Q: I haven’t gone on a date with anyone (not even for a drink or a movie!) for two-and-a-half years. My last relationship soured me on romance. He was a great guy, but he couldn’t get past his divorce. He broke up with me because he realized that I wanted more. I still think about him constantly, even though he has moved on (possibly multiple times). Meanwhile, I’m in a rut. My self-esteem has pretty much plummeted, although I still go through the obligatory motions of working out, reading self-help books and going out with friends. Am I having an early mid-life crisis? How can I get past this and move forward? Stuck

Dear Stuck: I know why you feel the way you do: It’s called “rejection.” Even though this man has told you why he doesn’t want to commit, you can’t help but take it personally and your confidence has been shattered. You’re hiding behind an invisible brick wall because you’re afraid that it will happen to you again. Listen, my dear: He has not rejected you; he’s just not ready and needs time to heal. He may be happy to go on dates, but that’s as far as he wants to go. You must have noticed that about him, but you chose to ignore it. It’s time to be honest with yourself. You had conjured up some idealized version of your relationship. If you are completely honest about the relationship’s shortcomings, your sense of hopelessness will lift-only then will you be able to start enjoying your life again. By spring 2009, you’ll have a smile on your face and a spring in your step and you’ll see life oh so differently.

Q:I had been dating a guy for more than three months, and I thought it was going great. Then he started getting mad at me when he felt I wasn’t being open about my feelings. The more he pushed, the more I shut down. I ended things because I couldn’t take his neediness. Do you think I made a mistake? Doubtful

Dear Doubtful: You did what was right for you at the time. I also think your ex has self-esteem issues: He’s a pleaser; he’ll do anything to be liked. He panicked when he felt you were shutting him out. He has to own up to his insecurities, which he didn’t. Stop feeling guilty and move on.

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Photo by Norbert MayerQ: I haven’t had any luck with love lately. My eight-year relationship with the man I thought I would one day marry fell apart a few years ago. Since then, I’ve been very lonely and unhappy. I’ve dated a few other guys, but every time I start to get serious, they pull away. It’s like I send out some kind of signal. I don’t want to come across as desperate, but that’s what seems to be happening. How can I be sure that my enthusiasm isn’t interpreted as desperate and clingy?

Dear Lonely: This isn’t a new problem. You’ve felt insecure since you were a teen. There was a lot of turmoil in your life, and it’s left its mark. You would rather be with someone who is mean and unloving than be alone. You’re afraid of being alone, yet you’ve been that way since the split-and you’ve survived! I know there have been difficult and sad moments, but it wasn’t so bad, was it? Before you jump back into the dating scene, I would encourage you to explore your fears. Talk with your mother and your family. You have to realize that the events of the past can no longer hurt you. You’re a strong and positive young woman. Your ex-who had his own set of insecurities and dysfunctional behaviours-did a number on your self-worth, but you can get it back. Deal with the emotions that are holding you back and then go forward with an open mind. When you meet potential boyfriends, let them take the lead in the beginning. Enjoy being wooed instead of doing the wooing. That said, don’t compromise your dating standards, and don’t waste your time with deadbeats. If you value yourself, you will attract a loving and respectful man. I believe that you will find such a mate before 2009 is out.

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Photo by Norbert Mayer