DEAR HARRIETTE: I feel like I am constantly making mistakes in love. I am 23 years old, and I have had a few bad relationships. They started out OK, but every single time, something weird happened. I feel like I stay too long or for the wrong reasons. I make smart decisions in other areas of my life, but in romance, I suck. My friends all say that I am a nice young woman, I have good manners and I am pleasant to be around. I go overboard to make a man feel comfortable, but nothing seems to work. I want to have a relationship as I build my career. Do you have any ideas on what I can do? -- Wanting Love
DEAR WANTING LOVE: The best thing you can do for yourself is to figure out what qualities you appreciate in a partner, along with what you think you want in life. You are still young, so I’m sure you don’t have it all figured out yet. But you should have a sense of what you like about a potential companion. Make a written list of things that make you happy. Consider: He makes me laugh. He cares about my feelings. He pays attention to his family. He is helpful. He listens. He has great style. He likes to dance. He doesn’t do drugs. And so on. What is your list?
Now compare your list to the guys you have dated. How do they measure up? Chances are, not so well. This time, when you go out there, go with your list. See if a suitor falls in range of what you value. If so, proceed. If not, don’t go on another date. For wonderful insight into a young woman’s romantic journey (plus plenty more), read "More than Enough," a memoir written by former editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue Elaine Welteroth. She share stories that sound like so many young women’s -- of figuring out how to walk away from bad love into good love.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My new boyfriend recently -- and politely -- pointed out my tendency or instinct to take out my phone in social situations that seem to be at a lull and scroll social media “mindlessly.” Do you think this habit is something I should try to mitigate? How should I go about doing so? -- Social Media Addict
DEAR SOCIAL MEDIA ADDICT: Thank you for bringing up a real challenge that people face today -- what to do in awkward social situations. It is common for people to do as you do, to check out through the rabbit hole of social media. Unfortunately, that just makes the situation more unbearable for those around you.
It is far better to attempt to strike up a conversation with someone near you. You can discuss the nature of the event, if possible. To support that possibility, research wherever you are headed before you get there. Know who is expected, and have a bit of information on highlights in the news and other things that might be of interest to those who will gather. You can create icebreaker moments simply by being prepared to be in that room and engage with those who are expected to attend. Then you can be remembered for your great contributions rather than for checking out.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)