So you met online. Maybe you met them in a Facebook group and have been private messaging for a few months. Maybe you commented on their blog and have been emailing ever since. Or perhaps you met on a dating site.
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Whatever the virtual platform, you’ve created a rich cyberspace friendship that you’d like to see turn into something more. But there is one big challenge… you live far away from each other.
Can you make the jump from friends to “friends plus” when you’ll be starting a long distance relationship? Should you even consider it?
Yes, if you’re both keen, you can make the jump. And, yes, you should consider it.
Sure, long distance relationships aren’t easy. But they’re not impossible. In fact, starting your relationship long distance can help you get to know someone deeply and well. It can teach you patience and good communication skills, and lay a great foundation for a successful long-term relationship.
So if you met online and you’re interested in upgrading your relationship from friendship to romance, here are 5 things you should do.
1. Be grateful
First of all, approach this with the right attitude—gratitude! Be grateful for the amazing friendship that you have developed, it’s a great way to begin a love story.
Many successful couples have started out as friends. Those couples will tell you that being friends before becoming lovers gave them a solid base from which grew an even more solid love-relationship.
Why is that? Well, when you go into a romance after already becoming friends, you have a more accurate picture of your partner. You’re already more relaxed and comfortable being yourself with each other. You don’t try as hard to impress the other person, or pretend to be someone you’re not. All of this boosts the chances that your relationship will succeed in the long run.
2. Meet in person first, if you can
It’s not impossible to fall in love with someone before you ever lay eyes on them. In fact, it’s happened to me several times. So it’s not impossible, but it is dangerous.
When you fall in love with someone at a distance you’re really falling for the image of that person you’ve created in your mind. If you’ve been emailing or talking for a while, that vision will probably be pretty close to reality in some ways. However, there will always be ways in which you have “filled in gaps” and made assumptions about them—probably without even realizing what you’re doing.
The best way to make sure you start aligning your vision of who this person is with the reality of who this person is, is to meet in person. When you meet in person you learn a hundred things that are just impossible to gauge accurately long distance—including whether you continue to feel the same sense of attraction and ease when you’re up close and personal as you do when you see their text message light up your phone.
It’s not always possible to meet in person before acknowledging that you want more than friendship. However, if you can, do. Meeting in real life is the safest and wisest way to see if you both to add a romantic element to your long distance friendship.
3. Tell them how you feel
The next important step in making the jump is to talk about it. Be honest, and open up a conversation about this. I know it feels scary, but you haven’t got a lot to lose at this stage.
Even if they don’t feel the same way at this point, they will respect your honesty and openness and it may even deepen your friendship. (And if it doesn’t—if your friendship fizzles as a result—you really haven’t lost anything much in the long term even if it hurts in the short-term.)
Plus, I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve heard from people who say something like, “I wasn’t interested in my partner when they first asked me out, but then I started to think about it and I decided I really did like them that way after all.”
So if you know you’re interested in something more, tell them. You can write them an email or tell them over the phone. Either way, find a way that let’s them know how you feel without demanding they respond straight away. Take the pressure off, and give them time to think things over.
You might find it helpful to say or write something like this:
“I have really loved getting to know you during the past ___ weeks/months. I love/admire your _____. During the last couple of weeks I’ve found myself thinking about how I would like us to be more than just friends. You don’t have to say anything about this now, but over the next couple of days please think about whether you might like that, too. And I want you to know that if that’s not what you want, I still want to be friends.”
If it’s helpful, take that little “script” and make it your own. Change it so that it feels like you, and then use it.
4. Be smart and safe in how you plan your first meeting
Even if you can’t meet face to face before you become a couple, you will presumably meet in person at some point. Plan ahead for this meeting, and be smart and safe! Here are some ways to do that:Organize separate accommodation for whoever is traveling: Do not plan on sharing living (and sleeping) space with each other on your first visit, even if you are already “a couple.” If they are coming to see you, organize for them to stay with friends, book a hotel, or check out AirBnB to find a lower-priced deal. This will reduce the pressure on both of you. If you meet up and sparks fly for everyone, that’s fine. But you should both go into this expecting to take things slow and steady.Plan some things to do: While we’re talking about ways to reduce the pressure… plan out some things to do so that you’re not just staring at each other and talking. Do something together. Book an adventurous outing, go to a museum, watch a movie, do something that both of you would enjoy.
5. Do more of the same sort of thing
Once you’ve made the jump and “upgraded your online relationship” from friendship to romance, what then?
Then, you’ve got new joys and challenges coming down the line.
The distance between you now matters more now you’re in an official long distance relationship. You’ll probably both be happier and more frustrated by the situation.
So here is something NOT to do… Don’t immediately start planning how to make the jump from long distance relationship to same-city living.
Just pause and be patient. If you’ve just made the jump from long distance friendship to long distance relationship, you should mostly be doing more of the same sort of thing you’ve already been doing. Talk. Email. Focus on asking each other questions and getting to know each other. Learn to communicate well, and you learn more about each other. (Check out this page to find our 50 best tips for long distance relationships).
Then, when the time is right to make the next jump—from long distance to in-person romance you’ll be well placed to make that leap with poise.
Have you made the jump from friendship to romance? Leave a comment. Tell us your story below and share any advice you have for others.
Lisa McKay is a psychologist, author, and long distance relationship expert. She is the founder of Modern Love Long Distance, a website for couples in long distance relationships.
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Rachel Pace is a relationship expert with years of experience in training and helping couples. Her mission is to provide inspiration, support and empowerment to everyone on their journey to a great marriage. She is a featured writer for Marriage.com, a reliable resource to support healthy happy marriages.