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TODAY contributor
updated 9/16/2009 4:18:03 PM ET 2009-09-16T20:18:03

Q. I am a widow of three years, after being married 47 years. I am lonely. There are no prospects of a new companion in sight. Recently I read in the alumni news that a guy who had a crush on me 50 years ago lost his wife last year.

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I rejected him earlier because we lived too far apart to make getting acquainted practical. We still live that far apart. Does it make any more sense to pursue him now then it did then?

A. It depends on what is most important to you. You need to think this through and determine whether one of you would be willing to move if a relationship blossomed.

If neither of you would move, then you should not pursue this. If one or both of you would, then you should.

If you are very attached to where you are living, with a house, kids, friends or a job nearby so that even if you fell in love with somebody far away you would refuse to move, then this is not worth following up on. In other words, if no relationship would ever make it worth it for you to move, contacting this man is merely asking for trouble.

I am not a fan of long-distance relationships, which are hugely impractical as well as expensive. Sometimes people have the fortune or misfortune of falling for someone who lives at a great distance, or they are kept apart for important reasons, like work or school.

In such a case, the couple must figure out how or whether they are going to make it work. Typically, long-distance relationships don’t last. If they do last, the long-distance component usually has an end point.

It is difficult for someone to be widowed after a marriage of many years. It could take a while to figure out how to pick up the pieces of your life. But the fact that you are lonely — and I assume you are lonely for a man, not lonely in ways that can be remedied by friends and activities — makes it sound as though you enjoyed being married and coupled up.

In such a situation, it can be especially hard to start over with someone new. So it is tempting to think about somebody you already know or who already likes you. This is completely understandable.

You say there are no prospects in sight. At your age, which is probably in your 70s, it is understandable that you feel this way. It’s not the case, however, that there are zero available men and that this man from 50 years ago is your only romantic possibility.

I would suggest that first you have your friends introduce you to people and that you join in on social activities so you might meet someone who lives nearby. Maybe you know someone from long ago who lives closer! This, of course, means taking a more proactive role in your social life.

When you are lonely, you are more likely to feel there are few options. If this man lived nearby, you could easily find out if the spark from 50 years ago is still there. The fact that he had a crush on you in the past definitely is promising, though it’s impossible to predict the outcome.

You do not say when you rejected this man for living too far away, but that doesn’t matter. The distance seems to be an enormous obstacle to you. Only you can decide how big a problem it is. If you are willing to move, it would be reasonable to tell him you would like to find out if you could be a successful pair.

If you did get reacquainted, you could also ask him early on whether he would be willing to move if need be. You can put the issue to rest that way. For all you know, he might be interested in moving himself and starting fresh.

So you have to figure out what is most valuable to you, and whether the distance is a deal breaker or not.

Dr. Gail’s Bottom Line: Much of life involves choices and trade-offs. So when it comes to a long-distance relationship, it’s important to know if one or both parties would be willing to move if it works out, or to make it work out by moving.

Any ideas, suggestions in this column are not intended as a substitute for consulting your physician or mental health professional. All matters regarding emotional and mental health should be supervised by a personal professional. The author shall not be responsible or liable for any loss, injury or damage arising from any information or suggestion in this column.

Dr. Gail Saltz is a psychiatrist with New York Presbyterian Hospital and a regular contributor to TODAY. Her most recent book is “The Ripple Effect: How Better Sex Can Lead to a Better Life” (Rodale). For more information, please visit www.drgailsaltz.com.

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