Make It Stop: I’m Reluctant To Meet My Internet Friend IRL

I’m 20 and I’ve been talking to “Chad” online for a few months. He’s 37, which is quite a bit older than me. We both suffer from depression and have leaned on each other for support. My problem is he keeps asking to meet up in person and I’m apprehensive about it. I know he talks to other girls online and I’m worried I’ll fall for him, get emotionally invested, and ultimately get my feelings hurt. Am I being selfish to expect him to be my friend even if I don’t want to meet him in person? 

Oh, dear. He’s ready to take your friendship to another level and unfortunately, he’s asking you to do something you’re not comfortable with. I totally understand why you’re apprehensive to meet and get further involved in his life. Your dynamic might work behind the safety and comfort of a computer, but sitting across from each other is a whole ‘nother ball of wax. This isn’t Silver Linings Playbook where two lost souls come together; you’re trying to enforce some sensible boundaries with a much older man.

I agree it’s not a good idea to meet, especially with such a substantial age difference. You’re the vulnerable one in this situation and your instincts are correct to be on guard.

Just as it’s his right to expect his friends to be present in all parts of his life, you have a right to decline being part of a situation that puts you on edge. Since that’s the case, it sounds like this friendship has run its course. It’s almost unavoidable at this point.

Try to bow out with grace. What if you told him something like, “At this point, I’m not in a position to offer anything more than an online friendship. I understand if that’s not enough for you. I’ve enjoyed talking with you, but it’s not fair to either of us if this friendship doesn’t meet our needs. I wish you the best.”

I might even go so far as to block him for a while so you’re not tempted to reach out. It’ll sting for the first few weeks to not be in touch, but you’ll get through it. In fact, I’m proud of you for protecting your heart. My hope is that be releasing your friendship with love, you’ll both have the energy and space to find a more suitable partner.

In the future, I’d be wary of striking up these kinds of friendships with men online because they can be so intense. Sure, it can be flattering to receive so much attention, especially from an older guy, but it’s also an emotional time-suck. You’ve learned the hard way it’s important to pick your friends wisely.

Make It Stop  is a weekly column in which Anna Goldfarb — author of “Clearly, I Didn’t Think This Through” and the blogger behind the blog, Shmitten Kitten — tells you what’s up. Want a fresh take on a stinky dilemma?

Email [email protected]  with the subject “Make It Stop.” She’ll make it all better, or at least make you laugh. Girl Scout’s honor.