Today's mailbag brings happy stories (love comes along when you least expect it), sad stories (your mother-in-law tries to one up you) and everything in between ...

INA >> When it comes to men, I have 10 basic deal breakers. (And guess what? My ex broke each and every one, except for number 6.) 1) Married. 2) Criminal history. 3) Addiction problem. 4) Lives with roommate of opposite sex. 5) Unemployed. 6) Lives at home with mom (who doesn't need him for medical reasons). 7) Has been married more than twice. 8) Is in debt. 9) Has history of infidelity. 10) Has children he doesn't support.

MARNIE >> After my divorce 10 years ago, I decided I didn't need a legal document to tell me if I was in a committed relationship. I've never wanted kids and won't be having any, so I see no reason to be married. I've been with my companion for eight years.

He owes Uncle Sam and I owe Visa. If something should happen to him, I would be legally forced to take on his debt if we were married. Why would I want to do that? We can take care of each other and spend our lives together without a legal document.

ELSA >> My mother-in-law wore a white lace dress with a train to my wedding. When my mother died a short time later, she wore leather pants to the wake and her fur coat to the funeral.


HEATHER >> In my 30s, I was an attractive, well-traveled, well-educated woman with a good job, a nice place to live and a good relationship with my family. I had many good, interesting friends. I also went on dozens of first dates. I was open to going out with anyone with whom I had chemistry. I had never cared if men were bald or fat, mustachioed or tattooed.

I wanted someone who was smart, had a sense of humor, could communicate, had integrity, was able to take care of himself and really appreciated me. I didn't want any sarcastic guys with a mean streak.

I can't tell you how many times I cried on the way home from work — sometimes even when I had a date that night — wishing I had someone truly special in my life. I took part in many weddings during that decade. At one, I was even asked to write and read a paragraph on what makes a good marriage. (I couldn't find a date for that wedding, by the way.)

Wanting someone special, even if your life is full and you don't begrudge your friends their happiness, is perfectly normal. I felt my loneliness keenly. I didn't share it with anyone, though, because no one could do anything about it. I resigned myself to a life alone and decided to go back to graduate school to refocus my career on something I could do till I was 80 since I was obviously never having children and wanted to fill my time with something useful.

Six months after that decision, I met my current boyfriend. We're still tight four and a half years later. And I'm getting my master's degree in 10 days.

Does love come along when you least expect it? Send your thoughts along with your questions and problems to