Wi­d­ower finds com­pan­ion­ship, but isn’t ready for ro­mance


DEAR ABBY: My wife died of can­cer four years ago. She was my best friend, and the pain of los­ing her was more than I could cope with. I was in a fog for about two years, just go­ing through the mo­tions. Even­tu­ally the fear of spend­ing the next 20 to 30 years alone drove me to try in­ter­net dat­ing. I met some nice women and some very strange ones, but noth­ing came of it.

Then a year ago, an old friend in­tro­duced me to “Elaine.” We hit it off im­me­di­ately. We share the same in­ter­ests and off­beat sense of hu­mor, and I have grown fond of her. She’s in­tel­li­gent, kind and easy on the eyes. Our grown kids get along very well.

Our mu­tual friend told me that Elaine said she loves me and would be thrilled if I pro­posed — I guess to en­cour­age me to the next level. My prob­lem is, I’m still in love with my late wife.

If Elaine one day tells me she loves me, how do I re­spond with­out hurt­ing her feel­ings or mak­ing her with­draw? I can see my­self lov­ing her in the fu­ture, but I am still silently mourn­ing my wife. I don’t want to chase Elaine away, so please tell me what to do. — NEW YORK WI­D­OWER

DEAR WI­D­OWER: You and Elaine ap­pear to have a com­mu­ni­ca­tion prob­lem. You are both adults. If she has fallen in love with you, you shouldn’t have to hear it from a mu­tual friend.

You owe it to her to have a frank talk with her be­cause she needs to know that you don’t in­tend to re­marry un­til you are over the loss of your late wife. She may de­cide to stick it out and wait or, as you say, de­cide to move on. But at least she’ll know what she’s deal­ing with.

It might be a good idea for you to con­sult a grief ther­a­pist. Be­cause if you do, it may make it eas­ier for you to move for­ward with your life.

DEAR ABBY: Our friend’s adult chil­dren in­vited us to a birth­day party they were throw­ing for their par­ent at a restau­rant. As we were or­der­ing, the server asked if the checks would be sep­a­rate or cou­ples. (This was our first clue that we were ex­pected to pay.) For us, it was no prob­lem, but an el­derly cou­ple had a long dis­cus­sion about how they would pay.

When invit­ing guests to a party, is it proper to ex­pect them to pay for their din­ner? And if so, how should it be phrased in the in­vi­ta­tion? If no men­tion is made, how would one in­quire as to how the bill is han­dled?

This has never come up be­fore. Hosts (in­clud­ing us) have al­ways picked up the tab. — CAUGHT OFF GUARD IN OHIO

DEAR CAUGHT OFF GUARD: How em­bar­rass­ing for that older cou­ple, not to men­tion your friend.

Un­less it is dis­cussed or agreed upon be­fore­hand, a host is ex­pected to pick up the check. (That’s what “host” means.) If guests will be ex­pected to pay for their own drinks (or meals), then the oc­ca­sion is a “no host” gath­er­ing. That the guests were ex­pected to pay for their own meal should not have been an­nounced at the last minute; it should have been men­tioned when the in­vi­ta­tion was is­sued.

As to how to ask who will be pay­ing when you are in­vited out, please know that ask­ing that ques­tion isn’t rude — par­tic­u­larly in light of what you ex­pe­ri­enced.

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