Episode 087

Lisa Anderson: We’re opening up this week’s inbox and I have Candice with me by phone. Candice hello!

Candice Watters: Hey Lisa! It’s great to be with you!

Lisa:  Hey!

Well this is from a female and it’s about relationships, so you’re going to be—

Candice: This will be something fresh and new. [Laughter]

Lisa:  So you’re going to be ready for this one. But this is good, because we haven’t addressed this angle in the past. So I think this is going to be interesting.

Candice: Okay.

Lisa: She says:

I’m currently a missionary overseas—

First of all, props for that, missionary!

Candice: Woo hoo!

Lisa: She says:

I’m missionary overseas, however I will be permanently returning to the U.S. in one year. My best friend back home works with a guy who she thinks would be a perfect fit for me. He decided to email me and we’ve been emailing back and forth quite regularly. He’s a great Christian guy, we have a lot in common and we’re both enjoying getting to know each other.

My question is: do you think it’s worth pursuing an email relationship while I’m overseas? And should I just continue to email him back until he starts to initiate more? I guess I don’t know how an email relationship is likely to unfold into something more.

Candice: Okay. So, yes. The answer is “yes”. [Laughter]

Lisa:  [Laughing] Alright. Thanks Candice!

Candice: This is a great opportunity, the fact that you have a mutual friend that thinks you’re a good fit. Ask the friend, “Have you said to the guy, ‘I think you’re a good fit’?” Make sure that your expectations are based on reality and not just fantasy. So I think for starters email you friend and say, “So what have you told this young man and do you have any idea what his intentions are?” Hopefully you can get some information that way.

But email and when he emails you, respond back. I don’t think it’s necessary to wait six weeks in between. I think if he writes and you’re by the computer, you can write him back right away. And if that speed frightens him, then that’s a problem for him, not for you.

I also think letter-writing is a great way to get to know each other when distance is inevitable; it’s unavoidable right now. And so you have this opportunity to get to know him in an interesting way, in a way that’s not quite as common today, but used to be very common. So it’s a way to deepen the relationship by letters and that’s actually a physical, tangible token of who he is. You can see his handwriting, you can see the paper he chooses, you can see if it’s got ketchup stains on it—whatever.

But I will say a couple of cautions—again it has to do with expectations—so I think it’s going to be important as you go through this next year really to share those with each other and not have this in mind that when you get off the boat from China, or wherever it is you’re returning from, that he’s going to be standing there with a ring in his hand. You don’t want to be devastated that you’ve spent a year thinking this guy is Mr It, and maybe he’s just seeing you as an exotic pen pal.

Lisa:  Yeah. And that’s why I would say, Candice, I know where you’re coming from and I have heard stories from people—like in my parents’ generation—where this happened. Where they wrote letters and then they got married. But I have not seen… I think we have to issue some caution, I’m not going to disagree with you totally, but I… well maybe except for one or two cases, have not seen this work among my friends. Because inevitably what happens is it gets to be this weird emotionally tied relationship online where my friends have talked to these guys for like, maybe three, four, five months online and maybe on the phone, and then they meet and then it just fizzles out. Because usually for the guys, in the experiences that we’ve had, it’s kind of like that whole elusive chemistry, and then they meet and then it’s like, oh I’m really not that into her.

Candice: I’m not ready.

Lisa:  In the meantime the girl has practically married herself off to him. It’s establishing those boundaries.

Candice: I agree with those cautions. I had a friend who had something like this happen. She met a friend of a friend and they started corresponding by email and they had this amazing online relationship, and when finally they got to be together it was like saying “hello” and introducing themselves for the very first time. None of that counted because they were strangers.

Lisa:  I’ve seen almost the opposite thing happen where they’ve shared too much and then they meet and there’s like this weird false relationship because they really do know one another… I had a friend who basically acknowledged with the guy after, like, two weeks that they were going to get married. They’d said they loved one another and all that kind of stuff and this was online and then you meet and then if it doesn’t work out… Then you go into the awkward “fade” which just completely drives me nuts. It’s just an unhealthy way of ending it and all that kind of stuff.

Candice: Email is no substitution for in-person and so unless she really is in the middle of nowhere, I think if they’re going to have this on-going relationship for a year, she should invite him to come visit. And that will certainly be a test of how serious he is.

And then, too, I think… [Long pause] Another caution is: it’s one thing to have a man who is willing to wait for a woman. It’s another thing for a woman agreeing to wait a year for a man. And that’s something I would never recommend because I think for a woman to take herself out of the realm of availability for a man who has not given her a commitment is a real danger that she’s going to end up with nothing and a broken heart.

Lisa:  Right. You know, you were saying “if he emails you then go ahead and respond” and I think that’s good provided it doesn’t become a 2-hour email fest every night, or its just constant communication. I think—

Candice: You’re right! And I’m constantly amazed at how many times I assume people are asking really early on, “So what does this mean?” The reality is they’re not asking that. And they’re just assuming they know what it means and inevitably they’re disappointed. So don’t wait to say, “Hey I’m enjoying these conversations. What are your intentions?” It’s such a simple question. It’s four words: what are your intentions? Just ask that question and he may freak out and run away, but you know what? Far better to have that happen in the first month than in the second year.

Lisa:  Yeah. And if neither party is willing to acknowledge that, then it has to remain a very high-level, just touch base kind of email thing where it can be hey, how’s the work over there overseas going? But not getting into really super-personal stuff.

Candice: But even that, when it’s a man and a woman, why bother? Why waste your time with that? What’s the point of that friendship if it doesn’t have the potential to become something more?

Lisa:  I think the listener was saying they’re maybe just testing the waters; they’re getting acquainted over email. So remember the difference between an acquaintanceship and an actual proactive pursuit. They’re different.

Candice: Fair enough.

Lisa:  So you can’t get too wrapped up in it emotionally—as women will do, hello!

Candice: It’s our tendency.

Lisa:  Well thanks Candice!

Candice: You’re welcome! It’s a pleasure. Keep those awesome questions coming.

Lisa:  Will do it. And hopefully we’ll see you again over here in person some time.

Candice: Yes. That’s my hope.

Lisa:  Sounds good. Well thanks a lot!

Candice: You’re welcome.

Lisa:  That is it. As always, write to us at editor [at] boundless [dot] org.

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