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The Search for The One

Dear Readers: The question I get asked most often is: How do I find The One? No answer can provide a universal magic formula, only guidelines for your personal situation. A good starting point, however, is making sure you're prepared to recognize a potential partner, rather than stick to an idealized image of one. It means dating with an open mind, taking time to get to know someone and develop a relationship. In the meantime, the best strategy is to enhance your own life so that someone else will consider you The One.

Q I'm a suburban single dad dating a downtown woman who's clearly out of my league, but we're a great couple and had good times for three years. She has class, looks and all the right social skills. I asked her to move in with me, but she set out a number of conditions she knows I can't meet, and she's still stalling a year later. Should I lower my standards and seek someone else or stick it out to nab the great catch?
- Not Quite Prince Charming

Q Raise your standards and drop her. Anyone who persistently makes you feel that she's out of your league, clearly is ... because she's the one who's not very classy. Also, ask yourself why her social skills are what make her so desirable, rather than an equal partnership with equal respect. Find someone who appreciates your efforts as a single father and wants to work out how to share a life. Kids grow up and their needs change, but this woman is likely to stay on her pedestal, still making demands.

Q Is it self-defeating to be obviously searching for a partner when attending a singles event?
- Looking Hard

Q No one wants to be pounced on like food for a hungry soul. Since everyone at a singles event is declaring his or her singlehood, there's no need to be more obvious. You're all at the same buffet. Even meeting a new friend at a singles event is a step toward improving your social contacts, so thinking you must score a date is wrong-headed, especially if it shows. You can take business cards; if a conversation gets going, say you'd like to talk further, and here's your card. That way, you've shown interest without heat, and your suggestion won't feel like pressure.QI've done a lot of reflection and therapy on how I've dealt with past problems, and what went wrong in my previous marriage. But most men I meet back off when asked their role in their marriage split or other family troubles. I'd like to check out a man's philosophy of life before hopping into bed, but those discussions always bring me to a dead end with men.

Q I've done a lot of reflection and therapy on how I've dealt with past problems, and what went wrong in my previous marriage. But most men I meet back off when asked their role in their marriage split or other family troubles. I'd like to check out a man's philosophy of life before hopping into bed, but those discussions always bring me to a dead end with men.
- Need to Know

Q You're probing too soon. Take things more slowly. First, see if the attraction is strong enough to warrant digging about in each other's psyches. Spend enough time getting comfortable together so that sharing confidences happens naturally. Setting a timetable and scorecard for relationships scares people away.

Q I'm in my 50s and long divorced. Whenever anyone I dated was seeing others too, I walked away. Most of my ex-boyfriends later said they'd made the wrong decision — too late. So how do two people recognize The One at the same time? Now I've met a wonderful, divorced man. We've been seeing each other for six months and he's a regular guest in my home. But he avoids intimacy, saying he intends to remain celibate until he meets a woman to marry, if ever. I'm older and 20 pounds overweight, yet still attractive. I like affection and intimacy. Why isn't he moving in that direction? Is he only seeing me because I accommodate him? I know he's not gay. He's bitter over his divorce and could be afraid. Should I continue, knowing that one day he may meet a younger woman and be gone? I still want to keep him as a friend.
- Frustrated

Q His message is clear: He's not ready and he's not in love. Stop beating yourself up about your age and weight, which are not at issue. This is about the wrong connection for a love match, though it's providing mutual companionship for now. Keep him as a friend, but look elsewhere to meet other men to date. It's just as important to accept what isn't working toward a relationship.

Tip of the Day: The One is only an idea, while a real relationship involves taking risks and assessing its ability to thrive.

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