The Impossibility of Tying Down Peter Pan

By Annie Lane

April 11, 2020 4 min read

Dear Annie: I'm a widow. It's been nine years since I lost my husband. I have been in a friendship with a man who hasn't had a relationship for approximately 20 years. He was in a terrible marriage that ended really badly. It broke him in every way — financially, spiritually, emotionally. From what I have gathered, he became a Peter Pan after the divorce. In the two decades since they split, he has just been goofing off and not dating seriously.

I have fallen deeply in love with him. I told him I loved him, and he repeated, "I love you, too, but just as a friend."

I don't think I can continue to spend time with him as a friend, because I'm in love with him. I'm not a teenager looking for fun. I would like to have a loving, adult relationship. I'm not talking about sex, necessarily (although that would be nice), but real romance. Should I just forget about him and let him go? — Pining for Peter

Dear Pining: I'll give your Peter Pan this much: He was mature enough to tell you how he really feels. And kudos to you for starting that difficult conversation in the first place. That takes real courage. Now that the truth is out, you can begin to move on — but it will be impossible to do so in his company. Give your heart the time and space it needs to heal.

Dear Annie: I like to think of myself as someone with multiple hobbies, but some friends have been telling me it really isn't that. My friend hinted at this. We'll call him "Luke." "Luke" was at my house recently, and I was showing off my collections of what I think of as hobbies, which are on display in my man cave. I enjoy collecting various types of model cars, stamps and collectible toys. When I showed my collections to Luke, he told me I really just like accumulating things with no real direction. Another friend, "Dan," gave me a similar response when he saw my collection. Honestly, I do enjoy my hobbies, but my friends put it in another light. What I want to know, Annie, is: Are my friends right? Am I truly just accumulating random objects? Are they wrong? Should I ignore them? — Curious Collector

Dear Curious: Your friends might be implying that you're hoarding. If you feel an overwhelming attachment to the things that you collect — as though something really bad would happen should you get rid of even one item — it could be a sign that your habit of collecting is becoming unhealthy. Another cause for concern would be if your collections have are overtaking your house and making it unlivable. The International OCD Foundation distinguishes between collecting and hoarding this way: "Collectors typically keep their possessions well-organized, and each item differs from other items to form interesting and often valuable groupings. ... (Hoarding disorder) is different from collecting in that collecting is organized and systematic, even though some collectors may have a similar amount of possessions as someone with HD. Collecting does not produce the clutter, distress, or impairment that HD does."

From your letter, it sounds as though you're indeed a collector, and this is a satisfying, enriching pastime for you. If these friends look at your treasures and only see trash, that's their loss. Keep doing your thing.

"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. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to [email protected]

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