What am I doing wrong?

There was a letter yesterday ...

Hi Meredith,

This is a stupid question, but I guess I'm a little stupid in the dating area.

I'm in my mid-20s and have been divorced for about a year. I got married young to a recovering addict who relapsed in a big way. I tried to honor my vows but eventually the betrayals and threats of violence were too much and I ended it.

Since getting divorced, I have dated a bit. One guy was in the area for work for a few months. He was nice and cute and we had fun pajama parties, but then he told me about his wife and kid back home. Oh well.

One guy was extremely smart (which is a big deal for me) and liked to do a lot of the same things I do, but about a month into the relationship he told me he wasn't falling for me, and then spent the next five months using me as his backup girl while he looked for someone better. Yes, I know, I'm equally at fault for allowing him to treat me in such a manner. Believe me, I'm more angry at myself for letting that happen than I am at him for doing it.

Other than that, there have been a few dates that just didn't spark. I'm signed up for some dating sites, everything from the paid "we will serve your soul mate up on a silver platter" kind to the free kind that many people just use to find NSA fun times. The former sends me a bunch of people who live in Michigan (I guess they think MI is only 60 miles from NH?), which is unhelpful. The latter sends a stream of either unemployed or unambitious boys who want a one-night stand, or desperate nerds who can't get out of their own way long enough to carry a conversation. I know I sound like a witch, but I'm not interested in a one-night stand and while I want someone who can teach me new things, he needs to be at least as interested in what I have to say as he is in hearing his own voice. I have tried the old stand-by, going to bars, but I feel like I'm invisible.

I'm beginning to think it's me. I am not Barbie but I am an attractive girl. I do not bring up my ex the second I meet someone (although I won't lie to someone who asks me if I've been married). I am intelligent and funny, I have had many interesting experiences, and even though I sound like a princess in this letter, I am genuinely interested in the thoughts and opinions of other people. I just want someone who is interesting and intelligent, reasonably attractive, can take care of himself financially and emotionally, is attracted to me, and cares about me. It doesn't seem like too much to ask.

So what's the deal, Mer? Is love a myth? How can I regain my confidence in it if I can't even find the smallest beginning of a little tiny spark of it anywhere? I am happy, I love my friends, my career is going well, I'm going back to school soon, and I feel good about who I am. My mom says that's all too intimidating for men, but I disagree. I think confident men are attracted to confident women. I don't expect Prince Charming to sweep me off my feet, but some cute guy offering to buy me a drink would be nice. So where is that guy?

– Am I a Lost Cause, New Hampshire

You've only been divorced for a year, AIALC. And in that year you've had good dates, bad dates, an affair, and a not-so-great relationship. You're doing just fine. Better than fine.

It's supposed to take longer than a year to find someone fabulous. You're supposed to have some awkward experiences and life lessons. I'm sure your single friends will tell you that all of this is normal. Did you really expect to be in a serious relationship within months of the divorce?

I do empathize with your situation, of course. It's tough to be alone and frustrating to have bad dates. It can feel hopeless. But it's not, I swear.

You're outgoing. You take risks. You're about to go back to school. You've surrounded yourself with a good group of friends. Your life is going to continue to change for the better. You just have to be patient and realistic.

And please have a friend check your online dating profiles to make sure that you've registered correctly. Because … Michigan?

Readers? Michigan? Is she asking for too much? Should she have a spark with someone within a year of her divorce? Can you give her some reality without depressing her? What should she be doing to improve her situation? Is the ex relevant? Help.

– Meredith