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Is My Online Fling Holding Me Back From Dating in Real Life?

I met a woman online a few months ago. We exchanged numbers and have texted nearly every day since. (She lives in Spain; I live here. We are both in our 20s.) What started as an online sexual fling has evolved into something more: We use pet names, watch TV shows together and confide in each other. We also have sex online. We know this isn’t a real relationship, but if we lived in the same place, it would be amazing! I have been honest about trying to date women where I live, which she dislikes hearing, but I haven’t had much luck. Do you think this online relationship is stifling my ability to find someone in real life?

SINGLE GUY

No one can tell you what kind of relationship to want. There are countless varieties. Be careful about over-investing in fantasies, though. You have never met this woman in person. It’s all pet names and good times, with a few confidences thrown in — while you search for someone local. No wonder she doesn’t like hearing that: You’re killing the (artificial) mood!

Let me give you a taste of what’s missing here: stale morning breath, bickering about cleaning the bathroom and figuring out how to make up. Good times, right? But working through everyday friction helps create solidity and trust. I get the appeal of your stress-free setup, but I worry that your bad “luck” in dating is caused partly by the easiness of this virtual arrangement. You get to avoid most conflict and compromise, staples of healthy relationships.

I wonder, too, why you don’t mention visiting this woman after months of nonstop communication. If that isn’t in the cards, or if you want a more conventional relationship, move on (gently) — and reset the distance parameter on your dating apps. The next time you match with someone, keep seeing that person after the first bouts of difficulty. Try to work it out. The illusion of infinite choice on the apps is your enemy. Sure, there’s always another profile. But there’s never a good relationship without compromise.

When I was in elementary school, my dad ran off with his secretary in an unoriginal move. We saw little of him. A kind neighbor stepped up. He even took me to a father-daughter dance at school. Fast-forward 20 years: My mother invited him to my wedding last summer. He gave us a generous cash gift. But I just learned he is an election denier. Should we return the gift?

JAN

I am sorry that your kindhearted neighbor is susceptible to baseless conspiracy theories. But what does that have to do with anything? He was invited to your wedding. Unless you left out something major, he didn’t make a stink about politics, and he gave you a generous gift. Write him a thank-you note and move on.

I have been totally estranged from my brother for years. I am relieved to be free of him, and he feels the same. So why do relatives, friends and acquaintances insist that I reach out to mend fences? Most of these people have no idea of the cruelty I endured for years, but they harp on the importance of family. They may be well meaning, but their intrusiveness agitates me. How can I politely insist that they back off?

BROTHER

News flash: Most of the people urging you to make up with your brother don’t really care what you do. Lifelong relationships are few, and many people dislike hearing about rifts within families, so they push for reconciliation. I tell you this to relieve your distress: Their insistence is probably not personal.

You know the pros and cons of having your brother in your life better than anyone, and you’ve made your call. Now, if you are the one sharing your estrangement, stop it! You are inviting unwanted concern. If others bring it up, say: “Let’s talk about something else. My relationship with my brother is complicated.” That should do the trick.

For weeks, I planned a special meal at a good restaurant with my sister. I envisioned three courses: a cheese plate, a starter and a main course. I booked an early table so we could spend a couple of hours catching up and savoring our meal. The place wasn’t busy, but the waiter brought out all the food at the same time — so we ended up wolfing everything down. What should I have done? I was too flummoxed to say anything once the plates were on the table.

DINER

At this moment in history — having watched waiters become frontline workers during the pandemic and having survived the James Corden egg yolk omelet affair — I hope we can all agree that servers deserve respect. That doesn’t mean they won’t make mistakes (often caused by misunderstandings in the kitchen), only that we shouldn’t act like monsters when they do. Next time, say: “We prefer one course at a time. Please leave the cheese and take the rest for now, OK?” Problem solved!


For help with your awkward situation, send a question to [email protected]com, to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.

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