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I was casually dating a guy for a couple weeks before I left to go across the world for the summer. But for my travels we would have been in an official relationship. I really care for him and while I respect that he can't do long distance, I am worried about him forgetting about me while I'm gone. How do I keep in touch without acting like we're in a relationship? - Across the Ocean from Appalachian State
Across the Ocean,
Well that’s a bummer, but I think you can navigate your way around it. It’s tough to have someone you care about be tens of thousands of miles away, especially when your relationship is in a real gray area. You have to be really careful to not behave as if you and this guy are together. The first thing I think you need is a step back. You were not and are not now in an official relationship. You don’t know for sure that things would have worked out even if you were in the same place. Your language sounds a tad dramatic: “across the world” and “but for my travels” makes this sound like a sweeping romance. I’m not sure the guy would use the same language. I say it’s better to actually forget that you casually dated and view this guy as a crush with whom you want to keep in contact.
You should definitely keep in touch with him over the summer; he probably would like to hear from you. There are just certain parameters to be conscious of. Usually my thoughts in this space are more qualitative but your solution involves a pretty exact science. The first rule relates to frequency. If you have a romantic interest in someone far away, you contact him once every 17 to 21 days. That’s just frequently enough to remind him at four or five different points in the summer that you exist and think of him from time to time. Also, it gives the impression that you’re actually having a good experience abroad instead of waiting around to talk to him. Now I’m not saying keep track in your calendar (though you could), just be conscious of when it was that you last reached out.
In terms of format, texting and calling is likely off the table if you’re abroad, which is great because it removes the temptation to talk to him every day. If you have a fancy-shmancy international plan or iMessage thingy, I still wouldn’t use it. You want him to think that you’re an adventurous woman on an exotic odyssey of self-enrichment, not just a normal technology-addicted college girl. Don’t suggest Skyping either, since that has connotations of being something for family, close friends and serious boyfriends.
Going abroad legitimizes the use of social media to talk to romantic interests. In fact, social media is just about perfect for this situation. I would say the best method is to send a private Facebook message or even use Facebook chat or Gchat so that the back and forth feels like an actual conversation. You can e-mail as well but that may seem just a touch formal. I suppose I’m saying you want your attempts to have a medium level of intimacy. In terms of what to say, begin by relating some experience you had abroad that made you think of him. Nothing sappy, just something you saw that he would have enjoyed, or some night that triggered a memory of a shared experience.
See how he responds to your attempts to make contact. If he doesn’t respond or his responses seem curt, try again once more three weeks later before giving up. If he seems to enjoy hearing from you, keep contacting him the same way as you originally did. Hopefully he reaches out as well, and you can be less careful about these rules when he initiates. But until then, give yourself a reality check by paying attention to when and how to talk to him. Oh yeah, and don’t obsess. Whether you’re partying in Europe or fighting disease in Africa, make the most of your time abroad!