Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“I Don’t Want to End up a Crazy Cat Lady”

I am an almost 33-year-old woman, with a great job, house, family, friends etc, attractive enough and have an outgoing personality. However, I keep coming up empty on the dating front. After a particularly disastrous serious relationship about four years ago (long story short: he dumped via text saying he was dying of cancer. Yes, he’s still alive.) I know that I can be somewhat wary and nervous about dating and relationships, but I don’t feel that I do anything Glenn Close in “Fatal Attraction.”

I’ve been doing online dating with some hits and misses and started talking to someone named “Dave.” The emails progressed and we moved onto phone calls and texts. He’s divorced with custody of his 10 and 12-year-old kids (he’s 34) so weekends were the only time we were able to go out. We had our first and second dates within two days and both nights were a blast! Fast forward several weeks and we’re talking or texting every day — things have gotten intimate and I was enjoying what was happening. I met him at his house Friday for dinner; things got intimate and then I left because I had already planned a night out with friends from out of town. We’d talked all week about doing something on Saturday night, actually spending most of the day together and then getting dinner etc. Well, Saturday comes and I shoot him a text and get no response. I wait and then around 5 pm call and ask if we’re still on for dinner. No answer – straight to voicemail. I’m pissed but trying to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Well, I finally get a response Sunday VIA TEXT that basically said “I partied too hard Friday with friends and was completely destroyed Saturday. Nothing you did, but I think I do want to call things off. I guess the most honest answer is really I just have been in a place where it’s hard for me to get close to anyone and I don’t really want to lead you on. I guess there isn’t enough there for me”. So yeah…shocked is a good word for how I felt and stupid is another word.

I feel like this is a common occurrence for me, and I can’t pinpoint what the turning point is for the guy. I’m not clingy; I normally follow their lead in terms of communication frequency and style so to say I’m frustrated is an understatement. I think sometimes I’m too accommodating or nice in the beginning so maybe I don’t notice things that I should, but it’s easy to second guess myself. I feel like I’m slowly letting my youth slide by and soon I’ll just be the crazy cat lady! Help. — Afraid of Being a Cat Lady

You say this is a common occurrence for you, but I’m wondering what exactly you’re referring to. Being stood up for a date? Being dumped via a text? Or, more generally, things not working out after a few dates? If it’s the former two, I might chalk that up to bad luck and perhaps bad judgment on your part. But it’s the latter … well, darlin’, that’s just called dating. I like to think of myself as an optimist for the most part, but the truth is, most relationships don’t work out. Think about it: the ratio of breakups to successful marriages in anyone’s life is very, very rarely 0:1. I’d say it’s more like 15:1, especially if we’re counting these piddly little three or four-week “relationships” like the one you had with Dave.

I’m not trying to belittle you or make light of your feelings, I’m really not. But let’s put things in perspective here: if you’re getting this worked up over the ending of something you had with a guy you saw all of, what, a handful of times, maybe that’s your problem. You’re getting too invested too quickly. You’re putting too many of your eggs in one basket. You’re counting your chicks before they hatch. [Insert countless other clichés here]. My point is, you may not find you have better luck per se by taking things a little more slowly, but you will probably find that your feelings are spared some if/when things don’t work out, and that will help you maintain a far healthier attitude as you continue your search for the right guy. Rather than get totally scared you’re going to end up a crazy, lonely cat lady if someone stands you up again or ends after a few dates things via text, you can shrug it off and say, “Wow, glad I dodged that bullet before I got too close!”

Also, even if you don’t feel like you’re being clingy, and you think you’re mirroring the other person in terms of communication, etc., if your head is saying, “Oh My God, this could be the one! I hope this is the one! I am almost 33! I don’t want to end up alone! I don’t want to be a crazy, lonely cat lady! Please God, let this be the one! He seems like he could really, really be the one … Oh please!!” that shit comes across whether you mean it to or not. Believe me, it does. Guys can sense these things. They can sense the desperation and it’s a turn-off. Big-time.

So, how do you stop yourself from being desperate? Well, for one thing, don’t rule out other options just because you’ve found one potentially nice guy to go out with. Keep a few pots on the burners if you can. If you’re online dating, try to be communicating with at least two guys at all times. Even if you decide not to go out with one or either of them, just knowing you have options will help you from getting too obsessed over one person. Also, if you know that being intimate with someone creates an immediate connection that may not exist yet outside the physical aspect of your relationship, then don’t get intimate so quickly. Wait until there’s more of a commitment. Wait until you trust the guy a little more. Wait until the guy has proven in some way that he is worthy of that part of you. Don’t rush into daily communication with someone you barely know. I’m not saying that doing this will automatically save you from being hurt or disappointed again in the future, but it certainly won’t hurt. It will help you from getting too invested too quickly — something that has proven to backfire for you in the past. And that, my friend, is going to be one of your best bets in finding the long-lasting love you long for without losing your mind in the process.

P.S. Even if you do land a long-lasting relationship, there’s no guarantee you won’t end up a crazy cat lady, still. Ain’t no shame, girl!

*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at [email protected] and be sure to follow me on Twitter.

152 comments… add one
  • TheOtherMe May 17, 2011, 7:44 am

    I agree Wendy that maybe you’re expecting too much too quickly because some of the “signs” ( like a good date) were there.
    It’s so easy to get wrapped up with all the good, cute and new stuff in the beginning, so much so that we tend to see nothing else. I know it’s hard to restrain that excitement of “he could be the one” because those feelings sometimes just pop-up but if you are conscious of them from the start, you will probably be able to mentally slow things down & proceed with a little more caution so you don’t set yourself up for disappointment.

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    • demoiselle May 17, 2011, 10:10 am

      A good date can be misleading, too . . . there are people who have charisma and excellent social skills and can make ANYTHING seem like a good date, and anyone they speak to feel like royalty . . . but that doesn’t necessarily mean there is any solid foundation there . . . it takes time to figure out what is real, and it takes time to get to know what is going on under the surface of your date.

      I remember when I was studying in an MFA program for theatre. There were lots of acting students, and at one party, one of my classmates, who I’d known for a year and a half, suddenly sat down next to me at the bar. He said he felt it was time to get to know me better, and started asking me questions about my life. He turned on the charisma, which I realized is just some natural magic he had . . . truly intoxicating. If it had been a date I’d have been convinced that we were a potential match. I could have fallen right out of my chair I was so surprised.

      And he didn’t even mean to do it–it was just the way he is when he talks to another person, one on one. Glad I knew that going into the conversation!

      It takes time to figure a person out.

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  • NOLAGirl May 17, 2011, 7:58 am

    I totally love your last line. Cat ladies unite! Happily married, but truth be told…I’m still a crazy cat lady. haha.

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    • MissDre May 17, 2011, 8:54 am

      ME TOO! (not married yet but happily coupled and he’s just as crazy about my girls as I am… yes, I am SUCH a cat lady!)

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    • Bethany May 17, 2011, 9:35 am

      Me too! I’m getting married in fall, but I’m totally a crazy cat lady!

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    • Missy May 17, 2011, 10:03 am

      Same here…just got engaged and I’m a crazy cat lady. Though to be fair my boy is by far more in love with my fiancé than he is with me…at least his sister still loves me more! 🙂

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    • Steelbird May 17, 2011, 10:19 am

      Just wanted to add that I’m also a crazy cat lady. I’m getting married next year and while he didn’t start out liking cats he’s grown to love my babies.

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    • honeybeenicki May 17, 2011, 10:30 am

      I’m married and definitely a crazy cat lady. And dog lady. And lizard lady. And rodent lady. Its ok, though cause its something my husband loves about me.

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    • LennyBee May 17, 2011, 11:22 am

      Me too I’m a crazy cat lady! Not married, but my bf actually got me a second cat to keep my girl company when we’re away.

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      Skyblossom May 17, 2011, 12:25 pm

      Me too! I think I was born a cat lady.

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    • Lora May 20, 2011, 7:41 pm

      My boyfriend and I are BOTH crazy cat ladies. He does more babytalk to his kitty than I do to mine.

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  • ReginaRey May 17, 2011, 8:32 am

    It’s great that you’re putting yourself out there and that you seem to be opening yourself up to all sorts of potential relationships…but part of me wonders if you’re almost TOO open. While there’s something to be said for having an open mind and getting to know lots of different men, there’s also something to be said for being a bit critical. Dating isn’t necessarily a quantity game, but a quality one. The fact that you’ve been dumped twice in a text message, and that you wonder if you’re being too nice in the beginning, leads me to suspect that perhaps you ARE being too nice and not choosy ENOUGH in the beginning.

    What’s your dating criteria? Do you have a set of values and personality traits that you typically look for in men? Or are you going out with any man who’s nice to you up front and asks you out? I think some of the frustrating dating experiences can be avoided altogether by cultivating a certain skill in reading men – Is this man honest? Is he showing a genuine interest in ME? Is he looking for something serious, or something fun? You don’t need a laundry list of questions or traits you have to “check off” the list, but you SHOULD be somewhat critical so that you can avoid the men who think it’s OK to dump someone in a text message.

    And Wendy’s right – avoiding getting intimate before you know the answer to some of those aforementioned questions will help you avoid some dating disasters. Getting intimate with someone establishes this (sometimes) false sense of security and connection, and can very much jumble your practical reasoning ability and your CRITICAL thinking ability. Don’t let the fact that you feel “your youth slipping away” mar your ability to be a bit choosy when selecting men…in fact, you may save some time when you bypass the ones who aren’t worth stopping for! Best of luck.

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    • demoiselle May 17, 2011, 10:12 am

      An actual check list can be useful, too, for some people, if you are also able to be flexible about it. I had very good luck by figuring out what traits were important to me and sticking with them. It can help keep one from getting carried away by “superficial” details.

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      Skyblossom May 17, 2011, 12:36 pm

      I think that being picky is critically important. Before meeting my husband I went well over a year without a date. Not because I didn’t have guys asking me out but because I was politely turning them down. I just didn’t feel enough connection to any of them to go out with them. They were nice guys but there was no chemistry there for me. When I finally met my husband I knew that he was different. I was incredibly attracted to him and pursued him a bit until he asked me out. His friends told him I wouldn’t go out with him because I didn’t go out with anyone. I was just waiting for the right guy to come along and it definitely worked. I knew there was no guarantee and that I could feel the chemistry and still have it not work but it did. That was over 25 years ago and today I’d probably have asked him out.

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  • Wendy May 17, 2011, 8:35 am

    Whatsa matter with cats? Have not lived one day without cats since I got my first one from my dad when I was 10. I’m 56 now. I’ve had up to 4 at a time. Btw, married for 37 years, 2 children, 5 grandchildren. Cats are a lot less trouble than any of them, but I love my cats and my offspring dearly.

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    • LTC039 May 17, 2011, 9:00 am

      People associate old single ladies with having cats are their “companions,” it’s def. a stigma cause by the media…I’m pretty sure there are plenty of old single dog & bird ladies out there!! & men too!

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      • SpaceySteph May 17, 2011, 9:27 am

        My mom is 50, married, has 3 kids… also has 2 birds, 1 dog, 3 turtles, and was snake-sitting for awhile. She loves having pets. So I agree, you can be a crazy cat lady, bird lady, dog lady, etc. without being single.

      • Chicka Bow Bow May 17, 2011, 9:58 am

        My mom is married, raised four children, has a good career, many friends, and an active social life. She also has 6 cats, not counting the strays on her porch she feeds and cares for. She hasn’t slept one night without a cat on her chest since I was like 6. She’s super allergic to cats and pretty much lives on her inhaler. She’s the craziest cat lady I’ve ever met, and she would never want to be any other way. 😛

  • LTC039 May 17, 2011, 8:58 am

    Agree with Wendy’s advice!!
    Date a few guys at a time until you know which one is right…I’m not telling you to be a slut, but there’s nothing wrong with keeping a small pool of men while you’re in the beginning stages of dating. That way, as Wendy stated, you won’t get too wrapped up with one & then potentially miss out on a great guy.
    Just keep telling yourself you’re awesome & that any guy would be LUCKY to be dating you. As long as you seriously believe that, your confidence will radiate & THAT is very attractive to men!

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  • MissDre May 17, 2011, 9:04 am

    I agree with everything that Wendy said and everything that ReginaRey said. The biggest thing that helped me boost my confidence was taking a vow of celibacy. Not because there is anything wrong with sex, but because I know myself, and I know that I get attached WAY to quickly as soon as sex enters the picture.

    Staying celibate while I was dating made me feel really empowered. No, not because I was using sex as a tool to manipulate anyone, but because it made me feel in control of my myself and my own emotions. I also felt that if a guy was still around on the 10th date, even though we hadn’t been intimate, then he was truly interested in ME and not just getting laid.

    I didn’t hold onto that vow as long as I had originally hoped, but it did teach me a valuable lesson in that I AM in control of how I feel. This certainly may not be the way for everyone, and no it doesn’t make you immune to disappointment when things don’t work out, but it really did help me a lot.

    Really long message but I guess my point is, listen to Wendy and do what you need to do in order to give yourself some power over the situation.

    PS cats are totally amazing!

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    • ReginaRey May 17, 2011, 9:22 am

      TOTALLY agree with your second paragraph. It’s very empowering, and it really helps you determine if the guy is interested in you for what matters…not sticking around to get some.

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  • BoomChakaLaka May 17, 2011, 9:05 am

    I have no cats, but I am in love with my puppy. Why are there no crazy dog ladies?

    That aside, LW, I really want to stress Wendy’s point in the third paragraph: Desperation reeks! It really does. When you start thinking your clock’s ticking, other people start hearing that tick, no matter how hard you try to stifle the sound. You don’t need to get married/have kids now or even five years from now. What you do need to do now though is enjoy yourself. Start going out with some quality guys (not sure what your criteria are, but follow that!) and have an awesome time. Whatever happens, happens!

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    • Jess May 17, 2011, 10:17 am

      meeeee toooo. LOVE dogs. Personally, i think cats are kind of a risk because you can’t really form their personalities. They are either really interactive and friendly and love to be petted, or not. I’d only get a cat if it was already an adult and already proved to be super friendly and loving to play.

      But at the same time, the best compliment you hear about cats is “it acts just like a dog!” so why wouldn’t you just get a dog?

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      • ele4phant May 17, 2011, 11:01 am

        My cat has a ton of quirks and is constantly making me and my boyfriend crack up, but he is not like a dog at all, which is great. If I wanted an animal to act like a dog, I’d get a dog. While I understand the appeal, dogs seem like WAY to much work to train (and there’s nothing I hate more than meeting a dog that jumps all over me and is out of control), and I don’t really want an animal that is bonded to me 24/7. I like having the cat and being ignored sometimes.

      • BoomChakaLaka May 17, 2011, 12:12 pm

        Dogs like affection, but there are several dog types that are pretty independent. I personally wanted a playful bundle of joy and I’m so happy with my Shih-tzu/Bichon Mix.

        But there are plenty of dogs that love lazing around all day in their owner’s backyard, content with not seeing anyone. Those dogs also tend to be anti-social, but whatevs…

      • ele4phant May 17, 2011, 12:57 pm

        I’m sure that there are probably some breeds out there that I would find agreeable to my temperament, but I’d still have to train ’em (which I don’t know how to do or feel compelled to learn), and worst of all, poop pickup! Yes, litterboxes are gross too (but in the summer my cat goes outside and barely uses his anyways), but a dried out, indistinguishable lump of something seems far better than picking up a steaming pile of poo with nothing but thin layer of plastic protecting my hand.

        I guess it comes down to: some people love dogs and will always prefer them over cats, and vice versa. I think I will be a lifelong cat lady, I just couldn’t imagine living with a dog.

    • spaceboy761 May 17, 2011, 10:40 am

      Most cats are a-holes.

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      • TheOtherMe May 17, 2011, 10:45 am

        Booooo Spaceboy, Booooooo !!!

      • spaceboy761 May 17, 2011, 10:49 am

        Well, it’s true. My friend’s fiancee has a cat that like to annoying rub against my leg for 20 minutes at a clip. When I finally reach down to pet her, she tosses her nose in the air as if to say, “As if I would accept a pet from YOU!” What a jerk.

      • NOLAGirl May 17, 2011, 11:02 am

        haha lots of cats are like that. I swear by yellow male cats, hands down the best cats I’ve ever known have been yellow males.

      • ele4phant May 17, 2011, 11:26 am

        Yeah the orange ones are usually pretty mellow. A big grey male cat is generally a good bet too. If you want to avoid sterotypical finicky cats, avoid anything with siamese in it!

      • MissDre May 17, 2011, 11:32 am

        WHAT??? My Siamese cat is THE MOST affectionate cat in the world. She LOVES everyone and purrs for everyone and loves to be picked up and petted and kissed and just about everything! Before owning one, I used to think they were bitchy cats too, but I did some research and Siamese are actually one of the most affectionate breeds there are!

      • ele4phant May 17, 2011, 11:49 am

        To be fair, I’ve never owned a cat with siamese in it, (my aunt owned a cat that was part siamese and he was terrible, incredibly mean and sprayed everywhere – they eventually gave it to a no kill shelter), so I’m glad to know I’m wrong. They are very pretty. I still stand behind the big greys though, they are pretty awesome.

      • MissDre May 17, 2011, 11:56 am

        Yes, they ARE pretty awesome 🙂

      • BoomChakaLaka May 17, 2011, 12:14 pm

        Honest to greatness, I did not know there were so many species of cats. Does anyone have a cat and a dog? Maybe I can get a little friend for my puppy?

      • Kate May 17, 2011, 12:17 pm

        All the same species, just different breeds or types.

      • TheOtherMe May 17, 2011, 12:31 pm

        I have a 5 month old Yorkie and a 6 year old cat and they play together ALL DAY. ( I work from home so I am with them all the time )

      • Britannia May 17, 2011, 12:36 pm

        That must be cuteness overload!! I’m jealous 🙂

      • NOLAGirl May 17, 2011, 1:07 pm

        I have a 9 year old dog and a almost 2 year old cat. I got the cat when he was 5 months old and they get along fabulously. They chase each other around the house and play. I was careful though when I adopted my cat to get one who’d been fostered in a house with dogs, cats and kids so he’d be pretty well socialized, and he definitely is.

      • SpyGlassez May 17, 2011, 4:22 pm

        Ha, a big grey male cat – you just described mine.

        I wouldn’t say I’m a crazy cat lady – I loved the cat I had growing up; after he died, I got my Simon, and I love him….and I’ve told the bf that I would like a cat when we have our own place (Simon can’t live with us because of the policies at the apartment, so he lives with my mom). My roommate and her mom are “cat ladies” – every cat is beautiful, they love every kitten, they would take in every stray (and often do since her mom has a farm). I like my selected cats one or maybe 2 at a time.

        But then, we had a basenji growing up, which is kind of like having another cat that runs fast and might chew a hole through the baseboard of your house.

      • TheOtherMe May 17, 2011, 11:02 am


      • Britannia May 17, 2011, 11:16 am

        Spaceboy I agree… I actually love cats, and cats hate me. I can never get one to like me.

        I’m a turtle and dog girl. The turtle (Elliot) ignores me and never shows me love, and I can never get the dog (Charlie) off my ass. I guess it evens it out for me 🙂

      • ele4phant May 17, 2011, 11:21 am

        Cats are funny like that. Lots of eye contact and approaching them is seen as threatening, so they often avoid people they don’t know who get excited and try to pet them. Conversely, if a person doesn’t look at them and leaves them alone, then the cat will read that as friendly and non-threatening. Thus, people who aren’t cat people (ahem spaceboy761), will find that they attract cats left and right. So, next time you meet a cute cat, hang back and let him come to you.

      • spaceboy761 May 17, 2011, 11:31 am

        Holy shit! This completely explains my ‘Strippers Are Like Cats’ theory:

        They both find the people in the room that are clearly made the most uncomfortable by them and then gravitate towards those people.

      • BoomChakaLaka May 17, 2011, 12:15 pm

        Spaceboy, where do you come up with this stuff?

        Also, a turtle. Hmm. I’m staying away from any quasi-aquatic creatures. I’m like 0-10 with fish, I’m pretty sure I’d be worse with amphibians.

      • Britannia May 17, 2011, 12:23 pm

        Get a dry-land turtle if you just want something to take care of. I have had box turtles most of my life, and right now I have an African Hingeback – he’s more fussy and requires more care than box turtles, but I love him anyways.

      • spaceboy761 May 17, 2011, 1:42 pm

        “Spaceboy, where do you come up with this stuff?”

        A few comedy writing workshops in college and a lifetime of bitter disappointment.

      • Britannia May 17, 2011, 12:14 pm

        You made me laugh so hard I woke up my live-in boyfriend! I said it was Spaceboy’s fault, he mumbled something about how I’m crazy, and went back to sleep. xD

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        bittergaymark May 17, 2011, 12:58 pm

        My friend’s cat used to do the same — only he would bite you to the point of drawing blood. God, I HATED that cat. When it got cancer and died, I put on a brave charade of “oh, how sad, how tragic” but I do NOT miss that blasted cat.

      • SpaceySteph May 17, 2011, 11:12 am

        This is a very polarizing comment Spaceboy, but I’m with you. Cats are totally out there plotting our destruction.

      • TheGirl May 17, 2011, 11:19 am

        You’re probably right, but that’s what makes them so entertaining. They’re totally neurotic, obsessive-compulsive, weird animals that do a lot of things for no good reason. Besides, they like you better when you’re the one feeding them.

      • NOLAGirl May 17, 2011, 11:22 am

        my dog is neurotic and OCD and bizarre as can be. The cat on the other hand is more interested in licking himself and laying in the sunshine. A kitty after my own heart 😉 Although the cat does like to eat lizards and chase imaginary things across the house.

      • Britannia May 17, 2011, 12:18 pm

        My dog is fairly neurotic too, but in humorous ways.

        He’s a Dachshund, so I regularly buy him toys shaped like hot dogs (for the irony). He always tears them apart, but never any of his other toys (a hamburger and a teddy bear). He’s never had a real hot dog before, so idk why he has a thing for hot-dog shaped plastic.

        My boyfriend likes to “stalk” the dog, and has a good time scaring the crap out of him (sometimes literally). The dog ONLY chews/pees on my boyfriend’s stuff, NEVER mine. I tell him it’s because the dog is getting him back for being an a-hole… he doesn’t believe me, but I know it to be true because the latest incident was that the boyfriend forced poor Charlie into the shower for a wash-down (he hates showers, I give him baths instead), and immediately afterward, Charlie ran straight over to boyfriend’s backpack and peed all over it (the doggy door was open). RETRIBUTION!

    • mf May 17, 2011, 1:29 pm

      My fiance would tell you that I am absolutely a crazy dog lady!

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  • MsMisery May 17, 2011, 9:07 am

    This is why I’m a pessimist. Instead of being shocked and appalled when things go horribly wrong, I can be pleasantly surprised when things turn out ok.

    I don’t know if I’m the best person for advice here. I’m 28 and I’ve been going steady with my cat for 4 years.

    I guess, if anything… take a break for a while. I know that may sound counterintuitive when you’re hellbent on settling down, but you seem to be picking the wrong men. Stop for a minute and make a list or something. What are you looking for in a relationship? In a husband? In the father of your kids? Instead of trying to make everything work with the next person you meet, see if they meet your criteria first.

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    • G May 17, 2011, 11:47 am

      Exactly! My Mom always told me to “Expect the worst”. I’ve since told my friends that that is sort of my motto. They think that’s kind of horrible. But, it’s not! When happy things happen, I really am able to appreciate them. I know that it is really hard to make a real & strong connection with another human being. So… I date… I put my best foot forward… but I know that on most dates, there is a good chance, he won’t be “the one”. My best friend is always hooked on a guy after 1 or 2 dates. While people think I’m too negative, at least I know not to expect sunshine and butterflies with every guy I meet.
      I’m 29 and I sometimes feel hopelessly single, so I could relate to this letter. But, I think what I have started to realize that dating should be FUN. I don’t want to look at dates as job interviews anymore. So, what if I end up a crazy cat lady? I’ll have a lot of good stories.

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        Skyblossom May 17, 2011, 12:45 pm

        I love your attitude. Dating should be fun and never a job interview.

  • cdobbs May 17, 2011, 9:26 am

    ugh, count yourself lucky that things didn’t go any farther with this guy…he wasn’t even man enough to call you…texting you don’t want to be with someone anymore is so pathetic…find a real man

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  • Meg May 17, 2011, 9:37 am

    This is completely anecdotal evidence based on my personal experience, so take it for what it is:

    I have a history of dating all the wrong guys, and of sticking things out for way too long even when they had showed themselves to be wrong for me for various reasons. That said, a year and a half ago (around New Years) I resolved to take a more “grown up” approach to dating- dating outside my “type” and using it as a calculated tool to figure out what I liked, and what I didn’t, in men. I registered for match.com, put myself out there with guys in my life I had a thing for, made sure to participate in social activities I might otherwise have blown off so I could meet people, and actively tried to flirt (non-trashily) with people I was interested in.

    Several things happened. One is what Wendy mentioned, where I never had too many eggs in one basket so I was able to 1) not feel as desperate and 2) not overlook the “not what I’m looking for” qualities because of the qualities in a guy I did like. I was confident enough to say “I like you, but I don’t feel a spark” and move forward with my life.

    After about 8 months of this, I made a list of what I’d learned. Here was my list:
    * Someone who’s on my team- who supports me when I need it, but also doesn’t shy away when I want to have his back.
    * Someone whose faith is compatible with mine.
    * Someone who has a little bit of a bad-boy streak to go along with my inner wild child.
    * Someone who wants kids and who I can see co-parenting with.
    * Someone who loves my dog.
    * Someone who is enough of a grown-up not to need me to mother him, but still knows how to have fun and doesn’t talk to me like I’m a kid.
    * Someone who is passionate about something, and has the drive to pursue it, whether it’s a career or otherwise.
    * Someone who loves to travel, and who could travel compatibly with me.
    * Someone who is intelligent and doesn’t shy away from meaty topics.
    * Someone who respects my social and political opinions.
    * Someone who treats me, my friends and family well.
    * Someone who has his own life, but is able to work with me to schedule time together.
    * Someone who can keep a balance between keeping it exciting and the comfortable quiet times.
    * Someone I’m attracted to.
    * Someone with whom I have sexual chemistry.

    Literally a week after I made this list, I went to a bbq thrown by an acquaintance and ran into my boyfriend (I’ve known him, although not well, for years) and it was like I was knocked on the head about how much he fit. He had a gf at the time, but it seemed (to our whole group of friends) that they’d been on their way out for a while, so I decided it was ok to acknowledge how I felt about him (to myself- I didn’t pursue anything yet, although I did invite him to my birthday party). The next time I saw him he made a point to tell me he broke up with the girlfriend, and a few weeks later we went on our first date. Today (9 months later) it amazes me how much he fits every single part of the list. It’s kind of crazy.

    Long story short, dating around for a bit gave me the perspective to find out what I want, the confidence to go for it, and the ability to appreciate the real thing when I got it. It also makes it a whole lot easier to talk about the relationship/future now that we’re in it!

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    • melikeycheesecake May 17, 2011, 9:59 am

      Fantastic example for the LW!!!

      So glad things worked out for you Meg! Best wishes to you and the bf 🙂

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    • demoiselle May 17, 2011, 10:18 am

      That’s something like the list that I made, which I found very helpful. Good advice!

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    • spaceboy761 May 17, 2011, 10:34 am

      Soy el red thumb.

      Basic guy rule: Beware the listmaker. You are not a resume.

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      • Meg May 17, 2011, 10:50 am

        Fair point, but I will say that the list was more to help me keep perspective than it was a list of qualifications. It’s a whole lot harder to overlook something important enough for me to list if I had to look at it objectively. Sure, I could have met a guy who absolutely hates to travel and fallen head over heels for him- but I would have had to reconcile it and say that all of the other ways we match outweigh that part. I can’t just brush it under the rug and pretend it’s not there. This is especially important with the major deal-breaker stuff like treating my friends/family well.

        Plus, most of these items are pretty broad- ie “compatible faith” rather than “completely agreeing with my religious beliefs.” I want a guy to support me, not make me feel weird for being active in my church, and agree with raising kids in church one day. He doesn’t have to go to church with me every Sunday. “Passion/drive” over material/financial career success, because it’s hard to maintain my own drive if my partner doesn’t understand that, but I don’t need someone to financially support me and take me on lavish dates.

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        leilani May 17, 2011, 11:00 am

        I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a list as it either a) has less than 5 things on it or b) is very flexible. I think a list could help some people who have gone for the wrong people in the past, and in the end think “What was I thinking??” I think the key is to think of it less as a checklist or test to be passed, and more as a list of qualities to keep in mind. So then, when they are interested in someone new, they can look over the list of things that are important to them get a rough idea if this person is really compatible with them for the long term, or if they are just lonely.

      • Meg May 17, 2011, 11:04 am

        Thanks, that’s what I was trying to say in my reply above, but you said it much more succinctly!

      • spaceboy761 May 17, 2011, 11:12 am

        As a guy, it’s not awesome to know that a girl is only keeping you around for as long as her list doesn’t change or she thinks that somebody completes the list better than you do. It kind of makes us feel like appreciable assets instead of humans. Basically, if a guy broke up with you by saying, “I found a girl that makes me as happy as you do, but her tits are slightly bigger. So I’m leaving you.”, that evoked emotion right there.

        Also, listmaking is an entirely female exercise, so it’s fairly alien to us. Since very few men think this way, so it comes off as weird. Women tend to have multi-point evaluation systems. Men tend to have a ternary system: Ignore, Bang, Marry.

      • demoiselle May 17, 2011, 11:15 am

        Having a list does not mean that you’re only keeping a guy around for as long as he meets the criteria or until someone who fits it better comes along. It’s merely a way to clarify what is important to you. I’m 100% certain that you, too, have a “list” of some sort, even if you’ve never articulated it, which helps you decide whether someone you’re dating is a person you’d like to be with long term.

      • spaceboy761 May 17, 2011, 11:22 am

        Men will have an internal set of criteria to set their priorities straight. Women will articulate a list, print it out, compare it with that of friends, and use it as a reference document. That’s a big distinction.

      • demoiselle May 17, 2011, 11:30 am

        I think that you are reading a lot into what “having a list” means if you assume that it means printing it out, comparing it with their friends, and using it as a reference document. I don’t think any of those points were suggested above. Just that it is useful to know what qualities are valuable to you–as men must also do, on some level, if they are classifying women into “ignore, bang, marry” pools…

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        leilani May 17, 2011, 11:33 am

        I think very, very few women do that, spaceboy.

      • HmC May 17, 2011, 12:40 pm

        Spaceboy I see where you’re coming from- I wouldn’t like it if a guy I met had a list and was doing it the way you described. But I agree with demoiselle that you’re reading too much into it. Clearly that is not how Meg did her list.

        I have a similar story to Meg actually. A couple years ago I realized I was kind of hitting the dating wall. So I took a break first, made a short list of qualities that I knew were important to me, then re-approached dating with a new attitude. I never dreamed of showing or comparing the list to anyone! And the traits weren’t superficial or non-flexible. I made the list to help me sort through my priorities, then never looked at it again until a few months ago. And oddly enough, just like Meg, I realized that my current boyfriend fit all the criteria!

        So anyway- yes I can see how making a list could be kind of off-putting for whoever you may date, if the list were treated in a certain way. But as a simple tool to help you sort your thoughts and figure out what you know about yourself, I think it can be helpful.

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        Skyblossom May 17, 2011, 12:52 pm

        I have internal criteria also. I’ve never been a list person, except the grocery list and that’s just so that I don’t have to make a second trip for all the things I didn’t get. I know when I see something I don’t like and I know when I see things that impress me. I trust my instincts and my impressions but I am also very observant. I think I run on a combination of all three.

      • MsMisery May 17, 2011, 11:17 am

        If list-making is alien to you, then you can’t begrudge us for it too much. Standing up to pee is alien to me, but I’m not going to NOT date someone for doing it. I’d have to change orientation.

      • spaceboy761 May 17, 2011, 11:51 am

        Would you date a guy that pees sitting down?

      • demoiselle May 17, 2011, 12:13 pm

        Sure, less mess!

      • spaceboy761 May 17, 2011, 12:55 pm

        Outwitted again… goddammit.

      • MsMisery May 17, 2011, 1:15 pm

        Lulz!! I am not sure how I’d even find out, unless it was by accident. I have a strict ONE PERSON ONLY rule for bathrooms (cats are excluded. You can’t keep a cat out of a bathroom).

      • SpyGlassez May 17, 2011, 7:39 pm

        You can, but you will almost always regret it.

      • SpaceySteph May 17, 2011, 11:34 am

        I understand where you’re coming from but I don’t think that a woman with a list would necessarily behave the way you are assuming she would.

        I don’t think Meg is going to be holding a potential boyfriend to the list every month like a performance review and then making sure all the boxes still check out and also checking every other guy she runs across to see if he fills up more check boxes, its just a personal reminder that if she were constantly butting heads with the bf about matters of faith then he’s clearly not what she wants, not just because the checkbox isn’t filled. Also, I don’t think the list will change if its such basic things like “respects my opinion” or “wants children.” A woman isn’t going to suddenly think “forget a man that respects my opinion, I want to be treated like a moron.” That being said, some people do decide that they don’t want kids when they thought they did, and in that case I think that after such a fundamental change its likely the relationship will not survive, whether its “on the list” or not.

        If her list said “Makes a six figure salary” and “will become president of the united states” then I could see the issues you have. The moment he loses his job or expresses no desire to be president, would you just dump him because the box wasn’t filled. Beware the shallow listmaker, I guess.

      • Britannia May 17, 2011, 11:19 am

        Women are very concerned with the nuances of humans. Men seem to be able to tolerate small indiscretions in personality much better than women do. Also, women are much more emotional when it comes to bonding with people – and emotions can sometimes cloud their ability to have objective perspective, so a list helps a lot to make sure they are looking at a person from all angles, which is important to us.

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        leilani May 17, 2011, 11:21 am

        Well, I’ve never made a list, but I think a certain kind of list-making might give the whole practice a bad name. I would never condone someone writing out a 50-item long list with things like “salary $100k or above”, “high cheekbones”, and “has a PHd in Philosophy of Ethics with a focus in environmental concerns”. Also, I can’t really imagine the necessity of revising your list every so often and seeing if your partner still makes the cut. I would see it more as a tool to use in the beginning, when your mind could be fogged by base sexual attraction or the immediate availability of another person, to reconsider your options if you’re only interested in a long-term relationship and don’t want to waste your time.

      • demoiselle May 17, 2011, 11:33 am

        Oh, I never said anything about revising a list regularly to see if your partner still qualifies. I wrote up a list of desired qualities when I was 22. I didn’t look at it again until I was already with my current husband for over nine months. When I did, I just stumbled across it and was surprised that he fit every point on my five year old list.

        But you can’t convince me that it was pure chance that when I met my hubby, I recognized he was the kind of man I wanted to spend my life with. I recognized it quickly because at some point I had thought about what characteristics were important to me in a partner.

      • Quakergirl May 17, 2011, 11:21 am

        I agree for the most part about the checklist being dangerous, and I think a lot of women get obsessed with checking off every box without seeing the bigger picture. But part of the validity of the list depends on what you put on it. I think there’s a difference between making a list of non-negotiable character traits and life goals (like “respects my faith” or “wants kids”) that will be necessary to have a successful relationship and making a list of superficial characteristics (“must love Sandra Bullock movies,” “has brown hair,” or “wears Brooks Brothers suits exclusively”) that have relatively little bearing on how compatible you will be long-term.

      • demoiselle May 17, 2011, 11:34 am

        I guess that there are many different approaches to lists. I can see how your latter example would be less than constructive…

    • MsMisery May 17, 2011, 11:15 am

      It’s like we need an app for this. Can we just scan people with our phone to see if we should room together and/or mate?

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  • kerrycontrary May 17, 2011, 10:02 am

    I agree with Wendy’s advice. I know how frustrating dating can be, so please don’t give up yet. Keep on keepin on! Don’t give up on love.

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  • demoiselle May 17, 2011, 10:04 am

    My mother always told me, as I was growing up: “Every relationship fails until you find the one that doesn’t.” It’s easy to feel discouraged when you’re stuck in the first half of that equation.

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    • SpaceySteph May 17, 2011, 10:18 am

      I think you’ve said that here before, I liked it then and I like it now. Its a good point, its not like you can have a string of successful marriages (although my great grandmother has had 2 husbands pass away, so maybe that counts- it was “til death do us part” and I’m pretty sure she didn’t kill them herself).

      When I first started dating my boyfriend he said “The only successful relationships I’ve been in were with women like X.” And I said “well I think a successful relationship is one where you’re together forever, so by that definition I haven’t had any, and neither have you.” Different people can interpret it different ways, but I think if what you’re looking for is to not end up a lonely crazy cat lady, then you’re looking for the kind that lasts til someone dies and then you can’t have alot of successful relationships, just the one (or sadly, maybe 2).

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      • demoiselle May 17, 2011, 10:23 am

        The obverse of that is that if you are really focused on “not being a crazy cat lady” you can overlook the bad qualities of your partner and stick with them too long, because being with someone has to be better than being alone, right?

        I think one of the other best lessons of my mother (she’s really amazing) was that it is important to be able to be happy alone. It’s important to realize that it is actually WORSE to be in a bad relationship–or maybe even a barely tolerable but not actually happy one–than it is to be single.

  • melikeycheesecake May 17, 2011, 10:15 am

    There is a lot of pressure (mainly for women) to get married and have babies. I’m sure the LW is feeling that pressure from society.

    For instance most of my friends were married by the time they were in their early to mid-twenties… but I did not let myself feel the pressure. I had faith that my husband was in my future, whether that be near or distant future, I did not care. I just let myself enjoy life.

    All the advice above is fabulous. I hope you take it to heart. Best Wishes.

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    • MissDre May 17, 2011, 11:11 am

      I’m only 25 and I already feel the pressure 😐

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      • spaceboy761 May 17, 2011, 11:47 am

        I blame the runaway success of ’16 & Pregnant’

      • Britannia May 17, 2011, 12:05 pm

        I definitely think that 16 & Pregnant *can* have a negative effect on girls – it shows them that they’ll be able to handle having a child at such a young age, kind of glamorizes it, when it really shouldn’t be about being able to just HANDLE it.

        In my opinion, you should only have a child once you’re financially and emotionally able to have a well-rounded life that includes a child.

      • Kate May 17, 2011, 12:11 pm

        I see your point and agree with you that people should be financially and emotionally prepared for kids.

        Personally, that show makes me frightened of having kids, but I am 34 and finishing my PhD so maybe I need to get a grip. I see these girls with no money and no career, and some with disastrous relationships and think: how will they DO this? How will their kids make it?

      • Kate May 17, 2011, 12:26 pm

        Also, I have a cat and a horse, so maybe that’s the problem 😉

      • Britannia May 17, 2011, 12:34 pm

        Horses are a big responsibility and take up a lot of time. Frankly, I’d probably find myself with no time left if I were going for a PhD and also had a horse (used to lease horses when I was younger, was on the show circuit)!

        I don’t think there’s anything wrong with finding the prospect of having children to be frightening. It just means that you’re aware that this is not the right time in your life for a kid! Frankly, I can’t stomach the idea of having a poop and scream machine on top of all my other responsibilities, but I hope that one day I’ll be ready to handle it. It’s a point of maturity to know that you’re not ready, and to wait until you are. I actually think waiting makes you better parent material than just throwing yourself into the responsibility “when push comes to shove”.

      • Kate May 17, 2011, 12:45 pm

        @Britannia: You are right. I am not ready yet; maybe when I have a job secured, I will change my mind. That show makes my skin crawl like I am still a teenager, though!

        As for the horse, I am looking forward to hitting the show circuit next year: hope to hit Tulsa or Fort Worth as a goal. I have an Appaloosa mare and she has not done much since I’ve been finishing school.

      • Britannia May 17, 2011, 12:54 pm

        Do you ride English or Western? What disciplines do you plan on competing in? Since you’re in Texas with an Appy, I’m guessing Western or gymkhana?

      • Kate May 17, 2011, 1:00 pm


        She is a western pleasure horse. But I enjoy huntseat and jumping, too. She has a decent trot, but she prefers jogging and loping. Grew up in New England around the H/J and eventing scene, but I was in 4H and personally got into QH and Apps. I plan on doing reining in the future (not with that mare). I like all horses, and enjoy learning about all disciplines.

        What about you?

      • Kate May 17, 2011, 1:32 pm

        Out of order, but my advice for the degree: Do something you REALLY enjoy. My pleasure (horses and cows) is also my business (I am a ruminant nutritionist). So luckily, my work lends to my lifestyle i.e., horses! So I majored in Animal Science and got 3 degrees and also ended up being a research scientist along the way! It takes a LONG time, so the horse thing was backburnered, but it definitely motivated me during the daysweeksmonths I felt like quitting!

        I am actually not in TX. But that’s where Nationals and Worlds are, so that’s why I am planning on going there!

      • Britannia May 17, 2011, 1:14 pm

        It won’t give me a link to reply to your post specifically – so I hope this one ends up in sequential order!

        Western pleasure is a lot of fun! I started out on English, so I have always had a hard time adjusting to the way a Western shifts your leg muscles, and the lack of direct leg contact made it hard for me to properly communicate – I’m just not good at doing it through just the reins. I envy people who can! In a way, you have to form even more of a relationship with a horse when doing Western disciplines because you have fewer options for physical communication, and the horse just has to know what you want. I think it takes more work to get a really good Western show horse than it does to get an English one of equal success (but of course, temperament counts for a lot). Good luck! I hope she and you do well 🙂

        I started out very young, like 5 years old, on English saddle. Once I was 8 or so, I started showing in show/horsemanship and the other basic classes. At 10, I started hunter/jumper and LOVED it!! I’m a perfectionist and an adrenaline junkie, so it fed both of my hungers. I tried to get into eventing because I found cross country to be really good for my soul… for some reason, once I was out there training, it was like I was meditating or something and it was the best therapy in the world. But I really sucked at dressage, so I rarely placed in the top-10 bracket! Dressage requires too much patience, lol – and my horse was half Arab, way too high-strung – we both got easily frustrated when doing dressage as well as the 4-H classes with gates, poles, etc.

        I really, really miss riding horses. I hope to be like you one day, where I can have a small stable (maybe 3 horses, max) and go to school for a high degree 🙂

      • Kate May 17, 2011, 11:10 pm

        2012 In june or July, I cannot remember when Nationals are next year. In Tulsa. Worlds are in late Oct/Nov in Ft Worth.

        Good luck in school. I truly believe when you enjoy your work, life is easier. I have a few friends who are finished with both vet and med school, and are not happy because they just don’t enjoy it!

      • Britannia May 17, 2011, 11:01 pm

        That’s really good advice! For a long time (well, 3 years… for me, being so young, that feels like a really long time but I know that that’s a relative perspective), I have tried to go into the medical field because my family thought that’s what I should do. It turns out that I’m good at pharmaceutical science, but I’m miserable while studying it and while working in a pharmacy. I just switched my major to marketing this year and I’m actually very, very happy now, and going to class is no longer a forced process 🙂

        Are you aiming for the 2012 Nationals? In April? You should drop everyone here a line if you do go, so we can cheer you on while watching the show on television! idk about everyone else, but I really enjoy watching equestrian events live and would love to have someone to root for!

      • spaceboy761 May 17, 2011, 12:36 pm

        That show is horrible. When MTV held auditions to cast the second and third seasons, something like 60% of the girls admitted to getting pregnant solely because they dreamed of being on the show. That should tell you everything.

      • demoiselle May 17, 2011, 2:30 pm

        Wow, one would hope they’d pull the plug when they heard that!

      • Britannia May 17, 2011, 11:22 am

        Me too. Whenever I hang out with my grandmother, she either turns on the Wedding Channel or talks about finding a rich, desperately devoted Prince Charming for me. And about how I need to get married soon and give them great-grandchildren, because won’t I feel guilty if I wait too long and she dies before I have a baby?

        I”M ONLY 21 DAMN IT.

      • SpaceySteph May 17, 2011, 11:41 am

        OMG that is my grandmother too. Are you secretly my cousin?

        She tells me all the time about how lucky my great grandmother was that my great grandmother got married/had babies early, and my grandmother got married/had babies early, and my parents got married and had babies early and so my great grandmother got to watch her great grandchildren grow up. Wouldn’t it be amazing if she could meet her great great grandchildren?!

        Yes it would, but that in itself is not a good enough reason to become a parent. I try to tell her but its of no use. Women in my family are married by 23, pregnant by 24. I’m almost 25 and unmarried, what the hell am I waiting for?

      • Britannia May 17, 2011, 12:11 pm

        Same here. My (step)grandmother, the one I mentioned in the above post, is barren, but her sisters all had had babies by the time they were 20, and THEIR children, my uncles, have multiple baby mamas already and had their first marriages before they got out of their teen years. My grandfather comes from an old school Irish Mormon family, so multiple babies at a young age is just the way it’s done. My mother was 19 and my father was 16 when I was born… my Dad’s family is used to having children before they’re even 18, as they’re a working-class, old school English family.

        My family’s belief systems are in limbo right now – with all the changes in the time window of fertility, and the career, education, and independence opportunities for women, they want me to have it all, but still do things the way they think it should be done.

        Basically, my grandparents (who have raised me and are my parental figures) want me to have a Master’s degree and the ability to get a 6-figure salary, but to have a husband who makes tons of money and lets me be a house/trophy wife with a brood of children. No pressure!

      • shelllo May 17, 2011, 4:13 pm

        haha your grandparents outlook cracks me up! it sounds like they really just want the best for you (and their future grandkids! come on, hurry it up already)

      • Britannia May 17, 2011, 10:56 pm

        Oh yes, they’re overachievers when it comes to me. I guess that’s the bane of being the only child for my parents AND grandparents. But their insanely high expectations have had a profound, positive effect on me! I always try my absolute hardest to be my best, and hold myself to higher standards than anyone else does. Of course, sometimes I become depressed because I pressure myself so much, but for the most part I think it’s a positive thing because I have been able to do so much more than expected because of that ambition. 🙂

      • MissDre May 17, 2011, 11:43 am

        My situation is exactly the opposite… My mother has forbidden me to get married or have children before I’m 30. I just feel like I’ve already accomplished everything else I ever set out to accomplish in life (school, career, car, nice apartment, cats, etc) so the next step just feels like marriage and babies. I sort of feel like I’m in limbo right now, waiting for the next milestone to happen.

      • SpyGlassez May 17, 2011, 7:45 pm

        I’m 30. My grandma has written me off as an old maid. All of my friends got married half a decade to a decade ago.

      • SpaceySteph May 17, 2011, 9:47 pm

        It was a different world when Grandma was married and babied at 22. They don’t understand why the concept of being 30 and alone isn’t that scary today. You’re not an old maid til you want to be!

    • Quakergirl May 17, 2011, 11:31 am

      That sounds about right…I’m 23 and about 1/2 my friends are either married or engaged. Several have children. Quakerboy and I are definitely the weirdos– we didn’t come back to our home state after college and we moved to a huge city where we live together but aren’t married. Tres scandalous. People are always on my case about it, but it’s like seriously folks I just finished school less than a month ago. Let me at least find a full-time job first.

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      • Britannia May 17, 2011, 12:03 pm

        I agree with you. The vast majority of my high school friends, including many who are YOUNGER than me and do not have college educations, already have children – and sometimes more than one! It’s insanity, in my opinion… I mean, different strokes for different folks and all… but we’re so young, and barely gotten our “sea legs” in the real world, and so many of us are already becoming parents? I couldn’t handle a child right now, I still get stressed out over figuring out who I am and what groceries to buy!!

      • Quakergirl May 17, 2011, 12:21 pm

        I just tell people who ask why I don’t have kids/remind me that the clock’s ticking, that I’m flattered they think I’m responsible enough to care for another human being’s life, but that I really enjoy my booze and sharp-edged furniture at the moment, thankyouverymuch. That usually shuts them up long enough for me to change the subject or walk away.

      • Britannia May 17, 2011, 12:24 pm

        Ahahahaha… booze and sharp-edged furniture. YES.

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        Skyblossom May 17, 2011, 1:07 pm

        I watched classmates marry and then within ten years many of them divorced. It was sad to see so many young, failed marriages. A few of the young marriages worked and their kids are grown and they are happily married empty nesters at a fairly young age. So it can have it’s pluses when it does work but I hope my kids wait at least until their late 20s to get married because I think they are more likely to be happy that way.

      • Britannia May 17, 2011, 1:17 pm

        Some of my high school peers… like, 5 or 6 of them… are already divorced, and I’m only 21. I don’t even know what to say to them! And two of them are even already remarried!

      • Quakergirl May 17, 2011, 5:57 pm

        The whole marrying young thing is tough. I suppose if we follow our timeline, Quakerboy and I will be “young,” at least by NYC standards, when we ultimately get married. But I wouldn’t trade the way we started for anything (met and became friends when we were 14ish, started dating in senior year of high school). It’s been great for our relationship. We really grew up together and have so much history. And as far as people our age (early/mid 20s) in relationships go, we seem to have much less trouble with putting each other first and being selfless than others entering into relationships, because we’ve already been looking out for each other for almost 10 years. It’s second nature for me to think about him and what he needs. We don’t have to figure out how to fit another person into our fully-formed single lives at 30 or 35, because we’re building a life and a rhythm together already.

        That being said, I think we’re particularly well-suited for each other, which is definitely not always the case in high school and college relationships. And as a rule, I wouldn’t advise anyone to stick with their high school sweetheart if the relationship doesn’t merit it. The trouble is that I think a lot of people aren’t aware enough of what they want from life or their relationship when they’re that young, so it’s hard for them to judge whether their current partner is indeed a good match for them permanently. And if there are any problems with the relationship, getting married only magnifies that. Add in the money problems young couples often face (they’re fun, trust me), and you’re looking at a recipe for divorce unless the couple is really and truly committed to each other and the relationship and has the necessary communication skills to work it out. I wouldn’t advise anyone to do it, but like you said, it has its pluses when it works.

  • spaceboy761 May 17, 2011, 10:19 am

    As far as guys are concerned, desperation is a lot like perfume. A tiny hint of it is a huge turn-on, but too much of it becomes completely repulsive and we can smell it a mile anyway. Hell, I read the first eight words of your letter (“I am an almost 33-year-old woman”) and instantly thought, “Holy ass. This chick is desperate. I’m uncomfortable already”. Seriously. If that were you’re online dating profile, you would get red-flagged in under a second.

    The first problem is that your desperation is tricking you into moving WAY too fast with these guys. Not that most guys won’t appreciate the low-investment bang, but any guy in your dating age range will be saavy enough to at least consider the idea that you’re moving fast not because you love horny sex, but because you’re using sex as the rope that pulls him in. And not like the sexy Japanese bondage sex ropes, I mean like the figurative emotional ropes that most guys won’t readily accept too early in a relationship. The slimier guys will recognize this, use it against you, accept the cheap bang, and move on before you know it.

    The second problem that comes up is exactly what Wendy said much better than I ever could in her 3rd paragraph. Your anxiety about marraige, kids, rejection, or whatever is effectively throwing the rose-colored blinders on you and making you overlook a lot of potential flaws/issues/red flags with guys just out of sheer optimism.

    Having all of that said, overcoming this is going to suck. I’m reminded of my Little League days when I was about to take my at-bat and my dad saw from my stance alone that I was intensely nervous. He would yell, “Just relax!!!” from the stands and thus starting a seven-year old internal monologue of “Thanks for the advice, asshole. I only have fifty people watching me and waiting for me to fuck up. Sure, but I can ‘just relax’ like I’m putting on another helmet. Douche.” My dad being both a terrific educator and relatively smart saw that I was thus a complete pessimist and I needed another plan of action. Sidetracking slightly, I also had this flaw in my batting stance where I would open up my feet too early, which effectively takes all of took all of the power out of my swing. So instead of giving me broad life-coaching tips, my dad eventually started saying “Feet! Feet!”, which was our little code for “Check your feet and make sure they’re closed”. With me being a pessimist, he knew that this gave me something to focus on instead of my abject nervousness and relaxed me by default because I had something to execute other than negative thoughts.

    My rambling point here is to find the flaw in your batting stance. Find some aspect of your body language to alter or some topic of conversation avoid… any practical thing that you know is hurting your dating success and focus on improving it. It sounds gimmicky and mechanical, but it can really make a huge difference in first impression situations. My problem? I talk fast. My natural cadence of speech is so fast that it devolves into a stutter if I keep it unchecked. On a date (or any other social situation for that matter), I forcibly slow down my speech to the point where I feel like I’m speaking underwater. The crazy part is that ever since I figured this trick out, I get constant compliments on how well-spoken I am which led debate trophies, job opportunities, probably a ton of other things I don’t even realize. You are smart enough to overcome this and turn it into a strength.

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    • TheOtherMe May 17, 2011, 10:24 am

      Automatic point for the use of “bang” once again.

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    • Quakergirl May 17, 2011, 11:35 am

      Oh god, I do the speech thing when I first meet someone, too. It is really, really detrimental because people think you’re nuts or can’t understand you. Thank you for reminding me– I have two job interviews this afternoon and “batshit crazy” is definitely not part of the desiderata for these companies.

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      • spaceboy761 May 17, 2011, 11:46 am

        That’s because you’re like me. You naturally try to talk at the speed of your thinking, and you’ve been conditioned through years of academic rigor to think at superhuman speeds.

        Once you make it a point to slow down, it’s like you’re talking in slow motion and your word selection elevates dramatically. Your speaking starts to sound a lot more like your writing, which is better than bumbling or tossing out vague analogies.

      • Quakergirl May 17, 2011, 6:03 pm

        So, so true. In college if you didn’t think at superhuman speeds you couldn’t even follow the argument in a philosophy or political theory class, let alone participate and take notes on it. Sometimes now when I’m speaking to a friend I’ll think out loud and they give me this look like “was I seriously supposed to have followed that?” No, no they weren’t, because to follow it you’d need to be in my head and only the last part was actually relevant to the conversation we were having. It’s a good thing they know I’m not crazy because damn does it probably seem that way sometimes.

      • HM May 17, 2011, 11:03 pm

        On the “batshit crazy” note, I had a blind date tonight and as I’m talking to the guy I realize that I’m hand-gesturing up a storm as I talk. At one point he half glanced at my hands because we were sitting closeish and he couldn’t see them both in his range of sight. And in the middle of whatever I’m talking about I think “damn, if he were doing this I would think he was nuts”. But then I brushed it off and figured if he liked me he would just accept my habit of making a conversation a version of charades.
        I better start picking out my cat.

    • shelllo May 17, 2011, 4:21 pm

      my dads brilliant advice for interviews:
      if you ever feel like you are getting nervous, just tell yourself “don’t be nervous” that should stop the feeling.
      so I can relate to frustrating advice from parents lol.
      also, to a young five year old me having nightmares (waking up my parents in the middle of the night)
      well if you are having a bad dream, change it. It’s your dream, just think about other things.
      uh thanks? Gee if I had mastered lucid dreaming in kindergarten I don’t think I would be knocking on your door at this point anyway
      haha but my parents are great and really raised me to be independent

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  • SGMcG May 17, 2011, 10:27 am

    Wendy, the pic of you and Miles is totally adorable! You’re absolutely glowing and Miles is wonderfully fluffy/fuzzy. Hopefully LW looks at it and thinks it’s OK to be a crazy cat lady!

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      Wendy May 17, 2011, 10:40 am

      Aw, thanks! It’s an old picture, but one of my faves. Both my cats are very resistant to taking photos with me — they’re like, “Aw, Mom, stop! This is embarrassing,” but of the two, Miles is at least a little less resistant. Simone, diva that she is, prefers being the star of her own photos and really doesn’t like to share the camera…

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  • spaceboy761 May 17, 2011, 10:31 am

    I also commend Wendy for the clip art for this article. If all ‘cat ladies’ could bust out a sexy stare like that, guys would say ‘cat lady’ like it’s something hot:

    Spacefriend: “Dude, I met this new chick at Lily’s last week.”
    Spaceboy: “Oh yeah?”
    Spacefriend: “Yeah. TOTAL cat lady.”
    Spaceboy: “That is so hot. I totally miss…”
    Spacewife: [yelling from other room] “What are you talking about in there?!”
    Spaceboy: “Um… nothing. The Mets. The Mets’ bullpen.”

    [Spacefriend and Spaceboy share silent nod and fistbump]

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    fast eddie May 17, 2011, 9:34 am

    I’m too far removed from the dating scene to offer advice but definitely a cat crazy older guy. Our present brood includes two 3 week old kittens that we’ve nursed and whatnot as foster nannies. I brought home a 2 month old baby fur ball in our first year together seeking my then GFs approval to adopt it. Over the years we’ve adopted and fostered 33 bundles of joy. We don’t have children as we got together in our 40s and to some extent our cats fill that void. Most likely we’ll keep one of these two fostered tiny ones as a 4th resident. Crazy for sure and no way do I want to change.

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    • demoiselle May 17, 2011, 10:16 am

      Fast Eddie, your cat-love has made me see you in a new way. 🙂

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      • TheOtherMe May 17, 2011, 10:20 am

        Eddie is awesome !

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        fast eddie May 17, 2011, 9:32 pm

        Thank you, all of you. Just another benefit of having them in our lives. (hugs)

    • Laurel May 17, 2011, 1:11 pm

      ….Crazy cat gentleman?

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        fast eddie May 17, 2011, 9:36 pm

        Obviously crazy, not to sure about the gentleman part my edges could stand some polish.

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    leilani May 17, 2011, 10:46 am

    I agree with the part about not realizing how desperate you might seem to others. I have a friend who is very, very desperate for a guy. It is extremely evident in the she talks and acts to her girlfriends–cries when we go to bars and she doesn’t get hit on, obsessively FB stalks every guy she met once and thought was kind of cute and comes to insane conclusions about them and their sex lives, and falls completely in love with any loser she had sex with once 8 months ago and won’t return her calls. She is very good about hiding it from the guys on the surface, though. As much as she’ll obsess about Bachelor #1 to us, she will never initiate contact with them or express her feelings. She tries really hard to be the cool girl and play more or less hard to get. But in the end, it doesn’t work. No matter how nonchalant she tries to act, I swear, they can sense it, and hightail it out of there as soon as they can. You can control the calls and texts you put out there, but if you’re desperate, it will show in other ways. People are perspective enough to notice things about you even if you don’t outright say them.

    Sorry, this isn’t advice at all. Just an observation! Although, I do agree that getting more options on the table will take down the emotional cling factor, so you won’t put off this vibe.

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  • Starfish13 May 17, 2011, 11:54 am

    I think there is some great advice on these boards. I agree with keeping one’s desperation in check by following advice out there (i.e. date multiple people at once, don’t get intimate too fast), but I would also suggest to the LW that you can’t really grow in this area until you address any (potentially) deeper issues. To illustrate:

    After a really bad break up two years ago, I felt desperate to get into a new relationship to prove my date-ability. After a few “Dave”-like situations, I finally started seeing a therapist. Therapy really help me understand how little control you have over other people you date, no matter how you chose to present yourself. After several more “Dave” situations, I finally took a break from dating all together – not an official break, just a break from making effort. I got really into making myself satisfied on my own, finding hobbies like yoga, social groups, and church. (And although I hadn’t planned on it, I finally did end up meeting my amazing boyfriend a few months later.)

    These time in my life taught me a bunch of big take-aways. What I wish I would have done differently is to not be too hard on myself when I was actively dating. My friends would give me tons of advice (i.e. play hard to get, let the guy make all the effort, don’t be desperate…) and I would make my self a little crazy trying to be these “desirable” things. I was convinced that there were certain things that you could do to be attractive to guys (i.e. independent, sexual), and if you acted these ways you could win them over.

    But the reality is you are who you are. And great relationships happen when people are a good fit when they are being themselves. Don’t try to be something you’re not – If you are a tad clingy (which you probably aren’t!) the right guy will think that is adorable and not fault you for it.

    And, of course, with dating especially, therapy never hurts. It is GREAT to get an objective perspective.

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    • kali May 17, 2011, 12:23 pm

      I agree with the break idea. After a horrifying divorce and a bunch of bad choices, I took a 15 month sabbatical before my current relationship. And it’s been 12 wonderful years now. Taking some time for you and getting your head straight is a lifesaver.

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  • kali May 17, 2011, 12:19 pm

    Crazy dog lady here…

    I haven’t read all the comments yet so someone may have already touched on this (all you people get to read Wendy before us left coasters do!), but don’t assume it’s you. A guy with two kids has a lot going on in his life and may have just gotten in over his head – swept away by intoxicating you perhaps!

    For every crazy cat or dog lady out there, there are a pile of crazy guys too – World of Warcraft, vintage muscle cars, gym rats, fishing/kayaking/skiing nuts, and many more. It’s not personal. It’s just the fine art of trying our best to meld two human beings with their varied interests and obligations into one functional partnership. Keep putting yourself out there. With any luck, it will happen for you.

    And give the cat a treat.

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  • Elle May 17, 2011, 11:58 am

    I could have written this letter. I’m 33 (going on 34), single for 3 years. Maybe there’s something about me, because I’ve had quite a few offers for FWB, but none of those guys were interested in dating me. I put it on maybe meeting them at the wrong time? Most of them were just out of LTRs, and wanted to play the field (well, except for the guy who was married with kids who just wanted something on the side…). Although I took all those offers as compliments (hey, at least I’m not bad looking), and appreciated the honesty, I was offended at the same time. It’s as though those guys told me “I wouldn’t mind banging you, but you’re not worth my time to have a relationship with you.”

    As with the other advice to keep having something on the back burner – there’s nothing on the front burner! I live in a very small town in upstate NY. I’m a city girl. My dating pool is almost non-existent. On a 2 hour radius. I’ve tried the online dating thing, I had 3 dates this year. 2 of them with the same guy (who lives 3 hours away). He didn’t want to have the third date because I didn’t tell him flat out that I would sleep over… The other guy was reeking of desperation… (I could have had more dates, but I do not reply to messages that sound like “hi how r u wan 2 chat u r betiful”).

    I don’t want to get married anytime soon (actually, a good friend of mine took a lot of time to make me at least be open to the idea of marriage, since I was completely against it). So I don’t reek of desperation in that department. I’m not looking for a sperm donor either. I already started thinking about adoption and getting used to the idea. I have a nice life and love what I do. I would like to share it with someone, that’s all.

    I’m confused, because I have my shit together, but the guys that I like don’t seem interested.

    Now that I think more about it, where do I get a cat?

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    • demoiselle May 17, 2011, 12:17 pm

      If you aren’t allergic, the local animal shelter is a good place. If you are allergic (as I am), most people don’t have an allergic reaction to Siberian cats, because they don’t produce the protein in their saliva that people react to. That’s how I managed (finally!) to have a house-cat. I brought him back from Moscow.

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    • Emsz May 17, 2011, 12:21 pm

      I think your local SPCA shelter would be very happy if you adopted a cat from them 😉

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      Budjer May 17, 2011, 1:01 pm

      Those online dating sites are terrible when you live in places like most of upstate NY. I was getting set up with a looot of Canadians. There is nothing wrong with being Canadian…except for the fact I don’t want to drive 4-5 hours to get to know someone.

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    • Elle May 17, 2011, 1:16 pm

      Thank you, guys! I knew I could count on you!!!

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    • catlady May 17, 2011, 2:22 pm

      Thank you for this comment…..I am the same way. Back burner/front burner – sometimes there are NO burners. Online dating is good – but where I live it’s not as easy as talking to several men at once. Sometimes it takes weeks to find someone that piques my interest enough to really want to meet them.

      I wrote this letter 2 weeks ago immediately after this latest foray into the dating world when my feelings were hurt & I was pissed. The age comment was not meant to be – I’m 33 and I want a husband now – more of setting the stage for the rest of the letter. I have a great life and am blessed with good friends and family. I wrote this because I was pissed about the text message more than anything and think technology in some ways has trashed the “getting to know you” part of dating. Don’t get me wrong – i wasn’t going into this blindly, this guy definitely had faults/quirks/isms that were notieceable but they weren’t upfront dealbreakers. Maybe down the road they would have been.

      And yes – I love my cat 🙂

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    Elisse May 17, 2011, 12:19 pm

    I’m 28 and a I’d call myself a crazy dog lady – my toy poodle is my family and I’m not ashamed of it! I definitely understand where the LW is coming from, though. I’m a strong Christian and most of my friends were coupled and married up by their mid-20’s, so it’s easy to feel left out. I also just started to forge into the online dating world, and went on my first date with someone I met online this weekend. It was…fine. We’ll probably go out again. We’ll see. I, too, really want to get married and someday have a family. But the biggest thing that I’ve managed to come to terms with is – I’ve been by myself this whole time, and I know I can do it. It’s better to be by myself with my dog than to be miserable, bored, or dissatisfied with Not The One. Does that make sense?

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      Budjer May 17, 2011, 12:56 pm

      Absolutely…I’m in the same boat. Not necessarily focusing on the end goal so much, but I’d rather be alone than with someone I’m not crazy about.

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    sobriquet May 17, 2011, 1:58 pm

    I have a general rule not to get too invested prior to the 3 month mark. The first 3 months are about having fun and getting to know each other! I feel like only after 90 days of dating do you know him enough to truly start thinking of a future together. Until then, how well do you really know him? A few text messages and weekend dates will only allow you to scratch the surface. Remember that you don’t really know what’s going on in his life, so don’t take it personally.

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  • Turtledove May 17, 2011, 2:19 pm

    LW, you could have been me a few years ago. It’s not that I was desperate to get married, it’s just that without a boyfriend, I had no real idea of how to go about entertaining myself. Nobody wants that kind of pressure, feeling responsible for another person’s happiness. So I had a long string of very short quasi-relationships. Then I just stopped dating. I concentrated on making and maintaining good lady friends. I found a few hobbies and embarked on an active social life that didn’t involve boyfriends. That took a lot of effort, possibly more than dating would have. But here’s what I got out of it– I became free to let relationships proceed (or not) at their own pace. I was happy living by myself, so a man in my life was nice but not necessary. I didn’t put pressure on myself to have a relationship proceed faster, therefore I wasn’t putting any pressure on the men in my life. Breakups hurt less because there wasn’t a huge gulf left to be filled… and I had other people who rallied around me in those times. So. I was able to form a relatively healthy, drama free relationship with a man who treats me well and feels that my neuroses are loveable quirks, a man who proposed because he wants to be married to me, not because he felt like he had to.

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  • HM May 17, 2011, 10:48 pm

    Dear LW, reading your letter was like the story of my dating life, except my disastrous ex cheated on me with his ex who worked for a strip club. He claimed she wasn’t a stripper but I consider that a small detail. Like you, I took 4yrs off from any serious relationships. Then I got into a relationship with a great guy that doted on me and made me feel like a million bucks… although I knew he was in no way ready for anything serious after a difficult breakup of his own. And you know what, I’m still licking my wounds and wondering why he wanted a break… until I remember that he was in no state to give me what I needed from day one.

    It’s all trial and error and it helps a lot to have multiple people that you are talking to at once. Try to relax and enjoy yourself and see what happens. And if you think intimacy is too tough, then hold off on that until you feel comfortable.

    Side note, I joke with coworkers about someday being a cat lady. And then mention that it is even sadder for me since I’m allergic. I’ll have to get cat hand towels instead!!! 😉

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  • Sonia May 18, 2011, 4:50 pm

    I was 33 when I ended a four year relationship with someone who was NOT right for me. I was terrified and stayed too long for fear I would end up the crazy cat lady (or dog lady, since I’m allergic to cats hee hee). But I finally realized I didn’t want to be content, because I would even eventually get to miserable. Fast forward to now, and I am with the best guy. Yes, I’m 38, and no, we’re not getting married anytime soon, but I am the happiest I’ve ever been. You can’t panic because of age. 33 is SO young, and I’ve got plenty of friends who are divorced because they were afraid of being in your predicament, and made the mistake of rushing the wrong relationship. Take the pressure off yourself and you will be happier, and radiate happiness and then, find happiness 🙂

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