Q&A with Geoff: How Do I Navigate Online Relationships with Integrity?Oct 11, 2023
I’m fairly new to being single and have found friendships through a Facebook singles page. Not only do I feel like I need to keep up with the posts, I feel like I need to chat with someone daily.
I communicated through FaceTime with a man a decade younger than me for a couple of months. We were not compatible in many ways, but he gave me attention, praise and compliments. We talked for hours a day laughing and joking, something I didn’t have in my marriage. I had become attached. Then it ended abruptly. I had withdrawals and was sad.
I’m currently talking with a gentleman two decades older. We’ve become close friends during the past months. I enjoy our conversations. Although he says he loves me and is hoping for marriage, I’ve told him several times that’s not a possibility. He has recently become jealous of other men taking an interest in me. This has become more serious than I had intended, and I’ve become attached to him as a friend.
I don’t want to hurt him or myself. I know it will be difficult for both of us if we stop communicating. Am I unintentionally leading him on if I continue talking with him knowing he wants more than a friendship?
The world of dating, especially online, can be a double-edged sword. It offers an opportunity to meet and connect with people outside of your immediate surroundings, but it also comes with its own unique set of challenges, as you’ve discovered. Let’s discuss how you might move forward in this strange new world.
If you’re like many of the divorced clients I’ve worked with over the years, you likely felt lonely and disconnected long before the divorce papers were signed. When you finally found yourself back in the world of dating, the conversation, attention and connection became a much-needed salve to your wounded heart.
I can only imagine how free and open you must have felt laughing, sharing, and expressing yourself with these men. However, as you’ve discovered, the speed of connection in online dating also brings sudden changes and dynamics that can catch you off guard. While I’m glad to hear this responsiveness from these other men has been good for you, I can also see how difficult it is to let go of something that’s been absent from your life for many years.
This is why it’s essential to differentiate between genuine connection and filling an emotional void. It takes time to discern what’s happening in new relationships, especially when you’re only talking online. As humans, we’re vulnerable to any form of relational distance, so we’ll easily settle for almost anything that resembles connection.
It’s wonderful that you have found a connection and deep friendship with this older gentleman. However, if you’ve communicated that marriage isn’t a possibility, and he continues to express a desire for more, there’s a mismatch in expectations that must be honored. Also, if he has become jealous and possessive despite knowing your boundaries, this is a red flag. His possessiveness might escalate if not addressed, and your continued communication will continue to give him false hope.
You’ve asked if you’re leading him on unintentionally. While your intentions might be genuine and pure, it’s his perception and feelings that are getting tangled. It’s not so much about your intentions anymore as it is about his experience and interpretation of your ongoing interactions. You can both be in a strange collusion of him holding onto hope and you holding onto friendship. If you truly know right now that you don’t see a future with him, then it’s time to act on that reality and allow both of you to pursue what you really want.
I’m sure it’s frustrating to start over and rebuild friendships and relationships with new men when this one seems to meet some basic needs. However, he’s playing for keeps and you’re not. This is a good time to slow down reflect on what you truly want at this stage in your life. Are you looking for friendship, a deeper connection, or simply to pass the time? This clarity will help you navigate this and future interactions with more clarity and purpose.
It might be time for a candid conversation with the older gentleman. Reiterate your intentions and gauge his response. If you are clear that you just want friendship and he struggles to respect you or continues to push for more, you’ll have a better idea of the next steps. Recognize that it’s also disrespectful to him to hang on for your own convenience.
As you know, romantic relationships should be built on mutual respect and understanding. This may mean you honor the reality of the mismatch and allow both of you to move forward with integrity.
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