How does it happen? You ‘meet’ on a social network site or are friends of friends. You live in different countries, but that doesn’t matter. You exchange a few innocent, casual emails or texts back and forth; soon it’s regular messaging. Feelings develop, are discussed, validated; encouraged even. But what happens if either party chooses to be less than honest? Or worse, suddenly the messages just stop? No responses are forthcoming! Then what? I’m not sure I have the answers, but someone I know is trying to cope with the questions. She’s a friend, a writer, an intelligent single woman and she’s had a difficult past few weeks.
She seemed tired and depressed as she told me her story; we were waiting for our dinner to arrive, it had been ages since we’d seen each other.
“For seven months I’ve looked forward to sitting down at my desk and opening mail from a certain guy. Any snippet was welcomed, treasured; and plenty came. We were keeping in close daily contact. We were having a lot of fun, I thought.
Seven months’ worth of exploring a person’s mind, setting the stage for a long-term friendship; all wiped out overnight, swept to the trash bin.
I’ve been unfriended, he has deleted both of his email addresses, he’s gone from Facebook and Bob’s your uncle! – disappeared from my world.
Bam! Just like that. It’s as if he dumped a big tub of water all over our cozy little fire.
He is married. I suppose I have no right to be shocked. Must I admire him for what he said he needs to do in his final two line message: “Disclosed all too wife and have decided to be faithful. Thank you for your friendship.”
The raw edges leave me wondering if perhaps this recent development had more to do with him tiring of me than a sudden attack of conscience. After all, how much gratification can you get from a screen and some creative one handed typing? Sorry, I’m trying now not to become too cynical. I’m trying to see it for what it was. It seems more likely that he connected with someone new and more interesting. If I stop to think about it, there’s really no limit to the number of ‘relationships’ a guy could have online; or a gal for that matter.
I’m stinging a bit; it’s as if I’ve been slapped. But how else could it have gone? How is it supposed to happen? Maybe this is how it’s done nowadays – shit, did I just say ‘nowadays,’ like I’m an antique or a biddy from another era?
This is it, my first online break-up. This was my first online friendship…a break-up for Pete’s sake. Complete with insults left unhurled, tears, a question or two that will never be asked, let alone answered, and this strange loneliness. I can’t talk to anyone about this, because nobody knew. I loved the secrecy. My married sisters would have laughed me out of town. But communicating with this man added layers to my flat and lonely life.
This isn’t nearly as dramatic as a real, physical, in-person break up; not nearly as satisfying. There are no two a.m. phone calls, no showing up at his door unexpected for a soul soothing confrontation; no ‘last roll in the hay;’ none of that drama. It’s just over. He has effectively wiped himself out of my cyber-life. Slap!
How can I be missing someone I never held? We never met in person, never kissed; touched; I never once smelled his skin, heard his voice or knew the shape of his hands. It was all words. It was all messages and chat. This is very bizarre. Only words, text. I think I even told him I loved him. I probably meant it in that moment, in that message; like believing in a mirage.
But he’s literally on the other side of the planet; what kind of love is this? What the hell was I thinking? Is this the way society is learning to love? No contact, no tangible commitment, no strings attached. No accountability. I suppose this is happening all over the world, long distances easily covered through use of the internet, friendships developing, deepening into love, and then what? Are people crossing oceans and continents to meet? I can’t afford the ticket, quite frankly.
Having said that, I ask myself what was the point? What did I expect from this person, from this relationship? It didn’t start out to be personal, only friendly. But just like in ‘real life’ ties and connections just sort of develop, I felt really close to him. I thought I meant something to him. Bah!
My eyes are wide open now and I see how easily it can all disappear. I’ve had the proverbial rug pulled out from under me…click here to unfriend/click here to delete account/click here to turn my world upside down.
How ridiculous am I! How unreal it all is, was. The decision has been made to be faithful to his wife. That’s the offered explanation for the sudden death of our friendship. Is that the truth? I’ll never know, will I? Does it really matter? I’m not sure, but the sting is hot and my face is red.
I guess I carry on in my real world. Back to work tomorrow, deadlines, meetings; my family is visiting next week, I need to pull it together. But my head is in that “Holy cow, I’ve just been dumped!” haze. There’s no way to release, I don’t know how to get over him. All I can do is wait for it to dissipate; hurt a little less.
Thank you for listening, I’m so sorry, I’ve talked too much. Let’s order dessert. And wine, I could use a glass of wine.”
ABOUT PATRICIA FALL