Looking For Love Q&A

Everyone's looking for love, and it can take lots of practice to get it right.

By Hara Estroff Marano, published on August 1, 2003 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016

The First Move

A guy that used to work with me moved far away. I always liked him, but his departure made me realize that I miss him and would like to pursue a relationship. He is very friendly, but he is a kind of guy that never would make unwelcome advances. How do I overcome my fear of letting him know how I feel about him and not make a fool of myself?

You need to test whether the door is open to a personal relationship. The safest way is to send an email message. Try to come up with a charming or intriguing line for the "subject." In the body of the note, let him know that you liked working with him and miss him. If you have an amusing anecdote or a bit of interesting news to report, so much the better. Make your note short and sweet. You needn't declare your intentions any further than saying, in closing, that you'd love to hear back from him.

Web Feat

I met a gentleman on the Internet about six weeks ago .We are both divorced and have been spending every possible moment together. I have not ever had a true male companion to talk with or to make love to me. However, he does everything I have always dreamt about. I feel like I have started to fall madly in love with him. How can I tell if he feels the same? He has been divorced for six years and is 44. I am 38 and divorced for two .This is the only relationship I have had since my divorce.

The Internet is great. It literally widens the net of people available. It allows people to meet and discover mutual interests who might never have encountered each other in the course of their daily lives. But it should not steal your brain. It in no way absolves you of the need to judge the character of a candidate for partner, observe his/her behavior with other people and in other spheres of life, such as the capacity to hold a job and function without drugs or alcohol, as well as to enjoy common interests. You need to see him function in other arenas, and to observe how he treats his children, if he has any, or yours, and even his ex (beware of anyone who blames everything on an ex or who is still seething with anger at an ex).

You need to bring him, slowly, into your universe and see how he functions. Introduce him to your friends and honor their opinions of him. And he should gradually introduce you to his world.

Some people use the Internet constructively to solve problems in their life, such as using it as a tool for finding a compatible partner, others do not. Some people play around on the dating sites, never intending to get serious.

One measure of your boyfriend's seriousness is whether he has removed his profile from the website where you first encountered each other, or rendered it inactive for now.

Remember, great relationships depend on great communication. Surely you can find a way to tell your friend that you are really beginning to care about him. His reaction will probably tell you everything you need to know. But go slowly. It take many people a lot longer than six weeks to know how they feel. And caution in anyone who made a mistake the first time around is definitely a plus.

Who's the Jerk?

I am in love with the man I have been dating for over a year, despite some rocky points where I found out he had lied to me. Now I feel that I am pushing him away because I have become a person I never thought I could be: I care only for him to the point that I am not competitive in the important albeit immature game of dating. I show my emotions too quickly and this is turning him off. I am not enough of a bitch for him, no thing to work for him to get. He makes up for this by becoming more of a jerk to me. He tells me that if he cheats I will not be able to stop him. Maybe I am losing sight of myself in this relationship, something I never thought could happen to me.

Why do you insist on finding problems with yourself (none of us is perfect) when you clearly indicate the man you are "in love" with is, in your words, "a liar" and "a jerk"? Dating is always a difficult experience; we constantly risk rejection; for many reasons it makes sense that you'd want to settle into a stable relationship with a suitable mate as quickly as possible. But you shouldn't have to sacrifice your character and self-respect in the process. Regain your senses, girl, and examine the evidence you yourself provide about this candidate. Before you work on transforming yourself into the "bitch" this guy needs to "work" on, do something else for yourself-tell him so long. The disappointment won't last forever. And look for a nicer guy; there are plenty out there.

Dumped and Down

I'm 19 and my boyfriend dumped me after four years. I am devastated and can't eat or sleep. I love this guy with all my heart. Then I find out that he went out with one of my friends and told her that he loves her. He lied to her just to get into her bed. I think there is something wrong with him, like he enjoys doing this to us.

Next time try loving someone with your head as well as your heart. Unless you get smart about love, you're just setting yourself up for more trauma. Why not sit down by yourself or with friends, maybe even your parents or other adults you admire, and figure out what the ingredients are for a satisfying relationship and what personal qualities it takes to get there. I would think that trust would be at the top of the list of relationship necessities, and honesty would be one personal quality required for trust. Kindness would be good, too. Lover boy doesn't sound so hot by these standards. Next time look for someone who measures up on as many qualities as you can identify.

Deserving Better

I dearly love my 38-year-old alcoholic boyfriend, as he me. Besides the three quarts of beer he consumes nightly-20 12-oz. cans when he doesn't have work the next day-he has very little to do with wanting a sexual relationship. He says he does not like sex; I feel he has a low sex drive due to constant beer drinking since age 14. As a child he was sexually molested/abused by his dad. He has a heart of gold and is always doing good deeds to those in need.

When we have sex, he only performs the act for 15 minutes. Though he does satisfy me, he refuses to touch my erogenous zone, which he calls dirty or nasty. He is totally detached emotionally and shuns all affection I try bestowing. I know he masturbates-it is "quick" not "messy."

I have been to a counselor and therapist and have only been asked, "Why do you stay with him?" He and I enjoy the same music/foods/movies/concerts/plays/weekend getaways. It's amazing we have so much in common since I am 24 years older. We have genuine respect for each other and never quarrel. I feel we both have been hurt enough in our life. I had two disastrous marriages, one lasting 10 years, until I divorced him; the second lasting 31 years, until he passed away March 2002. Both husbands abused me physically/verbally. My boyfriend is always cool, calm and collected. Can he be taught to love?

I'm definitely not going to ask why you stay. I have a different question: why do you think you don't deserve better? And here's another: What beliefs do you have about yourself that draw you to men who can't give you sex, affection and respect in one package? You had two abusive marriages and now you're hooking up with a guy who's rarely conscious (all that alcohol) and shuns closeness. It's a new (for you) variation on the theme of dishonoring yourself.

Your boyfriend is repeating with you the truth about sex as he so brutally learned it; touching erogenous zones was indeed "nasty." Beer is his first love because he can always count on it, unlike the adults in his life who were supposed to protect him but failed miserably. This is a deeply wounded human being.

Your empathy and concern for him are admirable, but they can't power an adult relationship, which can only be based on mutual affection, respect and support. Emphasis on mutual.

Perhaps he can be taught to love, but his liver and brain may give out before then. If he stops drinking, the pain he's running from will come crashing down on him-but only then can he seek out more constructive ways of dealing with it. It's not easy and he could benefit from good professional help and especially the support of other men, as in a men's group.

Keep him as a friend, if you wish. But throw away the Viagra. There is no drug in the world that can counteract the deadening effect of three to six quarts of beer. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. It has effects on sex hormones. It kills liver and brain cells.

Stop paying so much attention to this shadow of a relationship and start respecting your own needs.

No Commitment

I am 20 years old and recently moved in with my 28-year-old boyfriend, who is divorced and visits his three-year-old son every weekend, two hours away. We broke up a few weeks ago but still live together. He doesn't want a commitment. He says he cares about me a lot and doesn't want to hurt me but wants to party and be young while he still can. He was married at 20 and has always worked. He and I work at the same place. I need someone there. I don't feel right when I am alone. I have a 14-month old son. What can I do to get over him ? Is there a chance this will work?

Despite divorce and distance, your boyfriend honors his commitment as a father and that is extremely admirable. It suggests he has good character. But it's easy to see why right now he feels that his commitment plate is full.

Please look at your situation objectively. While you bring love into your boyfriend's life, you do it in a vastly complicating way, by requiring that he tend to the needs of an additional family. It is quite unreasonable to expect him to take on that responsibility so quickly.

As the custodial parent of your son, you have the obligation to tend to your child's needs, even if it means staying home alone sometimes. Parenting is and always has been a demanding job; it's not for the faint of heart. Hopefully you and your son receive some financial and emotional attention from your son's father, who is legally obligated to provide it.

For now, focus your energy on raising your son. Applaud and encourage your boyfriend to honor the obligations he incurred before you entered his life. Your support-with no demands that he be your caretaker-may eventually prove irresistible to him.

Rebound Catch

I am 44, divorced for eight months and have entered the dating arena. One thing I've heard before but didn't pay much attention to until now is that you don't want to be someone's "rebound" person. I have dated a couple of different men and recently met a man I'm very interested in. But I would definitely be his "rebound." Should I keep a safe distance until he experiences a "rebound" person? Please explain any validity to this theory.

There's only one way to avoid being a "rebound" catch-by going slowly, which is essential. What makes "rebound" relationships so unstable is that they're often rushed into for the wrong reason-someone looking either for proof that they are lovable after a failed relationship or for the sheer comfort of deep intimacy or distraction of being with someone rather than alone. They are a flight from something undesirable, not a movement toward something healthy.

That's not to say that you can't meet a wonderful person right off the bat. You can, and maybe you have and maybe he has. The only way you will know is by continuing to see each other in a variety of circumstances and settings.

You need time to bond as a couple, because the relationship will be under stress from each of your links to the past, especially if there are children involved. You also need time to allow for the mental reorganization that must take place. You've got to replace the image in your head of what a man is like based on your ex.

People choosing a mate the second time around often look for traits exactly opposite those of their first partner. Mistake! Instead of choosing someone different, they need to do things differently, particularly manage conflict differently.

Has your new man met your family and friends and spent some time with them? What do they think of him and what a good match he is for you? Remember, you made a mistake once, and you need the input of others besides yourself. And have you met his family and friends? And what's their opinion?

If the relationship is right, time will only validate that.

What Women Want

I am wondering if there are any others out there like me. I am a 50-year-old male who is semi-retired and financially secure; people say I look like a 40-year-old and have the body of a 25-year-old, as I really do take care of myself. I do believe I am a bit of a romantic and have been told I am good looking. So with all these qualities why can I not seem to even find a date?

Because, you may not have heard but it takes more than a body and a bank account to interest good women these days. And yes, indeed, I suspect there are others like you. Maybe many others. Most contemporary women (and most men, too) want a genuine relationship. They want to hook up with someone they can talk to on a dark night. They want someone with whom to share the joys and burdens of life. A true partner for life's journey. A soul mate. And while a bank account and abs are nice, things like personality and character and values matter at least as much. They're the means by which people connect with each other.

Consider the possibility that you may be strutting around so pleased with your pecs and your bank account that you are giving off the unmistakable vibes of self-absorption, while women are looking to make contact with a guy who has some sensitivity, intelligence, wit and maybe even a bit of charm. You certainly betray no signs of these in your letter.

I wonder where, exactly, you are currently looking. Most women lead pretty busy lives these days. If you're not in the work world, I suggest you try the world of online dating. It's become an acceptable way of meeting. Most online dating services charge a monthly fee and require that you write and post a profile that describes you. An online profile allows someone to get more than a skin-deep glimpse of you. And you, of course, can surf the profiles of all the women and establish a conversation that might lead to a date.

Four Months of Fun

I have dated one guy consistently every Friday and/or Saturday night for the past four months. We are both extremely attracted to each other and always spend our time together alone, although we engage in conversations about our jobs and our families. We don't spend time in any other circumstances, such as at parties with friends or at the movies. We are both in our 40s, never married, although I am a single mom raising a son, age 12, a straight-A student. I think I am in love yet we never discuss any future plans. Is this worth pursuing?

It typically takes at least six months for a sense of commitment to develop. So it may not yet feel safe to either or both to make, or talk about, future plans. But you should feel comfortable enough to tell your guy that you are beginning to develop warm and fuzzy feelings for him, that you would love to be able to show him a bit more of your life and to share some of it with him. And that you hope he feels the same way about you.

You are right to be concerned about the isolation of this relationship from everything else in your lives. You can't know what someone is really like and how well they function, and thus whether they are good mate material, until you see them in a variety of contexts and especially with other people.

A man who is in his 40s and never married may shun social situations because he is short on social skills or lacks confidence in the ones he has; that's remediable. It's also possible that a man may avoid social situations because he becomes jealous of any attention his date might pay to others. That's not so remediable and, while at first that may make some women feel special, it could turn a future together into a living hell.

You need more information before you get too emotionally invested in this relationship. Why don't you take the first step and invite him to dinner with one or two close friends. His reaction to your invitation will be very revealing. Some guys could handle it with ease, but in this case you don't want to start by extending an invitation to the annual family reunion. A smaller, less portentous gathering would be better.