You’re going to have to do the work on yourself first, in your own heart and mind, about your expectations about love and what it takes to be good to you. Dating is for collecting data. You are collecting information to see if this person is qualified for courtship. Then, as friendship develops, you decide if you are going to be more intentional about pursuing a courtship. It tells you the things to look for and the things you need to flesh out as a couple and the maintenance that is required. Every day we choose to trust people who are not qualified to be life partners.

You also advise to readers how to keep love, once they’ve found a partner. Why do you refer to it as preventive maintenance?

People get to the altar and say, ‘I do’ and think, ‘I’m done. Now let me move on to the next goal on my list.’

There are some things that need to be in place to keep you from having problems. The basic things people need are patience, kindness and understanding, as well as the willingness to yield. If we are pursuing principles, sometimes we will lose the partner and the relationship in the process.

What about long-term maintenance?

Passion is important.  It’s great to like each other, but it’s nice to have the icing of passion. There should be anchors in relationships that pull you back to your original feeling. You should still have date night and traditions and things in your home that lead you back home.

Laughter is also key. It’s important to be able to laugh at ourselves and with one another.

Why do you advise readers not to make their mates their ‘everything’?

Your ‘everything’ should be everything you’ve already built into your life. That person should be a wonderful addition to that. (Otherwise) you are setting yourself up to be disappointed and for the relationship to fail. Giving that person permission to be who they are empowers them to be greater for you. It’s a delicate dance.

What is your current relationship status?

I’m single, single single! There are different levels—there’s ‘Single, but getting out of a relationship;’ ‘Single, but seeing someone,’ and ‘Single, single, single,’ where you are footloose and exploring your options.

Being married is not the qualifier for knowing how to be married. If that was the case, nobody would be divorced.  The quality of your present relationships is a good indicator of what your marriage would look like. Are they healthy? Are they long term? Most of the relationships in my life are 20 years old and over. I still have the same friends I had in 1976. That prepares me to know how to do the work to maintain and sustain a long-term relationship. The same keys have to be in place in your friendships and family interactions. You’ve got to do the work in other relationships, too.

You assert in How to Make Love Work that ‘We become the sum total of the love we are able to give and inspire in our lifetimes.’ How so?

Isn’t that the legacy we leave? Nobody talks about your job when you leave. They talk about the quality of your relationship with them.

When Tabitha in the Bible died, the widows mourned and brought their coats and other clothing she had made for them, and Peter raised her from the dead. The relationships and the things you did for others literally keeps you living after you are gone. Your life is a sum total of relationships. Make sure you have good ones. If there is no permanent mate, spread it to family and friends. They are the precursors to everything you’ll experience in a marriage.

Stacy Hawkins Adams is a freelance writer, speaker and Christian fiction author. Her latest novel is titled Watercolored Pearls.