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Should she limit love to six square blocks?

Carolyn Hax is away. The following first appeared May 3, 2006.

DEAR CAROLYN: I'm 40 with a house in D.C., a career of 20 years and seven years of friends in the area. I'm wondering, how do people at 40, with all the realized plans, goals and dreams, start a relationship with someone else who also has her own set of realized plans, goals and dreams? I have spent lots of time and money getting my house as I want it; have fallen in love with living in the city (something few people seem to share); and can't bear the thought of moving even for love. I've gone so far as to limit my dating circle to a small geographic area, but there are only so many people you can date in a six-square-block area . . . Can you shed some light on this? My single friends and I would appreciate it, as we have pondered it for some time now.

J.

J.: And that is your answer right there — pondering this for some time with your single friends is a decision in itself. One you needn't pressure yourself to change.

There may be a time when your city house and city friends and city career start to feel empty to you — a point you will recognize by the absence of declarations like "I can't bear the thought of moving, even for love." But that time isn't now, nor may it ever come. You've built yourself a life that suits you, so effectively that, by your current calculations, your circumstances are happier than any alternatives you can envision.

Is your life perfect? No. Whose is? But you apparently like the cards you're holding too much to throw any back, which is an enviable, hard-earned place to be.

It also seems you aren't even aware you've made this decision, and that's my only advice: Be conscious of your choice. You may feel lonely sometimes, and even crave closer companionship or a family, but so far those cravings haven't displaced your preference for living alone on your terms. If they ever do — if you meet someone who changes your priorities, or loneliness changes them for you — then you won't be asking how to make changes. You'll just make them.

The one exception would be if you get so set in your small geographic ways that you refuse to consider other ways might make you happy, too. But that caveat applies not just to you or your friends, but everyone, especially in its most common form: to keep an open mind.

DEAR CAROLYN: I am a female college student wondering when to mention you're in a relationship. I've met some cool guys at my college, but I can't tell if they are interested in me just as friends or more. I don't want to bring up that I'm in a relationship too soon, but also not so late that it's awkward. It's a long-distance relationship, so not many people see us together often.

Virginia

VIRGINIA: Say no to anything that you feel would be a betrayal to your boyfriend, and otherwise live your life. That sets the limit exactly where it belongs, without spelling anything out.

Meanwhile, anyone who respects those limits long enough to get to know you will hear of your boyfriend the old-fashioned way, in the course of normal conversation.

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