Dating and Relationship Advice

Dear iris,

I have a long-distance *guy friend* with whom I’m in close connection. I live in the U.S., and he lives in Greece. How do you recommend I message him to get a response? I always get anxious when deciding to message him. What can I talk about? I don’t want to say, “Hi, what’s up?” all the time, so any advice is appreciated. Further, I don’t want to sound boring at all. How do I keep our connection alive? How do I get him to engage with me more? There are times where he fully engages with me, and then there are times he doesn’t fully engage in conversation, but I think it’s due to him being busy with his life. This may also be a guy thing. Also, he reached out to me on New Year's before I even could. Does this mean he wants me in his life, he has feelings for me, or both?

Signed, Long-Distance Complicated

Dear, Long-Distance Complicated,

There are so many questions that are bouncing in my head. I wish I could ask you how you met, who this person is, if you’ve ever seen them in real life, if you ever plan to see them in-person, which would help me provide you with better suggestions.

Regardless, I do have a few answers for you.

You mentioned not knowing how to carry on the conversation and that you’re worried about coming off as boring. Before I dive into conversation topics and ways to increase the odds of your guy friend replying, I want you to consider something.

A friendship/relationship/situationship requires mutual effort. I understand that you like this guy and feel invested in the friendship, but if you’re the one who always carries the conversation, that’s not fair to you. What’s more, you shouldn’t feel worried about coming off as boring if you’re being authentic. I’d rather have someone think I’m dull than act like someone I'm not. Don’t think so much about saying the right thing; think more about saying authentic things.

But as for communication in general, imagine that your friendship is like a deserted island you just washed up on the shore of. It’s vast with different landscapes and places to explore. Your friendship is like uncovering what’s on this island. You want to ask questions to help you get to know who this person is. And I’m not talking about simple things like, “how many siblings do you have?” Ask  about his passions, favorite moments in his life, what his biggest fears are. I guarantee you that if you’re asking more in-depth questions like this, it’ll be harder for him to send one-word responses.

Now, regarding this guy’s feelings for you: unfortunately, I didn’t pass mind-reading school so I can’t tell you if he likes you or not. Actually, no one can except for one person: him. If you both spend a lot of time keeping in touch, even though you’re on opposite sides of the world, that at least means he values whatever is going on between you two. I’d ask him, point blank, if he thinks about you as a friend or something more.

With that being said, what will you do once you have your answer? Since you both live on different continents, it’s hard to imagine this friendship moving into a relationship. And really, if you can never see each other, why would you want it to? Maybe what you have, right now, exactly how it is, is the best it will ever be. That’s not a bad thing, but more so a lesson in appreciating all kinds of relationships, even if they’re not like the ones we typically experience.

When someone lives far away, the idea of them that lives in our head tends to be a lot more thrilling and romantic than when we're actually with the person. Now I’m not suggesting that you live in a fantasy relationship. But I want to caution against trying to make things more than they are, especially while you’re not living near each other. As tempting as it is to make a close friendship with a guy into something more (trust me, I’ve been there), things might be better off staying the way they are. I’d think on that a bit.

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