The Washington Post

Carolyn Hax: Perpetually single woman finds man online, but worries she’s ‘settling’

(Nick Galifianakis/For The Washington Post)

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

I am female, unmarried, and in my late 30s (I know, kiss of death). From the ages of 32 to 36, I was never once asked on a date, presumably because I am overweight and not conventionally attractive.

I joined an online dating site last year and have started having more luck. The man I am seeing currently seems to be interested in a relationship, which ultimately is what I am looking for. As far as having feelings for him, I am at about a 65 percent, which sounds somewhat low, I know. He is very kind and we share interests — that’s about it. I don’t find him stunningly attractive, but I enjoy his companionship and can feel my fondness for him growing. Is this enough? I have talked this over extensively with a few friends, who say I’m settling.

Do I stay in a relationship with this person knowing he doesn’t (and may never) make me swoon, or do I go back to my single, lonely life?

Better Than Being Alone?

“He is very kind and we share interests — that’s about it.”

You say that as if it’s faint praise, but many a lifetime friendship is built on that very combination. It’s one I’ve sought since reaching adulthood: in a partner when I was single and in friends always.

The amount of time you’ve known each other has some bearing on whether it’s a good idea to keep hoping for sparks, but in general I believe that when your appreciation for someone is growing vs. diminishing, the time with that person is worthwhile. Why dwell on the details if you don’t have to.

If your affection stalls at “pleasant but meh,” then settling becomes a risk.

I feel I have to say something on your opening parenthetical. Since when is that age and status the “kiss of death”? A good life is a good life in any form and at any time. Even if you meant it only as an ironic reflection of a popular misconception, I still think repeating it renews its lease on life, one long overdue to expire.

Re: Settling:

Are you settling? That depends; are you giving up something just to avoid being alone? If you are sacrificing something that would otherwise be important in a relationship just for companionship, then it’s probably a bad idea.


. . . but if you’re sacrificing a rigid and outdated idea of what a relationship is supposed to be like, then trust yourself and see where your interest in this person takes you. Thanks for the nudge.

Re: Settling:

If you aren’t 100 percent attracted physically to a person but you do think this person is very kind and you share important beliefs, is that enough? Do you have to want to “jump someone’s bones” at the beginning for it to work? What if you don’t care that much about sex? Or, maybe you care about sex but can do without?

Anonymous 2

Those questions are entire loamy fields for rationalizations to take root, but, okay.

Or: Maybe sex and attraction are important to you, so you need to be patient. Often falling for someone on the inside, for character, makes the outside start to look good.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or Get her column delivered to your inbox each morning at



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