Dear Harlan,

I am a soon-to-be 30-year-old female who feels ready to be in a relationship after a three-year sabbatical from relationships because of a 51/2 -year relationship that ended terribly. I have very strong religious beliefs, and I find myself less tolerant of games. It’s hard to find a man who is interested in having more than just sex and who is willing to respect my beliefs. I have tried online dating, but I have met more jerks than I care to count. I refuse to settle, and I don’t want to make the same mistakes and repeat the heartbreak. I am getting so overwhelmed. When did sleeping with people who you’ve never met become normal? I feel another sabbatical coming on.

Losing Hope

Dear Losing Hope,

You call it a sabbatical; I call it a fancy name for hiding. Let’s be honest: Horny men aren’t the problem. You’re going on a sabbatical because you don’t want to get hurt again. You’re putting all men in the same category because it’s easier to categorize men than give them a chance. Giving them a chance means getting hurt, and you are in no place to get hurt. Instead of blaming all men for doing something wrong, figure out what you’re doing wrong. You might be looking in the wrong places, giving off bad energy or waiting for another man to wrong you. Here’s the hopeful part: There are men who want to love you and share their lives with you. I’m 100 percent certain. Hiding won’t help you meet them. Work on yourself. Face your fears. Surround yourself with people who can support and help you. Change you. Then dating will change. Then, it will be safer to fall in love without getting devastated.

Dear Harlan,

My girlfriend and I just moved into a long-distance relationship. I’m having a hard time coping. She is a bubbly kind of girl and has some male friends around her. I grow jealous because of this and eventually end up shouting at her. She has to convince me daily that she loves only me. Also, there’s one male friend of hers who is showering a lot of affection on her. I am afraid that since I’m fighting with her all the time, she may eventually get frustrated and make some move on him. It’s just been a month, and I already see our relationship turning sour. I really love her a lot, and I don’t want to lose her. What should I do?

Far Away

Dear Far Away,

I think you want her to break up with you. Why? Once she dumps you, you’ll stop worrying about her finding someone better — because her finding someone better is your greatest fear. You don’t think you’re good enough. If you did, you wouldn’t be an insecure, annoying and controlling boyfriend. What are you lacking? What don’t you have? Figure it out. Fix what makes you not good enough, and accept that she loves you for the good and bad. She loves you! (Sorry to shout.) What she doesn’t love is this behavior. Want to salvage this? Get a life. Take on a physical, professional or personal challenge. Pour your heart into a project. Learn to be happy without her.

Until you can find happiness outside of the relationship, you will be a miserable, controlling, jealous boyfriend who will drive his girlfriend into the arms of another man.

Harlan is author of “Getting Naked: Five Steps to Finding the Love of Your Life (While Fully Clothed and Totally Sober)” (St. Martin’s Press). Write Harlan at [email protected] or visit online: www.helpmeharlan.com. All letters submitted become property of the author. Send paper to Help Me, Harlan!, 3501 N. Southport Ave., Suite 226, Chicago, IL 60657.