Susan Deitz

DEAR SUSAN: I had many friends of the opposite gender when I was single (to clarify, unmarried or not in a relationship) yet had no sex with them, nor did I even consider it. Some were in committed relationships. Some were as single as I was then. Some were gay. One eventually joined the priesthood. But all that's irrelevant because I didn't become friends with them with an eye toward dating. Out of all those friends, I did eventually find a romantic partner. But that's a pretty low percentage of my male friends! And I didn't become friends with him because I wanted to date him, and the same was true for him. Some of your readers are thinking too linearly, saying there's no point in becoming friends with an "ineligible" woman. They say that her husband would deck you or that you might be leading on a woman who doesn't attract you. Wrong! You make a wide variety of friends simply for enjoyment. One of those may turn into attraction, as it did with my husband and me. But even if none does, one of them may have a job for your kid. One of them may teach you gardening. One of them may have a truck you can borrow. One of them may bring you soup when you're sick. One may be the person who alerts you to the best new movie or book or restaurant. Those are more the benefits of real friendship -- someone who cares about you. And you can care about someone even if you don't want to have sex with the person; otherwise, why would I be friends with women? That married couple you are friends with may introduce you to a visiting relative, co-worker or neighbor you are interested in dating -- or who might become another friend. It's never easy to change one's thinking (easier with a good therapist), but putting in the work can have an enormous payoff. It's certainly better than remaining stuck in a pattern of thought that won't free you from a life you're not enjoying.

From the "Single File" blog

DEAR BLOGGER: I am speechless -- struck dumb by some of the best thinking (and writing) that's come across my desk ever. If the readers you are addressing pick up on your wisdom, they'll be smart cookies. Your words are simple, but not your thinking. Care to write a guest column?

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DEAR SUSAN: You received a letter from a man who announced his liking of time off from his relationship. Does he mean a vacation once a year or that he'll take off when it suits him? Also, when he's going off, he doesn't want to play open marriage, does he? If so, he needs to be clear about that, and it needs to be OK with his partner. I hope they get some pre-marriage counseling so they're both on the same page.

From the "Single File" blog

DEAR BLOGGER: As a firm believer in spaced togetherness, I, too, believe that the terms need to be more specific than general "time off." The meat of a free-range chicken has a distinctive freshness, but the mate of a free-ranging mate could be in for a hefty dose of agita. (That, from the staunch supporter of spaced togetherness.) The way I see it, spaces in a relationship need to be present, but they must be few and planned, must be announced well in advance and must be available to both partners. Of course, the fundamental ingredient is unremitting, absolute trust. It is a pact between lovers who respect themselves, each other and the need for a breather now and then from the partner they adore. If the spaces live up to their purpose, they exist solely as a retreat, a pause to refresh the soul and wallow in aloneness. The return to their lover, assuming the pause accomplished its purpose, is as a lover with renewed dedication to their love partner.