Adapted from a recent online discussion.
First get to know someone as a friend, then decide on romance
Unrequited like: What is your theory on why all the men I'm interested in don't feel strongly enough about me to be in a relationship, and all the men who want to be with me, I don't want to be with? I was talking to a male friend last night and he says he has the same problem with women he likes. Must we all end up settling for less than we really want?
Carolyn: Gah, I just choked on my crackers. No! It does not mean that. It probably just means that the traits or qualities you initially regard as relationship-worthy don't quite square with what you really want from (and offer to) someone. So you're getting involved with the wrong people and turning down some of the right ones.
The best remedy for that is to throw away your romantic litmus tests and get to know people slowly as friends — essentially bypassing your normal date-screening process.
See below for a real example:
Anonymous: An "Aha" Moment to Share: I am in my late 30s. I've been seeing a nice guy for almost six months. Yesterday I had the realization not just that I am falling in love with him, but also how much I am enjoying the ride. I don't know if it's experience, reading your advice (observations from you and readers have served me well), or finally being comfortable with myself, but I am having so much fun just being with him without worrying where it's going. Being able to savor this without ruining it with doubts is very liberating.
That's not to say a doubt doesn't occasionally make its way into my psyche, but, for the first time, I'm able to just "be," and know what that means.
Carolyn: Thanks, and congratulations. The moment we meet someone, I believe, it's our natural impulse to imagine a whole script with that person — ending either in "forever" or "never" — without the information we need to make that call. It's hard to overrule the script and let the story write itself.
Bride-to-be should ask if she's lying to herself about fiance
Baltimore: In the past two nights, I've dreamt that my fiance is dying, and that we called off the wedding. We've been having some issues lately — nothing major, just things to do with learning to live under the same roof (as of a couple of months ago), planning a big event together, etc. But is my subconscious trying to tell me something?
For what it's worth, I've woken up both times glad the dream isn't true, especially after the one where he was dying.
Carolyn: I dunno. I would just suggest opening your mind, privately, to previously unthinkable possibilities (calling off the wedding, not his death) and seeing how those ideas sit with you. It's worth asking whether you're lying to yourself.
But whether you are, aren't, or think you aren't but realize six years from now that you were, all you can do is make your best choices on your best information, especially the stuff that's off the script (see above).
Then, you hope it all turns out okay. It's not as if you have the last word on the outcome, so don't lug around impossible responsibilities as if you do.