Dear Abby: I wish I could find a partner without the awful first dates

Those nerve-racking encounters are woman’s worst hurdle to starting a family with a mate.

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DEAR ABBY: I am a 30-year-old woman who very much wants to find someone to share my life and start a family with. The problem is I hate dating, at least the early stages. To me, first dates aren’t exciting; they’re just plain awkward and nerve-racking.

I have tried everything to change my outlook on dating, but I still go into every first date with the same enthusiasm as I’d have for a root canal. I truly want a partner in life, but I hate first dates so much I Googled, “Is arranged marriage for me?” Please, do you have any tips for how to have a more positive outlook on dating?

— HATES DATING IN MARYLAND

DEAR HATES DATING: As a matter of fact, I do. I don’t know what kind of first dates you are having, but it might benefit you to make them more casual — a lunch, a coffee, a movie or some other entertainment, so a conversation won’t become a third degree. Rather than stress, if you regard a first date as a chance to make a new friend rather than an audition for a life partner, you might enjoy it more and so would your date.

DEAR ABBY: I’m concerned because there is tension in my family and I don’t know how to resolve it. I’m 30. In the past, I’ve had anger issues that may have alienated some family members. I’ve worked on them and I think I’ve gotten better in recent years, but I’m still not perfect.

What concerns me is I think one of my brothers might be harboring resentment toward me, but he won’t say so directly. I feel bad about the things I’ve done wrong and I’m willing to do what I can to make up for them, but I don’t know how to do that if people won’t communicate with me. How can I make things right and show my family I really do care? — LOST IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR LOST: It seems you may not be the only person in your family with unresolved anger issues. People handle their emotions in different ways. While you were overt in demonstrating your anger, your brother is the opposite. He demonstrates his anger with PASSIVE-aggression.

Show your family you care by continuing to work on your issues. Apologize to anyone you hurt and offer to make amends. Do the same with this brother in a written message, if necessary. After that, if he still refuses to communicate, recognize that the problem is his and stop making it your own.

DEAR ABBY: A friend brought a birthday cake to the restaurant where we were all meeting, and served it after the meal. I voiced my concern that it wasn’t fair to the restaurant, since we used extra tableware and dishes for the cake, and deprived them of a possible dessert order. Is what she did acceptable? Or was I out of line to say something? (We left a large tip.) — NO DESSERT

DEAR NO DESSERT: If your comments dampened the joy of the occasion, you should have kept your mouth shut. Bringing a cake to a restaurant for a special occasion happens often. However, the polite way to handle it is to first check with the restaurant to be sure they don’t have a policy against it.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order “How to Have a Lovely Wedding.” Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $8 (U.S. funds), to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)

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