People often look to their hearts when deciding whom to marry.  But, too often, they don’t also use their heads when choosing a mate.  Decisions about romantic relationships are some of the most significant decisions people can make, says author and longtime marriage therapist Donald Harvey.  And those decisions are so crucial, he says, that people need to think them through very carefully as they seek God’s best for their lives.

Harvey’s new book, "Lovedecisions: A Dad Talks with His Daughter About Lasting Relationships," helps young women navigate the sometimes bumpy road of romantic relationships and gives them the tools they need to make wise decisions about potential spouses.

Between Father and Daughter

Harvey, who earned his Ph.D. in Marriage and Family Therapy and has practiced for more than 25 years, wrote this book for his daughter Paige and other young women in her same season of life.  He conceived the idea for the book while Paige was in her first year of college.  “There were things that I wanted her to know about love and relationships -- and I thought she was at a prime time to learn them,” he recalls.

Each chapter of "Lovedecisions" opens with a fictional e-mail from Harvey to Paige that represents actual conversations they’ve had about relationships.  Over the course of several years, the book project drew father and daughter closer together.  “Nothing was taboo as we worked through several relationships over a span of several years of college.  We continued to talk as Paige finished college and began her career.  In that she hadn’t settled down with any one guy, I jokingly accused her of keeping me 'in content,'” he says.

The process of helping her father with "Lovedecisions" was a blessing, says Paige.  “Until he started writing 'Lovedecisions,' I had always seen my dad as being an expert at counseling married couples -- dealing with other people’s relationships. But as I read the first few chapters of the manuscript, I realized that his expertise in dealing with marriages made him even more equipped to handle issues with dating couples -- in other words, my relationships. It made our bond that much deeper as I went to him with my own dating problems and questions -- he offered the wisdom of a therapist, from the heart of a father.”

Through the book, Harvey says, he hopes to reach many more young women who are facing important decisions about love.  “After seeing the way it affected [Paige’s] life, I felt it could impact the lives of other ‘daughters’ as well,” he said.  “I want readers to get a feel for what relational health is, what it isn’t, and a resolve to settle for nothing less than God’s best in their lives.  I want readers to be able to recognize when someone is good for them, when he isn’t, and to be able to assess the direction of their relationship.  Compatibility doesn’t have to be left to guesswork.  There are indicators that let us know if this is a relationship pleasing to God or not.  And I want readers to understand the spiritual side of love and the purity that God desires for their relationships.”

A Father's Invaluable Role

The fatherly advice in "Lovedecisions" could help fill in the gap for the many young women today who don’t have close relationships with their own fathers.  Time pressures, distractions, and divorce are some of the factors that are unfortunately “getting in the way of good father-daughter relationships” for many families, says Harvey.

Yet father-daughter relationships are just as vital as ever, he says.  “There is so much that daughters can get from their dads.  They learn about marriage by watching their parents; they learn about men by watching their dad; and they get a sense of self-esteem by how their dad treats them.  Most of this influence occurs before they get to the 'love decisions' stage of life.  But things can become even more important at this later time.  It’s now, when no matter how the guy in their life is making them feel, that dad is there to reaffirm their worth, answer their questions about guys, and shed some light on how men and women are different.  It is now that dad becomes a great relationship coach pointing out when she’s being treated well or poorly, what to do in either circumstance, and is just there when she needs to be comforted as she cries.  Dads have an invaluable role with their daughters – one that no one else can fill.”