DEAR ABBY: I’m a 57-year-old male who has been thrust back into the dating scene. I’m financially secure, am in good health and have a good career.

I’m searching for someone near my age who has similar achievements in life, someone I can communicate with in and out of the bedroom. Simple request, right?

What I’m realizing is that dating hasn’t changed much over the years. If one of the parties isn’t happy and decides to leave, someone gets hurt. (I have been on both sides.) I am starting to fear expressing my feelings openly and honestly, and if it eventually does come to sex, it’s creating performance anxiety.

I understand this is all part of the dating ritual and called “baggage,” but for me, it’s preventing me from being honest, and I’m trying to avoid it. I see a female therapist who says I just haven’t met the right person yet, and I agree.

I have a female friend in a similar situation who has become so bitter she now avoids men completely. My male friends tell me to quit looking for a long-term commitment and just date for sex. Neither of these options appeals to me.

My age-old question is: How does a person find a happy balance in this dating world? — DATING SCENE IN ARIZONA

MORE DEAR ABBY:

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DEAR DATING SCENE: “Dating” means different things to different people. To your male friends — as you have found out — it means a sexual free-for-all. For others, dating is a sifting process that lasts until they meet someone they’re comfortable enough with to communicate honestly.

In any successful relationship, communication is key. That’s why it’s important to be honest with the women you meet, and for them to be the same way with you. That’s how people get to know each other beyond the surface, and it’s how trust is built.

Chemistry is important, but it has to be mutual. You will know it when you find it. Listen to what your therapist is saying because she’s steering you in the right direction.

DEAR ABBY: My son’s girlfriend of five years and her 8-year-old daughter have been living with my son for the last four years.

She has recently started introducing my husband and me as her daughter’s “grandparents.” Tonight she asked for details about my father so her daughter could include them in a paper she is writing about her “family.”

The daughter’s father and his current wife had twins recently, and I understand from her mother that she is somewhat jealous.

I feel uncomfortable with this new description of our relationship, although I don’t want to hurt the girl. Should I say something to my son’s girlfriend or my son? — FAMILY DETAILS IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR FAMILY DETAILS: The word from here is: Keep your lips zipped! If you object, it will cause only hard feelings.

You say your son and his girlfriend have been living together for four years. If they should have a child together, do you plan to treat that child differently?

Face it, you ARE in the role of a grandparent. My advice is to accept it graciously and act accordingly.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at http://www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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