By Baila Sebrow

Question

I am 25 years old and I am dating a girl I really like. I think we will eventually get engaged. But I have been involved in an online relationship with another girl for a very long time. We Skype and talk on Facebook, and talk a lot on the phone, too, but we’ve never met in person.

We have gotten very close. We share everything with each other. I even shared with her that I am in a serious relationship and will probably get engaged. She seems jealous, and I think she has feelings for me. I know that I started to have feelings for her, too.

Lately, she has been telling me that she wants to meet me in person. I don’t know what to do about that. Wouldn’t that be like cheating on the girl I am dating? Do you think I should just meet her and see what she is all about? I am worried that if I just get engaged to the girl I am dating, then I will never have the right closure. But what if I can’t choose between the two girls?

The reason I never suggested going out with her in the first place and chatted instead was that she is too modern.

I don’t know what to do now. I’m very curious about her. I know what she looks like because I follow her on Facebook all the time. I can’t stop thinking about her, and I can’t concentrate on anything. Do you think I should mention something to the girl I am dating? I feel so confused.

Response

No doubt you are confused. You are in a real-life relationship with one person who is real, and in an emotional relationship with someone who might not be. You never met your online friend, and you have no clue what she is all about. Even though you follow her on Facebook, and you Skype with her, she still cannot be real to you because you have never seen her face to face.

You are not the first person to have gotten into such turmoil. For all the fun and interesting tidbits you might gain from social media, the fact is that it has caused much confusion and havoc in real-life relationships.

You are dating a girl you are contemplating marrying. You wonder whether you are cheating? The answer is yes. Nurturing an emotional relationship such as what you have developed with your online friend while you’re in a dating relationship—and, I assume, emotional relationship—with the girl you talk about marrying is two-timing in a big way. In my opinion, you are acting irresponsibly.

You are in a serious relationship, dating towards marriage. This girl thinks that she is the only one in your life. She would be devastated to learn that she is one of two women in your life. It is interesting that people don’t realize the ramifications of creating a clandestine online friendship.

The nature of online communication creates an atmosphere where all personal boundaries are comfortably removed. You are sharing information about yourself with a complete stranger. And you are not the only one. People think it’s normal to reveal to absolute strangers intimate information about themselves, parents, siblings, spouses, and children. Social media has contributed to lives being destroyed, and the frum community has not been an exception.

My concern is that you have become obsessed with your online friend. And this obsession causes the destruction of real-life relationships. Are you even able to concentrate on whatever else you need to do in your life? Are you always checking your phone to see if you were messaged or if your friend posted something else that you can follow?

I will tell you one thing that should be a lesson to you. The way people portray themselves on Facebook or any other social-media site is rarely authentic. You can pretend to be anyone you want, as can the person you are chatting with. The photos you are viewing in someone’s Facebook album are oftentimes fake, too. You can think that you are connecting with the girl you are chatting with, but how do you know that the person you’re chatting with is actually the person you assume she is? Even if her pictures are an accurate description of her, how do you know that each communication is really with her? And how do you know that whatever you are sharing with her is not shared with other people? The truth is that you will never know.

You are carrying on an intense relationship with someone you never met. Whatever the reason may have been—too modern, or something else—you both decided not to meet each other in person initially.

Your online girl is not a romantic partner. She is just a fantasy. I believe that it is possible to grow feelings for someone even in such a situation. The slap of reality happens when you meet them in person. They rarely turn out to be as you had imagined them in your mind.

You also need to realize that it is possible you are not the only guy this online friend is playing with. There are people who carry on intense online relationships with many people. They sometimes even exchange sentiments with one another. Is that what happened to you? Why is she acting jealous? She never even met you.

You have mixed feelings and emotions right now, and I don’t think you are ready to get engaged until you have sorted it all out. However, you can’t allow this to go on without making some sort of move. You will need to take immediate action.

Do you need closure? Everyone needs closure if something is not meant to be or cannot happen. Realistically, you cannot hold on to both girls at the same time. And you certainly can’t get married and keep up whatever you have going on with your social-media connection. So the answer is that you will need to put this online relationship to rest. However, I think you should fess up to the girl you are dating. She deserves to know what has been going on behind her back. She may decide to break up with you, or she might choose to find out who this other girl is.

Regarding your online friend, if you really can’t get her out of your mind, see if you can arrange to meet her in a public place. Oftentimes, the person does not even show up, because they know deep down that they are just a fantasy object, and they figure that they will disappoint. Or, she could just be playing games and is enjoying whatever she has with you but would rather leave it status quo. Her jealousy might be her fear that once you get married, you will stop communicating with her. What I am describing has happened over and over again to people just like you. However, there are sometimes interesting turning points.

My fear is that it is also possible that you got caught up in something dangerous. Does anyone else know about her? I urge you to immediately report your story to someone you trust who is also non-judgmental. I also feel that your family should be informed.

If you do decide to meet this person (only in a public place), it might be a good idea to first slow down your communication with her. Wean yourself off a bit for your own good, for two reasons. If she doesn’t pan out as you had imagined, you can be sure that you will feel great disappointment. And if she has personal information that you shared with her, that could work against you, and you have no way of knowing to what extent. But first see if you can do some reference-checking on her.

Here is where you will have a huge issue. If the girl you are dating does not break up with you, but instead stands by you until you figure things out, and this online friend proves authentic, you will then have the self-made headache of having to choose between the two girls!

Baila Sebrow is president of Neshoma Advocates, communications and recruitment liaison for Sovri-Beth Israel, executive director of Teach Our Children, and a shadchanis and shidduch consultant. She can be reached at Bsebrow@aol.com. Questions and comments for the Dating Forum can be submitted to 5townsforum@gmail.com. Read more of Baila Sebrow’s articles at 5TJT.com.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here