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Love Letters

I’m shy. I don’t drink. I dislike dating sites. Help!

A studious 28-year-old wants to settle down but would rather not have to swipe right.

Catch Season 2 of the Love Letters podcast: How do you meet someone? Subscribe here: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Other

Q. 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, 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 at runners’ groups, maybe because the sport is mostly an individual kind of thing, but also because most of the folks I see 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

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A. Is meeting someone special out in the world any more “natural” than meeting her on an app? I’m not so sure.

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The great thing about finding 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 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 RESPOND

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I think you are looking for a quick result. You need to be patient but you also need to be more open to opportunities to meet people outside your own (small) universe. SURFERROSA

In terms of the not-drinking thing — a cup of coffee works just as well as a beer. GBREAULT

When I was dating in my early 30s (not that long ago), I tried a lot of things to meet guys in person, but I found myself mostly meeting single women. I made friends, but ultimately online dating was the best way for me to meet a lot of single men looking for a relationship. I met my husband that way. GRETCHYNN

Submit your questions for Meredith here.

Get Season 2 of Meredith Goldstein’s Love Letters podcast now at loveletters.show or wherever you listen. Column and comments are edited and reprinted from boston.com/loveletters. Send letters to meredith.goldstein@globe.com.