Q: Dear Meredith,
I'm a married man and recently separated. I was in a long-term marriage that should have ended some 11 years ago. I've made peace with the end of that relationship and am working on being happy while being alone.
I made a decision that it would take me three years to work though my marriage ending before I was ready for anyone else. I also decided that I was NOT interested in anyone with children -- been there, done that.
Recently I joined a support group as a way to help process some of the loneliness. At the first meeting, something wonderful and completely unexpected happened. A woman approached me and was very interested in talking. I was flattered by her attention and found her to be a very open and genuine person. That night after the support group, we went off to karaoke and the friendship I was NOT looking for instantly blossomed.
Things have been wonderful for the three short weeks we've been together. We've seen each other frequently, have shared a lot about our lives and relationships, and our friendship seemed to be going great. We made plans for an official first date, and I had some great things planned, wanting to create a special night of fun and the foundation to what I was hoping would be a lasting friendship. My friend is a separated woman with three children.
We never had that date; she cancelled and has pulled away. I've been downgraded to maybe not even a friend although she's told me that I am. My involvement with her may have been a distraction to her bad breakup after falling in love with the wrong guy. She has openly shared the details of that bad situation with me, for which I am grateful.
So here's my dilemma: She's awakened feelings that I tried so hard to bury. I am smitten, can't deny it, won't hide it, dismiss it, or make small of it. I do know that I am not in love with her, but over time I see that could happen. She has changed my world completely. I think about her a lot -- about our talks, how we kissed and hugged so passionately.
I am an emotionally available man, sensitive, honest, trustworthy, and dependable. It may sound egotistical and I'll accept that, but I can rock her world in time if given a chance. I am not the guy who caused her so much emotional pain (I want to take it away and make it all better), not her former husband, but a guy who's different.
I need advice on how I can save this friendship. I do not want to lose her because in her mind I'm associated with the man who broke her heart. I KNOW she has feelings for me but may be afraid to get hurt again. I get that completely.
Thank you for reading this and for any/all helpful suggestions and advice.
– Smitten, Cambridge
A: All you can do is tell her how you feel. If she doesn't want her world rocked, you must refrain from rocking it. You have to respect her boundaries.
Just make sure that you're honest with her (and yourself) about what you want. I mean, if she doesn't want to date you, do you really want to save the friendship? You're smitten and you want to hug and kiss. I'm not convinced that you have any interest in keeping her around as a platonic pal.
You've learned so much from her in just a few short weeks. She taught you that you're ready to date and that you're open to being with someone who has kids. She taught you that your stomach still produces butterflies. She's just a sign that there's more.
There are plenty of fantastic women out there who genuinely want their world rocked. Find them. And find a great therapist to supplement that support group.
Readers? What's up with this woman and her mixed signals? What can the letter writer do to keep her around? Should he keep her around? Should he care this much after just a few weeks? Discuss.
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Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a new novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith here and on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.