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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Ian's Advice: Adventures In E-Dating

Got my first real advice question! This comes in from one of my fans:

Dear Ian,

I spent an amazing week with a guy I met on the internet in March, he came back the end of May and spent the weekend at his friend’s house, where I stayed with him. We didn't even wait until I got in the house before we were undressing each other, spent 4 fantastic days together . . . and I haven't heard from him since. How can two people be that sexually compatible, enjoy doing the same things together (I understand and find his quirkiness endearing) and still not connect? We want the same things in life, he tells me he wants me to go to Jamaica with him at the end of the summer, and yet he has not called me yet. Oh yeah, I believe his marriage has been over for 3 years but they are still living in the same big house because the market tanked and it hasn't sold yet., so the divorce is not final. Info I did not know when I met him and I don't believe he knows I know. I don’t even mind that . . . but no call?

Am I just incredibly oblivious to the fact that 'he's just not that into me' or do guys actually get scared because they found the right one but cannot have any relationship with because 1) they are married still, and 2) they live 13 hours away in another state? Now I wish I had never got myself involved and hurt. Tell me something that makes sense. – Laid and Confused

Part of the problem is the extent to which women conflate sex and love. Both are powerful, passionate emotions, but they're also very subtle, apt to fluctuate, and don't necessarily resonate the same way with men and women. For the guy in question, this was clearly about sex, not a relationship. Unless there's mega-clicking from the outset, it's difficult for a man to connect to a woman emotionally -- until he has sex with her. Then he weighs that experience against where he is in his life, and sees if the event was significant enough to make the investment in a relationship.

For most men, they can't even get that far without having sex. In the old days, courtship would allow that investment to be made within a rigorous architecture that allowed for that investment to be made a little at a time -- but it took forever, and often led to bitter feelings that could undermine the entire relationship (consider: in 1930, you're a man courting a woman for weeks before you even get to steal a kiss -- and that gets expensive. If she makes you wait until marriage, like you're supposed to, then you might wake up the day after your wedding and realize that you married a complete sexual dud -- but in 1930 there's a strict "no returns" policy. Bitterness and unhappiness ensue).

Our modern electronic courtship cuts out a lot of that time, but at the expense of the woman's ability to warm up slowly and build up enthusiasm for the event. Women are quicker to make an emotional investment in a relationship than a man, and traditionally the act of sexual union has been the ultimate investment. Since most on-line hook-ups are fueled by intrigue, excitement over something new, the potential of a new relationship, and plain ol' good-fashioned horniness, instead of a gradual, highly-regulated build-up like in olden days, the result is a lot of women getting their "hearts broken" in e-relationships that go physical instantly.

That's not to say that you should try to overcome your natural desire to parlay sexual intimacy into emotional intimacy, but be advised that going into an on-line hook-up with high expectations will undoubtedly lead to bitter disappointments. I know for a fact that casual sex can blossom into perfect, wonderful life-long romantic relationships -- I met my wife drunk and on the rebound in a bar, and our entire family is the result of a one-night-stand gone horribly -- but happily -- awry -- but those instances tend to be spontaneous and rare. Compounded with the natural advantage that men have over women when it comes to suppressing and compartmentalizing our emotions (often to the point of dangerous emotional constipation), the e-dating scene can seem bitterly unfair to women who go there.

And there is the issue of just what your expectations are in the first place: did you intend to just get your ashes hauled, or were you husband-hunting, or maybe somewhere in between? Making that decision and having the emotional discipline to stick to it is key to surviving the process. Of course you want plenty of flexibility to change your expectations if there's real spark and sizzle -- but be aware that a lot of the good "spark and sizzle" you feel with a guy is often the best part of him. The guys who rely heavily on "spark and sizzle" generally (but not always) end up having little else to invest in. Just as drop-dead gorgeous women, as a rule, are far more trouble for the average guy than he suspects.

My advice? He's obviously on his own journey, and you got a couple of good humpity days out of it. Keep channels open in case you want a rematch, but move on. Anyone living with his ex-wife is going to be damaged anyway, and you can likely find better lovers out there -- if you keep looking.

Hope that helps!

Ian Ironwood

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