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PLAYING THE FIELD

Dear Ann Landers: I have been dating a man for three years. I am 31, and "Stanley" is 44. He is wonderful company, and I enjoy being with him. When I first met Stanley, he was already in the process of getting a divorce, and it is still dragging on with no end in sight.

The problem is, after three years together, Stanley has decided he wants to date other women. He says he was married for 20 years and needs to see what else is "out there" before he commits to anyone else. I understand his reluctance, but I am also crushed by his decision.

I don't want to give Stanley an ultimatum and risk losing him, but I have to know if I am waiting in vain. Do you think Stanley just needs more time, or is he trying to break up with me? Should I wait for him to settle down, or should I recognize that this is the end of the relationship and move on? Please tell me what to do, Ann.

-- Sally in Scranton, Pa.
Dear Sally: After going with Stanley for three years, this 44-year-old, still-married man wants to "see what else is out there"? Tell him to go ahead and look. Meanwhile, let him know you expect the same freedom to check out other possibilities. Then do it. If Stanley decides to return to you after he "looks around," don't be in a hurry to accept him. He sounds flaky.

A savvy suggestion

Dear Ann Landers: I read the letter about "Jeb," who had been unemployed for months. When he finally lined up a job interview, he didn't show up. I think Jeb missed the interview because he didn't want to take a drug test.

Disturbing behavior, mysterious disappearances and lame excuses that make little sense are red flags for substance abuse. Jeb's wife was right to consider hiring a private investigator. At least she could protect herself by having evidence in case she needs to get him into treatment.

-- Tom in Chicago
Dear Tom: That possibility never occurred to me. Oh, the things I learn from my readers! Your letter indicates that you are very savvy. I concur that Jeb's wife should engage a private investigator to find out what is going on. Thanks for opening my eyes.

Taking care of mom

Dear Ann Landers: I am the sole caregiver for my elderly mother. May I say something to my siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins who like to tell me everything I am doing wrong?

Dear Family: I always hear how much you love Mom, but I don't see you here helping me out. When was the last time you took Mom to a doctor's appointment? Have you ever given her a bath or done her laundry?

You say you can't take time off of work? Well, I have a job, too. I make the time, and you could if you really wanted to.

-- Caregiver Anywhere
Dear Caregiver: Your story is one I've heard many times. In a family where there are several siblings, it seems there is always one who is caring and considerate of a parent and does the "heavy lifting." You deserve to feel good about yourself. The others will have to deal with their guilt later on. Trust me.

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