Dear John: I'm a 27-year-old woman, and I can honestly say that I have not yet met anyone in my life that seems like he could be Mr. Right. Sometimes, I think I'm too picky, but at other times, I feel determined to wait until I feel sure. What are the essential ingredients that make for the right mate? What are my chances of finding that right guy? — Wishing for Happily Ever After, in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Dear Ever After: Your instincts to wait are on target. More marriages fail because people, while in their 20s, do not take the time to wait for the people who might truly be their soul mates. To find your soul mate, you must take the time to move through what I call the five stages of dating: attraction, uncertainty, exclusivity, intimacy and engagement. Love would be easy if the two people involved could move through these stages at the same time, but this is rarely the case. You might have found the right person, but at the wrong time in his life or your own. Relationships that succeed do so because, at some stage, both partners are in sync. Finding the right match in a relationship is like hitting the center of a target in archery: It can take a lot of practice, and it's easy to shoot too far to the right or too high to the left, so you keep adjusting your expectations. Likewise, the more you date, the more likely it is you will come closer to the center of your own heart.
Until then, enjoy your dating experiences and keep adjusting your aim.
Dear John: My husband of nine years had an affair a year ago. He swears it was the worst mistake of his life and realizes his love for me and our kids. Is the old cliche "once a cheater, always a cheater" true? — Saddened, in San Diego
Dear Saddened: Not necessarily. Each situation has its own set of circumstances.
Generally, affairs occur when one partner feels the relationship lacks either emotional support or physical passion. Affairs end when the straying partner realizes the love bond is stronger than the problems. This realization allows the couple to work through it.
You've pointed out that, despite his declaration that he is ready to put it behind him, this was his "first affair," as if you are anticipating this is the beginning of a pattern of marital infidelity. Ask yourself these questions: If he were indeed a serial adulterer, wouldn't he have had many more affairs in the nine years you've been together? If the situation were reversed, would you want his forgiveness? Would it be best for your well-being that he leave the marriage?
If you cannot move beyond this issue, a divorce will be inevitable because love cannot survive in an environment of distrust and jealousy. Your marriage can be saved, but only if trust can be restored. I assure you that nothing you have written indicates that he is likely to stray again.
John Gray is the author of "Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus." If you have a question, write to John in care of this newspaper or by email by going to www.marsvenus.com. All questions are kept anonymous and will be paraphrased. To find out more about John Gray and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.