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damage control

The question

After a string of failed relationships, I found myself healed and confident enough to pursue a new one. But it’s a minefield out there. Finally, I met someone who swept me off my feet, philosophically, with his unique perspective, introspection and commitment to becoming a better human being. We have talked for months, but every time we try to make plans something goes awry. He is an army vet, now a paramedic, and he recently lost his son from a previous marriage to a move by the parent with custody. At first he contacted me often, but more recently he has fallen silent, saying he needs time ... that fruit is not fruit until it has ripened and that time makes it taste sweeter. After a while he said he was not ready for a relationship, but we were already entangled. Do I continue to have a bit of naïve hope so long as my patience remains? Or should I accept what the moment is and try to move on? This person has affected me deeply.

Our friend’s 40-year-old brother won’t leave the guest room. How do we kick him out?

My brother-in-law makes hurtful comments about my son’s weight. How do I deal with him?

I quit smoking, but my husband refuses to support me. What do I do?

The answer

I want to say first of all that finding love and keeping it alive is one of toughest tricks on God’s green earth. Real rabbit-out-of-the-hat stuff.

Somehow, despite my many, many flaws, I’ve managed this trick, for lo these 26 years.

But it’s a trick not everyone can pull off. So many I know are splitting up. Couples who once gazed at each other with dewy-eyed adoration now glare daggers at each other across the conference table in the offices of the legal firm of Bleedum, White and Bankit (no such firm exists, I made it up, but there should be one called that) as they squabble viciously over property, custody and so forth.

As the comedian/actor Denis Leary once said (I’m paraphrasing here, quoting from memory): “Next time I’ll skip the marriage part and just give my house to someone who hates me.”

It can be tough for younger people, too. So many young people these days seem to exist in a misty realm of “hanging out” and “hooking up” – and so few are in committed, long-term relationships.

Which is where true love truly resides, I feel. When you’re with someone who knows you down to the ground, inside and out, but loves you anyway, there is great strength in that.

All of which is my roundabout way of saying that I feel your pain, identify with your longing for something long-term and share your puzzlement at the Scooby-Doo mystery of what is really going on here.

I mean, you meet this guy, great guy. He comes on all amorous for a while then pulls back saying he’s not ready for a relationship and filling the air with fruit-based metaphors?

I detect the distinct odour of (metaphorical) fertilizer emanating from his little metaphor-orchard.

Of course, it’s possible he has traumatic baggage from his time in the army and/or being a paramedic, and you can bet he was deeply affected by his ex whisking his kid off like that.

Any of which could cause him to be wary when it comes to relationships. But if that’s it, then why embark on one in the first place?

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it just seems like he’s lost interest in a relationship with you.

This guy may be great and everything, but you want someone who is great, yearns to be with you and is not full of ambivalence like your enigmatic paramedic.

So let it go – gently, kindly but firmly. Who knows? Maybe when you hand him a big bag of, “You had your chance with me but you blew it, pal,” he’ll start to ripen a little more quickly. I doubt it, but anyway.

One last thing: Ask yourself if it might be something you’re doing wrong. “String of failed relationships” was my clue here.

Better yet: Ask him. See if you can get him to set aside all the verbal tapestries and deliver the blunt truth.

You might not like the answer. But it might help you in future relationships.

Are you in a sticky situation? Send your dilemmas to Please keep your submissions to 150 words and include a daytime contact number so we can follow up with any queries.

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