Yes, it is definitely weird that he told you ‘I love you’ and then broke up with you days later. This reinforces my thinking that while it had qualities and components of a relationship, it had not yet blossomed into—forgive me—an actual love relationship. I say this not to minimize whatever sort of relationship that you did have with him but to elevate the status of ‘love’ to something requiring ‘full exposure;’ as a therapist, I think of qualities such as vulnerability, congruence, and responsiveness that flavor the dynamic of a love relationship and amplify the power of its bond. A solely digital relationship is self-curated in a way that allows each person in it to filter themselves and have freedom from natural and fruitful stressors. Your relationship was never experienced, explored, or tested in real-time.
…How much vulnerability do you have opportunity to experience digitally without ever having lived real time, proximal life together?
…Congruence is the experience of another person’s eye contact, tone of voice, facial gestures, body language, words, and meanings all matching up. In the face of a friend’s incongruence, you may ask, ‘Is everything okay? Is something on your mind?’ It is very difficult to fully experience a person and wrestle through these natural relationship dynamics online or over the phone when the relationship is not already grounded.
…Responsiveness is one of those qualities in a relationship that needs to be tested in the early stages. It is related with another relationship quality, demandingness. How does he ask what he wants or needs from you? Is he quick to criticize or become defensive? Does he give the ‘cold shoulder’ rather than working through the conflict?
These are important considerations but are difficult to test and address without real-time and proximal experience.
It’s so easy to filter and boundary at a distance.
I don’t know this guy, and I am not against starting a relationship online. However, I do fault him for his decision to say the words ‘I love you’ to you before you had an opportunity to meet each other face to face. Breaking up with you so soon after telling you that just didn’t make sense. He did not have the package of trust, commitment, and connection that should be there before telling someone you love them. Shame on him.
Expand your definition of what it means to be alone. Make sure you are tending to your closest friendships. If you do that, you will be experiencing the sort of full—vulnerable, congruent, responsive—relationships that help you to be more of who you were created to be and experience yourself more authentically along the way. This maximizes the chances that wham, unexpectedly, you find yourself in a friendship that already has the qualities of the kind of love relationship you’re looking for; then, it will likely be healthier, truer, and more durable, as all good friendships already are.
You can’t manufacture any of this. I know you’re worried that somehow this kind of love will pass you by.
Remember your faith in God’s larger purposes.
C.S. Lewis once commented that the only way you can remain safe from the risks of love is Hell. Unhealthy relationships often start with attempts to fill a void or in efforts to achieve happiness. In the ‘honeymoon’ stages of a relationship, we may try to provide the one we love with all they may need or want. Then we settle in. If the relationship is in large part based on how the other person makes us feel, then when these more romantic acts and feelings decrease, we may have yet failed to cultivate the layers of mutual respect and compassion, familiarity and companionship, and rhythms of give-and-take necessary to sustain a healthy, vibrant, lasting relationship.
Look for a guy who already has close friendships defined by these qualities. Such a person may be more likely to stick it out when times—and emotions—get volatile. Insecure individuals disengaged from community will jet with the going gets tough—circumstances, emotions, differences in opinion.
Don’t worry about finding a mate, but also don’t hesitate to express to your friends that you are looking. If they keep their eyes and ears open for you, it increases the likelihood you will find a guy who has already been vetted by those you already know and trust.
Pray openly and fervently for what you want, with specific detail. Then, if you find him, you will be that much more confident that God led you to him.”
Your friend, Blake”
Previously published on LinkedIn
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