The world has become a global village, with Facebook, Twitter, Skype, LinkedIn and on-line chat rooms connecting friends and strangers everywhere. Singles of all ages get to chat in all parts of the world. Sometimes you meet someone who resonates, there’s the tiny click of recognition, and – uh-oh. This global village is still an extremely large planet, he’s on the far side, and the teleporter hasn’t been invented yet.
I’ve done a few blogs already on being single, second time round, and how to recognize the types you meet in the over-fifties singles world, but this blog is about those relationships where you never meet – the twilight world of the never-never long distance relationship, the LDR. Some are fun, a what-if that brightens your day. Some, especially for older singles who have been out of the dating game for a while, are a handy way back into learning all over again how to interact with someone who is interested in you as a person, and as a possible lover. Most will flare and die in a few weeks, months at most, and the residual glow should outlast the pang of the ending. I was in one (I take my research responsibilities very seriously) and have felt the tug, and I do know where you are coming from. Mine was pretty conventional in length, very intense and exciting, but there’s a danger they can become part of your life.
It really is a danger. EVERY singles website has hundreds of members of all ages drifting month after month, even year after year, in go-nowhere relationships, feeling comforted because they are loved. Some are first-timers, feeling they are unique in their odd, yet workable, relationship. Others are on their second, third, safe emotional haven. Some run several at once, which is frankly just greedy. They are slightly addictive for people with emotional or physical insecurities, and some singles look only for the never-meet LDR, although they will never admit it, meeting is always the eventual goal. Somehow. Someday. Far in the future . . .
You may be in love with one, who will change, chameleon-like, to be your perfect partner, just to get back into that lovely glow. Most people are going to be puzzled that someone hundreds, or thousands, of miles away could be absorbing your thoughts. Some will tell you sternly that it won’t work, LDRs always fail. Some will tell you that you are being scammed, cheated, played for a sucker. Some will ask when you are going to meet, and look pitying when you say nothing is planned yet.
There must be some successes, I suppose, and anyway yours is different. Not to sound too cynical, but yours is always different.
Fact remains, it is enthralling. You have met someone who is uniquely in tune with you, and because you spend more and more time talking, with no outside interaction, no context, you develop a faster, deeper, more meaningful relationship than you have ever experienced before. Soulmates. Wow.
No, you aren’t soulmates! The grass does look greener over that far fence, but from this distance you can’t smell the fertilizer. It’s there. Believe me. It may be a whiff, it may be a stench, but that grass is not naturally that green!
Reality check: are you yourself really telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? Does he know your real age, those extra pounds or bulges you just can’t shake, the little bad habits you conceal from the world? Chances are you are portraying yourself as the person you are in your head, the person you’d like to be. Chances are, so is he. He may be absolutely genuine, not intending to mislead you in any way, but you are looking at him through his eyes. He is seeing you through yours. No wonder it gets intoxicating, eh? Here, at last, is someone who sees you as you really are!
Of course that sets this forever as a no-meet LDR, because meeting would destroy everything. When you live an hour apart, the LDR dies when one or the other runs out of excuses and abruptly vanishes instead. When you live thousands of miles apart, the illusion isn’t as easily shattered. It can evolve into a corner of your life, radiating gentle warmth, adding to your confidence, but it can also mutate alarmingly and become far too significant.
Normal people can’t live out normal lives when they are obsessed by someone they have never met and will never meet, and the ending can be frighteningly destructive. LDRs DO end. Often there is just sudden silence and you have no idea whether you have been dumped for someone else, or he dropped dead, or any of the many scenarios your panicking mind can summon up. It is almost impossible for the outsider to understand that an intense LDR is, in an odd way, more real than reality.
Here are a few more reality checks.
- Are you talking on Skype, or is the entire relationship on texts and emails? If you don’t know what he looks or sounds like, especially if he resists the Skype option, there’s something he isn’t telling you. He’s married, he’s in prison, he’s physically unlike the photos he sends, whatever the reason, there is something wrong.
- If you are the one resisting Skype, why? If he thinks you are younger, better-looking, or more successful than you really are, and you have deliberately fostered that belief, either confess or back off. You are going to become increasingly dissatisfied with your real self.
- How much time are you giving him – occasional texts and emails, chatting on Skype a couple of times a week, or are you spending hours every day talking to, or thinking of, each other? Throttle back. Half an hour a day, tops. Or a couple of days a week. The more he pushes for more of your time, the more concerned you should be. Love-bombing is not a sign of a normal healthy man with a normal healthy lifestyle.
- If he usually leads the conversation, introduce a change of subject to something that interests you. If he pulls back to his subject, you are there just as an audience. You’ll be replaced when you’ve heard all the stories.
- If you think something is off-key, don’t dismiss the thought. It is.
- If the idea that he could suddenly arrive on your doorstep is terrifying, listen to that thought!
- If the wish that he would suddenly arrive on your doorstep is all-consuming, yet there is no possibility of ever meeting, throttle back. Way back.
- If he isn’t always able to respond immediately, if he has unavoidable social commitments, do you know what they are? Do they bother you? If yes, throttle back. Way back.
- Is he jealous about your time, especially when you can’t respond at the usual times? Have you stopped making outside commitments as a result? Don’t!
- If either or both of you have been in LDRs before, accept that this is a pattern and either or both of you are copping out of real life. Cop back in! The twilight world of the LDR is like a diet high in sugar, delicious but extremely unhealthy.
If talking about meetings always seems to end nowhere, there’s a test you can do. Be aware it could end the LDR on the spot, and your soulmate might vanish abruptly. That stings, but ends an unreal situation before you get too sucked in. Announce you’ve just learned your cousin will be in his part of the world in 2 days, and suggest a meetup for coffee. If he is unavoidably busy at that time, that’s fine, your cousin will be there for a fortnight.
Of course some serial LDR specialists know this ploy, and will play along. I’m not talking scammers here: anyone who could be caught by a scripted approach, and not notice any woodenness in the next exchanges, wouldn’t be reading this blog anyway. There are some emotionally dysfunctional people who have been shaken off again and again, and have learned the traps and tests. They’ll jump through almost any hoops to keep your attention and love, and will certainly agree to this proxy meeting. Don’t gasp with relief and instantly confess. Arrange a time, arrange a place, and wait. Yes, you are lying, and to your soulmate, but in real life you would have been able to test him in hundreds of ways by now, without even realizing you were testing him. If he is genuine, now you will know. Most ‘soulmates’ will fail it, and that’s better to know, too.
If he comes back to you after the appointment, sounding puzzled and concerned because your cousin failed to turn up, well, now it is time to confess. If the relationship survives your explanation (he should understand, after all, that you have normal fears and concerns), then you are moving beyond this blog, because I never heard of the first, let alone the second. I do know, though, that long term relationships like this are counter-productive. My best advice to you, especially if there were other things on the list that struck warning chords, is to retreat. Normal people don’t live like this, and you want a normal life. Retreat until it really is a gentle warm corner in the room of your life, taking less than ten percent of your waking hours. If he resists, or vanishes, accept that you shouldn’t be living in an emotional twilight, and that it is time to move on.
If you do finally manage a meeting, be aware that few LDRs survive the first encounter: curiosity is satisfied, and there isn’t enough interest left to go back to the cosy comfort. Ouch. But then do you want to be putting all this time and emotion into a man you wouldn’t much like in person?
Some LDRs, the traditional ones, can thrive on occasional meetings connected by long loops of waiting time, but that is another blog!
Ever researching on your behalf