Dear Alice,

I don't know whom to contact or if I should contact a professional. I am a 30 year old male, and I want to have a relationship. I find that when I try to approach someone, I can't seem to. I am not sure whether I should seek professional counseling or not. Please help.

Dear Reader,

First of all, you are definitely not the only thirtysomething, or twentysomething, or fortysomething with similar concerns. Starting a relationship can be a very challenging process, and might be an easier journey if not thought of as a task. Perhaps the first step towards finding someone to share a serious relationship is to have a good, healthy relationship with yourself. Yes, this may sound a touch corny, but it's worth thinking about whether you are currently in a relationship or not. If you are happy with yourself, then you will likely project a positive image to others, who, in turn, will want to get to know you. If you don't feel so great about who you are as a person, approaching others can be a mighty difficult proposition. If this is the case, then sure, contacting a counselor to help you develop a more positive self-image might go a long way towards helping you achieve your romantic pursuits.

If you think you are doing okay in the mental health department, then one way of meeting that challenge of approaching others is to hang out with people who already have interests similar to yours (i.e., professional, social, political, athletic, or religious). For example, if you like art and music, perhaps a lecture or performance at your local museum or concert hall might open the door to more approachable encounters. Similarly, maybe you could sign up for a course that interests you. By doing so, you will get to spend some time with classmates who have similar goals. And after all, aren't these similarities also components of successful relationships? Don't forget to pass the word about your interests on to your friends. It just may inspire some matchmaking. Of course, there are singles groups (where everyone's basic intentions are clear), personal ads, and on-line dating services.

In the meantime, take things one day at a time, a strategy that tends to relieve some of the pressure that we put on ourselves to attain all kinds of goals, including personal relationship ones. Enjoy the freedoms that singledom offers, and investigate what makes you happy. Who knows, in the process, you might end up tripping over someone very special.


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