What are the rules of long-distance, we-met-online relationships when they transition into real life?
October 8, 2008 6:53 PM   Subscribe

What are the rules of long-distance, we-met-online relationships when they transition into real life potential romance?

About a year ago, I met a guy online and we've become pretty close friends recently. He's not a creep and in fact a pretty decent guy that is really compatible with me and what I want out of life. Neither of us was looking for anything romantic at all when we became close. A couple months ago, he admitted to a crush on me and recently, I'm starting to like him too. The problem? We live on opposite coasts, and while I'm not in a position (financially) to constantly travel, he is. We talk both online and on the phone and can carry on pretty lengthy conversations. Now, he's invited me (at his expense) to spend a weekend with him in a couple of months. Advice about the potential danger of this isn't needed; I'm confident that my personal safety wouldn't be in jeopardy, and would take all precautions to make sure my family knows exactly where I'll be and when I'll be back, etc. So, given he's not an axe murderer, I'm looking forward to spending a weekend with a cool guy and possibly pursuing something So, the real question is: would sex be expected on a weekend like this, if not on the first night at least at some point? My automatic reaction is that he isn't buying me a plane ticket because he DOESN'T want to get laid. He definitely wants to be romantic and go on dates, but...and this is a huge but for me...he's a virgin and I'm, well, not. I'm a big believer in your first time being special, and I would feel like a jerk somehow especially if a relationship just isn't in the cards for us. He insists it won't be a big deal and he won't get more attached just because it's his first time, but I know I felt the same way before my first time too and was mistaken.

I guess I'm just confused about how to proceed here. I really like him and if he lived down the street I'd have no problem waiting until he was comfortable. I guess the expense and distance involved makes me wonder if it's okay to put a rush on things. Is waiting for a second visit a better option here? Is being a virgin even a big deal at all anymore? I was a dumb teenager when I lost mine and it was a huge deal, but is it different in your 20s? Help.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

would sex be expected on a weekend like this, if not on the first night at least at some point

Yeah, pretty much. These days you don't invite someone you've explicitly expressed interest in to a romantic getaway weekend because you want to play a lot of shuffleboard.

and this is a huge but for me...he's a virgin and I'm, well, not. I'm a big believer in your first time being special

That seems oddly old fashioned to me, but even so: Who is to say this wouldn't be special for him? What you've described, if it works out, seems pretty special to me. But have you even met this guy yet? Do you know what he looks like? Does he know what you look like? Chemistry in person is not the same as chemistry online and sometimes people who dazzle you online just don't click when you meet, so "if it works out" is a rather open question.

He insists it won't be a big deal and he won't get more attached just because it's his first time

LIAR. Ahem. I suppose he's not exactly lying, but if he's a virgin he has no idea what he's talking about. I would peg the odds of him getting more attached from sex at roughly 85%. Yeah, I made that number up but honestly, he likes you, wants to pursue you romantically, and wants to get laid. What else is he going to say?
posted by Justinian at 7:12 PM on October 8, 2008 [2 favorites]

I did the lower budget version of this, over the past two years, with my current boyfriend. And there really are no rules. However, a few tips:

1) First time sexing: Nobody owes the other person sex. We handled this by talking frankly about it to make it clear neither would be pressured into the act the first time we met in the flesh. On the other hand you can always just ask if he suits you.

2) Safety: Tell someone where you're going/staying and promise to check in. Looks like you have this covered. However if he can afford to fly you to him, in the terrible sexist world of potential rape, it's better if he takes a hotel in your location, as it makes getting away from the terminally awkward or scary easier.

3) Surprises are par for the course: In my case I discovered my boyfriend was smoking hot instead of tolerable (very, very unphotogenic), and smelled nice. He discovered I was clumsy and probably a few things tact restrains him from saying. There are always things that don't travel over the phone lines.

4) People doing the online loving thing generally have a reason to, and that reason doesn't always go away if you make things an in person matter. Sometimes you're just unique enough it takes a mail order partner to satisfy you. Sometimes you have a social affliction, or lead an isolated life. Maybe your work schedule doesn't allow finding the right person.

5) Never underestimate the male craving for emotional intimacy. It's generally accepted that sex forms a man's first motive in mate seeking, but in my experience the pursuit of women is often a hope for human connection or an attempt to define the self in relation to achieving a marker of value. Especially if he's not saying 'And I'll bring extra condoms!!!', and with him paying your way, it suggests a need not for moist orifices but the sort of closeness you fear sex will create.

6) Unless you're that unique sort of independent soul who both craves partnership and distance, in the long run, long distance relationships are best served by concrete plans to make them into in person unions. If you don't see this as feasible, going along with this now could mean emotional suffering later.
posted by Phalene at 7:26 PM on October 8, 2008 [6 favorites]

It really all depends on your initial reactions to one another when you get off the plane. Chances are good if there is even the most remote of a spark, you'll have sex. Also, the whole into-you-cling-factor is pretty much magnified by about 95 since he is a virgin, unless he is a virgin just because he hasn't gotten around to "finding the one" or "making it special" - because if he has hung onto his virginity for so long, chances are good that there was a reason and he'll put a lot of stock into your "relations."

From my personal experience? Mid-20's deflowering lead to extremely, extremely clingy and weird sexual guilt on my part. Oh, and as for the flying-across-the-country? If I'm traveling more than 30 miles, there will be sex.
posted by banannafish at 7:29 PM on October 8, 2008

Stay in a hotel, not with him. That way, you have both privacy and a safe place to go if he turns out not to be all you hoped he would be. Tell him ahead of time that you won't be having sex. You can always change your mind after a date or two if you want to, but this way, the pressure will be off. Don't have sex with him on the first or second date just because you arrived at the date by plane. And if he pressures you at all or hints that he doesn't want to see you after you've taken sex off the table, you'll know that he's in it for sex, not love.
posted by decathecting at 7:32 PM on October 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Phalene makes some excellent points. I met my wife online and she was 12 hours away from me. We spent several months talking over webcam every free moment. Circumstances and fate being what they are, she moved in and we've been together over 3 years now.

Now, as for the first visit...erm, yeah, sex was expected by both parties. I find myself doubting his virgin claim, me being the cynic I am. I hope you can talk honestly about that because you may not feel that spark and if so, you need a safe Plan B.

Good luck!
posted by CwgrlUp at 7:38 PM on October 8, 2008

1. Is he expecting sex? Probably. That doesn't mean you owe him anything - if you don't feel like doing anything - don't. There's no obligation.
2. But if you want to - and he wants to - go for it! Don't let his virginity be a reason to reject him. His emotional situation is his business, and not your problem. Plenty of experienced folks get wildly attached when sex is involved - and plenty of virgins (ESPECIALLY adult ones) can get that notch on their posts without falling in love. He's a person, not a type.
posted by moxiedoll at 7:41 PM on October 8, 2008

If we could take humans out of the universe, we would see that the whole universe - the stars, moon, the plants, animals, everything - is perfect just the way it is. Life doesn't need to be justified or judged. Without us, it keeps going the way it is. If you put humans in that universe, but take away the ability to judge, you find we are exactly like the rest of nature. We're not good or bad, right or wrong, we're just the way we are.

We manufacture scenarios. We have the need to justify everything, to make it good or bad or right or wrong, when it just is the way it is. As humans, we accumulate a lot of knowledge. We learn beliefs, morals, and rules from our family, from society, even religion. We base most of our behavior, most of our feelings, on that knowledge. We create angels and demons, and unfortunately, oft times sex becomes one of those demons. We treat sex as a great sin, when in fact the human body is made for sex.

We are biological, sexual beings. That's just the way it is. Our bodies are very wise. All that intelligence is in us. The problem isn't with sex. The problem is the way we manipulate the knowledge and our judgments, when there is really nothing to justify. It is so hard for the mind to surrender, to just accept. We have a whole set of beliefs about what sex should be, about how relationships should be, and usually those beliefs are completely distorted.

If you can avoid passing judgment on yourself, or on him - if you can avoid feeling the need to justify your attraction and simply let it happen - whatever does happen will be right, and yours and his minds will be at ease.
posted by netbros at 8:08 PM on October 8, 2008 [14 favorites]

I would save yourself any potential heartbreak and not go any further.

Long distance relationships suck. They can be managable if there is an end in sight, but there is no way they can grow organically in a normal way.

Each time you see each other you will have such a short amount of time together, you'll spend a lot of time in bed, and when you're apart you will be longing for each other.

If the two of you think there is really some potential here, see if you can't find a way to live in the same city for awhile, and date each other normally.

There will be people out there who say long distance relationships can work, but in my experience they lead to a lot of clingyness, longing, frustration, heartbreak, and never truly knowing the other person.
posted by Flying Squirrel at 2:40 AM on October 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

1. I had a similar email/phone thing with someone i'd met very breifly (when in a another city) when we finally met in person again a few months later I think we were both pretty much expecting sex (assuming we actually got along in person).

2. First times are generally pretty shit anyway. just do it. its probably better if its you than some drunken shag...
posted by mary8nne at 2:41 AM on October 9, 2008

Wow, been there, done that, as the guy inviting a long-distance woman to spend the weekend with him (though neither was a virgin). Lots of good advice, but I'll add one thing.

If he is, as he sounds, a gentleman, he'll likely be anticipating your apprehension, and will have made arrangements for the possibility of your sleeping separately. See, he doesn't want you to feel pressured, and (likely) won't want to make a move towards sex--if he thinks like I do, he'll fear you won't be interested, and knows it would make you feel uncomfortable about the rest of the weekend. So you may need to call the shots, bedroom-wise. You could broach this in advance: "Hey, so what are the sleeping arrangements?" would be a good, straightforward way.
posted by MrMoonPie at 5:29 AM on October 9, 2008

Out of curiosity, have you met this guy in person before? I get the feeling that you haven't, and if that's the case, be prepared for the possibility that people can be wildly different in person than they are over the phone or on email. I've met a couple of online friends in person, and while it was never in a sexual context, there was always an overwhelming feeling of 'wow, this is not at all what I envisioned,' even when I'd known them for years. Similarly, I did a good deal of online dating, and found that people I'd been seriously crushing on based on email & phone, ended up being about a 50% hit rate on attraction in person. There'll be a lot more going on when you're across a table rather than across a country, and you should have an out if that turns out to be the case. The added pressure of 'OMG we have to move things quickly because there's only a week!' is going to add an extra dimension that I'm sure he's not prepared for, especially if he's never done this before. I'll second the suggestion that you stay in a hotel room, and at least have some sort of contingency for what to do if things just don't work out.
posted by Mayor West at 5:35 AM on October 9, 2008

I met my partner online, we've been together 11 years. However, we met in person about 3 days after meeting online. This makes a world of difference.

The guy you meet will not be the guy you have in your mind. Sorry, that's just how it works. You've built a relationship, albeit a long distance one. You have an idea in your mind of who this guy is. It is near certain that there will be differences between your mind's version, and the reality. Hey, it might be better! My partner certainly was. He was going to visit for 3 days, and I was afraid it would become a drag. LOL. I met him at the train station near my home, and my jaw fell into my lap. I arranged to lengthen our first time together, and 6 months latter, we were living together, and have, ever since.

Photographs and phone conversations don't give the whole picture, and I'm only talking about how we see the superficial. Someone can be a fantastic person, even great looking, yet, in person, they have some unknown quality that makes you want to run in the opposite direction. But you've already set yourself up for that possibility. It might hurt! You will feel guilty if the superficial becomes a barrier. However, the superficial can be very important, whether we approve of that or not. It's just how humans work. Of course, it may be that he finds something about you that makes him want to run away, screaming. The really difficult part is coping with this without making either of you feel like total crap. (the assholes in the world won't care about that, that's why they are called assholes)

As far as sex goes, I don't understand why one wouldn't want to do it. But I have been out and gay since my early teens, and don't fathom the weird tensions when it comes to hetero sexuality. IMO, you are far better able to get to know a person after the sex drive has been quenched of its demands.
posted by Goofyy at 6:12 AM on October 9, 2008

"I'm a big believer in your first time being special, and I would feel like a jerk somehow especially if a relationship just isn't in the cards for us. He insists it won't be a big deal and he won't get more attached just because it's his first time, but I know I felt the same way before my first time too and was mistaken."

So? I mean, that's nice and all for you, but it's kind of his call on whether or not he gets hung up on you, not yours. If you want to have sex, have sex. If not, don't. If he tells you one thing, then it turns out to be another, well, hell, long-distance breakups are the easiest.

My first time helped me get over the idea that the first time has to be something phenomenal (and came from the second meeting of someone I'd known online—man, it's just embarrassing personal revelation day for me!), and I don't particularly regret it. I even find it funny enough to make jokes about it, now some ten years later.
posted by klangklangston at 11:28 AM on October 9, 2008

Ditto that the chemistry will almost certainly be different (better or worse) than what you'd expected. If it's better, sex is probably inevitable because you won't be able to keep your hands off each other. If it's worse, it will be an awkward weekend and probably no contact afterwards, since he was already hoping for romance (and maybe you too). Regardless of what he says, his actions make it seem like he's looking for The One, and if it's not you, he's probably going to keep looking and not maintain a friendship.

Regardless of chemistry and the whole sexual arena, if you two aren't exactly on the same page and paragraph emotionally, I wouldn't consider pursuing the long-distance thing. Mine lived only two hours away and it still SUCKED ASS until we moved in together. (We're married now.) Fortunately, we were both emotionally attached right away, and we met less than 3 weeks after the first email exchange.

Even if you do have sex with him but you don't feel that romantic/emotional spark, be honest with him and end it before you go back home, or it will uncomfortably drag out. You may have "taken" his virginity but you haven't ruined him for life, really.
posted by desjardins at 2:45 PM on October 9, 2008

One note: not everyone becomes psychotically attached to their virginity-taker. Everyone I knew told me I would, but I did not (or at least, not more than I already had been).
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:41 PM on October 9, 2008

"He insists it won't be a big deal and he won't get more attached just because it's his first time..."

This line here explicitly says to me, a guy, that you've discussed the possibility of sex between the two of you at some point and he's obviously keen. And as you yourself said, he's not buying you a flight because he doesn't want to get laid. Although I think from the sounds of it his intentions are not simply sex; they do seem to be romantic in nature and I think he'd clearly not be adverse to sex happening.

"I guess I'm just confused about how to proceed here. I really like him and if he lived down the street I'd have no problem waiting until he was comfortable. I guess the expense and distance involved makes me wonder if it's okay to put a rush on things. Is waiting for a second visit a better option here?"

Given what I said just before, the answer to this question is... it depends on you and you only if its okay to put a rush on. Clearly, to me, he wants to have sex with you. Speaking as a guy, if I were him and you wanted to have sex with me and I wanted to have sex with you, there would be no issues with doing do whatsoever. Infact, yeah, I'd be dissapointed if I had to wait until the second visit (but if he does want you for more than just sex, which I suspect he does, he'll be happy to do so). Which is why I say it depends solely on you to decide if sex on the first visit is better than waiting until the second visit. You need to be comfortable with the act, because it seems clear to me that he already is.

"Is being a virgin even a big deal at all anymore?"

Again, speaking as a guy, it's not a big deal. It is insofar as it means "WOW I HAD SEX, AWESOME!!!!" but not so far as it means "Wow, this is my virginity I'm giving up, this is such a special and tender and caring moment that I'll remember for ever." That said, this is not a blanket statement. There's bound to be guys that do care about who they give their virginity too. You would be in a better position to tell if this guy is or isn't one of them, but generally speaking I think most of we men are not.

So I guess if I were to sumarise all of what I've just said, it would be that you're overthinking things. If you like this guy, and he likes you, go for it. Have fun as two consenting adults! And if everything works out, enjoy the relationship with this guy you say is compatible with you and what you want out of life! A new relationship is a wonderful thing to experience, and I suspect the ride that the two of you are about to embark upon (no pun intended) will be great. Good luck!
posted by Effigy2000 at 6:50 PM on October 9, 2008

Quick fix for an interesting typo of mine above...

"... there would be no issues with doing do so whatsoever."
posted by Effigy2000 at 6:59 PM on October 9, 2008

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