(my post below)???
I married just last June (1 year anniversary in a couple of weeks). We dated for 2.5 years before I proposed, then had a year engagement to plan a stupidly expensive wedding (seriously bro, jut get some coolers and brews, and rent a beach with your best friends and family - that's enough of a wedding - you won't care 6 months later if Joe Shmoe from work did or didn't come to your wedding - it's about the important people in your life sharing that day with you - save your money and sanity and go simple).
Anyway, geez I ramble, in general and throwing out the odd cases, long-term dating relationships are in fact LONG-TERM because the two people (monogomistic thinking) are compatible on enough levels to not drive each other away. Best case, marriage is just the exemplification of other "minor case" long-term relationships. You can normally tell in the first few weeks if a partner is worth pursuing further. Beyond that time frame, you're either lying/deceiving yourself, or are truly interested in getting to know the person more, because you like the initial qualities they've chosen to share with you. I'm an engineer, so much of the world to me is binary - either you like the person and you'll go a little further with the relationship, or you don't like them that special amount enough to continue the relationship and you move on. There should be no settling in relationships.
Which is a good segue to the next point. In the end, truly, dating (and YOUR life) comes down to YOUR happiness. If you're happy single now, fine, play that hand. If you want to try out some dating stuff, then do it in some form or another. You can "go out and meet people," or try the online dating sites. Not trying to plug anything here, but I would actually recommend on-line dating sites if the "go out and meet people" thing doesn't suit you. My sister met her husband on AmericanSingles.com. She must have turned away 5-10 "not the ones" over a year or so before she found her current husband. I think she was even on like 3-4 sites - she was serious about meeting a non-loser. They dated for 5 years, married 2 years ago, and have a little one on the way
Anyway (rambling again), dating. Dating can just be short-term stuff to find out what (and who) you do and don't like, or you can go in with a long-term mindset. From what I understand, those dating sites support identifying such goals upfront in your profile or "compatibility checklist" and will assist in steering compatible mates your way for consideration. If the people that are steered your way turn out to be incompatible, change your checklist. I'm 29 myself, and never dated a whole lot - but the ones I did date were all long-term relationships. The rest of the "candidates" just didn't interest me enough to pursue. Dating is pretty weird/scary/awkward activity, I know - meeting new people and asking about them and telling about yourself (or doing it with friend-of-a-friend acquaintances). With some people you date, that activity will be quite mechanical and you'll seemingly have to bludgen your way through conversations forcing yourself and them to talk - these people and their qualities are probably on your IN-compatible list. With other people, it will pretty fluid and effortless (a la "chemistry!"). You won't really know until you're exposed to enough people to make up your mind about what you want.
Another segue! Someone up in the thread mentioned making a list of what your ideal mate is. Go for it! Write that stuff down, get it down on paper, get it out of your head and straighten it all out. Maybe you don't know what you TRULY want because you've never done such an exercise (probably most people have not, even the ones that have been happily and faithfully married for many years). You can go through reams of checklist revisions trying to work it out on paper, or just get out there and date and revise the checklist as things go along. I vote for the latter (after at least scratching down a few what you consider to be "must haves" that first come to mind). The list will work itself out if you put yourself out there (which will be awkward and embarrassing at times, I assure you).
As far as settling goes, it's pretty much a bad idea for most everything in your life. Of course, there are many things you'll be "forced to be comfortable with," but you should be OK with every decision you make - if not, back track and correct it so you are OK with it. Jambe mentioned fixing the things about yourself that you're not OK with. Well, either fix them or be OK with them. Maybe it's your weight/health/physical condition, your career status, your jacked up haircut, or something else you're self-conscience about. Some things are easy to fix (haircut, etc.) while others require "long form" planning (changing careers, etc.). Either way, whatever you can identify that is holding you back from "getting out there," you pretty much just need to look in the mirror and say "I'm going to fix that!" and move on towards whatever goal you set. Can't let things continue in an unsatisfactory fashion if they've been identified as such - doing so is even more unsatisfactory.
"Settling" with a person for the rest of your life, to me, is a pretty major no-no that will only backfire on you later (and it'll be unpleasant althewhile until some catostrophic ending occurs, because all of those things you settled on will come to the surface as things you WON'T BE ABLE TO STAND about the other person and you'll be wishing they were someone else - see where settling is going?). Maybe I'm a softy, but I truly love my wife. To a person that's not married, that might not mean much to you. But loving your partner is different from being in love (that's the early-on puppy love stuff) in my eyes. I love her so much that I WANTED to marry her. I think it should be the same for everyone, otherwise you're settling on some level and increasing the probability that you'll be adding to the divorce statistics (not that divorcees are bad people - sometimes a courting period and marriage that start out great can turn sour because of outside influences that weren't present earlier on in the relationship). Am I perfect - no. Is my wife perfect - no. But I love her very much, so I don't believe I've settled on anything - I'm very pleased to be so blessed to have her.
If you're not happy with someone, you'll know it (or again, you're lying to yourself). You're gut will tell you (and your logical brain might vehemently assist with some doses of "LEAVE this psycho/selfish/inconsiderate/other-negative-things person!"). I would say try some more dating, maybe with a short-term "play the field" mindset at first. It'll be hard and probably require some courage at first, but like most things, it'll get easier and you'll be able to sort through the throw-aways pretty quickly. After the buffet has been sampled, try seeking out those qualities that stick out most in your head (see, you just revised your list!) and were most pleasing to your palette the first go-round. Then, start trying to seek out people with those qualities.
It'll all work out, if you come up with some goals and put some honest and caring work into the process. Gotta start somewhere, and at least saying that "I'm a point X, and am not sure if point Y is for me or not" is a great first step many people . . . overstep. It's good to sometimes remove yourself from your own life and look down on it and go "WTF? What am I doing? Where am I going? What is right FOR ME?" Good work in at least coming out of "the rut" and trying to move forward to a better you and a happier life.
Cheers, and goodluck!
Azza Helios||Hyper Type-R 580W||ASUS M4A79XTD||Phenom II X4 955||ZALMAN CNPS9900MAX-B||4GB G.SKILL DDR3 1600||Corsair Force GT 120GB||2x WD 1TB Caviar Black||HT Omega Striker 7.1||PowerColor HD4870 512MB||Win7 Pro x64
3.48GHz 30/52C||1640MHz 8-8-8-24 2T