I'm a 30-year-old girl who has been studying abroad in India for three years. During my stay here I met someone online, a 34-year-old guy from my own country who has been living in Sweden for almost 13 years. We started to get to know each other via the Internet and phone for six months, talking for six hours virtually every day. When I went home he flew there to meet me and for five weeks we tried to get to know each other. He asked me to marry him. At first I was so sure but then I decided I needed more time, which he accepted. It is unlikely we will see each other in person anytime soon because of travel difficulties. How can we get to know each other effectively with all this distance between us?
I am a spiritual person, which is very important to me, but he is not. Also, he has shown no curiosity about my beliefs, my studies, what I want in life or who I am inside. I'm afraid he won't be a good partner in this way, even though he is so affectionate, romantic, stable and kind. What should I do?
Signed, Seeker of Truth
My first thought is that you did the right thing when you decided to take more time before accepting his invitation. You clearly have doubts as to what kind of life partner he will make. I agree it is troubling that you spent so many hours talking and yet you feel he has not shown much curiosity about you as a person or what goes on in your life. It makes me wonder what the two of you talked about all that time.
In one sense you know a fair bit about this man; you have already formed opinions regarding some of his strengths and weaknesses. On the other hand there is no substitute for face-to-face contact when getting to know someone, especially when you are considering marriage. You have only spent five weeks together, which seems to concern you and, in my opinion, you are right to feel that way.
A short period of intense contact like that is not always a true indicator of what life might be like with this person in the long term. You were both likely on your best behavior, doing everything possible to "make it work" with each other. You were not engaged in normal everyday life. Instead you were essentially on vacation and probably got to share many fun and relaxing activities like visiting family. How different would the experience be when you are both working or studying, living in your own homes and dealing with the ordinary stresses of life? If you are going to marry someone, you want to know what kind of person they are when under stress, not just how they act during the fun times. Will he still be supportive and kind when life throws challenges in the way? Will he care about your problems (not just his own) and do his best to help out? These sorts of questions may be difficult for you to answer right now.
Forgive me if I assume too much but I suspect there might also be another factor involved with your dilemma. You are both in your thirties and still unattached. Often people feel pressure to conform to societal norms and be married by a certain age. Also, many women know they would like to have children, which means being married while still young enough to make that happen. In your situation you might be thinking, "This is the best chance I have had and the clock is ticking. I may never find someone if I wait much longer." I cannot advise you how strongly such factors should weigh in your decisions -- only you can decide how important they are for you -- but you should be aware of these issues and think about them. Similarly, you are the only one who can decide how important it is for your partner to share your spiritual beliefs.
I advise you to hold off on making any marriage commitment until you have had a better chance to get to know him when you are face-to-face. This might involve a considerable wait but the decision is too important to rush into while you still have such doubts.
I also have reservations about whether he will be a supportive husband. I could be wrong (obviously I don't know this person) but in my experience, supportive people are empathetic and want very much to understand what makes their partner tick. I would not accept his proposal until you can convince yourself how he will treat you in this regard.
If you are contemplating marriage, then presumably there is a time in the near future when you could see the two of you living in the same place. Assuming you are both serious enough, perhaps you could consider waiting until then so you can get to know each other while living your normal daily lives.
Finally, once you think these matters through and arrive at your own opinions, (which, of course, may very well differ from mine) I suggest you be open and honest with him. Tell him what you hope will happen and give him the chance to decide if he is willing to do the same.
I wish you all the best as you "seek the truth."
Have you ever felt pressure to stay in a relationship? How did your long distance romance turn out? Let us know and your submission could be featured as a Dismaying Story.