My all-digital romance

Psychologists once conducted an experiment on rats. They would put one into a tank half filled with water. Vertical walls left rat no chance of escape. Normally, rats are excellent swimmers, they can keep afloat for days. But not this time. Having realized hopelessness of the situation, the animal would stop resisting and go down quietly.

This rat was my first thought when the Weekly Writing Challenge asked about long-distance relationships.

I met Sveta… wait, I never actually met her. I was “writing” my thesis at the time and registered on a dating site to “help” the process. I quickly discovered that majority of profiles were total duds. Average number of words: 12. Average number of words spelled correctly: 5. Average number of complete sentences: 1. Average amount of information conveyed: 0.

Having sieved through all the local females, I turned my gaze to other cities and countries. Soon enough, I’d hit my luck in Cape Town, South Africa. This person actually said something about herself, holy crap! I was seeing not only sentences, but even whole paragraphs! Then it all started.

Soon we were talking daily. I got to know that blissful state when you find “you’ve got a message from X” email and wonder what it might be. You don’t know the details, but you’re confident it’s something good. You’re filled with anticipation and eagerness and can’t wait to read it. It’s a pity you can’t get this feeling in-person.

After a month or two, I looked at a chat window and said ‘I love you’. The chat window responded in kind. We started making plans to remove ‘long-distance’ from our relationship. South Africa was ridiculously far from Russia and flights were ridiculously expensive for a fresh graduate in a small city. Still, I found some freelancing gigs and was hopeful about our perspectives.

Meanwhile, we went on full speed. Having to rely on text is a big limitation, but it helped too. A therapist once told me, most of her patients are more intimate with her than with their respective spouses. Most of her patients barely ever take time to talk with their spouses about themselves.

But when you’re limited to words, sharing something is the only way. You can’t have a game of ping-pong, go to a concert, take a walk together or have sex. You actually have to say something in order to keep things going. And over time, you both end up learning quite a bit about each other.

About 5 months in, things started to change. The expected earnings didn’t materialize and it became clear I was grounded for at least a couple of months. Now I had nothing to look forward to, nothing to pin my hopes and feelings on. I followed the rat and called the whole thing off.


Today, having written all this, I’m still not sure what lessons to take out of my experience. Epistolary dating is the best suited form for me, but I also want nothing to do with it. I can’t recommend long-distance relationships, but I would repeat this one all over again.

Nobody said it better than Fiona Apple.

The signs said ‘Stop’
But we went on whole-hearted
It ended bad
But I love what we started


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