Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Etiquette Doesn't Mandate a Breakup 'Courtesy Period'

DEAR HARRIETTE: I've been interested in a guy for a while, but he was in a long-term relationship. The two of them recently broke up because they "grew apart." I want to ask him out, but I don't want to be insensitive, even though growing apart normally means they don't have romantic feelings for each other anymore. Is there a courtesy period I should wait before making a move? -- In the Wings, Philadelphia

DEAR IN THE WINGS: If you are interested in this man, reach out to him as a friend. Invite him out for coffee, making the overture as neutral as possible.

If he agrees, ask him how he is doing. I recommend that you tell him you are interested in dating him. You do not need to push for trying to date him today, but if you don't say something, there is a good chance he may come to look upon you as a friend. Once you get put into the platonic friend category, it can be incredibly difficult to move into the category of potential romantic partner.

You can tell him that you don't want to be insensitive, but that you do want him to know you care about him and would like to spend more time with him in the future, if he is interested.

The state of his heart will determine his reaction. You may find that he cannot handle another relationship right now. Or he may let you know that he is interested in you and would like to see how things unfold.

He also may indicate that he is not interested in dating you. Pay attention to how he responds and proceed accordingly.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I constantly go back and forth on whether I want to stay in a relationship with my girlfriend. She is younger than me, and we are in completely different places in our lives. I'm sometimes embarrassed about our age difference and make her sound older than she is to my friends.

Right now, we're in a good place, but that could end any minute. What should I do? -- Betwixt, Laredo, Texas

DEAR BETWIXT: Age can be an issue in a relationship, but it doesn't have to be.

Lying about your girlfriend's age and feeling so uncomfortable about the status of your bond will surely lead to a breakup, perhaps unnecessarily. So pause for a moment and review your relationship. What do you like about being with this woman, and what doesn't work? Do you believe you are compatible? Do you enjoy each other's company? Why are you so afraid the relationship will end at any moment?

You need to figure out where you stand -- and where your girlfriend stands. Talk it out together to see if you both want to give it a real try. If you cannot get past your apprehension, do yourself and her a favor and move on.