How to Find the Love of Your Life
- Whitney Hopler Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2013 12 Dec
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.
Protect yourself emotionally. Guard your heart in dating relationships by not revealing your deepest thoughts and feelings until you know that you can trust the person you’re dating. Ask God to give you the wisdom you need to determine what to reveal, and when. Don’t spend so much time with the person you’re dating that you neglect investing quality time into your relationships with God, your family, and your friends, or that you neglect pursuing the work God has called you to do. Guard your mind by focusing your thoughts on what God is actually doing in your life right now rather than on what you wish was happening. Guard your conversations with the people you date by progressing through the levels of communication (first facts, then opinions and ideas, and finally feelings, hopes and dreams) only as the people you date earn your trust.
Protect yourself physically. Set clear boundaries for physical intimacy in your dating relationships to protect yourself from the damage that premature sexual encounters can cause (distracting you from relationship flaws, causing guilt and trust issues, creating a false sense of intimacy, and breeding harmful expectations). Ask some people you trust to hold you accountable to the dating boundaries you set. Channel the energy from your sexual desires into pursuing other activities about which you feel passionate, and which help you connect more with God and others.
Align your search for true love with your relationship with God, the Source of love. Commit to seeking God alongside the people you date, recognizing that the closer you all come to God, the closer you can come to each other. In all of your dating relationships, aim for the goal of connecting with God together.
Turn to Jesus for what romantic relationships can’t do for you. Don’t expect any dating relationship to erase your insecurities, give you purpose, or bring you healing. Only Jesus Christ has the power to bring security, purpose, and healing into your life. So make Jesus your primary love by fully embracing his love for you and wholeheartedly devoting yourself to him.
Date with no regrets. If you deliberately pursue holiness while you’re dating, you can emerge from dating relationships without regrets. Value your relationship with God more than any dating relationship, and refuse to compromise the values of your faith for the sake of a romantic relationship with anyone. Ask God to give you the strength and patience you’ll need to remain true to him and yourself when dating.
Embrace the love that assures you you’re never alone. No matter how your dating relationships work out, realize that you’re never truly alone, because God’s loving presence is constantly with you. When you fully embrace God’s love for you, it will meet all of your needs, giving you the foundation you need to engage in healthy relationships with the people you date.
Adapted from True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life, copyright 2013 by Debra Fileta. Published by Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Mich., www.zondervan.com.
Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor, specializing in dating, marriage and relationship issues. She is currently working in private practice, with both individuals and couples. Prior to this, she worked in a spectrum of mental health settings, including adolescent residential facility, inpatient psychiatric care, and a public school system. www.truelovedates.com.
Whitney Hopler, who has served as a Crosswalk.com contributing writer for many years, is author of the Christian novel Dream Factory, which is set during Hollywood's golden age. Visit her website at: whitneyhopler.naiwe.com.
Publication date: December 31, 2013