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Group Therapy is a relationship advice column that asks readers to contribute their wisdom.

A reader writes: I am a never-married guy, 45. Last year I "met" a woman via Facebook, 48, married with kids, who lives 3,000 kilometres away. After a few months of chat she initiated explicit sex chat, which I saw as safe flirtation. Then she announced she'd left her husband. We have now visited each other twice and I am fond of her but don't see a future.

She wants to move close and craves constant online contact. I've cut back the chat but have avoided a clean break as I know she'll be devastated, and I feel guilty about the husband. Help!

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Don't feed her addiction

Are you really thinking about what's best for her, or your own need to be regarded as a nice person? If so, let go. She's infatuated with a fantasy that you helped create, one that she's become addicted to. You're not helping her by feeding her addiction. Cut her off – gently if possible, but do it.

–Andrew Leith Macrae, Toronto

Shut down Facebook and run!

There is no safe distance from psychopaths, but try to maintain a 3,000-kilometre buffer zone. Shut down Facebook and under no circumstances have any further contact. If she shows up, call the police. Run!

–Don McKay, Vancouver

Don't worry, she'll manage

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It's not a kindness to leave her wondering why you're backing off, and it definitely won't make the situation with the ex-husband better. Don't be too worried about her devastation – she may get over you faster than you think.

–Alyson Reid, Merrickville, Ont.

THE FINAL WORD

Friend, you need to tell this lady what you told me – you're fond of her but you don't see it working out – now. Yesterday. Do it before you even finish reading this column. Don't stop to entertain doubts or self-justifications. Just go. Go!

But she'll be devastated! Let her be devastated. As Andrew points out, you're more fantasy than fact to this lady. Your online presence has provided her plenty of virtual succour while her real-world relationship was going to hell, but the more time you spend with her, on and off the Net, the more dependent she'll become. Pull the plug.

But she left her husband for me! No. She didn't. No one leaves their husband for online sex chat with someone who could be, for all they know, a 12-year old boy, an 87-year-old woman, heck, even a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. As Alyson implies, you were a symptom of her disintegrating marriage, not the cause.

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But … I kinda like the attention, not to mention the opportunity to have real-world sex with somebody. Uh-huh. I hope you'll forgive my presumption here, as you didn't make this particular concern explicit in your letter. And hey – no judgment. You're human, you're single and you wouldn't have become involved in the first place if you weren't getting something out of it. That's okay.

What's not okay is to keep this lonely lady on the string even as your interest dwindles. And that's all she is – lonely. Just like you were when you sent that first naughty Facebook missive. But if she hasn't left a boiled bunny on your stove, Don's "psychopath" assessment is ungenerous in the extreme.

So okay, we've ended up entertaining your doubts and self-justifications after all. Time's up, buddy. Put down the paper and go do the right thing.

Next week's question

A reader writes: I've been good friends with a guy for five years. At the start, he expressed romantic feelings that I couldn't reciprocate because I was hung up on someone else. After that guy was out of the picture, I began to have feelings for my friend. But when I raised it, he said that he didn't feel that way any more. We spend loads of time together and flirt outrageously, but he verbally maintains his position, though his behaviour sends a different message. I decided to try online dating to a) call his bluff or b) move on. Now I've met a great new guy, but I'm still focused on my friend. What should I do?

Let's hear from you

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E-mail us at grouptherapy@globeandmail.com with advice to next week's question or your own dilemma. All questions are published anonymously, but we will include your name and hometown if we use your answer, which will be edited.

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