I struggled with an overwhelming amount of writer’s block this week. But the silver lining is when my friends rally and help me push through that. A good friend of mine suggested I write about the confusing emotional ambiguity that comes with long-distance communication, and it just so happened that I had the perfect title for such a post. (Coincidence? I think not.)
I have two friends (Marge and Noelle) currently participating in long-distance communication (notice I did not use the word “relationships”) with boys. But I only really want to address Nikki’s (at least today–that’s too much content for one blog post!).
Through a mutual friend, Noelle (who lives in Chicago) became acquainted with Matthew, an incredibly cute, smart, well-dressed guy who lives in LA. They’ve actually become really good friends. Matthew even admitted that he feels like he can tell her things that he can’t say to his “real” friends; now, Matthew was not negating their friendship by saying this. He was simply pointing out that it’s a lot easier to be open and honest with someone you don’t see on a regular basis, someone who isn’t directly (or physically) involved in your everyday life or your other friends–someone who is, in many ways, yours and only yours.
Long-distance communication is such a seductive idea, because you get the benefits of an intimate, confidant sort of relationship without the pressure of having to hangout all the time or even the pressure to kick it up from a friendship (or flirtationship) into a relationship. Said confidant is always there for you, because if you’re like me, you don’t go anywhere without your phone, meaning they’re just one text away, so you can share all the small stuff with them–a picture of your latte, a beautiful sunset–making you feel like you’re more deeply rooted in their life than you are.
There is no equivalent to having a physical person in your life.
I myself have succumbed to the allure of long-distance communication with a guy I was interested in. Anyone remember the cute aerospace engineer from my cousin’s wedding? I tried and tried to keep up communication with him; one Snapchat a day from him was enough to keep me satisfied/on the hook.
And it was the most frustrating month and a half of my life.
And in these not-so-proud moments, I genuinely wish I had a guy–any guy–to confide in. I don’t have any guy friends, which is actually ironic considering I, more or less, friendzone every guy I meet.
But these are the sorts of situations in which I wish I had guy friends: When it seems like a guy is really interested, flirting and keeping up the conversation via text or Snap, but I just can’t make out if it’s something more than a friendship. God, it would be so nice to know what the person on the other end of that text is thinking. I’ve been burned before by interpreting more than friendship in a few winky-faced texts, and for that, I’m more hesitant to believe a guy gives a shit if I’m not seeing him in person very often.
The problem (and convenience/miracle) is, technology makes it easy to feel like a person is a part of your life, perhaps a bigger part of your life than they actually are. I mean, you still talk every day, right? You know what he’s doing because he Snapchats you from his office where he’s stuck inputing boring data or he sends you a funny YouTube video, and you immediately react like this: Awh, he’s thinking about me. The funny thing is (and we all do this, so don’t pretend you don’t), I send the same picture to basically everyone in my Snapchat favorites. And I’m willing to bet that guys do that, too. It may or may not reference something meaningful or something exclusive to your friend/relationship (inside jokes), but I’m sure I’ve received at least one picture from a guy that was also sent to four other people.
I know the argument (I’ve had the argument with myself): But if he’s contacting me and I’m still in his life, shouldn’t that mean something? I feel like I’m always playing the bitch here, but it doesn’t always mean anything. (If you don’t believe me, read this and get back to me.) Yes. You’re in his life, but you’re not at the same time.
It's so easy to get caught up in the romantic idea of what could happen down the road.
But here’s the thing that took me a (really) long time to understand: he’s there; you’re here. And sure. That can change. But our hearts are frequently at odds with our brains. It’s one thing to know something is unrealistic or unreasonable, but to feel it and accept it is another thing entirely. But we should never be satisfied with texting or Snapchat or whatever as a substitute for something real.
Here is where Noelle would butt in and say, “A substitute for what? There are no other guys in my life that I’d be interested in.” (Can you tell we’ve had this discussion before?) I’m not saying the love of your life is already in your life (he’s probably not), and I’m not saying your virtual relationship is directly preventing you from meeting your Mr. Darcy. But I am saying you’ve become emotionally unavailable because of this ambiguous, undefined “thing” that you’re involved in. We’re too old to “have a thing” with a guy; we’re not in middle school anymore, which means we can no longer sustain a relationship via text messaging. Frankly, we're too old for that shit.
Set up boundaries: you’re friends or you’re in (or headed towards) a relationship. Because if he has no intention of being more than a friend, he needs to understand there are boundaries that separate friends and boyfriends–unwarranted flirting, for example. I beg you: Don’t just let a guy flirt with you whenever he feels like it (or whenever it’s convenient for him to respond to you). It’s emotionally confusing to have no structure in a relationship (whether it’s just friends or more than). Just be clear about it: If you’re going to be just friends, he needs to mind the gap.