(Nick Galifianakis/The Washington Post)
Columnist

Dear Carolyn: I’m an average-looking guy . . . let’s say a 6, and after years of dating, I’ve come to the conclusion that I have four options when it comes to women, none of which seems to add up to long-term happiness.

Option 1: Be with a woman who is more attractive than me, but less intelligent or mentally stable, thus trading intellectual connection for beauty.

Option 2: Be with a woman of equal intelligence and attractiveness, but spend my life in boredom once the novelty wears off, and end up like every other married zombie.

Option 3: Be with a woman who is more successful and intelligent, but less attractive than I, and spend my life fighting the temptations of lust (think Bill Clinton).

Option 4: Become the lonely creepy uncle everybody invites to Thanksgiving out of pity.

Is my outlook completely distorted and pessimistic? Or am I just being an entitled moron with an inflated ego? Is there a fifth option (other than becoming rich and famous)? I’d really appreciate your feedback.

So if you’re a 6, then you can get a woman with 10 looks only if she’s a minus 4 personality? And a 5 gets stuck with a 5 and they live undead-ly ever after? And wealth and fame buy anyone you want?

This is so cynical my eyebrows frosted. Not that you’re bitter and write people off as heartless, just that you completely omit the heart.

We are not linear, we are not commodities, we are not mere sums of traits, at least not ones that can be measured objectively — and having to say this has me concerned about your ability to hear it.

I can only hope you’ve gotten your view of partnership from “10 Things You’re Doing Wrong on Dates” listicles — or from friends whose views on dating fit into “All _____ are _____!” constructions.

I hope this because these are, like any inadequate education, reversible by anyone willing to ask more of themselves.

Please start by digging into what you want from women. Something to look at and sleep with? Something to take with you to couple-y things? Something to help you reproduce, check the right life boxes, make your home more homey, supplement your income? If you’re nodding at any of these, then never mind and pick whatever option seems least dreadful to you.

But if you’re saying no no no, you want companionship, intimacy and mutual support, then quit “dating” and start paying attention to whose company you prefer above all others. Have you ever known someone you were always happy to see walk into a room, even after, to use your phrase, “the novelty has worn off”?

Has that person been a family member, best buddy or group of friends, but never a woman you were dating or wanted to date?

I suspect that’s the real culprit here, that for whatever reason you see women as a special category of pairing, independent of all other bonds you have, and resulting from a specialized search.

If so, you’re being so unfair to yourself. A love that satisfies is one that combines much of what is good and rewarding in your other relationships into one source, someone who also has that fuller appreciation of you.

If you love that your buddies make you laugh and allow you to be yourself, that your parents inspire you to do your best, that your grandma knows when you need cookies and a hug vs. a treatise on this or that, and that you’ve never forgotten your first actual girlfriend because gazing at her got you through algebra, then you just sketched out someone who would fit you. Not a 6, 7, 7 and a 5 who averages out to an attainable 6.25.

I’m not suggesting you should walk around with this sketch seeking a woman who looks just like that. On the contrary; the best way to see what people have to offer is to rid yourself of preconceived notions of who you want them to be.

If my suggested sketch is of anyone, it’s a sketch of you — of how you feel, and want to feel, around others. It’s to show you why and where and how you chose the other valuable people in your life so you can follow similar paths to get to know women. Not date them, get to know them; too often there’s a difference.

You meet friends through shared classes, teams, work or even a shared backyard fence, right? So pick the hobbies and hangouts and community groups that best represent who you are, and make yours a regular presence there. If your natural habitat isn’t conducive to meeting women, then adjust your habitat so that it’s still right for you but allows for more circulation.

If you and an unattached woman in this habitat enjoy similar things, cross paths often, cultivate a friendship, outlast any novelty and still seek each other out, then that’s the option not to refuse.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Get her column delivered to your inbox each morning at http://bit.ly/haxpost.