Being in a relationship with someone over the Internet, no matter what kind, is dangerous. There’s an element of that “Stranger on a Train” feeling, where you can tell anyone anything and there are seemingly no consequences. Adrenaline is jacked up because you’re talking about things you wouldn’t necessarily talk about with anyone else- that you’d feel safe enough. That’s because in an Internet relationship, you don’t know each other’s friends, their families, their work colleagues…. you don’t know anything except what you’ve been told. Once the rabbit hole is established, things come through it at an alarming rate.
It becomes a relationship built entirely in the cloud.
And by that, I mean that you don’t necessarily think of real world consequences when you’re giving away things about yourself in the first place. I have been doing this Internet thing a very long time, so for me, there is no separation between physical and virtual. I have friends who I’ve only met via Facebook who have come all the way from DC to Portland to spend the weekend with Dana and me (Pri Diddy and Nina, take a bow). It would never occur to me that my Internet friends aren’t my “real” friends, because enough of them have met me in the flesh to know that there’s no issue with them, either. They stepped off the plane and literally started talking about the last time I’d pinged them, like 20 minutes before they boarded.
In this relationship, I never could have done that because I never had the safety of knowing whether our Internet relationship would transfer or not, and it became apparent to me that it had better. There were real life consequences for our future that neither of us really talked about…. like what would happen if our Internet trust was ripped to shreds and even though we don’t want to talk to each other, we still love the rest of our families beyond all measure. And honestly, I’m not even sure that she doesn’t want to talk to me. That was unfair. What I know for sure is that I don’t want to talk to her, because our relationship robbed me of something precious, which is the feeling that our “Strangers on a Train” relationship quickly devolved into first children who always have to be right, even at the expense of feeling safe.
I told her that it was starting to feel like an emotional affair because it felt so clandestine. I’m not even sure she knew what I meant by that, because it wasn’t romance. It was the fact that she kept saying that she never asked me to keep her a secret, that our relationship has always been above board, that all she wanted was for me to keep a few things back because everyone is allowed to have a personal life, etc….. while at the same time, saying flat out that we have no connections except Facebook. Those two things in the same breath undid me, because it was cognitive dissonance. Is it ok for me to tell everybody we know each other, or are you going to flip your shit when our families find out? Is everything above board, or do I have to pretend that the only thing I know about you is that you like dogs and books, in that order?
My emotions were getting so jacked up that I couldn’t live in two worlds anymore, because Dana was on the ground and she was in the air. I had to choose. Where did I want to build my house? I chose the ground, because I could *see it.* My trip through the air was salting my ground, and at a rapid pace. I was giving the air more time, and my crops were withering.
I finally realized what I was doing to myself, and I had to stop it. I didn’t want any more cognitive dissonance, I didn’t want any more of Dana feeling left out, and I didn’t want any more of Aaron (my actual best friend) rolling his eyes every time I brought up her name because he knew it was going to be some kind of obnoxiously long and involved rumination.
Most of what that rumination contained was feeling like I was in a relationship on two fronts, and handling both of them poorly. With “tony,” it wasn’t sexual. Just tender beyond belief. When I felt things that made me go all starry-eyed, I knew she was doing it without even trying. If you let them, straight girls’ll do that to ya. 🙂 She never did anything, anything that ever made me feel like this was a romance. The fault was in our secrets, not our behavior.
The secrets we didn’t have, because outside of Facebook, we have no connections.