Complicated situations like this are why I get sooo annoyed about internet dating.
Dear Auntie Seraphic,
I've been reading your blog for months, and I appreciate all of your commonsense advice. I've been debating for a few weeks whether or not to e-mail you. I've prayed a Novena to St. Joseph a few weeks ago for this situation.
I'm not sure how to assess a situation with a NCB. Let's call him Fitzwilliam (because isn't that a fun Austen name?). He and I have been long-distance friends for a few years, after we met online; he lives in [a distant city]. In the last year or so, Fitz has expressed more and more interest in me and in meeting in person. We talk on Skype a few times a week. (And I let him do the calling).
Although I've wanted to meet him, I was a bit apprehensive last time he invited me to visit last winter. [He offered to pay, and as neither of us has much money, I felt bad about that.] Now, recently, I've been thinking and praying about it more, and feel like I'm ready to meet in person. I'm off work for the holidays, and hinted to Fitz that I'm free that week, and he's made allusions to visiting me with frequency in the future.
However, he hasn't made any concrete invitations/requests to visit for the upcoming holiday season, and I don't know what to do. At your recommendation, I tried reading The Rules, but it just made me uncharitable and ill-at-ease for a few days when talking with Fitz. I know that I should just shrug it off and ignore him until he makes a move to try to meet, but I don't want to turn my back on our friendship.
But it's hurting me to stay friends with him because I feel like he's using me to talk to so he won't be lonely. Our conversations are a weird combination of flirting, Catholic faith discourse, and him being a bit depressive.
The question I have is: When is it too much? Can I "pull the alarm," as you put it in your recent post, and tell him that I can't continue communicating with him unless he wants to meet up? I'm torn and I need some advice.
Online, On the Fence
Dear Online, On the Fence
Let's get this straight. You've been long-distance friends for years without ever meeting? And only in the past year has Fitz expressed interest in meeting--and the one time he came up with a concrete plan, you turned it down?
Actually, that part makes sense, because I wouldn't let a man-not-my-husband-or-relation pay for my airline ticket, either. But the romantic prognosis for a years-long friendship in which neither person has tried to move heaven and earth to get together is not good. St. Thomas More and Erasmus developed a nice friendship through letters, but you'll notice that was (A) in the 16th century and (B) platonic.
My hunch is that The Rules is not the book for you because the problem is not that you've been making yourself too available, but that you are not available enough. Fitz has been hinting that he'd like to see you; it is your job to issue the invitation. He can't just get on a plane and show up without you saying, "Hey, why don't you come to my town over the holidays? It would be cool, after all these years, to do something in person."
Personally, I do not believe that real love--love between two people who actually know each other--can spring up without the two people ever having met in person. Assuming that you really do care for him on some level, I think you should meet ASAP, so to see if there is any real spark. If there isn't, you can move on. Mostly what I get from your letter is a sense of unsubstantiated fear about being used, premature despair and even a desire to be free of him. This is quite a contrast to other letters, in which my readers enthuse about their NCBs' melting smiles and kindness to old ladies.
Anyway, I leave it up to you to determine if you really do want to meet Fitz and find out who he really is, depression and all, without hoping against hope that deep down he is really is Mr Darcy. (Personally, I don't get the worldwide attraction to Mr Darcy, except on the Colin-Firth-in-a-wet-shirt animal level.) If you do, make a clear invitation and determine an actual calendar date.
Oh, a note about The Rules: I also recommend that readers take them with a pinch of salt. I have debated again and again with a Rules purist over whether they are cross-cultural. I say they apply to North American and Latin situations, and not necessarily to British and German ones. She swears up and down that they work on a psychology shared by all men. We do agree, however, that some of them are ridiculous and just filler. And we've noticed that the more we admired a man, the harder The Rules were to obey. (We're both married now.)
Hope this is helpful and not too harsh!
Grace and peace,