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by Abigail Van Buren

Bowler's Daughter Hopes He'll Strike Down His Spare Pounds

DEAR ABBY: I have some advice for "Heartbroken in Vermont," the woman who fell in love with a man who had just gone through a tough divorce.

I am also involved with a man who went through a very painful divorce. Unfortunately, he's still going through difficult times. His ex gives him a hard time when he wants to see his son, and causes many other problems.

When we met, we were instantly attracted to each other. We started dating and things were great, but then he backed away. I took it personally until I realized all the problems he was having with his ex. I let him back off, but kept our conversations alive.

To make a long story short, we are still seeing each other, and he's one of the best fathers and companions I've ever known. If I don't hear from him for a week, I know he is trying to cope with his problems and I just let him be. We catch up with each other later.

So, "Heartbroken," keep the lines of communication open. Call just to say "Hi" and see how he is, and be unthreatening. Maybe, just maybe, he will feel more comfortable and come around. I can tell you that if he feels penned in, he will run and all will be lost. Men in this situation need a little more space. Try to be understanding and patient. Things will happen if they are meant to. -- HAPPILY PATIENT

DEAR HAPPILY PATIENT: I advised "Heartbroken" to keep looking. The man she loves had been deeply hurt in his divorce and made it clear that he wanted his space. A byproduct of her moving on may well be that her ex-boyfriend will take a second look at the potential of their relationship and realize that if he continues to shut her out, he'll lose her.