Last year, after nearly four years with my girlfriend, I called off our wedding and moved out. We tried to date afterward, but we couldn't move on from our fundamental problems, and I made the decision to call it over.

I've now been dating someone else for the last few months. I'm happy and enjoy her company, but she is not affectionate. I miss that affection and wonder if I didn't give up too soon on my ex.

Am I just glamorizing the past? Or did it take someone else to show me what I was taking for granted with my ex? I'm not sure what I'm feeling here.

Answer: Call it glamorizing your past, and you'll talk yourself into your new relationship. Call it giving up too soon on your ex, and you'll talk yourself back into your old one. Call it learning from experience, and you won't talk yourself into anything. Instead, you'll recognize that affection is important enough for you to question this new relationship, but not so important that it erases the fundamental problems of your old one.

In other words, you'll see that you want affection from a good relationship, not either-or, which is why framing this decision as either-or, ex or current, is the mistake you don't want to make.

Q: I'm dating the most wonderful guy. I'm 25 and have dated several guys over the years but have never found one like this. If everyone treated each other the way he treats me (and as I think I treat him), the world would be a happy place. And, it's not just that he treats me well, but we enjoy the same interests and share similar values and morals.

Since the beginning, I've been having one of those "ah, so this is what it's supposed to be like" moments. But after all this gushing, I see these unhappy married couples, and I think they must have had the same thoughts I did. What is it that goes wrong?

A: See above. People don't feel what you're feeling but brush it off, saying nobody's perfect.

Or they think they feel it, but they're just infatuated, or they let their insecurities - their need to check the "married" box - decide. Or they do feel it but smack up against an immovable conflict - like, say, children. Or they feel it, and then one of them gets sick and changes. Or their bad conflict skills catch up with them as life gets tougher, or one makes a mistake the other can't forgive - or too many possible things.

The trick - or, maybe more aptly, the Holy Grail, the white whale, Atlantis, and cold fusion, diced into a spring roll - is to recognize early what won't dissipate later.

That demands honesty about what you can't count on (newness) and what you can (whatever comes naturally), about what you can't sustain (hard work) and what you can (whatever comes naturally), and about what drains you and what fills you.

There is a place for hard work in a relationship. It's in facing yourself, admitting your needs, anticipating your weaknesses, and summoning enough respect for the outcome to be your staunchest advocate.

And it's in having the courage to wait for someone who's easy to love. Kind of like you describe.

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