In a new monthly series, our relationships expert, Sarah Abell looks at issues to do with dating and offers her practical advice. In the fourth of the Inside Out Dating Guides she looks at where to find love.

I love hearing stories about how people met and when I do it always reminds me that there is no magic formula for finding love – it can and does happen anywhere and everywhere. Having said that – if it is lasting love that you are after – there are some more obvious places to look than others. Here are a few of the main ones:

1. Through friends

Meeting someone through friends is by no means a guarantee of success. Sometimes friends can get it spectacularly wrong when they try their hand at matchmaking. The ‘perfect’ person that they have spent months trying to fix you up with may well turn out to be your idea of a nightmare.

But don’t dismiss all your friend’s friends too quickly. Meeting through someone you know can be a real bonus. Firstly because you have something in common – your mutual friend, and secondly because your friend can brief you about the person’s character and romantic history.

2. Through work

Work is the place where most of us spend the majority of our time so it is not surprising how many romances start with a furtive glance across the boardroom or with a prolonged chat at the coffee machine.

Some work places have guidelines on relationships in the office and therefore it is worth checking if yours does and if so what it says. Dating someone other than a peer – in other words your boss or a subordinate – can cause issues for example accusations of favouritism or difficulties and a strained working environment if the relationship doesn’t work.

So, think first before you act. Ask yourself is this relationship really worth pursuing and if it goes wrong what is the worst thing that could happen?

3. Through your interests

Having shared interests is a great strength in any long-term relationship so you’ll be off to a good start if you meet someone doing something you love whether that is attending vintage car rallies, abseiling, salsa dancing, watching your favourite football team or performing in your local amateur dramatics group.

The great thing is you will have your shared interests in common and therefore an obvious topic of conversation to get things going. Also, if you are having fun, relaxed and focused on something you love – you are more likely to come across as someone who is interesting and interested.

4. Through your beliefs

Even more than shared interests, having shared beliefs can create a strong bond in a marriage or a long-term relationship. Why? Because so many of the decisions we make in life are based on our beliefs and when two people fundamentally disagree about what is important or right – it can cause friction and discord in the relationship. That isn’t to say it is impossible to build a relationship when two people have different religions or support different political parties – people do all the time. But, they will need to be good at negotiating, understanding each other and working through their differences if they are going to make a go of it.

If you have a strong belief in something – whether that is a political party, a religion or a good cause – then get involved, volunteer or attend events. You are more likely to meet someone who shares your passion and your outlook on life – if you are actively involved in that passion and following your heart.

5. Through learning

Joining a group or taking up a course are also great ways to meet new people and widen your social network. Again, you are doing something that you are interested in and learning together can often create a great bond and camaraderie amongst participants.

I met my husband David on a counselling course we both attended. As you can probably imagine on a course like that you soon discover more about people in a short amount of time than you would in most other circumstances. The course was part-time and spread out over 18 months. By the end of it – we were married and many of our classmates came to the wedding.

6. Through your community

People joke about meeting your potential partner at the bus stop – but it could and does happen. To increase the chances of it happening to you make sure you are open, friendly and approachable. Take the time to say ‘hello’ and meet new people wherever you are: in your street, in the supermarket, in the bookshop, in a bar, in a coffee shop or on the train.

7. Through the internet

Online dating is increasingly becoming one of the most popular ways for people to meet potential dates. Around half of all singles looking for love are using the internet to help– so if you are too – it makes sense to join them.

I know at least five friends who first met their spouse through an online dating site. It is a great way to connect with new people especially for those who live very busy lives or who live or work in an isolated place where they don’t meet many other single people.

I’ll be taking a look at some top tips for dating online in the next article of the series.

If you are reading this and have any tips on good places to meet people or a story of where you met the love of your life then please do let us know using the comments section below. It would be great to hear your advice and experiences.