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Parallax - Advice            July 3, 2000

   Match made in heaven - but he's freaking out

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I just met the most wonderful, romantic, sensitive, loving man I could ever hope to find. We 'clicked' in so many ways it was spooky. We both agreed that there was serious potential for this to become what we'd both been searching for, but now that I started to get 'close' to him, he's freaking out, doesn't know what he wants, etc. He was hurt badly in his last relationship, and, like me, had sworn off the opposite sex for a while, so we met when neither of us was expecting it. How can I help him through this stressful time so that it brings us closer instead of driving us apart, without making him feel trapped? He's scared of his emotions, which he's admitted, but I know he has feelings for me, otherwise he would have just run without a word. I don't want to lose what appears to be the man I've been waiting for so long now. By the way, we're both divorced, single parents of two kids each, both have custody, he's 33, I'm 28, and we live two hours apart, so we don't see each other much. Help me!

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Her view:

Dear Anxious,

I'd say try really hard to give him what he needs to make this work - and you'll have to be the judge of what that is. Pushing the relationship to another stage is the wrong approach. Take it easy and give him some time to trust you and to believe that you won't hurt him. This will take a lot of your patience - for a while, you'll have to work on his terms: slowly and carefully.

You should take the pressure off and stop thinking about the state of the relationship... where it's going... what you can do... etc. Just go out and have a good time - get all the kids together for some fun events. Find ways to spend time together even if you're two hours apart. Most importantly, don't turn a new relationship into a saga rife with existential questions - yet. Skip the past for a little while - of course it will come back, but this will give you some time to get grounded.

Take it quietly and lightly. You'll both get comfortable and in a more appropriate state to really think about the serious areas - like a future together. Remember you have to fall in love first. Neither of you will do that if you're both worrying about mistrust and past pain.

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His view:

Dear Anxious,

Are you in a hurry? I hope not, because this one is going to require patience. If the man's reaction to your closeness has been panic and retraction, he's going to need time and distance to let him sort out his feelings. Tell him you are giving him space and then do it: don't call, don't visit - unless he does. Indulge him for a while, for as long as you continue to feel he's worth the frustration.

That doesn't mean you should just sit there and wait for him to come around. Try to figure out what's at the root of his discomfort. Many of us will 'swear off' the opposite sex as an instinctive protection measure. But the deeper causes for the swearing off are usually different. It's one thing to get hurt and learn a lesson and move on, and quite another to lose all self-confidence in one's ability to make decisions.

If your perfect man's problem is more of the latter condition, I suggest you seriously consider letting him go entirely and looking elsewhere. If he does recover and you're so right for him, he'll look for you again. If not, you won't be sitting there waiting for him anyway.

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