I’m ready to meet someone and start a family

How do you know (when to spend your life with someone, when to leave, when to move in, when you're ready for marriage ...)? That's what Season 3 of the podcast is all about. We want you to tell us how you knew – even if it didn't work out. Also, if you're struggling to decide whether the relationship you have is the one you want forever, we'd like to hear from you too. Fill out this form and tell us your story (and sorry for posting the wrong link yesterday).

I'm a 28-year-old guy who hasn't had a lot of experience with dating, mostly because the vast majority of my time has been dedicated to completing a PhD program, which has included a good deal of international travel.

Now, though, I'm feeling like I would like to find a companion and start a family, but I'm not sure where to start. I've always been a little shy and I don't drink alcohol, so meeting women at bars has never been a viable option. I'm into long-distance running, but so far I haven't met anyone there, maybe because the sport is mostly an individual kind of thing, but also because most of the folks I see there already seem to be paired up. I've been nervous about approaching anyone in a professional setting since it could have serious consequences for a lot of working and collegial relationships I cherish. What, then, would be the best route to follow if I’m serious about settling down with a like-minded woman?

I'd like to avoid online dating if at all possible, preferring a meeting in person and in a natural setting, but I seem to be at a loss at the moment. Is there a better avenue I haven't seen yet, or at least a way to signal that I'm open to a committed relationship?

– Ready

Is meeting someone special out in the world any more "natural" than meeting them on an app? I'm not so sure.

Some people meet at school, on the job, or by doing an activity, and they have the luxury of falling for each other over time, in a way that feels super organic. But so many others have to start with awkward first dates with strangers. The great thing about finding those dates on an app is that the system is all about quantity and convenience. People who participate can be very clear about their intentions. For instance, they can advertise that they'd like to find a partner who doesn't drink. Then they can pursue someone – or reject them – without the stakes feeling very high.

I'm not saying apps are easy or have any guaranteed rewards, but they do broaden a person's options. And for many people, apps have become the most natural way to seek out a partner. Give those people a chance.

Signing up for an app doesn't prevent you from meeting someone offline, by the way. Sometimes online dating experiences are good training for the conversations we have in person. It's possible that noticing (and swiping on) people on an app will help you see more potential for love in real life.

Also, you should give yourself some time to date without an agenda. If early dates feel like auditions for family and forever, you might not be able to enjoy them. It’s natural for future-minded people to think about the goal, but please remember that it all starts with enjoying someone's company.

– Meredith

Readers? Thoughts on dismissing apps?