Dear Rosie & Sherry,

I am 47 and have had difficulty finding and sustaining a courtship. I am getting tired of the dating scene. I have been getting rejected a lot lately and it has been difficult to connect. My life has gotten busy and I have to force myself to go to singles' events.

About six months ago, a woman from Europe, Lynne, saw my profile on a Jewish dating site and called me up. She said she wanted to find work and emigrate to the U.S. because she felt the pool of available men in Europe was too small. At age 40 and after 12 years of being divorced, she felt she had to move elsewhere to ever get married. Also, she was concerned about the rising level of anti-Semitism in her country which was affecting the quality of life.

I asked her for a date when she got to New York -- even though she was certainly not the American, college-educated woman I had envisioned marrying. We had a few dates, and then she returned to Europe.

Since then, she has returned and found a job in my city. We have begun to date steadily and her children have accompanied us on several occasions. I find her warm, caring, intelligent, wise, and courageous. All my friends that met her like her.

My questions are this:

(1) How important is physical attraction? In dating her, I broke one of my cardinal rules -- never to date anyone that I did not find physically attractive. I do not find her completely repellent, but I keep waiting for her to appear more beautiful to me. I asked her to join the gym and lose weight. She said fine, but I would have to pay, because she could not afford it. I keep forgetting to buy her flowers. This is something I never fail to do when I find someone attractive.

"You should feel excited to come home to your wife," a friend told me. How will I feel when I walk down the street with my wife and think, I wish I could have married someone like...

On the other hand, when I date an attractive woman, I often feel nervous, intimidated, and less worthy. Sometimes I feel I may have a "black wish" to sabotage myself or maybe I am lacking courage.

People have commented to me that we didn't seem like "future fiances." Our eyes don't glisten. Nor do we look at each other much.

Lynne feels differently. She says that things are different with older singles who have a lot on their minds and she does not feel there is anything to worry about.

(2) I always dreamed of marrying a musician. Playing piano is what I love the most, and I would love to share it with my spouse. It has never worked out with the musicians I have dated. Either I could not get along with them, or they did not like me.

I took Lynne to hear a great jazz artist and she enjoyed it. She is also very encouraging about my musical studies. But when I visit her apartment, she and her daughters listen to "light pop" music that drives me up the wall.

(3) If I do marry Lynne, then I can think of five or six other women that had fine qualities and I liked equally. They liked me, but I rejected them, because I did not feel attracted. If I kept dating them, it is reasonable to assume my courtship could have progressed as with Lynne. How do I get over feelings of guilt over rejecting others because of lack of attraction, and then marrying someone who I am not really attracted to?

Thanks for all your help. Your column is making a big difference in many peoples' lives.

Michael

Dear Michael,

You made a couple of very valid points in your letter. The first is that you must feel physical attraction for the person you marry. Your eyes don't have to glisten, but you should like her appearance and want to have a physical relationship with her.

This aspect of your current courtship concerns us a great deal. It could be that you are simply not attracted to her, but it could also be that you unconsciously prevent yourself from becoming attracted to her (and to many other suitable marriage partners) as a way of avoiding a developing a relationship. You could also be sabotaging yourself if you are primarily attracted to women who are not attracted to you.

The only way to know for sure is to work with a therapist who can help you gain insight into your situation. This will take time, as will working through the barriers that prevent you from being physically attracted to suitable dates, if that is indeed what has been occurring.

Lynne may not be willing to wait until your resolve the matter, but that's a risk you have to take. We don't think you should contemplate marriage until you work through the issue of physical attraction.

If you ultimately decide to continue your courtship, some age-old advice is appropriate: You can't turn back the clock. It may be that you could have made a good marriage with any of the five or six women you thought had potential in the past. For most of us, there is more than one possible marriage partner in the world, and we have the potential of building a wonderful marriage with more than one person. Yet if each person were to go through life thinking there might be "someone better," none of us would ever be happy with the relationship we have, and none of us would decide to get married.

You are at a point in your life where marriage is more appealing to you than it was in the past. You have more insight than you had in the past. Undoubtedly, there have been other changes in your life that make you very different than the man you were before. The best thing you can do is concentrate on the present.

You also raised the issue of common interests. People have "dreams" about what they want their future spouse to be like, and then there is the reality of choosing someone. No couple shares every interest. Spouses don't need common interests, or even common passions, to have a fulfilling marriage. It would be nice for you to share your love of music with your marriage partner, but anyone who is happily married will tell you that in the overall scheme of things, that is not important.

More importantly, married couples need common values and goals, and they should be supportive of each other's interests and passions.

We hope our answers have been helpful.

Rosie & Sherry

Rosie and Sherry will be holding another of their popular workshops for prospective dating mentors on Sunday, November 24, at the Israel Center in Jerusalem, from 6:45 to 10 p.m. For more information, call the Israel Center at 02-566-7787.