Dear Abby

DEAR ABBY: I recently started dating again after ending a very difficult marriage. To say I am guarding my heart for fear of getting hurt would be an understatement.


I have met someone that I can see having a future with, but some things concern me. He has been hospitalized for mental health reasons in the past. He's constantly saying, "I'm sorry I'm so screwed up" or remarking about being "crazy." He mentions his depression almost daily, and he hates being, as he puts it, "messed up in the head." He just can't seem to move past his issues.


I feel like he doesn't want to move forward and start living his life again. I have lived with depression for most of my life, but it doesn't define who I am. If I don't respond to his calls or messages right away, he gets hurt and assumes I'm mad at him.


My question is, am I being overly cautious based on not wanting to get hurt again, or should I take a step back? I would like to see a future with him, but I'm not sure he is ready to see any kind of a future with anyone. — GUARDED HEART


DEAR GUARDED HEART: You are not being overly cautious. You are asking yourself intelligent, insightful questions about someone who appears not as far along on the path to mental wellness as you are. Is this man still being treated for his issues? If not, he should be encouraged to talk with a licensed mental health professional not only about his depression, but also his glaring lack of self-esteem.


From your description, I would have to say he needs a friend now more than a romance, so take plenty of time if you proceed in this relationship. If he makes progress, see where things lead. If not, then in light of your own history, it might be better for you to find someone who is stronger.


DEAR ABBY: I have been in a six-year relationship. About two years into it, I found out that "Wayne" was separated, but not divorced, from his wife of 20 years. The fact that they are separated is not the issue. They live together and do things as a married couple. The wife and I have met each other several times, and I have gone to his children's graduation parties and family weddings.


He has told me every year that this is the year he will file for divorce, but it still hasn't happened. I don't know why he is holding on because I do not believe they are intimate. Their children are adults, so there is nothing keeping them together. He tells me he can't live without me, but his actions have proven otherwise. Do you think they are in an open marriage? Is there any hope for our future together? — WASTING TIME IN MASSACHUSETTS


DEAR WASTING TIME: Not at the rate you are going. I suspect the reason Wayne hasn't followed through and filed for divorce may be financial. He and his wife may also like things just the way they are because they can maintain their social life, he's comfortable at home and he has you to sleep with, which may be a relief to her. You have my sympathy, but I think you have invested enough time. What's going on is unfair to you. This romance was based on dishonesty on his part, and you deserve more than you have been getting.


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