Dear Carolyn:

I've noticed many of my friends date wonderful men who will make faithful husbands and good fathers, yet it's not enough for us. I love my boyfriend's kindness. But I get very sad when I think about all the ideas I've stopped trying to share with him -- because his niceness, in terms of intellectual discourse, often translates into blandness. In the end, is it better to be with a good, financially stable, faithful husband and father, or wait for someone who might light more of that "spark" -- even if he lacks in other stability areas? Or should we just wait for someone who suits us in both departments? I've heard the arguments that we're "too picky," and I am starting to believe them.

Scared

If the "too picky" promoters will be waking up to -- and making love to, talking money with, making birthday cakes for, snapping irritably at, vacationing with, writing grocery lists for, cleaning up after, laughing at the nth retelling of stories by -- your boyfriend, then you should hang on their every word.

"Too picky" is just one of things you mention that are too broad and cliched to have meaning. Another is that "stable" and "interesting" occupy opposite poles. Another is "many of my friends." Only you know what you can't live with (or without) because only you will be eternally living with (or without) it.

And if you're not even sure how to figure the difference, look at your life on its face. Are you missing something? Are you sad without it?

Then why are you doubting yourself?

This is the blank where someone always fills in, "Because nobody's perfect." Yes. True. So test the true weight of the imperfection by figuring out its remedy -- outside the marriage.

If you read that and thought, sure, I can just join a book group and share ideas and be satisfied scratching that intellectual itch when I can, then, mazel tov.

But if you read that and thought, great, I get one non-boring conversation -- or one laugh or one attagirl or one [ahem] or one whatever else is missing -- a week? From someone not my spouse? For the rest of my life? Then be true to your needs and as picky as you want to be.

Dear Carolyn:

I'm in relationship limbo and have been for five years.

Against what I thought possible, I've become very attached to the girl I've been seeing. It started out as a crush on her part, and her persistence has seemingly paid off. I just can't make that jump. I feel we are compatible as friends but I miss that deeper connection.

I thought it would get better and it hasn't.

In a nutshell, my relationship with her is not great enough to commit to long-term. It's just good enough for me not to be able to let go.

Am I asking for too much when I look for that connection (being able to converse about anything, feeling understood, etc.)?

Limbo

You're asking too much when you look to get away with saying you're not "able" to let go.

You can end anything you want to end.

If you're stringing her along, faking it, or otherwise raising false hopes, then find a way to want to end it.

Write to Tell Me About It, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com, and join Carolyn's live discussion at noon Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com/liveonline.