Dear Thomas,
I have been divorced since 1989, and have raised two wonderful children as a single mother. I have not dated in many years, but recently, a neighbor whose wife has been in a vegetative state in a nursing home for two years began to show interest and I reciprocated.

He seems to go back and forth on guilt issues (as do I), but he is the first man in quite some time I've really been interested in.

He insists we be discreet since we are neighbors; sometimes I'll go weeks without hearing from him, then he calls me out of the blue and I am right back in it. I have called him once and sent him a short note letting him know how much I admire him for coping so well with his situation.

Am I crazy? Should I just leave him alone? Should I run from this situation? I feel like I'm back in high school and I'm 50 years old!

Dear Unsure,
It is often the case, especially as we get older and have more experiences, that a new romantic opportunity will have a wrinkle in it. Some obstacle or impossibility becomes part of the picture and makes the relationship a challenge. The fact that your neighbor is still married is definitely a deep wrinkle, but it sounds as though you want to explore the possibilities, even knowing that there are dangers involved.

It concerns me that he seems to be in full control of your relationship. He insists on discretion. He contacts you when he wants to, and you are left hanging. There seems to have been enough involvement for you to ask for clarity about what he wants, how he feels about the situation, and what you would like, even under the circumstances. Your passivity isn’t helping you.

The note you sent to him sounds indirect. In it, you’re sending him a message about your interest in him, but you conceal it in a compliment. If you want a clearer idea of the possibilities with this man, you have to be clearer yourself.

I understand that you want to be sensitive to him at a delicate time in his life. But you can be sensitive and at the same time ask for some important information about what is going on with him. You don’t seem to know just what is going on in his life; how could you, given that he wants secrecy. On your part, you don’t describe any real passion. You’re quite passive. It all adds up to an emotionally dangerous situation.

You also mention that the experience is making you feel like a teenager. On the plus side, it’s great when love keeps you young. The negative side of this, though, is a loss of maturity and responsibility for yourself. It might help you to recover some of your wisdom and, without losing the excitement of a new love, handle things both more cautiously and more boldly.

Your inhibitions are important, but so is your desire and vitality. You have to hold these opposites in tension so that both contribute to a firm decision about where to go next. If you decide against pursuing this man, the process you will have gone through will help you be more prepared for the next invitation to love that comes along.

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