One lady told me that her mother always said to her when she was a teen, "If you can't imagine yourself growing old with this guy, sitting in a rocker and holding his hand, then he isn't for you. And if you can't imagine yourself throwing up from the flu and having this guy hold your head while you do, this guy isn't for you either. Good looks go out the window as you age; quality and loyalty don't."

Headed in the Same Direction
I know many couples who got married just after college and are now getting divorced. Here's one example shared by a friend: A guy was convinced he was going to be a doctor, so his girlfriend married him, all excited that he was going to med school. Four years and two kids later, this guy decided he wanted to run a football camp for boys. Very different salary than his wife envisioned. They wound up divorcing. Their story shows how important a solid foundation is in the first place. If you're going to get married, you have time. A person who really loves you won't walk away if you say you want to be careful and take your time in a relationship. After all, if you marry this person, you'll have the rest of your lives together!

Too many young adults marry too quickly, before they've seen the "real" other person. The big "surprise" after marriage should be the wonder of sex, not how the other person responds to life.

On the road to finding love, how can you develop a long-lasting, fulfilling relationship? One that will have a high level of intimacy (a soul-to-soul connection) and romance -- but none of the strings, pressures, and regrets of sex outside marriage? One that limits disappointments?

It all starts with realizing the difference between expectations and hopes.

Expectations...or Hopes?
When you think about someone to date, what are you expecting to find? Maybe "Wow -- I just know she'll have the perfect body" or "He'll be the guy every girl wants to date"?

Let's talk straight here. If you expect to have the perfect date, most likely you'll be disappointed.  No one is perfect. Having a huge list of expectations sets you up for the fall.

But hopes -- now, those are different. You can always set your hopes high. For example, you can hope for a guy who's romantic and brings you flowers or a girl who shares your love of sports. But realize you probably won't find someone who meets all your hopes. Instead, you'll discover someone with qualities you may not even know you want.

Keep in mind the difference between expectations and hopes. Your expectations should be your list of "nonnegotiables." Here's 17-year-old Kara's list:

Kara's Nonnegotiables

The person I date must:
•Not only be Christian, but a growing Christian, interested in spiritual things.
•Be a gentleman (open doors for me).
•Not push for sexual favors or even a kiss on a date, just because we went out.
•Respect me -- and my opinion -- and not just assume that since I'm a girl, I'm dumb.

What are your nonnegotiables? Why not write them down on paper now, so you won't be swayed when somebody who's especially hot or intriguing comes along?

And what about your hopes? Here's Kara's list of hopes.

Kara's Hopes

The person I date will hopefully:
•Like playing tennis, just like me.
•Be dark-haired, handsome, and tall.
•Play the piano and sing me romantic songs by candle-light.
•Be considered cool by my friends.
•Be in the same year in school as me and in a lot of my classes.

When you find yourself "shopping" for the right one, be very aware of the complicated issues that make up a relationship. You don't have to commit to a "purchase" just yet. Just enjoy meeting people.

If you ask God for guidance and take your time, he will guide you. So pace yourself and enjoy life for now!

 

Adapted from "Come Clean" by Doug Herman © 2004 by  Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Used by special permission of Tyndale House Publishers. For any other use, please contact Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. for permission. All rights reserved.