I’m 30 years old and I had my first and only boyfriend when I was 19. He and I had a good relationship, but we weren’t in love and I haven’t had a boyfriend since. My excuse is I used my twenties to go to college, work and become as successful as possible. I met a great guy in college who became one of my best friends, but he’s married now. I’m ready to get back into the swing of things and start dating again, but for some reason I compare men to him. He made me laugh, he was incredibly sweet, we were buds…
Over the years, I’ve just met jerk after jerk, just wanting to get into my pants. What am I doing wrong? Am I looking in the wrong places? I’ve tried the whole internet dating several times, and I’ve met one too many creeps, and one went completely wrong — like, his picture didn’t match what he actually looked like and he was much older, like grandpa older. I’m getting older myself and I want to get married and have kids one day. I’d like to start somewhere, but where and how do I go about finding a great guy, without comparing him to my college friend? — Hung Up on an Old Friend
Why is it such a bad thing to compare men to your old college friend? You said he was incredibly sweet and made you laugh, and presumably those are qualities you’d like to find in a mate, no? Furthermore, you and you college bud had a close friendship, which is also a necessary foundation for a strong relationship. In fact, I’d argue that if you’ve been meeting jerk after jerk, you should be trying harder to find guys who are like your old friend. And if the problem is that you don’t know where to find those types of guys, here’s an idea: ask you old friend for suggestions! Or, if you’re no longer in contact and don’t want to reach out to him for help finding a boyfriend, because, let’s face it, that would probably be a weird way to re-connect with an old friend, why not imagine where someone like him would spend his time?
But, I have a feeling I’m over-simplifying things here. Maybe in between the lines of your letter, what you’re really saying is that you were in love with this old friend and you don’t know how to get over him. Maybe you’re even scared that because your love for him was unrequited — one can assume — that you’re doomed to unrequited love forever. Maybe deep down, you’re afraid you don’t deserve a “great guy.” I’m just not sure. What is painfully clear from your letter is that you feel hopeless and a little desperate, and one thing I can assure of is this: you are not hopeless. There really are wonderful, great men out there, and at just 31, you have not lost your chance to meet them. (But if you feel like you don’t deserve them, that’s something else altogether that will certainly stand in your way of a healthy relationship, and I’d recommend therapy to help you address where that feeling comes from and how to get over it.).
As for the where to look for your great guy, I’ll tell you what I tell everyone who asks that question: look everywhere. Keep your eyes open when you’re out and about. Great guys shop where you shop. They go to movies where you go to movies. They hang out at the park on a nice day, and walk their dog around the neighborhood, and drop off packages at the post office. They socialize with the people you socialize with, so say “yes” to more invitations. Go to singles events in your area. Join some clubs or intramural sports teams. Explore hobbies that are of interest to you — especially ones that get you interacting with others. Tell your friends you’re on the market and ask if anyone has someone to set you up with. And don’t be afraid to give online dating another try. Just because you had one bad experience doesn’t mean every experience is going to be bad. It only takes one good one to make a successful match.
Maybe the theme of your letter, if there is one, is not to let one disappointing experience — one unrequited love; one member of the online liar’s club — define you or your search for a relationship. If you keep doing that, you will be old before you know it and still alone. So, let go of the disappointment. Let go of whatever hurt and fear has been holding you back. Renew your search for love with a healthy attitude that there is someone out there for you and as long as you are open to finding him, you will. And while you’re looking, remember to smile, make eye contact and be friendly. Great guys are looking for great women, and the best way to show that you’re one of them is to be open and welcoming. I bet if you talked to your old college friend, he’d give you one more piece of advice: be yourself. It’s the only way to find your right match.
*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.