Dear Rosie & Sherry,

I'm starting to look for my life partner. To be honest, I'm quite nervous. I'm worried that I won't be able to see if she is putting on a show to act nice. How can I see through it? How is it possible to evaluate another person if nobody's perfect?

Stan in Pittsburgh

Dear Stan,

Your letter zeroed in on one fact that a lot of people who are dating overlook. Nobody’s perfect. Anyone can say the wrong thing, over-react to something or be in a bad mood when they’re on a date. If two people have begun to move forward toward marriage, an occasional faux-pas shouldn’t be a reason to break up. The best of us will make mistakes during dating as well as during marriage.

However, certain behaviors can indicate more than simple human imperfection. A small number of individuals have personality disorders that make it extremely difficult for them to build and sustain a stable and happy marriage. Often, these difficulties don't surface during the first few dates, when everyone is on their best behavior.

Therefore, everyone working toward marriage should date long enough to get to know each other and see each other's strengths and weaknesses. For some couples, this can be 10 dates; for others, it can be 30. Vary your activities together; don't always go to a movie or out for a meal. Make some of your dates interactive ones, such as a shared athletic activity, a board-game night with friends, a hike, shopping or cooking together. This lets you see how your date reacts in different settings.

Also, make sure to have at least one full-day date, that involves travel, an activity, and a return trip home. When people are tired, a lot of interesting things can come out!

As the courtship grows, meet each other's friends and family. It's important to see how your date interacts with those who know her well. If you can't meet anyone who knows your date's history, don't be afraid to have them discreetly "checked out." This isn't paranoia; let's face it, there are some people who lie or hide serious problems.

Remember -- most of the people you date will be just as genuine after 15 dates as they were on the first date. So we wish you a smooth ride through the dating maze.

Rosie & Sherry

DOES "NO" MEAN "NO"?

Dear Rosie & Sherry,

If a man states that he enjoys a woman's company, her cooking, speaking to her, etc., then sees her several times a week and speaks to her by phone almost-daily for over two months...should the woman accept his statement that he has no intention of marrying her? Or is he just trying to move at a slow, comfortable pace with no pressure of a future?

Karen in Atlanta

Dear Karen,

When a man says he has no intention of marrying a woman, in the vast majority of cases he has no intention of marrying her. It doesn't matter if he fears commitment or if he has decided that despite all of a particular woman's good points, she is not "the one" for him. Nothing that a woman can do or say is likely to change his mind. If you want to get married, get out of this going-nowhere friendship immediately and be thankful that your soon-to-be-ex was up-front about his non-existent intentions.

Rosie & Sherry