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December 16, 1997   CONTINUED e-mail e-mail to a friend in need


Dear Breakup Girl,
I've just spent $1500 in air fare and hotel bills to visit a man I'd corresponded with by e-mail frequently (often more than once a day) for seven months. We seemed especially well-suited to each other (we have identical graduate degrees) and each of us was amazed at how easy and natural the relationship progressed.

But from the first moment of my arrival, it was obvious that he was not really present or interested. For the next few days, he spent bare minimum time with me -- I finally told him I felt like I was his mother's roommate's niece that he had promised to show around town.

He said he wasn't ready for a romantic relationship, having been separated less than a year (I had always known his marital status -- I've been separated for three years). He strongly implied that I had been amiss in thinking of this as more than just friendship. Yet he was the one who had started adding "XOXO" to his messages and mentioned our "definite attraction" to each other, etc.

I'm feeling really down, hurt, rejected, and even though I know better (I'm a psychologist!) I can't seem to stop kicking myself for spending this money, time, and energy on this trip.

Your web site has been very helpful, and I plan to order your book. My question to you is: are there any statistics on cyber romances? I'm still shocked by the enormous disparity between what we had -- or thought we had -- and what happened when we finally met. We had exchanged pictures, yet reality is much more detailed and complex than just one's appearance.
-- J.H.

Dear J.H.,
Breakup Girl's SuperComputer was unable to locate any reliable statistics on the occurrence or success/failure rate of electronic love. Still, the power to mislead or be misled on by letters on a screen has been -- at least anecdotally ---well-documented. Cyberflirts should know that they might actually be e-whispering sweet nothings into the ear of an FBI agent, a married person, even a Republican -- to say nothing of the smaller, more subtle issues of personality and identity that get lost among the bps.

That said, I also get tons of letters that say "S/he isn't the person I thought s/he was!" ... from people who are talking about actual -- not virtual -- romances." I wonder if we sometimes point fingers at cyberspace for stuff that goes on -- or would have happened anyway -- In Real Life. Know what I mean?

All of which is to say, yes, J.H., we should be circumspect about any relationship in which the main activity on the first date is touch-typing. But no, J.H., you should not kick yourself so hard. Sure, if Graduate Degree Guy had written, "I am not ready for a romantic relationship. Do not think of this as more than friendship. If you come visit me I will treat you like my mother's roommate's niece" -- well, then, that would be one thing. But it sounds to me like you took an adventurous, curious, trusting, calculated risk. Some people don't even get that far.
Breakup Girl



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