Q. I'm fairly well-off and people tell me I look good for my age – I'm 50. I'm divorced with a wonderful daughter, but though I do a lot for other people, no one seems to want to know me. I just can't get a girlfriend. I'm fine with short-term friends, but it's difficult to meet people when everyone I know seems to be married. I just seem to have dropped off the social rounds – it's as if I don't exist. I don't want to go online because I know it's full of gold-diggers and I'm reasonably well-off. Is there any hope for me? Yours sincerely, Patrick
Virginia says... Of course there's hope for you. But you seem to see "hope" only in terms of finding a partner, which is, I'm afraid, just the wrong way to go about finding one. Maddeningly, no one really wants someone who's desperately looking for love. They want someone who doesn't need anyone, or someone who sails along perfectly well in his own life, apparently very comfortable about being on his own, and completely self-sufficient, who is only "looking" for someone if they happen to spot them out of the corner of their eye. It's an unfair truth that the very act of looking of seeking or yearning or needing instantly renders the looker, seeker, needer or yearner unattractive.
So first I would try to assume that you are going to be on your own for ever and make the very best of your life. Try to get your own interests to enjoy by yourself, even if you feel they would only be interesting if shared with a partner. And do, for heaven's sake, make an effort with your social life. It's no good just doing things for people. You have to do more than that. Ask them round, cook for them, organise outings of friends to go to the theatre or go on a jaunt, and generally work like a slave being proactive. Social lives don't come wandering in through the front door. They have to be constructed with hard work and persistence, and pursued as actively as any career. Only if you are seen to be a source of fun and activity will people start asking you over to make sure they're not dropped from your exciting address book.
And I certainly don't buy your theory about everyone on the internet being a gold-digger. If you are fabulously wealthy, then you could always keep it a secret, like some prince in a fairytale who pretends to be a simple peasant before revealing to the love of his life that he does rule several kingdoms and live in a palace. But most women are on the internet looking for love because they are lonely. And there are very few genuine single men out there. Why not sign up for a female friend, just to potter about with, rather than for a future partner? That way you won't be disappointed. And though, yes, you'll meet a few nightmares, you'll meet quite a few reasonable women and perhaps a couple of people you really get on with.
If you approach the problem on the three fronts I've outlined, you won't fail to find Miss Right or at least live such a full life that you won't need anyone to share it with.
Do go online
I feel that your reluctance to go online to look for a partner is based on a popular misconception about dating websites. I found myself in a city full of strangers following the end of a long-term relationship. I turned to an agency just to get me out in the evenings and to see what it was like and I met a large number of decent women. Of course, just like in more conventional social situations, most of them were not right for me, but it made me realise that being alone was preferable to being with the wrong person. Then I met my future wife and knew in one evening it was right. I'm eight years married in August and am so happy. I didn't meet one gold-digger. Believe, Patrick!
Noel Talbot By email
Patrick should try Scottish dancing; dancing always was a good way of meeting people – it still is. I've been to dances all over the UK, not known a soul and still danced every dance, while meeting lots of people. Only friendly people do Scottish dancing.
Alan By email
Next week's dilemma
Dear Virginia, I've only been married for a year and my wife has cancer and it seems she only has six months to live, if that. It's so sad – we're both under 30 and haven't had any kids. Her sister asked if we'd like to have her come and help, as my wife's had chemo and radiation and is very ill. We were delighted, but my sister-in-law has now taken over the house, organised all the furniture in different places, laid down rules about taking shoes off before coming in, and my wife is too weak to resist. I feel my last few months of my married life are being blighted. What can I do? Yours sincerely, Alan
What would you advise Alan to do? Email your dilemmas and comments to dilemmas @independent.co.uk, or go to www.independent.co.uk/dilemmas. Anyone whose advice is quoted will receive a £25 voucher from the wine website Fine Wine Sellers (www.finewinesellers.co.uk)