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Keep your mitts off your ex-wife's new friend

Carolyn Hax is away. The following is from Feb. 5, 2006.

DEAR CAROLYN: "Susie" and I separated last year. Our divorce will be final soon. We have a young son and maintain a friendly relationship. When we separated, Susie moved with our son. Susie's new next-door neighbor Debbie has a young daughter, and Susie and Debbie have become friends. They babysit for each other, etc. I have bumped into Debbie from time to time, and we have developed a strong connection/mutual attraction. I recently made Susie really mad about something and called Debbie to talk to her and learn more. This flipped Susie out, and she demanded that I have no contact with Debbie. In order to maintain harmonious relations with Susie for the sake of our son, I have had no contact with Debbie. But I hate to just let go where there was a strong mutual attraction. Suggestions?

Perplexed in PA

PERPLEXED IN PA: Then don't let go, and go to war with Susie at your son's expense. That is your other option. Please don't ask me to provide a rationale for choosing it.

I could argue, certainly, that Susie's demand is neither rational nor fair; you're all autonomous adults, and soon you'll all be single ones, too. Plus, if Susie allows even a speck of her outrage to sully her son's relationship with his dad, then her offense would be worse than your hitting on Debbie.

But, come on. There are no other women to hit on? You have to have the woman next door to your wife? The first new friend of her single-mom life? The one who's supporting her through this? Keep your mitts off your wife's friend.

DEAR CAROLYN: I'm 24. He's 24. I could move in with him. He cringes at the idea. I could spend every single second with him. He cringes at the idea. Maybe I'm being too needy or maybe he's changed. I can't tell. I feel like he has been regressing — it was he who said "I love you" first, who wanted to start this relationship and to spend every second together. Now that the newness has worn off (eight months), he's not so excited to see me. Is this natural or do I find someone who meets my (unrealistic?) expectations? My short-term plan: He asked me to dinner tonight but I told him I had plans with my friends — I think he needs to learn how to miss me.

"Sue"

"SUE": I think he should already know how to miss you, without manipulation.

And that you should know how to make plans with your friends, without ulterior motives.

Certainly newness has a romance to it that's easy to crave and achingly tough to sustain. But that's about all it's good for; as a measure of what will follow, it's useless. Sometimes it matures into love, and sometimes it degenerates into circular discussions about how much time you're supposed to want to spend together — and you don't get to choose which you get. (And if you get togetherness "every single second," pass.)

You can't get newness back, by definition, so forget what you had and face what you've got. If you have to work to hold his attention now, then you always will. And he's cringing. That can't be what you want.

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