I want to respect that she’s grieving

My music partner and I have been playing together professionally for more than a decade (part-time) on the West Coast, and we're the best of friends. When we met, we were both married, and even if we hadn't been, we weren't each other's type, whatever that even means. I got divorced a few years ago. Over the last two years, we've had a lot more gigs, so I've seen her more. A year ago, I realized that I had romantic feelings for her. We laugh until it hurts, travel well together, and have deep discussions. Since she was still married, I just ignored my feelings for her.

Shortly after that, her husband passed away suddenly. I stepped up to be her main source of support, and we started spending even more time together. We are traveling for fun, going out on date-like activities, and hanging out frequently. She has asked me to travel home with her this summer. I think it will be a long time (years) before she's ready to move on to a new relationship, but I'd happily wait if I thought she wanted me. I just get so many mixed signals, and she's probably not even clear in her mind about how she feels about me. She says she loves me (we've been saying this to each other since shortly before her husband died) and thinks I'm amazing, but she also says encouraging things about me finding someone else to date. Yet, whenever I talk about taking myself off the dating market, she seems quite happy about it. I did date someone briefly recently, and my music partner behaved in a pointedly jealous way right from the start and was thrilled when it ended. When we talk about musicians we know who are married, she says she would like something like that. She once referred to us as "the perfect couple" because of how music fits in to our relationship. People always think we're married, and when that happened recently I made a joke about maybe getting married next year. She said, "That will never happen," but right now she'd probably say that regardless of who it was.

The men she's usually attracted to are notably different than I am, but I don't know if that matters given how close we are and what we share. We're planning to go all-in with music, which will mean doing a lot more traveling together. Normally the next step would be having an honest conversation about feelings, but she's still so deep in grief and still so married to her late husband that it seems inappropriate to do more than hint around unless she gives me an opening to say something more. I want to be very patient while she grieves, and I'm afraid she would pull back if the feelings are not at all mutual. However, I don't want to wait around and be her Eponine; waiting for someone to love me romantically who never will and then witnessing them find someone else.

– Waiting

Did you just invoke "Les Mis" on Love Letters? If so, that's a first!

I understand why you want to hold back with this woman and respect her need for space while she grieves. That's very nice of you, but once she passes a year of this, it's worth having a conversation about your role in her life. A year seems arbitrary – I'm taking it from a recent podcast episode where a young widow tells us she waited a year before she was ready to date. I'm also taking it from what I know of Jewish mourning. That first year is a special kind of grieving, but after that, something changes. It can feel healthy to be held accountable in a more ordinary kind of way.

I know you're afraid to ask her big questions, but really, if you're leaning into music and know your partnership will become more intense, it's a great time to check in about where you are.

Assure her you'll be there for her no matter what. Listen and accept whatever she says about her feelings for you. Remind her that there's no pressure, only a desire to stay honest with one of the most important people in your life. You need to get a sense of what's happening because you can't wait years for her. You should be able to date without having her in the back of your brain as your endgame.

– Meredith

Readers? Is it appropriate to ask her about this?