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Friend could be more

Dear Annie

Dear Annie: I’m a senior at university. I’m living with my boyfriend this semester, so we’re in the same “family unit” and are able to be around each other without masks and social distancing.

I’ve been seeing my boyfriend — let’s call him Raul — for about a year and a half now. We’re getting along rather well, and I can really envision a future together. However, this is the first serious relationship I’ve been in, and the two of us are most likely going to be in very different places once the academic year is over. Raul’s applying to grad schools in Europe, and I’m looking to work for a nonprofit in the United States. Neither of us would feel good about letting the other compromise their plans or ambitions or dreams.

That aside, while I was back home in Vermont during the onset of the pandemic, I got to spend a lot of time with a childhood best friend — let’s call him Vermont Boy — who just broke up with his girlfriend of three years. I felt that there was a spark between us, but nothing happened over the summer. Vermont Boy and I have been texting every day since. He also has similar interests to mine and wants to stay in the States — in New England, preferably. At one point over the summer, it felt as though we were about to kiss, but I think he held back since he knew I’m in a relationship. I’m glad we didn’t kiss, but I also really wish we had.

I feel like the end is near with my boyfriend, but we live together. I feel restless every time I think about Vermont Boy. Things are still going so smoothly and sweetly between me and Raul and, for emphasis, we live together! But there is a sort of bitterness that comes with knowing we have to go our separate ways. What should I do? — At a Crossroads in Romance

Dear At a Crossroads: I don’t know if Vermont Boy is the one for you, but I know that Raul is not. Ending things now is the fairest and kindest thing that you can do for him. From there, see where things go with Vermont Boy, but also entertain the possibility of being single. Sometimes, when we can’t decide between two things, it’s because neither option is right.

One important caveat: Please take social distancing precautions, such as wearing masks, meeting outside, and maintaining 6 feet of distance, when seeing anyone new.

Dear Annie: I’m single but wanting a relationship. How does one go about dating in the current climate, with pandemic restrictions in place? — Looking for Mr. Right

Dear Looking: This is not an ideal time to be dating new people, but the reality is that people crave companionship. Dating websites are the main, and perhaps only, way to meet folks at the moment. Many sites offer free basic memberships and affordable premium memberships, such as OkCupid and Plenty of Fish. Try one out.

When you find a promising match, try going on a “virtual date” — e.g., order takeout from the same restaurant, and video chat while you eat it. Eventually, you may decide that you want to try an in-person date. Take the usual precautions of meeting in a safe, public place, along with the pandemic precautions of staying 6 feet apart, wearing masks and meeting outside. And communicate your safety expectations ahead of time.

Sure, this is a cumbersome amount of hoops to jump through. But it won’t be too long before life resumes more normally, and first dates will return to their normal level of awkwardness. In the meantime, embrace the slower pace of courtship during COVID-19.

“Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now. Annie Lane’s debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette – is available as a paperback and e-book. Go to http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send questions for Annie Lane to dearannie@creators.com.

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