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updated 11/4/2009 3:48:47 PM ET 2009-11-04T20:48:47

Q. I have never been the romantic type. I looked to relationships with women as perfunctory. Necessary. The old attention + gifts = affection.

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Now that my circumstances are vastly changed, I have to be more proactive with women I meet, more symbolic, less spendy and trendy. I have to personalize my approach to them, tailoring my behavior to them individually. I am not very good at this. At 53 years of age, am I too old to learn new tricks? Please give me your sophisticated wisdom and counsel.

A. Thank goodness your circumstances have changed, if that is what it takes to make you recognize that you cannot buy love.

If you do buy love, you turn up with the kind of love you don’t want to own. And it lasts only as long as the money does.

At age 53, it is not too late to revise your approach toward the women you meet, but you must work on your motivation.

Buying love, your former approach, has more to do with gaining power and control than with nurturing real emotional intimacy. It is never too late to work on a sincere, trusting, authentic relationship, but you must truly want one.

Your goals must change. Your goal has been “How can I hook someone and what can I use to reel her in?” Instead, you must truly desire to get to know someone and allow her to know you in return. Certainly, there must be a preamble of whether you have similar interests, values, goals and styles, which are all things you should take into account. But this has nothing to do with buying gifts.

If this is very difficult for you, you might need some interpersonal therapy.

Clearly, your former approach hasn’t worked when it comes to finding someone for the long haul. It’s unclear, however, whether or not you really want an intimate lasting relationship.

At your age, if you have never been married, perhaps you have had ongoing difficulty in deciding what kind of relationship you really want. Maybe you prefer just to date and keep things superficial, which is easier for you.

True companionship, however, is not about the bauble. It involves emotional availability, real interest in someone else, some personal introspection, a sense of humor, kindness, empathy for others and an ability to listen, reveal and share.

These traits are what make men appealing to women. They cost nothing financially, but do require real emotional energy. It might not come easily to you if you have a naturally glib nature, but those are the things that will really draw someone to you.

Dr. Gail’s Bottom Line: Money can’t buy you love. Personality can.

Any ideas, suggestions in this column are not intended as a substitute for consulting your physician or mental health professional. All matters regarding emotional and mental health should be supervised by a personal professional. The author shall not be responsible or liable for any loss, injury or damage arising from any information or suggestion in this column.

Dr. Gail Saltz is a psychiatrist with New York Presbyterian Hospital and a regular contributor to TODAY. Her most recent book is “The Ripple Effect: How Better Sex Can Lead to a Better Life” (Rodale). For more information, please visit www.drgailsaltz.com.

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