I have the chance to talk to a lot of young people—both teenagers and young adults—about their prospects for love and marriage. One question that comes up is, “How do I know I am really in love?” A similar question is, “How do I know he’s the right person for me?” I’d like to share a few ideas that might help you with these questions. (I will refer mostly to young women considering young men, but these ideas will apply to both.)
This post was inspired by the story of a young woman who told me about a boy that wanted to kiss her on a first date. When she turned him down, he was offended and berated her. Not a good sign for him. She just asked him to take her home. Good sign for her.
First of all, we should remember that the love that leads to marriage is a conscious choice. You choose to love or not to love. Yes, we talk about “falling in love,” and there is a wonderful element in love of having your feelings run away with you, but it comes down to a choice, a far-reaching choice, one of the most important that you will make in your life. Some of the other points discussed here in this post can help you make that choice well.
An interesting phenomena I’ve noticed is this: When you bring that special young man home to meet your family and friends, if you are on the right track, your parents will like him, your brothers and sisters will like him, and your friends will like him. We can all be a little blinded by the heat and fire of love, so it is always good to listen to close friends and loved ones’ perceptions about your special person.
Somewhere in your circle, you will have someone who will have a built in “creepometer.” That’s what we call it in our house. You see, some people have the gift of seeing past the surface and into the heart of another person. (My wife has it.) If someone close to you has this gift, listen to them and consider carefully what they have to say. It is common that one or two of your inner circle will express concerns or doubts no matter how good he is, but if a number of them see chinks in his armor, and your friend’s creepometer is red-lining, listen to what they have to say. Let them help you see the whole picture. You will be glad you did in the long run—so glad.
Another strong indicator is observing how he treats his parents, his brothers and his sisters or his friends. If he is impolite or disrespectful to his mother or sisters, look out. No matter how nice he is to you right now, he will turn to his default behavior in time, and that disrespect will be turned on you. Respect is the cornerstone of love. Without it, there can be no trust, and without respect and trust, love wilts and dies.
Another test: How do you feel when you are around him? Do you feel put down, belittled, smaller than you really are? Constant criticism and negativity is highly correlated with divorce. Keep your hand out of that wasp’s nest.
On the other hand, do you feel happy and hopeful when you are with him? Do you feel like you want to be a better person? To be as worthy and pure as you possibly can be? Like you want to draw closer to your Savior? If you feel uplifted, on higher ground, or like you have had a taste of heaven whenever you are with him, that is a very good sign. A very, very good sign. That is one of the strongest positive signs you can find. Don’t let that one out of your sight.
Another thing. One of my favorites. Talking. One thing I have noticed with my wife of thirty years, is that we never, never, never run out of interesting things to talk about. We talk and talk and talk, all the time. Talking helps us understand each other, see each other’s point of view and laugh together every day. It is a very strong indicator of the lastability of love when you just can’t run out of things, interesting and meaningful things, to talk about.
Is he defensive, unable to acknowledge his faults, and has to be right all the time? If so, he is not a safe bet. You are never going to find a perfect man without faults, but you most certainly can find a safe bet. A safe bet is not “practically perfect in every way” but is willing to see and work on his weaknesses. He does not have to be right all the time, but will share that burden with others. He doesn’t waste time being defensive about his mistakes. He smiles, says yes and moves on. That’s a good bet. (Though I don’t recommend gambling.)
Finally, I want to talk about physical affection and friendship. Some relationships jump into physical affection too soon, and that can distort your feelings, and sometimes destroy them. As long as two people are reasonably attractive to each other, physical affection will give them both pleasure. However, you cannot, I repeat, you cannot build a lasting relationship on physical affection alone. If physical affection comes before friendship, you are building your relationship on a foundation of jello. You pick the color, but it is jello.
If you have a romantic attraction for someone, but build your foundation on friendship first, you will find that the joy of physical affection, when the right time comes for it, will never diminish, but will get stronger and stronger as the years go by.
I really like this quote from John Bytheway’s article “What Do Kisses Mean?”:
Too much sharing of physical affection can cloud thinking to the point that a couple doesn’t really know why they like to be together, other than the opportunity to share affection. A couple may even get married, and when the honeymoon is over and they’re back to everyday life, they may discover they have little to talk about. One wise bishop suggested that if young adults feel that their relationship is too physical, they should try spending the next two weeks without even holding hands to see if they still enjoy being together.
Physical affection is a wonderful thing to share, but unfortunately, young couples often apply too much gas and not enough brake when it comes to PA. Too often, they short change the opportunity to develop strong friendships by focusing on the physical, and their relationships cannot last.
Now to recap. Here are all eight questions:
- Do you believe that love is a choice and not an accident?
- Do your parents, brothers, sisters and friends like him, with little exception?
- Do you listen to those gifted with a “creepometer”?
- Does he show consistent respect to his mother, father, sisters, brothers and friends?
- When you are around him, do you feel like you are on higher ground, like you want to do better, like you have hope and a future?
- Do you ever run out of things to talk about?
- Is he willing to acknowledge his faults and work on them?
- Is your friendship more important than your exchange of physical affection?
If you can answer all these questions positively, I think you are definitely on the right track.
What if you are already married and can’t answer all of these questions positively, then what? I guess I better write about that, too. Stay tuned.