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Secret crush is unfair to boyfriend

Dear Carolyn: I have a long-standing crush on a co-worker. I would do really fun things with him and not tell my boyfriend, or even lie to him about what I was doing.

Eventually I broke up with Boyfriend, thinking this would allow me to pursue a real relationship with Crush. Bad timing: My crush had just met someone new.

Eventually Boyfriend and I got back together, but now Crush is single again.

I still think I could have something with my crush, but I don't want to take the chance of losing my boyfriend if it turns out my crush doesn't share my feelings. Am I a terrible person for, essentially, keeping my boyfriend as the consolation prize?

-- Boyfriend or Crush?

A: You aren't the first person, not even close, who has stuck with a snug old relationship while waiting to see if a better offer comes through. Have you asked yourself how you'd like to be, unbeknownst to you, your boyfriend's "consolation prize"?

He's somebody's son, somebody's pride and joy. I doubt his parents held, bathed, clothed, fed, sheltered, taught and loved him in hopes that someday he'd have the honor of sparing you from being single. Break up, grow up, clean up.

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Avoiding men on rebound

Dear Carolyn: I was taught that it was a bad idea to date a man who was going through a divorce, especially if he was newly separated. I've always considered it sound advice.

Now it seems every newly single man I know has jumped right into a new relationship. And these relationships have lasted, some leading to marriage.

As a divorced fortysomething, are my options: (a) be forever alone, or (b) snatch up some lonely, recently separated man who loves me not for me but because I was there when he needed someone?

-- D.

A: Some people do look for new relationships to ease the pain of old ones, yes, and you're wise to keep an eye out for those. Time alone to heal is an important component of self-awareness, which is an important component of healthy relationships.

But it's not unusual for people to get all the alone time they ever needed while on paper still in a relationship -- by living separate lives under one roof, by not communicating, by watching their bond erode over the years from lovers and partners to roommates. For some, the separation is the culmination of hard emotional work, not the beginning of it.

If you believe it's morally wrong to date someone who is separated, then I won't try to talk you out of it. But if your only concern is the volatility of people on the rebound, then I suggest the person, not the person's status, is the more reliable source on that.