A chat room relationship

Dear Meredith,

About 13 years ago I met this young lady (Alex) in a chat room. At the time, she was only about 18 years old. I'm 12 years older than her and as you may have surmised, I'm now 44 and she's 32. Throughout the years we have maintained a sort of friend/platonic relationship. On a couple of occasions at the beginning of our "cyber relationship" she was quite curious to meet me in person, but I remember declining it because I thought I was too old for her. Soon after I "cyber met" her, I got married. My marriage lasted about 11 years as I got divorced about 1 year ago (nothing to do with Alex). During the ending stages of my divorce, I confided in her about some things and she was supportive, which was very helpful to me. As fate would have it, she is now going through the end of her 5 year serious relationship. She and I have talked a lot about us one day having a relationship despite the fact that we have never met in person. We have, however, exchanged many pictures throughout the years as well as many emails, text messages, and phone calls.

If I really wanted to have a relationship with her, I wonder if it's better for me to try to stay out of her current breakup process or should I be supportive like she was with me when I was going down that path?

I also wonder if she's opened to talking about ''us" because she's going through her problems or does she really like me?

Looking forward to your advice.


– Should I be her confidant?, Cyberspace

There are so many issues here, SIBHC. I'm still upset about the fact that she was 18 when you met. I could say so much about this -- and about chat room relationships, in general -- but I'll focus on your question. And my answer to that is: No, you shouldn't be the voice of reason about her break-up. If you're trying to line yourself up as her next suitor, your intentions aren't honorable. She needs to find real friends for honest discussion.

Please encourage this woman to seek advice from her real-life peers. You say that she's still going through this break-up, which means that she's not quite broken up just yet. That means she has a significant other. She's off limits. Tell her to talk to her off-line friends, and please, focus on your off-line life, as well.

I understand that people meet in chat rooms. I understand that age gaps close. I understand that you guys have known each other for like 15 years and that the relationship feels significant, and maybe it is.

But at the moment, she's a woman with a partner who needs to talk to a platonic friend. That's not you. You're a pen pal with expectations. That's not OK.

Readers? Can the letter writer be her sounding board? Should the LW be thinking about dating her? How well can they possibly know each other? What should the LW do? Discuss.

– Meredith