Maybe you’re a teen, or you’re a young adult who has avoided dating until college or after graduation. For whatever reason, you’re new to the dating game and unfamiliar with what seems like a whole world of unspoken rules and agreements. You know the basics of dating, but not just how to go about doing it. Take heart, though; you aren’t alone in your frustration and anxiety. Here are some of the most common questions asked by people who aren’t familiar with the dating world.

1. How do I turn a friendship into a relationship?

This is a tricky question, but very common. Relationships are often formed based on familiarity, and when you know someone very well, it’s easy to fall in love without meaning to. The harder part is knowing whether your friend feels the same way.

First, think about their relationship status. If your friend is single, you’re in luck; if they aren’t, don’t pursue it at this time. It’s tempting to think you’ll be a better boyfriend or girlfriend, especially when you know your friend isn’t being treated like they deserve to be. Remember, any kind of interference will make you seem like the meddler or cheater, even if you have their best interests in mind.

If you and your friend are both single, you’ll want to see whether they’re interested in you. This can take some stealthy detective work, and perhaps the opinions of a few mutual friends who know you both well. The other option is to simply ask them by saying that you’re interested in them and wonder whether the feeling is mutual or not. We’re more likely to like those who say they like us, so try not to be too shy about it.

If they say they aren’t interested, accept it gracefully and be careful not to let it affect your friendship. Don’t cling to them or stalk them if they turn you down!

If they’re interested, then agree to go on a date and see what happens. Take the process of changing a friendship into a relationship slowly so neither of you are too weirded out by the changes.

2. Where can I find a boyfriend or girlfriend when everyone else already seems to be taken?

If you’re still in middle or high school, this is a particularly common problem as your peers discover dating and start quickly finding partners of their own, but college students and adults are sometimes plagued by this same feeling.

Before you can start to find a boyfriend or girlfriend, you need to sort out as many unresolved issues you may have as possible. For example, some people are still angry at being cheated on in a past relationship, nervous about allowing someone to be close to them, or resentful of anyone they perceive to be controlling them. Open-mindedness, tolerance, and a willingness to maturely work through problems with your partner will help you find a boyfriend or girlfriend with similar qualities.

Now you can go about finding a lover! If you’re at school, this is one of the easiest ways to find a boyfriend or girlfriend, but it can also lead to “high school drama” with the effects of gossip and peer pressure driving you apart, as the only thing you are guaranteed to have in common is your age (more or less). Finding a partner through mutual interests is sometimes a better option.

Join sports leagues, clubs, or groups about your interests; if you can’t think of any real interests, try something new to mix it up a bit. This is one of the best ways to meet a new boyfriend or girlfriend, as you already have a built-in conversation topic and interest in common.

Another way adults sometimes meet others is through dating sites or speed dating. Both options aren’t for teens, however – there are very real risks associated with each, so hard as it may be and impatient though you might be, avoid lying about your age to get into either activity.

3. Can I get someone to fall in love with me?

Have you seen ads online for “love spells” that promise to make someone fall in love with you overnight? There’s a reason these ads exist: many people want to force others to fall in love with them. Not only does this simply not work, but it’s also a tremendous violation of their basic right to love whomever they wish to love. You wouldn’t want to be forced to love someone who isn’t right for you, would you?

Hokey spells aside, there’s no real way to get someone to fall in love with you, so you have to try to accept that you might never be with them. The best way to encourage romance is to grow closer to them in a gradual manner.

Are you friends with the person you want to be in love with? If not, that’s a great start. Don’t be creepy, but express interest in what they do and share a bit about yourself (avoid the temptation to make it all you listening or all you talking, though). Ask to hang out a few times and get to know each other, talk online, and just let the friendship develop naturally.

Once you are friends with your potential boyfriend or girlfriend, you can start to discern whether or not they’re interested in you. If not, or if they’re already with someone, stop until they’re single and try to move on past them. You don’t want to encourage them to cheat or be seen as interfering with them, after all.

It’s impossible to manufacture love, but you can do some things to encourage it to come your way. Cultivate in yourself the traits you’re looking for in a partner and focus on what you want, rather than what you don’t want, and you’ll attract a positive partner with the things you’re looking for in a lover.

There are lots of other little things you need to know if you’re getting into a relationship, but many of them can be figured out along the way. Once you know how to start a relationship, with time and patience, you and your partner can work through any issues you encounter and have a mutually satisfactory relationship for as long as you like. Have fun!