I need directions about how to navigate this online relationship
July 4, 2011 4:34 PM   Subscribe

I need directions for navigating this online relationship

So I met this guy online and I’m on the cusp of falling for him. I know, red flags are flying. He lives across the country, but we both plan on moving to NY in a few months (we already had plans to before we met).

This came as a total surprise to me. I’ve always been the first to smirk at people who develop feelings online. But aside from the fact that we haven’t met there are some potentially more serious problems.

First the good things. He's not only charming, thoughtful and extremely bright, but -- and I don’t know how to articulate this without sounding insincere or crazy -- we are freakishly alike in our emotional makeup. From what I know of him he is wired closer to me than anyone I have ever met. I wrote out a list of examples but then erased them because they didn’t do justice to our similarities.

When I told my best friend about this guy he thought I was nuts, so I finally sent him a transcript of one of our less personal conversations. After reading it my friend said, “Wow, you weren't kidding. You are extremely similar." In fact this friend who has known me for eight years was having trouble telling who was who in the conversation. He also told me the guy seemed great, and I really trust this friend's opinion. He is as skeptical as they come, so his approval means a lot to me.

It’s obvious this guy really likes me. He is constantly hanging on any new nugget of info he can pry out of me. When I told him my favorite book he went out to buy it an hour later and started reading it that night. Writing that out it sounds a bit creepy, but it made sense in context. He is actually pretty cautious.

This online thing is new to both of us and we both feel it’s weird. We get closer and we’ll stop ourselves and shake our heads: “wait we haven’t met. Let’s keep perspective here.” But then we take another step closer because the connection feels so good. Last night he shared a personal story with me about his family and his relationship with his parents, something he said he’s never told anyone before. After that conversation he asked me if it changed my impression of him, and I told him it made me like him more. He said, “my trust in you just grew a lot.”

Yet my biggest fear isn’t the danger implicit in developing feelings for someone I haven't met in the flesh but that he’s simply closed off emotionally. He’s mid twenties and has never cared about any girl. He’s told me he has only had a bunch of flings with girls, and he’s never opened himself up to any of them. He said, “I’ve probably been more open with you than any girl I’ve ever met.”

I asked him if he’s incapable of loving and he said he doesn’t think he is but he hasn’t met anyone he's felt he could love. He said that with everyone he's met he's understood them too well and they seemed too limited to interest him, but with me he doesn’t see those limits. I guess it is plausible that he is simply surrounded by people he can't relate to, especially considering where he lives.

He went on to say, “I feel like it's not lost on you. Like it's worth it to be open with this person and to give myself.”

Sure, I’d like to believe that I’m the one girl he'll be able to love. But does this ever actually happen, or is it just a silly romantic fantasy?
posted by timsneezed to Human Relations (39 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Everything changes when you meet up.

He does not have a lot of relationship experience at this level.

Be sure you make all big decisions for your self as a single person, not projecting as a couple.

This is a lesson hard learned for me, please learn it the easy way.
posted by By The Grace of God at 4:44 PM on July 4, 2011 [14 favorites]

Sure, I’d like to believe that I’m the one girl he'll be able to love. But does this ever actually happen, or is it just a silly romantic fantasy?

Or is it a ruse? Meet him before you start building castles in the sky.
posted by runningwithscissors at 4:45 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best case scenario is that you meet and hit it off. It's possible. I met my husband online a decade-or-so ago.

But, like, he's a nice guy, who had been in healthy relationships before. Sure, some of our similarities seemed uncanny on paper, but in practice we're very different people. Which, like, is a good thing. There aren't really soulmates like in the movies.

There are a lot of red flags here. You do realize that it's entirely possible that everything he's told you about himself could be a complete fiction, right? This--He said that with everyone he's met he's understood them too well and they seemed too limited to interest him, but with me he doesn’t see those limits--sounds condescending and smarmy toward other women he's been involved with, and screams "player" to me. I realize that it probably makes you feel good that he thinks you're special, but do you really want to be with someone who treats those he's been intimate with with contempt? Or, if he doesn't, is willing to tell you that he does?

I wouldn't put all my eggs in his basket, so to speak. Sure, meet him when you're in the same geographic area. But I'd keep dating in the meantime, too.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:47 PM on July 4, 2011 [17 favorites]

I think PhoBWan is right on target; you have a lot to learn about the real him, and whether things are all as they seem. Let's even turn it around on your fella for a second.

...but with me he doesn’t see those limits.

But how can he truthfully say this? He doesn't know you. And you don't know him. I'm sympathetic--when I was younger, I was convinced I was madly in love with someone I knew exclusively online. He seemed perfect, he probably thought I seemed really wonderful, but the truth is we didn't know each other. There are a million more things to discover about who he is (for better or worse) before you decide whether you love him and want to be together forever, so give it that chance before you jump in headfirst.
posted by so_gracefully at 4:56 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Yet my biggest fear isn’t the danger implicit in developing feelings for someone I haven't met in the flesh but that he’s simply closed off emotionally. He’s mid twenties and has never cared about any girl. He’s told me he has only had a bunch of flings with girls, and he’s never opened himself up to any of them. He said, “I’ve probably been more open with you than any girl I’ve ever met.”

Of course he was closed off to those girls. Those girls aren't you and he is interested in you. This could be a red flag and the dude could be a sociopath for all we know. But he could also just be playing down his past relationships to make your emotional connection seem that much more precious.

But honestly, you will both be in NY (NYS or NYC?) in a few months and you can see how the connection is then.
posted by munchingzombie at 4:58 PM on July 4, 2011

Response by poster: @young rope-rider -- what in particular is giving you that sense?
posted by timsneezed at 5:03 PM on July 4, 2011

"Yet my biggest fear isn’t the danger implicit in developing feelings for someone I haven't met in the flesh but that he’s simply closed off emotionally."

These are your own words. It sounds then like you're articulating the real fear of teaching someone how to open up and let their feelings come through. This is a project and will involve work on your part. But it's different than loving him for who he is, know what I mean? Sounds like you're loving the potential for who he could be and not what he's shown already.

Any relationship where one person guides the other one through the emotional steps involves a slight power disrupt which at the very least you should be aware of.

The questions I'd ask myself would be: why drove me to ask metafilter this question? What specifically about this relationship and my feelings towards it is making me cautious? Could it be that I know that if I "fall for him" it will be much much harder for me to step back and look at things objectively?

If so, I'd hold on very tightly to that letting go part until you've given him enough time to lose the training wheels of love himself. If it's truly meant to be, then time will make it be.
posted by fantasticninety at 5:16 PM on July 4, 2011

The summer before college I met one of my classmates-to-be online. We fell hard for each other, talked on the phone a few times, resolved to see lots of each other once we arrived in Boston for school.

We met. I wasn't attracted to him at all in person (I believe we had exchanged photos, it was more of a chemistry thing). He was super into me. It was awkward, to say the least, and made my adjustment to my new life just that little bit harder.

The information that he's never had intense feelings for other women but only has flings is another red flag for me - I'm wondering if what he really likes is the chase? Right now, it's all chase. What happens when you meet in person?
posted by Sara C. at 5:24 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

I assume you've talked to him verbally, and not just through writing? The medium does at least effect the message, in my experience. I know I come across differently when I'm vocalizing in real-time.
posted by Net Prophet at 5:24 PM on July 4, 2011

Response by poster: @Net -- Yep, we've talked over the phone.
posted by timsneezed at 5:26 PM on July 4, 2011

seemed too limited to interest him

This seems like a super-jerky way to say that you just haven't connected with anyone yet. If he just can't relate to a lot of the people around him, he could say, "I haven't met many women I felt like I could really connect with." But this description strongly indicates that others aren't good enough for him, and I would steer of anybody with this kind of attitude.

What if you do something at some point that makes you seem "limited"? It already kind of seems like he's setting up tests: here's a story - how will you react? Oh, you passed my test - "my trust in you just grew a lot."

I guess I'm seeing some of the same warning signs that the young rope-rider is seeing.

Maybe he actually is a great guy, and I'm sure this is very exciting. Just take all the good advice above about being cautious and making decisions for you (not "us", you) to heart.
posted by jeoc at 5:27 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

There can be difficulties being with someone who's maybe been slower coming into their emotional maturity. Sometimes there aren't, and it's hard to say what makes the difference. Is he otherwise mature - is he supporting himself, is he motivated, does he literally take care of himself? (This would actually be one of the big questions I would have: is he thinking that he's gonna move to New York and have a girlfriend to replace his mother in the dinner-making and laundry-doing services?)

I don't know. I think what you're feeling is the typical top-of-the-rollercoaster feeling of new love, and then you also have concerns that it might not work out but that's always a possibility. It doesn't matter where you met or how you conduct your relationship.

The way that you take care of YOU is to continue on with your plans that you are making to serve your needs. Don't compromise your living plans or work plans or anything to suit a relationship that is just simply too new to warrant it. If y'all stay together a year, you can discuss it when your leases come up.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:28 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's common for very smart people to feel that a big gulf separates them from others, which can make them isolated, lonely and resentful, and retreat into a supercilious attitude. When he says "my trust in you just grew a lot," it sounds a bit like he's letting you know your score. At worst, this is him trying to let you know that you have to prove that you're worth his time, which sounds arrogant, but is probably his way of managing his feelings of vulnerability, right? He's afraid of seeing your eyes glaze over with boredom when he opens up about his inner life, so he adopts this pose.

He's telling you that he's willing to open up to you, and I don't think you have any reason to doubt that. He's also saying that no other woman was worthy - arrogant, yes; but ultimately a defensive move against vulnerability, which implies that it's genuine.
posted by AlsoMike at 5:38 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

He said that with everyone he's met he's understood them too well and they seemed too limited to interest him, but with me he doesn’t see those limits.

This says a lot about how he feels about other people... But please also note what it implies about how he views himself. To me, this sounds like him saying: "I'm so much smarter and more sophisticated and worthwhile than everyone around me." (Otherwise, how could it be that he is the one to deem the others as limited or not?) Even in complimenting you ("You do not have the limits I see in others!") he is implying a superiority on his own case ("I am the one who gets to deem whether or not you are valuable!"). This is something I would be very worried about, if I were you.

Consider his other comment: “I feel like it's not lost on you. Like it's worth it to be open with this person and to give myself.” Again, he is putting himself in the position of superior, the one who gets to deem others as worthy or not.

Now, I know how great it is to be around someone like this, and to have them judge you to be worthy. It just feels great.... But it can also be incredibly tiresome and annoying and painful to actually deal with someone like this. Consider even the stupidest of arguments: you're angry that he didn't pick up socks like you asked him to. If he believes that he's superior to others, the one capable of judging the worth of all those around him, how likely is it that he'll find your concern about socks to be important, considering that he doesn't share it? How likely is he to consider compromise valuable, when your concerns don't match up with his? What would it be like to be in a disagreement with someone like him?

...I'm just guessing, you know. I don't know this guy. But I have experience with guys who say things like this. His attitude sounds so familiar -- but for his age, I'd wonder if you're interacting with the same guy I did. I spent a couple years totally infatuated with a guy who spoke exactly like this, and it ended up hurting me terribly.

This doesn't mean he's a bad person, or that you can't have a relationship with him... But you would be right to be emotionally careful. Like other said, don't plan your life around the assumption that this is your soul mate. Pay attention to your needs and desires. Don't let his assessments of himself, you, or your relationship supercede your own assessments.
posted by meese at 5:39 PM on July 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

That's funny, because I had the same impression the young rope-rider did!

I think it is a technique called "mirroring," it gives you that feeling that you have, like, just everything in common with each other!! Suuuure you do. Sure. You see, it's easy to get that impression when the other person is drawing out details and then mirroring them back to you to build intimacy. (not saying he is doing this, I don't know him. But yeah, it's something you want to watch out for this in life:))

I don't like his attitude about relationships. It sets up this expectation that you have to be the most flexible, the most open (to his needs), the most accommodating, most intelligent, most beautiful, and most affectionate girl EVER in order to wiin the attentions of this hard to crack guy. By weaving this into your conversations, he's creating a false sense of scarcity where his emotions and affections are concerned. It will keep you forever jumping through hoops to earn his affection. Is that what you want in a relationship?

The first thing I could be wrong about. The second thing, tho, should be a deal breaker for you. You need a two way street for both partners to be happy. If when you meet you find yourself twisting and bending yourself to keep this guy's attention - stop doing that and RUN.
posted by jbenben at 5:39 PM on July 4, 2011 [5 favorites]

Please listen to those who are telling you that what you have online doesn't necessarily translate into anything substantive in the real world. I have no idea if he's a psychopath or if he is the wonderful man you're going to marry, but really, it could go either way (and this is despite your intense feelings of connection, which are not a bit uncommon in "online relationships"). By all means meet him, but do not imagine that you already know each other.
posted by Wordwoman at 5:40 PM on July 4, 2011

Saying he's never had a serious relationship and he's only had flings, in his mid-20s, doesn't necessarily set off warning bells for me. Some people are just slower to develop in that regard.

I'd like more context to that never "cared about" another girl comment (those appear to be your words, not his). I don't think it's a big deal at his age never to have been in love, but the never cared about language sets of my sociopath radar. Similarly, you say he's never opened himself up to anyone -- what, exactly, did he say? What does that mean? It's easy to tell more secrets to a stranger on the internet than to a flesh and blood person, but there's a big range from walling yourself off completely and not telling or sharing absolutely everything right away.

The bottom line, I think, is that you don't know this guy. Meet up when you both live in NY and see how it goes, but take all the precautions you otherwise would and be on the lookout as if he were a stranger -- which he is.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:49 PM on July 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

Maybe go in thinking of the relationship as a living thing that you're trying to transplant into new soil. The roots might take, or it might wither up. Either way it'll be fragile in the beginning, and you'll have to give it some time to see if it adjusts.
posted by Net Prophet at 5:50 PM on July 4, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the feedback so far guys. In the last hour I've pulled my feelings back a lot. Reading these comments and also talking to my mother did it. I can't believe I let myself get into this daze.
posted by timsneezed at 5:54 PM on July 4, 2011

I hate to project, but he sort of creepily reminds me of a guy I dated when I was 19 who I also "got to know" online. I actually met and struck up a relationship with him and we stayed in touch online for a few months before we got together in real life, and he turned out to be somewhat of a psycho--manipulative, really charming, possessive and overall not very nice.

The stuff he says to you and how he tries to make you feel so special and unique really remind me of him and how he would talk to me when we first started dating. Your interactions seem really dramatic and emotionally-laden in a similar way. I felt the same, like I had met someone so perfect for me and we were made to be together right off the bat. If I could go back in time, I would've steered far, far clear of that guy.

I of course could be completely off-base, I don't know the guy, but I got the same impression as the young rope-rider.
posted by queens86 at 6:03 PM on July 4, 2011 [5 favorites]

Oops, that's sort of confusing. I meant to say I met him in real life, we separated for several months but stayed in contact, and then got together in real life again. So I had already known him in person and still couldn't read the red flags for what they were. I agree that it's very easy to get sucked in by those kinds of people (at least it was for me at 19). Talking to other people and getting their perspective is crucial-- that's how I eventually left this guy.
posted by queens86 at 6:06 PM on July 4, 2011

First thought on reading: do not EVEN CONSIDER getting a place with him. Yes, moving to NY at the same time is serendipitous, and yes, getting a roommie you already feel you know will at some point start looking like an amazingly good idea...just don't. Even if you turn out to be made for each other in person, it's too dicey a move at this stage. (Yes, I know that wasn't the question, but my spidey-senses say it will come up.)
posted by Ys at 6:15 PM on July 4, 2011 [10 favorites]

Getting to know someone online and actually knowing them in person are two completely different things. You can never really "know" anyone online regardless of how much or how detailed the conversations appear (or how much it seems you have in common.) Many of the nuances (body language, etiquette, temperament etc) that makes anyone truly attractive or unattractive to you in person are totally obstructed from the device that is your computer screen. In the short term this could be relatively harmless, but in your case it seems like you're getting ahead of yourself, and here's why:

It sounds like you're already erring to side of being with this guy and not just "sniffing" him out first. Just as there's a mighty difference to online and real life dating, there's a big line between actually knowing this guy is good to his word, and just hearing/believing the things he tells you over the phone, computer or whatever. Sounds like you've talked to this guy for quite awhile now and you've begun to glamorize your perceptions because he has made you feel "special to him". The thing is, online he's going to be exactly who want him to be because your mind is filling the gaps with details of things you find attractive, because you have no way of gauging the reality. This is probably why you feel so "in tune" with him. That and him coincidentally sharing all the things you hold dear. You don't even know this guy's true motives for saying any of these things, he could be a complete manipulator here.

"He’s told me he has only had a bunch of flings with girls, and he’s never opened himself up to any of them. He said, “I’ve probably been more open with you than any girl I’ve ever met.”
Yeah this seconds the manipulation theory.

"He said that with everyone he's met he's understood them too well and they seemed too limited to interest him, but with me he doesn’t see those limits."
And this *thirds it* How does he really know how little or how much your capabilities are? And what are "those limits" anyway?
I think it's in your best interest to put all the romanticized feelings you've developed away (just for now) so you can be safe and more constructive about your expectations. If you both have plans to meet just hold out until. If he's an over glorified way-better-on-the-internet, then you've dodged an emotional bullet. If he's been honest, then you've lost nothing at all.

"I asked him if he’s incapable of loving and he said he doesn’t think he is but he hasn’t met anyone he's felt he could love."
You probably shouldn't even care about this yet (if at all). When you eventually see this guy treat as if you've met almost a complete stranger. You're not worried about his love capabilities; you just want to know if this guy is worth knowing.
posted by xbeautychicx at 6:37 PM on July 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

I would suggest you meet in person, (in some absolutely safe way/place) sooner rather than later. That will make a huge difference. At least Skype and see him in real life that way.

Also, if it doesn't feel too weird, try him out by professing some emotion or opinion you absolutely don't feel. Tell him you really admire Sarah Palin or something. Assuming you don't.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 6:39 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, if it doesn't feel too weird, try him out by professing some emotion or opinion you absolutely don't feel. Tell him you really admire Sarah Palin or something. Assuming you don't.

I think this is manipulative, and I'm not sure what it would achieve other than testing his knowledge of your character, which might or might not tell you anything.

Plan an in-person visit - it's a high priority to figure out how invested you can be in this relationship before you plan a move to another state (because NYC is a huge city, never mind the whole state, and if you want to date, it makes sense to be within a half-hour's travel.)

Moreover, if you can't negotiate a visit in a way that's fair (costwise - time and $) and safe (emotionally, physically, sexually) for both of you, you don't really have a future together no matter how awesome the connection feels.

Also do not shack up until you've dated in-person for a while, because you really need to see firsthand how the other person keeps house before you cohabit.
posted by gingerest at 7:54 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Ok, so I haven't read the comments but from seeing your reply, it seems everyone has been negative. So... I feel that being negative at this point would be a pile-on at this point.

I will tell you this much: I've been there. I won't claim to know exactly how you feel, but I'm really familiar with the general vicinity. And...

Being cautious is a good thing. Not getting lost in fantasy-land is good. But you have two things going for you: 1) both you and he sound like you're reasonably rational and cautious by nature; 2) you're meeting in New York. You don't have to decide this now. You can, in fact, wait, and keep having great conversations, and, y'know, maybe talk on the phone more. I've found I can pick up more stuff from people's voices and certain aspects of our connection become more clear, though it may not work the same for everyone. Anyway, it's ok to let it breathe, and not either jump straight back or jump right in. Neither response is reasonable, if you think about it. No other commenter knows this guy; you do. Your friend-- who's seen his actual writings-- is another valid judge. Most people without solid knowledge of him as a person or you as a person will inevitably project their own experiences and beliefs to some degree. This is just to say-- I hope you'll keep on prioritizing your own and your friend's immediate judgment here.

However-- assuming people will tell you you're crazy, or too romantic, or him not seeing your limits is 'creepy' somehow-- that much, you don't need to take too much too heart unless the person saying it knows what it's like to feel like that themselves. So it seems like he's pretty introverted and pretty cautious with people. Since you say you're similar, you should know what that's like. I myself know what it's like to (think you) understand people too well. It's not that he's right or that he's wrong-- I mean, I genuinely think in time, hopefully, he'll learn that people are more complex than it seems. But even then, it will always remain a genuine and beautiful thing when you have the experience of meeting someone you see the infinities in. It doesn't even have to be romantic to be beautiful. And even though my own experience with 'that kind of guy' (at a naive 20) was ultimately very painful and went disastrously wrong, that much, I'd never want to take away from either him or myself, in retrospect. Yes, it's a conceit of youth in many ways, but it's also just a staple feeling that many intuitive introverts deal with throughout. You just learn to reach out more, to be more kind, more patient. But it never stops seeming miraculous when you meet someone with whom communication is effortless on any level, and perhaps especially purely written.

I would encourage you not to write off an 'online' connection as inferior, and to see it as simply different: based on written words. But if written words were worth nothing, showed nothing truthfully, what use is literature? Surely, there is a truth to be found in written form, perhaps one you can't easily attain in other formats. People often write things they can't easily say out loud, especially awkward, introverted people.

So... while it's good to keep some composure, at least till you meet, it's okay to appreciate his attention. It doesn't hurt until it hurts, you know? He hasn't hurt you yet; if you both behave responsibly, he may never have to. There are no guarantees in life; people who might say, 'an introverted, shy, secretly over-romantic guy like that? who'd never loved before? what does he have to give?'-- well, he's already proving them wrong. Isn't he giving you attention, admiration and approval? It may not be Love, but what is love except a slowly accumulating collection of just these sorts of small things, these acts of listening? Even if I could go back in time to warn myself-- tell my 20 year-old self to stop, quit now, avoid disaster-- even with all that followed, I don't know if I could deprive myself of those months of giddy happiness. At most, I'd have wanted to be stronger, firmer, more rational and less easily panicked and confused.

As long as he keeps giving you these trickles of attention and trust, you have no cause to reject it; you do have cause to be careful, of course, to take it slow. It gets harder, as the giddy feelings get stronger. But unless and until he actually starts to cause you pain-- like, for instance, showing instability, mood-swings, distancing, etc-- you are allowed to consider the possibility that he may yet love you, even if he hadn't had such an experience before. It's not 'too late'. It never is.

If you'd like me to share some more specifics of own my experience with the 'crazy online connection with the guy who was oh so like me', feel free to MeMail me. :) But honestly, I'd be concerned to prejudice you in any way. Every time around the merry go-round, there's another chance at love, all over again. I still believe that.
posted by reenka at 8:47 PM on July 4, 2011 [5 favorites]

I am always wary when someone talks about how this that or the other person just wasn't good enough for them. And no matter who it is or how good looking there's always the chance there's just no chemistry in person. Maybe he is extra hesitant and wary because you've only met online so far. In any case, I just wouldn't let myself get too wrapped up in someone without having actually met them. He could be 100% kind and generous and wonderful and handsome and all and maybe you still won't have chemistry in person, it's always a possibility.
posted by citron at 11:06 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

The way he speaks throws up many knee-jerk red flags to me as well.

Anecdote: When I was 17, I fell for a bit of a charmer online. He made me feel understood but at the same time he kept a lofty and superior air, like I was somehow indebted to him for paying attention to me. It was addictive and I got sucked into it; he kept telling me he had never felt this way before, that this was all new, that I was special... it ended up being a disastrous ruse complete with emotional abuse. Oh and he was not only married but his wife was pregnant. By the time I found that out, I was so wound around his little finger that I couldn't see any of it. If you had asked me to describe our relationship when I was in the thick of it, I probably would've sounded exactly like this post.

Now, I'm not saying this guy is anything like my guy. He might be a total sweetheart who genuinely means these things in which case, that's awesome (but still be careful). Chemistry is a finicky thing but sometimes it does work out. The tricky thing is to keep your fantasies about living together and having the perfect relationship from clouding your perception of the reality - it's so easy to get lost in what is implied and promised when you don't have physical cues such as body language to go off of.

That said - sometimes it works! After the above incident, I ended up meeting with and connecting with a total sweetheart of a guy and we managed to date through a brutal LDR for almost two years. He was exactly who he said he was, down to his flaws, and we communicated extremely well. Our biggest challenge was staying realistic and not letting our own imaginations make up parts of the relationship for us if we weren't clear.

Hope that helps and I want to add: best of luck!
posted by buteo at 11:47 PM on July 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Okay, I don't feel equipped to diagnose a personality disorder over teh interwebz, but just reading the following

we are freakishly alike in our emotional makeup

After reading it my friend said, “Wow, you weren't kidding. You are extremely similar." In fact this friend who has known me for eight years was having trouble telling who was who in the conversation.

He is constantly hanging on any new nugget of info he can pry out of me. When I told him my favorite book he went out to buy it an hour later and started reading it that night.

made it pretty obvious to me that he is using a technique on you. The technique is called the Seducer's Mirror. This guy seems to be taking it a bit far, to put it mildly. I don't see how you can afford to believe that anything about his self-presentation is true, because this just can't be.

As for what he says about all the other women he's dated and "not cared" about and who were "too limited" for him - well, I wouldn't say that's a good sign, or that it's a terrible sign, in itself and taken at face value. But bear in mind that the things he's saying aren't necessarily what he thinks, but the impression he wants you to have of him, for whatever reason. This is so even if everything he's saying is the truth as he sees it.
posted by tel3path at 11:49 PM on July 4, 2011 [6 favorites]

p.s. If you think someone may be manipulating you, don't share your observations with them. That will only help them to become a better manipulator. Best for them to remain in ignorance about what they might be doing wrong.
posted by tel3path at 12:08 AM on July 5, 2011 [3 favorites]

N'thng the fact that people that you connect with online (and it is a true, valid connection) do not always equal the people that you connect with in real life. This has happened to me - great chemistry online, we really got along, their sense of humor meshed perfectly with me, the whole thing.

Then we met. I had stars in my eyes and was so excited because here was this guy! That I had spent so much time talking to WHO REALLY GOT ME and who I couldn't wait to meet.

And...oh god. The excitement dies. Something is off. I couldn't even tell you what it was - maybe it's that they look slightly different than I had imagined from pictures or their voice is a bit weirder in real life than it was on the phone or their pheromones aren't working for me or they have a tic - who knows? But all of those months of conversation were worth nothing after I got that feeling. It happens. There should be a syndrome named for this.

I feel like for me, had I meant these guys in person first maybe something could have happened. But building this constructed character in my head for so long (and this gentleman of yours is a constructed character, despite (and perhaps because of) all of the communication you've had) meant that when the real deal did not match exactly, it turned into the Uncanny Valley. Here's this guy in the flesh, but certain things are wrong. Some things are not matching up with my internal representation of him.

Anyway, long post short: can you arrange to meet sooner? Are you both apartment hunting? Do that first, separately, then meet up (during the day! In public! Get coffee!) and test out the waters. That way, once you split again before The Big Move you can take your time and find the next step.

Good luck! I hope it works out.
posted by amicamentis at 6:36 AM on July 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

The most valuable thing I've learned through years of dating is to watch how the guy you're interested in treats other people. Is he kind to his friends? Does he speak highly of past loves? (Not in a "he's still infatuated with them" way, but in a way that makes clear he thinks they are good people.) Has he shown you some side of himself that if he wasn't someone you were into would be offputting? This is how you tell his true character through the haze of your infatuation. Because the way he thinks about his friends and past loves is the way he thinks about people in general. And how he will eventually think about you.

For right now, of course it's easy for him to open up to you. There are no stakes here. If, at any point, he decides he's just not into this anymore, he can stop replying and disappear back into anonymity without any consequences or uncomfortableness in his day-to-day life. None of those messy complications you get with a real breakup. But everyone else he's ever been interested in just haven't been up to his standards? What are the chances that when you're a real person who wants to have a conversation about lunch, or buying groceries, or why your subway card won't work, or any of the thousand mundane things that make up real life, that you too will become someone who's "too limited" to really "get him"?
posted by MsMolly at 8:29 AM on July 5, 2011 [5 favorites]

Quick note: those who mention the "mirroring" thing well may be right. I had my own experience with someone like that. However, I am reasonably certain that at least in this guy's case, a lot of it wasn't being used as a 'technique'. It wasn't intentional. The fellow in question had many characteristics reminiscent of Borderline Personality Disorder, and I think he was using his perception of my ideal to create something he could *be*, due to the lack of a strong sense of his own identity. He created a role he knew was very worthwhile to someone, and he filled it. And he was highly intelligent and very interesting, just very unstable.

I do not accuse your gentleman friend of this. I hope, OH how I hope, that there aren't *that* many people quite like this out there. However, I bring it up to mention that even if the guy is mirroring, it isn't necessarily intentional and malicious. He may be trying to seem more like you because he's insecure and likes you a great deal. He may not be aware that he's emphasizing reactions that accord with your opinions. So yeah, he reminds me at first glance of my own Regrettable Experience, but despite the fact that you obviously need to be careful, it's always possible that he's not a Bad Guy after all. This is, after all, a world of many possibilities.

Good luck...
posted by Because at 11:22 PM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the feedback guys. I'm not exactly sure what to think. I understand where people might suspect he is trying to manipulate me, yet my sense is that he's being pretty genuine. A lot of the similarities were things he mentioned first that would be hard to BS and it would be impossible for him to know about me. Also the sense I get is that he has this real need to connect with someone he can relate to, since it sounds like he's been fairly detached all his life.

I'm less concerned that he's a manipulator and more concerned that he's emotionally walled off or something. :( When I asked him why he wants to be close to me he said that he feels that he'd grow with me and with me he sees an evolving future, a question mark, whereas with other girls he sees a plateau ahead. But once he knows me well will I become predictable and uninteresting to him?

Whatever, I guess I should just not think about any of this much until we actually meet. It's just a bit hard to keep my emotions in check because I do feel a connection to him.
posted by timsneezed at 11:53 PM on July 5, 2011

he said that... with me he sees an evolving future, a question mark, whereas with other girls he sees a plateau ahead.

Well, yes. That's because he doesn't actually know you at all. It's sort of the same way that it's easy to see an online dating profile and exchange a few emails and create this character who corresponds surprisingly well to Your Ideal Partner. And who never has any of the flaws that your ex did, of course.

The reality is that, like that online dating profile, there's a chance that you will someday be more special to this guy than other women, and he will be fill the same role for you. But at this point you don't really know each other because you haven't actually met.
posted by Sara C. at 5:52 AM on July 6, 2011

I hope you're right, timsneezed. Do keep all this in the back of your mind, won't you? Best of luck.
posted by tel3path at 5:52 AM on July 6, 2011

I dunno if he's manipulative - he could very easily just be caught in one of the mental honey traps of the very bright. Part of the process of growing up is getting over yourself. 25-ish isn't such a terrible age to still be dealing with that. Some people never learn it.

The problem with establishing a connection before you really meet the person is that you create a special mental space for them before you can see if they really deserve that space. You are creating a subtle pressure on yourself to act as if this person is really all the things you think he is. There's an implied obligation to give him the privileges of a deep friendship that haven't actually been earned. I think that tie is the hardest one to deal with - not the one with him, but the one with yourself.

I spent a long time exchanging emails with a guy once, building a friendship. When he got back to the states we spoke on the phone and that was good, too. I got my hopes up that things would translate into the real world. But in person, it just wasn't right. It's kind of heartbreaking to see the grand potential and also see all the things that ensure it won't be so. I ended up being a lot kinder to the guy than I possibly should have been. I am still pretty good friends with him, a couple of years later, and I can see where he presented himself as the person he wanted to be, and also that the problems I vaguely sensed were quite accurate. I thank my lucky stars we never dated, over and over. He still has many good points, but he's not dating material (for me, anyway).

Listen to yourself very carefully when you finally meet this guy. If you make excuses for him ("he's tired", "he's got XYZ problem that is bothering him", etc.) or if you get the urge to give him a second, third, fourth chance to stop doing the things that are bothering you ... be careful that you aren't leading yourself on because you have invested so much in him that you can't walk away. Give yourself permission to say "see ya" and walk away from this proto-friendship if it just doesn't work in person. Don't make heavy plans or put expectations on all the things you'll do together before you meet, even though it might feel good and secure. Be vigilant about protecting your trapdoor escape route.

Good luck - I do hope it works out for you.
posted by griselda at 11:20 AM on July 6, 2011

Response by poster: @griselda -- What was off when you met him in person?
posted by timsneezed at 1:28 PM on July 6, 2011

Oh hey, I didn't check back on this in a timely fashion.

A sense of not being willing to deal with his problems. Deep insecurity and self-doubt. Passiveness. A sense of taking what he can get. I liked the guy online because of his black humor, honesty and keen observations. But there was no action to him, just noting and complaining. He was happy to let me do the friendship "work" and at the time I figured he didn't step up because of his life situation. Turns out, he's too wrapped up in his misery and supposed low status to consider how he can step in. He's a terrible mooch - glad to take things but no thought about providing himself.

It made me want to take the "helping" role, which is a huge no-no for me. That was the biggest flag.
posted by griselda at 2:50 PM on October 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

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