Hello Carolyn:

I recently ended a relationship of eight years with my now-ex-fiancee. Since then, a former co-worker asked me out, and while I didn't know if it was a date, it turned into one. I really like her a lot, she is amazing -- resilient, cheerful and quite beautiful.

Unfortunately, I know I am not ready to be in a relationship again, but I love spending time with her and want her as a friend. How long does it take to get over a relationship? Should I break off all contact with the new woman, get my act together and then see if it could work? I am scared that I might lose her. Or can I casually date her until I am ready for a new relationship?

San Francisco

Depends on what your definition of "ready" is.

That's not a dodge; it just sort of played one on TV.

If you still love your ex-fiancee, or have lingering unresolved feelings, then you admit that to the new girl. Then you say you enjoy her company nevertheless, and then you both talk about what to do next.

If you're afraid of the appearance of rebound, then you do what you want and flip off gossips, hand-wringers and convention.

If you're eager to be on your own, then be honest with her about that, and trust yourself to act in your own best interests in the event more develops between you.

If you're worried that you're too quick to get all relationshippy and in the past haven't given yourself enough time to find your way alone, then trust your warning system and don't tempt yourself with this girl, even with so-called just-friendship. Unless it feels so natural and right that you feel enough in control to risk it -- after talking to her first, of course.

And if you don't know which definition it is, declare a cease-date (or a cease non-date-date) till you do.

Dear Ms. Hax:

What do you do when the person who used you, abused you, then broke your heart and threw you away goes on to become wildly successful? Now everyone you know is singing his praises and celebrating his glory, but you just want to scream and tell them the truth about him. But you don't, because then everyone would think you were crazy. What do you do? It feels like heartbreak all over again. No one would believe me anyway.

Anonymous

Why do you need anyone to? You know what you know.

And, for what it's worth, what you know does have limits. He could have had an epiphany since then -- or a more common, slow-motion maturing -- and regret deeply the jerk he has been.

He could also have changed not a bit, and be a wildly successful jerk.

Which brings us back to, isn't it enough just to know what you know? Yes, what goes around is supposed to come around, and it's hard to get revenge by living well when you're publicly left in his dust.

But no matter how big a jerk he was, he's not your jerk anymore. What matters now -- and always -- is how well you're doing, in your eyes. Tend to those unhealed wounds. Then find your post-heartbreak life, and live it.

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