another to reveal things about ourselves we had never told anyone else. I honestly don't remember ever being so comfortable and happy in my life.

I've had a lot of dating experience with women, but I've never felt so connected to someone so quickly. Since we recognized that we both had feelings for one another, we were always honest about what was going on in our love lives. Except for two brief periods in which we dated other people, we probably haven't gone more than two weeks without talking since knowing one another.

I guess at some point, it turned into something else. Sometime last summer, I realized I was completely in love with her, so I told her how I felt. She told me she had feelings for me as well, but that she was very scared to get involved with anyone, and she'd been that way as long as I'd known her. Our relationship now is somewhere between a long-distance friendship and a serious committed relationship. We've discussed it, and agree that it's something in-between, but it's never been defined. We aren't seeing anyone else. Neither of us wants to see anyone else. But we have also never met in person.

Now comes the really screwed-up part.

She dated an old friend briefly (and I was seeing someone, too). When things fell apart, she rebounded with her estranged ex-husband. After that blew over, we both found ourselves single, and we began talking again. Instantly, that magic was back. We agreed that we wanted to move towards something more serious. However, she quickly discovered she was pregnant with her ex-husband's child.

I remained undeterred. For a second, I thought that wall had come down. Everything seemed fine. She told me she wanted me to be a father figure in her child's life (which would make me happier than I can possibly imagine deserving). She told me she still loved me. Then, a few weeks ago — after all the tears and drama — she stopped calling.

When we spoke again, she told that she couldn't let me into her life right now. She says she wants to be with me and only me, but doesn't know when she can make a place for me. She is afraid that I will only complicate her already complicated life. She thinks she will be happier if it is just her and her daughter.

Not only do I respect that, it's that kind of strength that makes me love her so much. But now I'm completely confused. I know once the baby arrives in December, I'm probably going to be yesterday's news, but I also recognize that she needs emotional support now more than ever (even if she doesn't recognize it herself).

I guess my question is: how can I do what's best for her without breaking my own heart? I'm not sure if I'm strong enough to be there for her, knowing that I'm going to be destroying myself, but I want to be.

— Cyber-LTR

Dear Cyber-LTR,

A complicated and messy situation created by Myspace? You don't say.

A wise friend of mine explained this well: "When you meet somebody, you meet their ambassador first." By that she meant that you meet the best parts of a person, the parts they are conscious of presenting: "Smile big, dial up the wit, dial down the mommy issues." Your ambassador is you with better hair.

In a long-distance relationship such as this, you only know each other's ambassador. Your conversations may be deep and vulnerability-inducing, but there is still a twinge of calculation to them; like Fox News, you control the message you're broadcasting. So you both may be leaving out details like her bad breath in the morning, your penchant for yelling at cab drivers, or her small — so small, really! — pyromania tick. If you were face-to-face, you could form your estimations of each other based off of a million intangibles, but, over the phone, those intangibles are gone. What is left is a high phone bill and a two-dimensional understanding of each other.

The connection feels real, and in many ways it is. But in light of its clear limitations, you need to draw some new boundaries. She has a child, and that child needs to consume her energy. She is telling you she can't be with you right now. That's as clear a message as you can get.

Now you need to turn your energy off of her and back to yourself. No relationship is worth "destroying yourself" over, and that kind of thinking is neither romantic nor noble. The self-sacrificing tone in your letter suggests low self-esteem. You're putting her needs far ahead of yours. Find a good therapist to talk to, at least to ease your transition out of this intense situation and back into your own life.

It's possible that you two could re-connect down the line, but you both have a lot of stabilizing to do before that happens. She needs to focus on settling in with her daughter, and, similarly, you need to dig in roots of your own.

 

Dear Miss Info,

I need guidance on the tiny matter of defining what true love is, and how much love is enough for a relationship to be the lasting kind.

I've been with my boyfriend of five months, and he has been a fantastic boyfriend so far. We're in our twenties. He seems to be everything I want in a man: loving, kind, very intelligent, reliable, mature, handsome… I could go on. He has been crazy in love with me pretty much from the start, and completely committed, while I have been wavering about my feelings throughout the relationship. 

I decided to be committed and I do think I love him, but it's not the kind of infatuated, pink-glasses love that I experienced as a teenager. I wonder if the feelings I have for him are strong enough to make a life-long commitment, since that is what he explicitly wants and is ready to offer. 

He often says that he doesn't think anything less than the kind of love he is experiencing is real love. He says that true love is when you are passionate about the other person, to the point that you'd lay down your life for them. His speeches make me feel guilty, since I feel like my love is of a much more pragmatic nature than his. I have much more relationship experience than him, and feel like my passionate feelings have given way to a more cynical view. I feel scared to tell him that, although I can tell him anything else. I don't want him to think I don't love him enough, and break up with me because of it — I don't want to lose him! — but I don't want to lead him on, either, if my kind of love is too weak in his view. It's just really hard for me to know what to do or say when he brings this up. 

In the long term, I want to find a partner and have kids before I'm thirty, and in that respect our goals are identical; I can see him as a great father to my children and a loving husband. I see a bright future with him, but I do not idealize it to the level that he idealizes a future with me. Now, his ideal of love is making me question my views and making me think I don't love him enough for it to be the ''true'' kind of love I'm supposed to strive for. Please help!

— LoveStrong?

Dear LoveStrong,

Your boyfriend is criticizing how you process love? Does he also find fault with how you see the color red? At five months, you two shouldn't be concerned with "the long haul" or "What Is Love?" You should still be thinking in the here-and-now. You like each other? You're having a good time? Nobody is standing outside anyone's window at three a.m., screaming and/or crying? Then great!

I understand his antsiness, and that he wants verification that you love him enough now that you won't hurt him later. It's a very human fear, but it's also a rookie relationship mistake. Verbal contracts and parsing wording doesn't make a stronger bond. Another a rookie mistake: assuming everyone does — or should — see the world the same way you do. Just because you feel affection differently doesn't mean you feel it less. 

Paradoxically, your boyfriend's insistence that you prove how much you love him is making you question how much you love him. These are all things that will come to you eventually; you just need to give it some time to settle. Part of that is loosening your self-imposed restraints. The more you focus on "kids by thirty!" the less space you give yourself to honestly evaluate your emotional state and your preparedness. You both have plenty of time. Put down the calendars and dictionaries, and enjoy it.