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are you there god? it's me, margaret. any chance you could return my text?

In this adapted excerpt from my latest ebook The Dreamer and the Fantasy Relationship , I share my tips for kicking the virtual relationship habit, which is when you’re too reliant on texts, instant messenger, email, Facebook, sexts et al and making loaves out of crumbs…

Shorten your meeting time.

The amount of time between meeting someone online and meeting face to face should be short. The longer it is, the greater the fantasy. There is no need to go through this pre-vetting process by having long drawn-out and misleading conversations via text, email, and even phone, without setting the date. You’re not a hotline for stroking the egos of strangers. Dating is a discovery phase – use dates to discover before you invest into having these lazy communications with someone you hardly know. Shortening this time period will save you a hell of a lot of pain and illusions.

It’s time for a lazy communication diet.
You’d be amazed at how quickly you’ll see how things really are when you opt to pick up the phone instead of texting or emailing, or opt to meet up instead of spending your days chatting.

Take at least a 3-6 month break from dating sites.
If you have a string of virtual relationships over an extended period of time, a 12 month break to reconnect with the real world is highly recommended. Don’t go back on dating sites until you’re ready to have hide of rhino and be the Columbo in your life.

If you have an extensive history of virtual relationships, I’d take a year’s break. Delete your profiles so that you don’t feel tempted to reconnect with those who track you down or to collect attention.

If texting, email, IM, and dating sites didn’t exist, and it was, for example, 1998, what would you do in the same situation?

Accept that texts, emails, etc., are not the bread and butter of a healthy relationship that requires regular and increasing human interaction; they’re the crumbs.
In an otherwise genuinely effort-filled relationship, these means of communication are fine, but otherwise, they are a deluding and unproductive use of your time that stunts communication.

If you’re not touching them more than you’re having lazy communication with them, this is not the relationship you think it is.

Stop being so words-focused – if you haven’t got actions and a relationship to match, you’ve got nothing but words and hot air.

If it hasn’t progressed into a face to face, bonafide relationship after a month of this contact, cut it off.

It won’t be over because you forced a meeting; it’ll be over because it was dependent on not meeting and you were both passing time.

No sexts, no arguing, and no discussions via text and email.
People who are in a relationship don’t have to rely on sexting to have a sexual relationship. It is completely inappropriate and quite passive aggressive to argue or attempt to have a meaningful discussion via text or email – face to face or voice to voice. If you want to clarify points post-discussion or argument by text/email, that’s one thing, but the truth is that mature, available adults don’t use these means to have meaningful discussions about meaningful relationships. You must learn to communicate on a level with people and face your fear of conflict and rejection.

If you are transitioning from a breakup, divorce, etc., deal with this first.
Stop using these involvements as a distraction. Texts, etc., are not going to get you over your breakup or provide you with the better relationship that you deserve.

No long distance relationships.
One to three hours travelling is do-able as long as you have the means to regularly make the journey. Some people are not cut out for long distance relationships – Dreamers fit that bill. The lack of face to face interaction and the distortion caused by it being long distance, which adds a tension that wouldn’t exist otherwise, is too dangerous for you. If the distance becomes too much and you spend more time thinking about the relationship than living it, let it go.

Be careful of being with people who spend a lot of their time travelling.
Certainly in the early months, this is a vulnerable hotspot for you and leaves you too wide open. You need to be with someone who you can see regularly both during the week and at the weekends. This isn’t to say that people who go away are unavailable – this is about you. Until you’re in the position of being real and fully accountable, it is dangerous to have relationships that give you an excuse to have too much alone time with your imagination and a legitimate reason to engage in crumb communication.

Accept that sex with primarily virtual contact isn’t a relationship; it’s a booty call with some window dressing. Nuff said.

Don’t create new ‘rules’ to justify the lazy communication.
Most Dreamers, especially Virtuals, have come up with all sorts of justifications for their behaviour based around modern dating. If you think that people are forging long-term relationships, getting married, having children, building lives together, by spending most of their time emailing, texting, IM’ng, and waiting around, think again. Nothing has changed – in order to create a mutually fulfilling relationship with love, care, trust, respect, and shared values, that has progression, consistency, commitment, balance, and intimacy, you both need to be in the real world, seeing each other regularly and putting in genuine physical and emotional effort that matches your words. It does not matter that texting, dating sites, Facebook or whatever exist – it’s only someone who wasn’t intending to commit and has found new means to make it easier to make a big deal out of crumbs, who will rely on these means.

If you feel like you want to keep a safe distance, you probably shouldn’t be involved.
You’re going to get to know someone by getting up close.

Respect your current relationship and no matter how innocuous you think it is, don’t entertain inappropriate interactions with people outside of your relationship.
If you couldn’t show your communications to your partner and they, in fact, have no knowledge of the person’s existence, it is inappropriate.

Sort your problems out.
Every person who is in a virtual relationship has problems that, instead of solving, they avoid by seeking attention and making a big deal out of crumbs. This is how you end up with bigger problems than what you started out with. Sometimes we do need a distraction in order to gain perspective so that we can approach a problem with renewed vigour and focus; having a virtual relationship is not a means of doing this.

Bid farewell to your exes, especially the ones from long ago.
Unless they add genuine, positive, out in the open and respectful value to your life, cut ’em off. This will mean grieving the loss of them, but you’d be surprised at how short this will be when you can grab back the power for your life and you realise that you’re letting go of the best thing you never had so you can focus on experiencing the best thing that you can have in your future.

The ex from long ago that screwed you over or married someone else when you think you were so much better – let them go.
They have made their choice and they’re really not that special. Stop waiting around on the off chance that they might call you up after they’ve seen the light or tap you up for the role of the Other Woman (or guy). Stop stroking their ego, sending nude shots, or waiting around for them to send you dumb texts about the weather or your shared favourite sports team. It’s all bullshit.

Your thoughts?

The Dreamer and the Fantasy Relationship is now available from my bookshop along with with Mr Unavailable and the Fallback Girl.

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