Long-distance casual dating? Oxymoron? (Emphasis on "moron.")
September 1, 2012 5:40 AM   Subscribe

How to deal with "casually dating" someone I'm head-over-heels over? He's on the other side of the world, and I miss him ridiculously.

TLDR: I'm a college student in the US dating someone older, who lives far away and loves me but isn't explicitly committed. We have known each other well for half a year and have been dating for four months, a month total of dating in person. He is very very busy, and the drop in contact recently is driving me nuts. How do I proceed, right now and in the future?

More details:

January of this year, I started to get to know an awesome, international graduate student at my university. Near the end of the academic year, we slipped into dating. I was smitten, and he was too, but both of us thought we would end he graduated in the spring, although I planned to visit him the end of the summer. So, after three weeks, he graduated and went back home to Asia. I went abroad for myself in Europe. We kept on talking, mostly over email and chat, and... Somehow neither of us could break away. The end of summer came, and I visited his city, staying part of the time on my own and part with him. By the end of that week, I was very in love with him, dangerously so for my heart considering the circumstances. He was, by his own confession, in love with me too.

I'm eager to date him seriously and told him that clearly when I was visiting. Specifically, I told him I would consider moving for him if that time came. But he told me he was only ready to date, not to be in a relationship, because of his increasing job responsibilities and the distance.

Other details that might be relevant: He is older by five years, and he may or may not be back at my university next spring for an extended, multi-year stay. He will definitely be back in the US in the next year or two, although perhaps not near my school. We are both Asian. We've both had serious relationships before. My guy is also the type to be quieter and less inclined to state everything out.

The trouble is that I'm craving him all the time, but I talk with him much less than I did in the summer, when we either exchanged long emails or chatted almost every day. He really is busier now, but I'm guessing if he wanted to, he could make more time for me - emailing, chatting, etc. I'm just a bit heartbroken. I know he feels strongly for me, but argh. It's driving me nuts. I have been sending him emails and trying to catch him online on chat clients, but I sometimes go days with silence from him. I'm not sure what to do because 1. we aren't boyfriend/girlfriend and 2. he is really, legitimately stressed and short on free time. I would like to be content with chatting with him for a little bit every few days, but I've been failing at that spectacularly. I'm alternatively cheery and brooding, and I can't keep doing this. Please help me hivemind!

My questions:

1. What do I do in the short-term? Ask him for more time together? Let it go and distance myself? If so, how do I stop obsessing? Every time I talk with him, I'm reminded of how awesome he is and fall a bit more in love with him.

2. What do I do in the long-term? I'm willing to be serious, planning-our-future serious, but it takes two. I know from what he has told me and done that he loves me very much. I think the circumstances surrounding the relationship and where we are individually in our lives are, understandably, holding him back.

Thank you.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (11 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I think you need to listen to what he has told you about himself. He has told you he doesn't want a relationship, and just wants to date. You've seen what this means for him long distance, and it's not enough for you. Your options are: find a way to be ok with the current situation, or end the relationship (because that's what it is, at least for you).

I know every fiber of your being is going to scream "But! We have this connection! He's so great!" I'm sure that's true, and it sucks that you've found this kind of spark with someone who is not available for a relationship. But that's where you've found yourself, and you shouldn't romanticize this into something it's not going to be. It will only extend your pain, draw out your healing/recovery process, and prevent you from moving on.

So as hard as it is -- cut ties and move on.
posted by OrangeDisk at 6:09 AM on September 1, 2012 [12 favorites]

1. What do I do in the short-term? Ask him for more time together? Let it go and distance myself? If so, how do I stop obsessing?

Sign up for more classes at school. Join all the student organizations that interest you. Start an internship that runs concurrently with school. Go to informational interviews to learn more about your future profession and meet people who work in your chosen field.

Throw yourself into investing in your career future, just as he is doing. You'll be too busy to obsess, and the investment you make will have better dividends than this obsession.
posted by Houstonian at 6:15 AM on September 1, 2012 [4 favorites]

It's not worth continuing if you're not getting what you need and want. You're not content just chatting with him long distance, so why continue to torture yourself this way?

Look for someone else.
posted by Anima Mundi at 6:19 AM on September 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

This isn't super helpful, but: wow, are you me? Thank you for posting this even though it's a bit painful to read (in my case it definitely looks like "cut off communication and move on" is the best answer, unfortunately...). Memail me if you want someone to commiserate with!
posted by Papagayo at 6:42 AM on September 1, 2012

In my experience, the harder you chase someone who doesn't want to be in a committed relationship, the further they withdraw. Also, there have been times when I have been under extreme pressure due to work and family issues, and when I asked to be given a break, say three weeks, the other person started pouting and had a really extreme reaction, as if I were breaking up with them permanently.

I would say: journal your feelings. Do not offer to move for someone who is clearly not interested in settling down right now! Allow yourself to feel sad for X amount of time each day and then stop yourself -- even if you have to flick a rubber band on your wrist.

Keep contact to a minimum of say, once a week or once every two weeks. Giving up all of your time and your personal goals to catch someone online is intoxicating but it's not healthy in the long run for you. And then get out and meet more people! This is a time for dating and having fun! Don't count on him coming back and saying, "oh, I missed you and changed my mind!" Think of yourself as a great person whose company he is missing out on, because I am sure there are plenty of other guys who would enjoy your company NOW. If things work out for you in the future with this person, fine, but dig yourself out of the obsession (as best you can) and move on.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 6:49 AM on September 1, 2012 [4 favorites]

I've done this sort of thing in the past. Um, possibly more than once. I think OrangeDisk has the information down, unfortunately I've always taken the second option of 'pain extension'. You are young, in school, and in the best possible situation to meet other people of like minds and similar ages (not that the age gap is an issue, just that you are in a dating pool the likes of which you may not see again once you are in the working world). Please take advantage of this and immerse yourself into student life. If he wants to stay in touch (and if you do too!) that's fine but please take him at his word- he doesn't want to be in a relationship with you at this time. That is painful! But you had a great experience, you are young and in a great place so please enjoy it! Now! (Seriously, I just found some diaries from 10 years ago and the amount of time I wasting pining...and not fully appreciating where I was and who I was with in the moment...it's painful to think about).
posted by bquarters at 6:51 AM on September 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

You can suffer along only taking the crumbs of what another perceptive poster has termed his "intermittent reinforcement" of your infatuation and affection, or you can take charge of this situation for yourself. The former will be excruciatingly painful and may have a sudden, unpleasant end, or it may just drag on interminably. The latter will also be quite painful but will give you the independence, power, and character you need to be successful in future relationships or even potentially turn this one around (if you still want it once you've done so, which is possible but isn't the point, and you shouldn't count on it.)

What do I mean by taking matters into your own hands? Believing in your own needs. You need a close relationship. You deserve someone who ALSO wants to plan their future with you in mind. You want an enthusiastic, happy-as-a-puppy-to-be-with-you partner who is willing to take the risk and dive in with you. This person is not any of those things. What do YOU want? Do you want to be captive to someone else's intermittent reinforcement, or do you want to put yourself first and opt out of that game entirely?

I'm sure this fellow is a nice person, but you, you I know are an exceedingly sweet and nice person because of what you've written here. You are giving, you think of him first, you're willing to do things to make it work. But he isn't. And don't you, a wonderful, sweet person who has so much to offer, deserve so much more than that? He's not bad, but he's not giving you what you profess to want. And if you continue to inflate his crumbs into a real relationship, you're the only one to blame for your own broken heart, I'm sad to say.

I suggest you do what has been thrown out there--end contact for a couple of weeks, and then a few more. Let him chase you (if he's going to). Throw yourself into the life that's in front of your face and figure out how you can make choices that are good for you, that feed your heart and spirit all the time (not just sometimes when he decides to cooperate), throw yourself into campus life and friends and enjoying being young. You may find out the new you isn't that interested in someone who obviously doesn't realize just how cool you are. You may find that he ends up chasing you and seems rather pathetic. Or he doesn't, and you don't care, because your life is full of things and people that make you happy and don't leave you put your life or future on hold for someone who has explicitly said they don't intend to reciprocate.

You can do better than this guy, sweets. Or you can have this guy recognize that you won't meekly wait around for him. Go do your own thing. The first way is still an option, but take it from me, as your internet-big-sister, reaching over the intercom--this way only ends in tears. Let yourself grow from the experience of forcibly removing yourself from something you very much love and want but that does not serve you. It will probably not be the first time you have to do this, but if you develop strong self-will muscles, you will always have the best because you don't accept any less. Teach people and life how to treat you. Step back and love yourself first.
posted by araisingirl at 7:15 AM on September 1, 2012 [11 favorites]

I don't think most people are cut out to casually date people they're head over heels for, and I think this specifically includes you.

He's already told you he doesn't want to be in a relationship with you. I know, he's also lovey dovey with you sometimes, and that makes it difficult to hear the message you need to hear, but you told him you want to be with him and he told you he does not feel the same, and that is what you need to believe.

Maybe you're both in love, but what you're getting and can expect to get out of this relationship isn't enough for you. It's not a good idea to stay in a relationship that isn't meeting your needs, and the real answer to your questions is that you need to end this and move on.
posted by J. Wilson at 8:23 AM on September 1, 2012 [7 favorites]

My questions:

1. What do I do in the short-term? Ask him for more time together?

That would be explicitly ignoring everything that he has already told you about what he wants, which would be disrespectful and self-deceiving. It is perfectly fine and good for you to want a relationship where you are getting the amount of attention and togetherness that makes you genuinely happy. And that is a good, reasonable, and very normal thing to ask for. But if someone you have been dating has already explicitly told you that they can't or don't want to give you something, you shouldn't keep asking them for that thing. If it upsets you not to have that thing then you need to let them go and find someone else. It is important to respect yourself and what you want AND the other person as well, don't forget either one of those.

Let it go and distance myself?


If so, how do I stop obsessing?

It will probably take a little bit of time and the process will ache. But what you need to do is just slowly fill your life with more interesting things and people and gradually that will go away. Cutting down on the amount of contact you have with this guy will help; you might even need to cut it off entirely for a while until your feelings recover and you stop feeling so obsessed.

Every time I talk with him, I'm reminded of how awesome he is and fall a bit more in love with him.

Yep. So the solution there is to talk less or not at all.

2. What do I do in the long-term? I'm willing to be serious, planning-our-future serious, but it takes two.

Realize that you keep coming back to putting this forth as a possibility even after he explicitly said he doesn't want it. Stop putting this forth as a possibility.

I know from what he has told me and done that he loves me very much. I think the circumstances surrounding the relationship and where we are individually in our lives are, understandably, holding him back.

Commit the next year or two to doing your own thing completely without regard to how it would affect the possibility of a future with him. Build up all aspects of your own life without him so you are happy with them and feel fulfilled without his presence in your life. After a year or two of sincerely doing that, then maybe check back in.
posted by cairdeas at 11:42 AM on September 1, 2012

It's really simple. Complete the following: "Here's what I want" BE HONEST. It's amazing and sad how many people lie to themselves about what they want from dating and relationships.

Now that you know what you want, ask yourself: Is that what HE WANTS?

It sure sounds to me like the answer in this case is no. That means you have to move on. As you said, it takes TWO.
posted by 2oh1 at 4:13 PM on September 1, 2012 [4 favorites]

Listen to what he said about himself to you. He does not want a relationship. Since you poured your heart out and told him you'd be willing to move for him, he is distancing himself from you by talking to you less this summer (either intentionally or subconsciously), because he knows he doesn't have the same feelings for you, and he knows it's best for you if he doesn't lead you on more. Move on. It's hard, but it's really for the best. If he wanted a relationship with you, he would've made it happen, since he knows how you feel.
posted by never.was.and.never.will.be. at 9:44 PM on September 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

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