“If you are afraid of loneliness, don’t marry," said Anton Chekhov. And he was right.

We expect total love, commitment, interest, loyalty, fidelity, and sexual attractiveness. And what do we get? A 50-percent divorce rate (90-percent in teenage marriages).

Not too surprising when you realize that many of us look at 50-plus years when we say “I do.” That’s four times the life of a car, three times that of a refrigerator. And 36,000 meals!

On the other side of this 50-year sentence is that we all need someone to care, someone to worry when we’re late coming home at night.

Looking for a marriage partner is often a tough job, not that there isn’t plenty of advice: Mom, Grandma, our married friends, Ann Landers, maybe even the Sunday sermon.

But no matter what they tell us, we tend to look for the one sentiment — love. Love that makes us happy, giggly, crazy, and totally unreasonable.

Is it the long eyelashes, the muscular torso, the adorable lisp? What we should look for is someone who is reasonable, reliable, kind, and whose parents are still married and whom we admire.

Why? Because what you see is pretty much what you get more often that not. We tend to grow into our parents even if we try not to, and few of us change radically.

So, shall we marry? Did Romeo marry Juliet? Did Tristan marry Osolde? How about Dante and Beatrice (he did not even know her!).

What about shacking up instead (or what President Jimmy Carter called “living in sin?”) An interesting fact: When people who live together in long-term relationships with no thought of separating decide to marry, statistics tell us the divorce rate soars!

Why? What makes us want to break out? The thought of “forever?” The closed door for further conquests? The monotony, the lack of surprises, the receding hairline, the lies of TV ads?

We’ve forgotten that the divorce rate for second marriage is higher still! So — what about remaining single?

Single life used to be a male prerogative. But today many woman chose to be single mothers or delay marriage until their careers are established.

Still — marriage beckons. If you have become a confident, self-sufficient, strong person accepting yourself, marriage might make you life complete, but if you tend to be needy, fearful of being lonely, needing constant admiration — maybe better get a puppy.

Editor’s note: Hedi McKinley lives in Altamont and is a clinical social worker with an office in Albany.

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Saint Valentine was a roman priest who was beheaded in 170 A.D. on or around Feb. 14. His crime had been performing marnux ceremonies for young men who were supposed to remain single in order to make better soldiers!

How this sad tale became translated into one billion Hallmark cards sent annually (mostly by women!) needs further research but any opportunity to spread love around should be welcomed. So, when the dozen red roses begin to wither and the chocolates have been eaten, we might turn once more to improving the relationship we do have — perhaps this time permanently.

Here are a couple of suggestions, oldies but goodies, to help do the job:

— Criticism is, perhaps, the most damaging of habits — quickly expressed, slowly forgotten;

— Remember the “you” rule — “you always: and “you never” guarantees that your partner has either stopped listening or is rehearsing a counter defense;

—  Almost as bad is the silent treatment (which women have perfected, and which really speaks volumes). Instead you might say, “I feel hurt, angry, lonely, unloved. Etc. when you…” Better, Not perfect.

— Better still, you might start a conversation with a word of appreciation (after all, this is the person you fell in love with) and present your complaint in the same tone you would use with your co-worker, boss, or employee;

— If it is your partner who wants to voice a complaint try to listen without interruptions or counter attacks, avoid offensive body language (rolling your eyes) as well as the “yes, but” response;

— “S/he started it” seems to be the defense of our 3-year-old and the countries shown on the TV news who are defending the slaughter of thousands.

Back to Valentine’s Day: Your partner might have failed to stop at Hallmark or the flower ship.

Avoid playing the guilt trip.

Look around you. Is there anyone you know or know of who might need a sign that someone cares a bit? It’s worth the postage stamp.

Teach your children that one day of 365 is not enough to show love and appreciation and help them to make the transition from getting to giving.

Editor’s note: Hedi McKinley who lives in Altamont, is a psychiatric social worker in private practice in Albany.

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— Parents: don’t buy the idea that your children “go through a phase” when they misbehave. If you do, your kids will try to get away with murder until they are in their “senior-citizen phase.”

— Parents: don’t let your children say “I want” whether it be cereal, Cabbage Patch dolls, or motorcycles. But this means that you, too, might have to take the word out of your vocabulary.

— Partners: don’t accuse your partner of having changed. Of course, he or she has. So have you. What you are really complaining about is that your partner is developing a mind of his or her own.

— Parents: Want to cut down on friction with your children? Give them two choices on everything from what to wear to what to eat or do. (Story before or after bath? Carrots or potatoes? snowsuit or wool pants?).

— Partners: Do not refer to your kids as “my children” in front of your partner.

— Partners: Do not tell him or her (or anyone else) to “relax” when they are upset. It will upset them even more.

— Parents: Do not dangle dessert as reward or punishment. If your child is not hungry let her or him leave the table (but do not call back for dessert).

— Partners: Never say, “What you should do is…” You might say: “ I would do it this way” or “Have you considered…?”

— Partners: Do not run down you partner’s parents no matter what the provocation. Your partner can do it; it’s different when you try.

— Men: Understand that most women like sex when everything is calm, clean, and friendly.

— Women: Understand that most men like sex even when they’re mad, sad, or angry.

— Men: Consider that most women like declarations of love during sex.

— Women: consider that many men want to concentrate on what they’re doing and will make declaration of love before (and sometimes after) sex.

— Adult children: don’t agree with everything your elderly parents say. Fight with them occasionally; it keeps the juices flowing.

— Parents: Never hit a baby because it is crying. It is crying because it is in need of something. Hitting will make the baby give up hope.

— Parents: If you must hit your child, do it when you’re angry. But discuss your anger later.

— Men: Don’t ridicule you partner’s need for emotional connections (telephoning, talking, writing.) This is the stuff that makes your relationship good.

— Women: Try to accept your partner’s inability or reluctance to express feelings. It’s a male disease. (Praise your boys differently.)

— Parents: apologize to your children if you have been wrong (every time!).

— Parents: If your child uses a swear word you do not like, first explain the meaning of the word, then give the reason for your objection.

— People: Cats scratch when you do something they don’t like, not because they are unreliable.

— People: Dogs have a sense of fairness. If you are unfair, you will break their spirit.

— People: do not criticize other people’s religion unless you can demonstrate beyond a doubt that your God has made you into a perfect person.