Ask Amy: Can online love lead to the real thing?

June 12, 2012

Dear Amy: I am an 18-year-old guy. I recently met a girl online through social networking. We started communicating a few weeks ago and have contacted each other every day since. We go to college, but in different states.

Things are starting to get pretty serious, but other than video chatting we have never actually met. We tell each other that we love each other, but I can’t help but wonder how long this can possibly last.

I really do love her, but with both of us being so busy I’m not sure when we will actually be able to meet. Is this really all that is out there in terms of hope for our future?

-- Concerned With the Future

Dear Concerned: It is definitely possible to feel you’ve fallen in love virtually, but sometimes this intense attraction and connection will fade fairly quickly once you actually meet. If you can’t meet in person soon, then you should back away from the intensity of this until you can meet.

There are so many intangibles to “real” love that it is hard to imagine that what you perceive as an 18-year-old virtually is even in the same ballpark as the real thing with a real person, because online relationships are like relationships between versions of people.

Virtually sometimes people are better, and sometimes they’re worse than in real life. But they’re always different.

I’m wondering why you are spending your hours communicating with someone so far away when surely there is the potential for you to interact (in person) with people who might become great friends (and maybe more) if you were available.

Dear Amy: My daughter told me recently that she and her husband have been taking turns getting up during the night to wake up their 8-year-old son, “Ben.” She said he has been sleeping so deeply that he won’t wake up to use the bathroom.

I’m very concerned. I believe the bed-wetting could be caused by any number of things. This could be a medical issue, bullying at school or sexual abuse.

My daughter and her husband struggle to make their marriage work. Neither one wants to get help, and they say they’re too busy for counseling. Now I’m afraid that their son may be in danger of having his problems ignored.

I struggled through childhood as a bed-wetter who was being sexually abused, and having no one address the problem resulted in years of chaos.

I love her and my grandkids. How can I encourage her to deal with this issue without alienating her?

-- Concerned Mom

Dear Mom: Bed-wetting is fairly common at this age.

You may be overly alarmed because of your own history, but I agree with you that the parents should be willing to explore all of the possible causes of this problem and work with the boy to remedy them.

The most you can do is what no one did for you — be on the child’s side without projecting your own history and anxiety onto him. Your daughter will eventually see that ignoring problems does not make them go away, but you can’t force her to realize this.

For some people, advocating for your child brings the realization that you should advocate more for yourself. I hope she sees the connection.

Dear Amy: Responding to letters in your column from people who are tired of teens’ texting at the table, here’s how I handled this increasingly common problem.

Although I am great-grandmother age, I have learned to text and enjoy it. It is a good way for quick communication with younger family members. This skill became useful recently when I was at dinner with some undergraduate friends, and one was hunched over his phone.

I sent him a text from my phone: “OMG, here comes the food!! Pls put down the phone and join us.”

We both snickered, and he tucked his phone in his pocket.

-- Tina the Texter

Dear Tina: Now someone has to figure out how to stop you!

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

2012 by the Chicago Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Media Services

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