Let me get very specific with those of you who are single but wish someday to be married. (No insult is intended to those who are single by design and wish to remain unmarried. That is a legitimate choice that should be respected by friends and family, alike.) Listed below are seventeen suggestions that will help you conform to the principles of loving toughness in matters of the heart.
1. Don't let the relationship move too fast in its infancy. The phrase "too hot not to cool down" has validity. Relationships that begin in a frenzy frequently burnthemselves out. Take it one step at a time.
2. Don't discuss your personal inadequacies and flaws in great detail when the relationship is new. No matter how warm and accepting your friend may be, any great revelation of low self-esteem or embarrassing weaknesses can be fatal wheninterpersonal "valleys" occur. And they will occur.
3. Remember that respect precedes love. Build it stone upon stone.
4. Don't call too often on the phone or give the other person an opportunity to gettired of you.
5. Don't be too quick to reveal your desire to get married—or that you think you've just found Mr. Wonderful or Miss Marvelous. If your partner has not arrived atthe same conclusion, you'll throw him or her into panic.
6. Most important: Relationships are constantly being "tested" by cautious lovers who like to nibble at the bait before swallowing the hook. This testing procedure takes many forms, but it usually involves pulling backward from the other person to see what will happen. Perhaps a foolish fight is initiated. Maybe two weeks will pass without a phone call. Or sometimes flirtation occurs with a rival. In each instance, the question being asked is "How important am I to you, and what would you do if you lost me?" An even more basic issue lies below that one.
It wants to know, "How free am I to leave if I want to?" It is incredibly important in these instances to appear poised, secure, and equally independent. Do not grasp the other person and beg for mercy. Some people remain single throughout life because they cannot resist the temptation to grovel when the test occurs.
7. Extending the same concept, keep in mind that virtually every dating relationship that continues for a year or more and seems to be moving toward marriage will be given the ultimate test. A breakup will occur, motivated by only one of the lovers. The rejected individual should know that their future together depends on the skill with which he or she handles that crisis. If the hurting individual can remain calm, as Shirley did with me, the next two steps may be reconciliation and marriage. It often happens that way. If not, then no amount of pleading willchange anything.
8. Do not depend entirely upon one another for the satisfaction of every emotional need. Maintain interests and activities outside that romantic relationship, evenafter marriage.
9. Guard against selfishness in your love affair. Neither the man nor the woman should do all the giving. I once broke up with a girl because she let me take her to nice places, bring her flowers, buy her lunch, etc. I wanted to do these things butexpected her to reciprocate in some way. She didn't.
10. Beware of blindness to obvious warning signs that tell you that your potential husband or wife is basically disloyal, hateful, spiritually uncommitted, hooked on drugs or alcohol, given to selfishness, etc. Believe me, a bad marriage is farworse than the most lonely instance of singleness.
For more information on this topic, read Love Must Be Tough.