Dear Carolyn:

I've been in love with my best friend for years and finally told her last summer -- right after she got engaged! Yeah, awful, awful timing. She was sad and sympathetic and angry, which I understand, and said she didn't feel the same way. We kept in touch, sort of, but she went back to college, and I haven't seen her since.

She called me recently, said she told her fiance she's not sure she wants to marry him, and told me she's unhappy with her situation and it's (partly) my fault! She says I should have spoken up sooner. Well, I couldn't be more thrilled, but what do I do now? My instinct says I should wait -- she's still engaged, living with her fiance, juggling a heavy course load and a job and a ton of ambivalence. But my friends tell me I have to be proactive and make the extravagant romantic gesture -- fly out there, show up on her doorstep with roses and two plane tickets to Paris. Or whatever. Help!

Feckless Dude

Yeah, awful, awful timing -- but that doesn't make her current chaos (even partly) your fault. If her feelings for the fiance were solid, then neither your confession nor its timing would have been able to rattle them.

So, congratulations! You did exactly what you set out to do: Before she married some other guy, you let her know that you loved her.

Now show it. Do what makes her happiness a priority equal to your own: Wait. Trust those excellent instincts. This may be more about the fiance's being wrong for her than your being right. Give her a chance to sort herself out.

Just do it after you tell her you still love her, and that you're thrilled just to be on her mind, since it would be disingenuous to pretend otherwise. No harm in making it clear how you feel. But a failure to temper your assertiveness with respect for her chaotic position could push her to resent you -- especially if it's a big red floral failure, deposited on the doorstep she still shares with some other guy. She has pressure enough of her own to deal with; you be her source of relief.

Dear Carolyn:

Is it wise or ignorant to be patient in love? I'm talking about being patient with someone who needs a few years to mature, loves you a lot (no doubt), but can't seem to provide "real" commitment (engagement, marriage), nor give a definitive answer as to when he may be ready. If it helps, we're only 23 and 24.

Patient in Love?

If he knew when he'd be ready, then wouldn't he be ready? Knowing you'll want to spend the rest of your life with someone in (blank) years or as soon as you achieve (blank) is still knowing you want to spend the rest of your life with someone.

He doesn't know. As long as you accept the certainty of that -- and the life uncertainty for you that comes with it -- there's no right or wrong response. Some people choose patience, some choose not to wait; both choices succeed and fail. It's the clear-eyed decisions that work, as opposed to delusional ones.

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