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DON'T BE QUICK TO JUDGE

Q: When I date a guy, I often find myself making quick determinations about if he is a good candidate for a relationship or even marriage. Sometimes I wonder if I'm being too critical, and if I should take more time before drawing conclusions. What do you think?

A: I certainly agree with your assessment. I think you'd find it easier than you think to find a great match if you would be a little more patient and take a little more time. Think about this. I've known people who take months to pick out a new car. They literally go to dozens of dealerships looking for the "perfect" vehicle. Imagine the time spent on something that is trivial in comparison.

Well, if we take months, or even if it were only weeks, to pick out a new car, it certainly seems reasonable to spend a considerable amount of time really getting to know the person you might possibly spend the rest of your life with. I think it makes sense to try to suspend as many judgments as possible and allow the people you meet to show you their very best qualities. And, if that trend continues for an extended period of time, who knows, you may have found your perfect partner.

Long-distance relationships

Q: A year and a half ago I moved across the country. I've made wonderful friends and am on a career path that I love. I keep in close contact with my family and friends back home, but a few of my favorite people are somewhat distant, and I miss them. I've figured out that it's just difficult for some people to stay close when the distance is far. How do you suggest I maintain the relationship?

A: I love this question because it's so "real." I can tell you with 100 percent certainty that, in most cases, it's not "personal." In other words, sometimes, people that absolutely love you, even more than you know, simply cannot keep up with the people close in proximity to them, much less the people who are 2,000 or 3,000 miles away. Both Kris and I love so many people, near and far. And, we would LOVE to be able to stay in close touch with so many of them. But the realities of life -- work, kids, schedules, other friends, emergencies, family, day-to-day life, simply prevents it. I know I've hurt dear friends' feelings over the years,' but I can tell you that it's always been by accident.

I can tell you, however, that when I don't hear from an "old friend" for a long time, that I no longer take it personally. I realize that their life is probably so busy, in ways that I'm not aware of, that they simply can't manage it all. But, here's what seems to work best. Don't take it personally. Keep in touch, but keep the pressure off. In a non-aggressive, and loving way, stay in touch with letters, cards, e-mails and phone calls -- but always make it absolutely clear that there is zero pressure to get together. Let your good friends know that you, more than anyone else, understand how busy they are, and nothing makes you happier than knowing you are not adding to their list of commitments. Be sincere! You simply want them to know that you will always be there, now and 10 years from now. My few friends who sincerely say this, and who actually feel this way, are the friends who love me the most and they are the one's who will, indeed, be my lifelong friends. I know this in my heart. My guess is, in time, and as life calms down, you'll reconnect with the best friends in your life.

Richard Carlson is the author of "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff."

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