“Ask a Priest: My Online Love Dumped Me … Now What?”

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Q: My girlfriend dumped me and the whole thing has just got me confused about life and everything. I just felt like my relationship with Jane was so different. My whole life I’ve never really dated or had any type of real relationship with a girl. And I was extremely self-conscious. I hated pictures of myself. But then one day, I found this app, where you upload a picture and people swipe left or right if they think you are attractive. I took a selfie and put it on this app. And Jane and I were a match. So we started talking, and instantly I just felt a great connection. We ended up having SO much in common it was almost scary. And I remember sitting in my living room texting her, and just having this feeling inside me. And I was talking to God, and I could’ve sworn he was saying, “There’s something about this girl ….” Like even though we’re in different states, someway, somehow, it would work. Jane was literally everything I dreamed of — her personality was so amazing, she was the most beautiful girl in the world to me, and she believed in God. But then a couple of things changed that. She started dating K., and when that didn’t last, she dated J. And I just got really confused, and I thought I had lost her for good, and I got anxiety pills and everything else. She just lost feelings for me somehow, and I think distance had a lot to do with it. It’s just been so hard for me to move on. Our story was so special, and I just don’t feel like I’ll ever have that with anybody else, and it just felt like it was so meant to be and that’s what God wanted. It’s been so hard and confusing for me. What should I do? – N.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: It sounds as though you are going through what a lot of young people go through: the first experience of being attached to another person, and then having that “perfect” relationship crash and burn.

It’s not the end of the world, believe me. There are other possibilities for relationships out there.

It is doubtful whether anyone would say anything that will ease your heartbreak in the short term. But a few observations might be worth considering.

One, you are human, which means you are meant to love and to be loved. There is someone who loves you enough that he suffered and died on a cross for you. That is Jesus. He is your best friend. He will never let you down. In day-to-day life this means that you need to make Christ the first relationship of your life. If that relationship is stable, you will be able to deal better with all the others.

Second, it sounds as though your relationship with this young lady was shaky from the start. For one thing, it was virtual — through social media and texting, etc. — not face to face. That isn’t a real relationship. That is a kind of artificial (or at least very incomplete) connection through cyberspace.

People are human, which means they have their weaknesses and flaws. It’s important that we see those weaknesses and flaws, and that other people see ours. This clears away any starry-eyed views we have of one another.

Only when two people see other’s flaws and accept each other, can real friendship begin. And that is a good rule in the future: If you find yourself falling for a young lady before you are real friends with her — in a face-to-face relationship — the risk is that the relationship becomes idealized and unrealistic.

The temptation is that we project all our dreams and hopes onto another person. This is unrealistic because no one (except Jesus) can ever live up to our hopes. We can end up expecting perfection from imperfect people — and then we are disappointed when they can’t deliver.

Perhaps the best way forward is to intensify your prayer life and sacramental life, and to look for ways to network with real people in your area. You can do this through volunteer work or a church activity. It will help you to reach out and give support to someone who needs it: the poor, the elderly, the shut-ins, etc.

Along the way you will get a glimpse of the suffering that is out there in the world. It will help you realize you have something to contribute. It will build your sense of service and generosity. And it will put you in contact with like-minded people who take their faith seriously. There will be where real friendships take root.

All of this, in turn, will help you discover who you are and your mission in life. And stay close to the Blessed Virgin Mary. She is a woman who will never leave you.

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