How do I say no?

Hi Mere,

The short summary of my question is: How do I indicate to a lady friend that I'm no longer interested in her? My situation is complicated because (a) I previously did indicate that I had an interest in her but was unavailable (I was responding to her asking me out); and (b) the way she's acting right now is why I'm no longer interested. She seems to be making bad life choices.

The background: We worked together and became friends. We're in our 40s and have similar interests. She is divorced.

When she first expressed an interest in me, it was probably because I was showing new signs that I was single. I was flattered that she showed interest in me and told her so, but explained that I was still married and would be for a while for many reasons. I feel I made the mistake of agreeing with her assessment that "it was too bad, because we both seemed very compatible."

We remained friends and while we continued to talk, I didn't notice anything different or troubling about our interactions. I also got the impression that she had started to see someone -- and I was happy for her. Meanwhile, I did start my divorce proceedings and moved away from my wife.

The potential complication is that a mutual friend recently informed me that my friend is wondering what she should do about her current guy now that I'm "available." I'm thinking "Nice ... but wow, what if I was in his shoes? That wouldn't be nice.” This also tells me that another invitation from her is headed my way.

To complicate this, I've learned from friends that they really feel I ought to stay as far away from her as I can. Apparently, she has dated a married man we both know. This has since been confirmed to me.

My assessment is that this woman might be going through a big rebound phase. I think that she'll come back to earth eventually and be somewhat the same person I liked as a friend -- and maybe a potential partner. I can take the high road and say, "I've met someone else, sorry...," which is a downright lie. Or I can tell the truth and say, "I was very concerned seeing you date inappropriate people and that's just not the type of person I'd like to start a new relationship with."

So have at it advice givers. Give me some food for thought. I'll make up my own mind, but how would "you" handle this if you were in my shoes and you received a re-invitation?

– How do I handle this?, Massachusetts

HDIHT, you don't have to initiate a conversation with her about this. If she asks you out, you can decline. You can explain to her that you're just in different places in life (that's the truth, by the way). She's been out of her marriage and dating for a while. Meanwhile, you're just figuring this stuff out.

You'd rather be her friend. No need to lie or get nasty.

You mention that she's rebounding and might be a good partner down the road. I'm not so sure you're right. She slept with a married person, and that person is someone you know. That mess would follow you around.

My advice is to set some boundaries with her and to start expanding your circle of friends. Your world is too small right now. You need new faces, new experiences. Once you start seeking that stuff out, everyone in your world -- including this woman – will get the hint.

Readers? Are there nonverbal ways he can tell her that he doesn’t want to date her? Will she be a better partner later? Does she deserve a shot? Help.

– Meredith