Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Debra Fileta’s new book True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life (Zondervan, 2013).

Finding a spouse who can be the love of your life isn’t just a matter of searching for someone who has qualities that attract you. In order to find a lifelong love, you first need to learn how to love God and yourself in ways that will prepare you to date successfully.

Here’s how you can develop healthy relationships with God and yourself, so you can build healthy dating relationships that can lead you to the love of your life:

Date inward, outward, and upward. Invest your time and energy in three different yet complementary focuses: dating inward (getting to know yourself well), dating outward (learning as you date various people you meet), and dating upward (growing closer to God and allowing your relationship with him to guide you in all of your relationships).

Learn where you came from. Accept your past as something that can’t be changed, but realize that God can always use your past to accomplish good purposes in your life now. Ask God to help you understand your past from his perspective, and to learn everything he wants you to learn from it so you can keep growing into the person he wants you to become.

Discover who you are now. Pray for the ability to see yourself as you truly are right now, rather than as the person you may wish you were, or as a person who conforms to the labels that other people have placed on you. Base your identity on God’s complete, unconditional love for you. Maintain a journal in which you record your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs about yourself, as well as the ways you interact with the world around you. Regularly reflect on and pray about what you’ve written in your journal. Keep in mind that you’ll attract romantic partners who are at your same level of self-esteem and emotional health, so try to be as emotionally healthy and confident as possible when dating.

Envision where you’re going. Ask God to reveal as many of his plans for your life as he will, set goals around fulfilling God’s purposes for you, and prioritize daily activities that will help you meet those goals. Rather than running after a romantic partner, run after Jesus. In the process, you’ll notice people around you who are also running after Jesus. The single people who are also wholeheartedly pursuing Jesus are the ones who are the best candidates as romantic partners.

Figure out what qualities you really want in a potential spouse. Make a list of red, yellow, and green qualities: Reds identify characteristics that you would never allow yourself to settle for in a romantic partner (such as abusiveness, addictive behavior, or a pattern of dishonesty). Yellows identify traits that you would need to explore carefully (such as sexual history, family of origin issues, and communication deficits). Greens describe qualities that you especially desire in a romantic partner (such as someone who challenges you to be a better person and Christian, serves others, and has a strong prayer life). When making your list, keep in mind what’s most important from God’s perspective – loving God and loving other people – and choose to look foremost for a person who does that well, instead of getting distracted by qualities that aren’t as important (such as a particular type of physical appearance or a certain salary level).

Honor the different seasons of dating relationships. Thinking of dating in terms of the four different natural seasons of a year will help you pace your relationships with potential spouses in healthy ways. During spring, focus on being friends for three months to get to know each other without the pressure of romance. Enjoy new discoveries and the excitement of your new connection. During summer, turn up the heat by revealing deeper thoughts and feelings to each other – but protect yourself from getting burned by expressing physical desires prematurely. During fall, work through the conflicts that will naturally occur as the differences between you are revealed. During winter, reflect on the state of your relationship after your emotions have settled down, seeking God’s wisdom to discern whether to break up or move forward into an engagement to be married.