He’s not rebound guy, he’s backup

Dear Annie: Many years ago, “Hazel” sat next to me in high school and apparently had a crush on me. (I had no clue.) She married someone else, and her husband passed away 20 years ago. Four years later, she met “Larry,” who is married and says he can’t divorce because of his religion. He tells Hazel he loves her and often drops by with gifts. She told him she loves him, but just as a friend. She thinks he is wonderful but says there is nothing physical between them.

My wife died a year ago. A few months later, Hazel contacted me. We hit it off right away. She lives three hours away, so we take turns visiting every two weeks. We get along very well, except when the subject of Larry comes up.

Hazel says her relationship with him is over now that I’m in the picture, but I discovered he had stopped by again with a gift. She said she didn’t let him in the door. The other day, she slipped and called me “Larry.” She apologized, but you can imagine how that made me feel. I’m starting to believe I’m her rebound guy. I think she is crazy about Larry and if his wife should die, she’d be at his door in a heartbeat.

Is it possible for Larry and Hazel to be such good friends without something more going on? He even told her about his erectile dysfunction, but I worry that may have come from first-hand knowledge. Hazel says she loves me and has for years, but the “green-eyed monster” has taken over my heart, and I don’t know how to get rid of these jealous feelings. – Very Confused

Dear Confused: Your jealousy is not completely unfounded. Hazel rejected Larry not because she dislikes him, but because he is married. If that obstacle didn’t exist, there is indeed the possibility she would be more interested in him, especially because he seems to be quite interested in her. Their relationship is friendship mixed with flirting, and that is why you react so negatively toward him.

You are not the rebound guy. You’re the backup. Hazel needs to tell Larry to pay more attention to his wife – no more gifts, no more surprise visits, no more intimate confidences, and the friendship must include you. If she is unwilling to do this, her attachment to him is stronger than it should be. Either give her time to see whether she becomes more connected to you, or let her go.

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