Dear Rachel,

I’ve been following the dating rules from a book I read a couple of years ago and I’m still single. Why don’t these rules work for me? What dating approach do you suggest?

Signed,

Still Single

Dear Still Single,

Not all dating rules are created equal. Some rules encourage you to project the illusion that you have high self-esteem, healthy personal boundaries and a full life as a façade, rather than giving you the tools to actually possess these qualities. Rules that promote putting on an act to “catch a man” don’t work because they’re based on playing games. If you play games, you’ll attract game-players. Instead, try the honest approach. If you get invited on a last-minute date and you want to go, go for it. Your true personality will come out, eventually, so why waste time pretending to be someone you’re not. If you start out pretending, you’re setting yourself up for the impossible task of keeping up an act for the rest of your relationship. Dating is a way of testing out different partners until you find your best match. If you’re not honest, you’ll never know if you and your date are truly compatible.

My approach to dating is this: Develop authentic, healthy boundaries from the inside out, be honest, be yourself and never try to change or save the people you date. If you follow these guidelines, you’ll avoid dating the wrong men and increase your chances of finding your ideal mate.

Dear Rachel,

My girlfriend gave me an ultimatum — if I don’t marry her, she’ll break up with me. She said it in a much nicer way than that, but that was the gist of her message. I don’t like being pressured into anything, but I do love her. I always thought I’d marry her someday, but now it appears that day has arrived. Still, how can I be sure she’s the one I want to be with for life?

Signed,

Pressured to Wed

Dear Pressured to Wed,

I’m not a fan of ultimatums myself. However, I do know of some happily married couples that started their marriages in your position. Whether male or female, there’s one person in every couple who pushes more aggressively for each stage of commitment, i.e. monogamy, moving in together, engagement, marriage and children. The less-aggressive person can sometimes need a little nudge by the right partner to achieve ultimate happiness. It’s not necessarily a deal-breaker that your girlfriend is giving you this ultimatum. The question is this: Who is giving you this ultimatum, the right woman or the wrong one?

So how can you be sure your girlfriend is the one you want to be with for the rest of your life? You can’t. There are no guarantees in love. But here are some important questions to ask yourself that may help you make your decision: If my girlfriend were never to change in any way, would I be satisfied with our relationship? Are there any deal-breakers (irresolvable problems) between my girlfriend and me? Do we share compatible values and goals for the future?

Ultimately, only you know what you need in order to be satisfied in a relationship and how you feel about your girlfriend. Think of her ultimatum as an opportunity to get clear about your feelings for her before you take the next step.

Dear Rachel,

My friends and family think my boyfriend is a jerk. I admit he can be a bit difficult sometimes, but he’s a good person deep down inside. They don’t realize what a hard childhood he’s had. I’ve seen his good qualities and I know he’s misunderstood.

Signed,

Good Inside

Dear Good Inside,

The tortured guy with potential, the jerk with a heart of gold and the misunderstood guy — these guys have “project” written all over them. They’re also absolutely irresistible to well-meaning, big-hearted women like you who give too much. It’s a wonderful thing to see the best in people, but not at the expense of your own well-being. You see your boyfriend through a rose-colored filter of love, so your friends and family probably see him more clearly than you do. It doesn’t matter what his childhood was like — your boyfriend is an adult now and he’s responsible for his behavior.

Your boyfriend may be a good person on the inside, but if his goodness stays hidden inside, it’s not doing you any good. There’s a tendency to make excuses for “project guys,” so make sure you’re not justifying any abusive behavior from him. Know that you can’t save your boyfriend from himself or anyone else, and that you deserve a man who’s good on the outside as well as the inside.

Rachel Iverson is a freelance writer, dating coach and author, who lives with her husband in Venice Beach. Her book, “Don’t Help A Man Be A Man: How To Avoid 12 Dating Time Bombs,” has been endorsed by Dr. John Gray, author of “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus.” For more information on Rachel or her book, visit: www.rebelgirlpublishing.com. For dating advice, contact: rachel@rebelgirlpublishing.com.