This year, my wife and I are celebrating our 25th Valentine’s Day. That’s an accomplishment, considering that many relationships don’t make it to their first Valentine’s Day.
How do you find true love? And how do you make it last? I don’t claim to be a relationship expert, and I made my share of mistakes. I have found a few things that work.
Find Things You Enjoy Doing
Don’t waste your time with singles bars, singles mixers, or any place singles try to force themselves to stop being single. Instead, find things you enjoy doing. It doesn’t matter whether you go to sporting events, hang out at bookstores, or rebuild classic cars. When you do things you enjoy doing, you’ll inevitably bump into others who enjoy the same things you do. You’ll make friends with people who share common interests. Those friendships may turn into something more.
Become Friends, Not Just Boyfriends and Girlfriends
It’s important to build that friendship, preferably before or at least in the process of becoming romantic partners. Problems happen when lovers get caught up in the passion. They come together simply out of physical attraction. They may not trust or even like each other. When the passion cools, they wind up hating each other.
I feel it’s important for your lover to be your best friend — the one who most you like to spend time with, joke with, or just sit around watching TV. You enjoy being in that person’s presence, and not just in the bedroom. That’s the way I feel about my wife, and why our relationship has lasted for so long.
But how do you know if the person is someone you want to be involved with?
Love Them when They’re Unlovable
When you first start dating, you go through the “make a good impression phase.” You use your best table manners. You groom even where it is painful to groom. You wear your best clothes at all occasions, even to bed. (You’ll discover why Victoria’s biggest secret is how anyone could waste their time lacing, cinching, and hooking a garment, only to take it off again.)
You really find out whether or not you love someone when they remove the mask and show you who they really are. When you see their anger, insecurities, and fears. When you see how they act when they’re sick or in pain. When you see the dark parts of their past. When you witness their failures. And when your partner sees your weaknesses and annoyances too.
The most important part of any relationship is whether you can love someone when they’re unlovable. And you will go through those times. You will experience hardships and tragedies. The person you love will do something that disappoints you. You will go through life changes that put stress on you and your relationship.
The test is whether your love is stronger than your circumstances. It can be when you love your partner when he or she unlovable. You do so because you want your partner to love you when you’re unlovable.
What if you don’t find the person who shares your interests, becomes a friend as well as a lover, and is someone you can love when the mask comes off? What if you never find true love?
You need to be patient. I know there’s a lot of pressure on young people to find that “one true love.” No one wants to be the teen who doesn’t have a date for the prom or the young adult who is the last of her clique to get married.
But love, like most things, comes on its own schedule. You may have to go through a few false starts and make more than a few (sometimes painful) mistakes. It is part of the learning process. You have to learn what not to do before you find out what you to do.
It took me a long time to find my true love, who became my wife. I had to finish college, begin a career, leave the Valley, and start a life of my own before I could gain the maturity and independence to have a relationship. I also made the decision to stop pressuring myself to get into a relationship and let it happen, which it did. I built a friendship and a relationship with my wife that has endured many difficult moments and enjoyed many happy ones.
Until you find true love, you need to be happy with yourself. Don’t be dependent on other people for your happiness or blame others when happiness doesn’t come. When you are happy with yourself, that’s usually when you find the person who can be happy with you. True love comes when you love yourself and your life.