Hi Carolyn:

I am 25 and have been dating a 35-year-old man for five months. He is wonderful and we are falling in love. My only problem is in the numbers. I feel (although he hasn't mentioned it) as if he is probably looking to get married soon. I can't imagine getting married until I am at least 30.

I don't want to date him for another year then have this issue come up. I think if he is looking to get married we should discuss it now and cut our losses. I don't want to lead him on, although bringing up the issue seems very presumptuous.

--NY, NY

You are falling in love with someone. He is wonderful. These are good things.

Apparently, you're not scheduled to realize that until you're 28 1/2.

In the meantime, please use your last molecule of willpower to resist the urge to screw it all up by counting every bean.

Dear Carolyn:

About 10 years ago, when I was 21, I went to a party at a co-worker's apartment. I had gotten to be good friends with him, and I could tell we were attracted to each other. At the end of the party, he picked me up and took me into his bedroom. I stopped it before it went too far. I felt that it wasn't the right time, since we both had been drinking. I tried to talk to him about what happened and explain where I was coming from, but he didn't want to talk about it and just became upset. We remained friends, but not as close.

We are both married to different people. I still have this need to contact and maybe see him and apologize and explain what happened. Am I crazy?

--Ten Years of Guilt

So-o-o, how's that there marriage goin'?

Ten years ago was about 25 years after women figured out they didn't need to apologize for refusing sex. If I were you, my pressing need would be to contact and maybe see this guy and allow him to apologize and explain why he reacted to a wise decision like such a jerk--even after his buzz wore off, taking his only conceivable excuse with it.

Then I'd come to my senses and let this dog lie. And make better use of the next 10 years.

Carolyn:

Two years ago I was diagnosed with cancer that I was told would give me only three years more to my life. At the time, I was engaged to a woman who I was sure would stand by my side. However, in that first year she jumped in and out of my life three times. Yes, I will marry you. No, I'm not sure--that type of thing.

So it has been more than a year since I have spoken to her, and I have been trying to cure myself. I've been dating other women and had finally put her behind me when, you guessed it, I get a call from her. She wants to talk and try to build again. I don't think I can trust her and I can never forgive her for running out on me, but I still want to talk to her. Why am I still willing to let this person back in my life? Maybe this will be closure for me or maybe I'm just letting Freddy Kruegercq back into my world.

--Nightmare on My Street

Here's the rule: Anyone with cancer should make a point of avoiding things that are worse than cancer.

If you think Freddy can add something to your life, talk to her. If you think you've witnessed enough emotional carnage, thankyouverymuch, don't. I'm not going to decide for you.

But lingering bitterness is hardly something you need at this point, which is an excellent argument for talking. And I mean talking: not getting back together with her, not relying on her, not "building" with her. She's proved herself to be of extremely limited strength, so expect that to be true of her now, no matter how badly you want her to be the tough, loving Earth babe who's going to make everything okay. Another blistering letdown is something else I can't imagine you need right now. See her, listen to her, judge for yourself. Then, forgive her weakness and get on with whatever (or whoever) might actually make you happy. Treat anything more from her as a pleasant little shock.

Surely not everyone with a sick partner comes through with Movie of the Week heroics. Have you sought out others like you? Cancer is one of the more heavily support-grouped illnesses, and I bet other patients can churn out many sessions' worth of "in sickness and in health" howlers--and ease the kind of loneliness that would make your ex sound appealing.

Check in again sometime, let me know how you're doing. And take care.

Write to Tell Me About It, Style Plus, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or tellme@washpost.com, and join Carolyn's live discussion at 8 p.m. tomorrow or at noon Friday at washingtonpost.com/liveonline