Dear Rosie & Sherry,

I'm a 22-year-old woman having a dating dilemma, and I would like your input.

Last year my friend set me up with a man she knows, age 25. We dated a few times, and I saw from the get-go that he is a very kind person. We didn't click so much on an intellectual level (which is very important to me), and physically I wasn't that attracted to him either, but I think the latter could be changed with time. He was very interested in me, bought me gifts, wanted to take me on dates. For some reason (maybe because he was too nice, and not sophisticated enough for me), I gave it a red light and had the "let's be just friends" talk.

That was over a year ago. Since we share friends, I bump into him occasionally. There was no spark there. Just recently, I was having a big problem with something, and I needed to talk to someone about it. I called him. We spoke for a long time and he gave me good, sound advice. He was very understanding, caring and warm. From little things that he said, I see that he still cares very much about me and he expressed an interest in seeing me again.

So now I'm reevaluating the whole idea. Maybe he really is for me? At the end of the day, or rather, after years of being married, warmth and understanding are what's important in a marriage. In that regard I know he would make an awesome husband. And I do want to get married soon.

So I'm in a quandary whether to give the green light and see him again. Your thoughts?


Dear Ruth,

This experience demonstrates how we sometimes need to see someone in several different contexts in order to get a glimpse at their true nature. Here's a man you originally decided wasn't sophisticated enough for you, who didn't have the look you were attracted to, and who didn't seem to be on your intellectual level. In addition, you didn't feel sparks when you were together. Most people in your position would have done exactly what you chose to do -- write him off as potential spouse material and relate to him in a friendly way simply because he's a nice guy.

Now that you've seen that he is perceptive, insightful and caring, you realize there's a side to him that appeals to you. You're even willing to overlook his lack of sophistication and to consider the fact that his looks may grow on you (they may already have done so). That's a good basis for reconsidering whether to start dating him. To begin with, a person's level of sophistication is just a veneer, and it is what's underneath that's really important. Sophistication is something that an individual acquires through life experience, and many people learn to become a little more socially polished from their spouse, or from exposure to certain life circumstances.

Physical attraction is a much more important quality in a relationship than sophistication, but it isn't always present when people first meet and for many couples it develops over their first several dates. By that, we mean that sometimes a dating partner doesn't have the "look" we're usually attracted to and therefore doesn't appeal to us initially, but once we get to know them we become more open to them, and as a result they start to look better and better to us. Eventually, we realize that we like their appearance and find it pleasing. Is this process something that is beginning to happen for you?

Even if you answer "Yes" to this question, we'd like you to consider one other factor before going any further. It sounds as though you now realize that this man is deeper and more perceptive than you first thought. However, since you originally felt there was a problem with different levels of intelligence, we'd like you to give some serious thought to whether there is still a problem:

Do you think the two of you can communicate well about subjects that are really important to you, such as your outlooks on life and your expectations for the future? Can you be comfortable with the depths of your conversation? Can you enjoy speaking to him for lengthy periods of time? Will you each be able to appreciate each other's interests and be able to talk about them on a more than superficial level? Are you satisfied with the give-and-take between you? And are shorter conversations about ordinary subjects also enjoyable?

If you've answered "yes" to these questions, then we feel you should consider renewing your courtship. We've seen that partners in a marriage do not have to share the same intellectuality -- in other words, one can be an academic, or love the arts, or enjoy abstract thought, while the other is a more down-to-earth, practical thinker. However, a husband and wife must be able to respect and be comfortable with each other's level of intelligence and have a way of relating to each other on more than a superficial level.

Be honest with yourself on this subject, and if you are not comfortable with the level on which you relate to each other, we do not suggest you resume dating this man.

You'll notice that we haven't addressed the subject of the sparks you felt were absent whenever the two of you spoke. That's because very few couples experience them. Sure, they enhance the plot of a movie or a novel, but the vast majority of couples who decide to marry never experience them. Instead, while they are dating they gradually become aware that this person is "right" for them. That's why you shouldn't factor "sparks" into your decision. What you should experience is gradually coming to look forward to each date, and feeling attracted to him.

If you truly feel that this guy's looks can grow on you, that his true essence is more important to you than his level of sophistication, and that you can respect him and relate well to him, we give you the green light.

Rosie & Sherry