Dear Carolyn:

I dated a guy for three months. We could talk about anything, had so much in common it was spooky, and the sexual chemistry was amazing. I fell hard, so I told him I loved him -- and he freaked. Like everyone else, he's had his share of relationships that went horribly wrong. He's afraid of hurting someone else and being hurt, and he doesn't think he can have a serious relationship right now. He said this snuck up on him and evolved into something he wasn't expecting.

But he doesn't want to let go either; he wants to remain friends. I saw him this past weekend and we're both miserable about being apart. He asked me to please e-mail and call, but I hear from him only when I make the first move. Basically, I've been getting a lot of mixed messages.

If he needs to dial this back to a friendship level while he works through some issues, I'm willing to deal with my heartache and be there for him. But for all I know this is his cowardly way of ending the relationship. I'm afraid if I go along with this (while not-so-secretly hoping he comes back) I'll wind up "the good buddy" as I watch him date other people. Meanwhile, I'm in limbo. We're not dating, but we're not broken up either. Any advice?

L.S.

Set aside the phrase, "I hear from him only when I make the first move," then replace the rest of the words in your letter with "bah," and then read it out loud. Both my version and yours mean the same thing.

I'm sorry. He's trying so so hard to protect your feelings that you're blinded by bubble wrap. Start taking care of yourself and stop contacting this guy.

And stop putting words in his mouth, thoughts in his mind, feelings in his heart. Maybe you're right that he's torn, maybe you're deluding yourself, doesn't matter. He knows you want him; if and when he wants you, too, he will call. (He will also leave a voice mail and try your cell and try again and whatever, just in case you're tempted to sit home and wait.)

Hello Carolyn:

I met a guy who I thought was "the one," and I experienced a relationship unlike any I've ever known, but it didn't turn out that we were meant to be together.

My question is, how do I move on with life romantically? Before, I had a very clear idea of what I wanted, and found it . . . sort of. But now that I've felt that sweep-you-off-your-feet feeling of meeting "the one," how do I know what to look for? Before, my wants were many. Now, I pretty much just want to love and be loved by someone with whom sharing my life isn't out of the question. I really don't know where to start.

What Am I Looking For?

Don't start. That's the perfect place to start.

A clear idea rarely gets you what you want -- people are too complicated to be so neatly foreseen -- but it does get in the way. When you look for only one thing, there's so much else you won't see. Relax, enjoy the unobstructed view.

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