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DEAR ABBY: Last year I met a special man when I hired him to do some work related to my hobby. We easily fell into a friendship and have grown very close. We currently spend all our free time together. We talk every day on the phone, sometimes for hours. We are both divorced with children. He was married for 17 years and hasn't been in a relationship since.

About a month ago, I kissed him. While he did kiss me back, hesitantly, that was as far as he let it go. He said he "doesn't want to ruin what we have and isn't sure if it's the right thing." I was embarrassed and hurt, but we carried on like nothing had happened.

He is 16 years older, and I know he finds me attractive. He has told me I am beautiful, among other compliments, and we've had a few very long hugs. I desire a physical connection with him, but I wish I didn't.

Lately when we are together, I can't stop thinking about it. He obviously knows how I feel, but I'm afraid of pushing the issue. I feel like maybe I should stop seeing him. I would miss him a lot, like losing my best friend. But I'm compromising my own needs by letting him string me along, or whatever it is he is doing. I know he would be hurt, too, if we "broke up." I don't know what to do. It feels like I am going to lose either way.

-- Can't win

DEAR READER: It is time for a nonthreatening, adult conversation with this man about why he hasn't had a romantic relationship since his divorce and doesn't appear interested in one now. You mentioned that he is older. It's possible that he has intimacy problems and may not be able to give you anything more than long hugs. However, if it's something more, he should level with you.

This doesn't mean you are going to lose either way. There are worse things than having a compatible man in your life as a best friend, but not if you are being scorched by the torch you're carrying for him.

DEAR ABBY: I have been reading your advice since I was quite young. I recently ended a toxic relationship and have you to thank for helping me move forward. I'm on my own now for the first time, which has been interesting to experience during our covid crisis. It has made me realize who is truly important in my life.

I am reaching out to people from my past who are positive influences and trying to cultivate and nurture relationships. I am also reflecting on my personal issues that need working on while I detoxify. I know this is crucial before I even consider possibly bonding with a new man. Thank you for your voice of reason and great advice, even when it has been difficult to accept the truth in it.

-- Appreciative

DEAR READER: Thank you for your sweet letter, and congratulations for finding the courage to end a relationship that was toxic. Not everyone is strong enough to do that, so they tolerate their misery for years. I'm glad reading my column helped you and gave you insight.

You are wise to give yourself time rather than rush into any new relationships, particularly now. Many people feel especially vulnerable because they are unaccustomed to being isolated as we have been for the last few months. I applaud you for turning it into a positive -- a period of reflection and growth.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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