Comparing dates to my ex

Chat day.

I am one of your stereotypical 27-year-old Bostonian women looking to find that right guy. I've been online dating for at least 2 years and try to get out and meet people when I can. Honestly, I'm starting to lose hope and wonder if I am being far too picky.

I've had three long-term relationships (ranging from 6 months to 4 years) in the past decade. The last relationship, which was 6 months, started online and I seriously thought was going to be "the one." He was attractive, friendly, smart, understanding, treated me exactly how I wanted to be treated, and we had a great physical relationship. Everything seemed to be going fine until my father passed away a little over a year ago. I spent some time back in my hometown, and when I got back, it was a little under a week before he told me that he didn't think he was falling in love with me. He did exactly what he should have when I was in a painfully depressed state -- made sure I had friends and family to support me, and then disappeared out of my life once he knew I would be OK.

That's all well and good. But he was exactly what I wanted (with the exception of not being in love with me, which just cannot be helped). I'm dating again, both online and otherwise, but I can't seem to find anything that makes me feel that same way. It's that "how do I find better than amazing?" mentality. While I feel that I have moved on, I can't help but compare. I know it's terrible.

I am definitely yearning for a partner to share my life with, but I refuse to accept a guy who doesn't treat me how I feel I deserve to be treated. I have the occasional crushes, but they tend to become friends and begin dating "pretty girls." (I am certainly cute and attractive, but I'm not a tall, skinny bombshell.)

My question is, do I need to lower my idea of the right guy? I don't want to settle, but I can't help notice that all of my friends are settling down, and I can't even find a guy worth a 3rd or 4th date.

Should I stop being so hard on myself? Should I stick with it with the hope that my perfect guy is just floating around somewhere and I haven't bumped into him yet?

– Too Picky, Boston

I get a lot of letters in August and September from people who want to know whether they should lower their standards. I think it's something about the anticipation of cold weather. These people are angry with themselves for not finding a mate over the summer. They're upset because they didn't "get it done."

I always tell them that it's just not possible to lower standards like that. I mean, if I told you to stop being so picky, would you really be able to force yourself to couple up with a mediocre guy? You have strong instincts for a reason. You have to follow them.

You've had three long-term relationships in a decade. That's pretty fantastic. Despite what you see on television, single people have long droughts. You're supposed to go through phases where you only get to second dates, if you're going on dates at all.

My advice is to be patient and to keep dating. I also want you to be honest with yourself about your ex. He was perfect because you only dated him for six months. You went through a devastating loss just as you were getting to know him, so it makes sense that you've been longing for his return. He represents an easier, more exciting time of life. In reality, he didn't earn this adoration.

Don't settle. Keep dating. Don't put anyone on a pedestal unless they've put you on one too. If you're getting to second dates right now, you're in great shape.

Readers? Is the ex so great -- or is this about her other loss? Is she too picky? How can she deal with being a single while her friends are coupling up? What about her male friends who date "pretty" girls? Why do I get so many of these letters this time of year? Help.

– Meredith