by the Rev. Peter Stimpson

QUESTION: A lot of relationships blossom due to the romantic appeal of Valentine’s Day. Any pitfalls in that?

ANSWER: I am not sure that the romantic glitz of St. Valentine’s Day is enough to have the relationship survive much beyond that date, let alone forever. Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against being romantic, but for a relationship to endure, you are going to need a lot more than Cupid’s arrows for good luck.

It is amazing to me that living in such a sophisticated society, one where everyone realizes that hard work in college and on the job are essential to success, that we still cling to the notion that there is a perfect person out there somewhere, and that the fortunes of fate will somehow magically guide you into the arms of one another. And, when people “luck out” and meet a nice person, they often proclaim to all, “What can go wrong if the chemistry is right?” The answer: Plenty!

Therefore, why not take luck out of the process, and begin to decide what is best for you, using your dates to see if Prince Charming or Cinderella actually “measures up.” What does that mean? Here are a few suggestions.

1. ARE THEY AVAILABLE? If you are drawn to someone who is either married or separated, then trouble abounds. Oh sure, they tell you tales of woe about their miserable, soon-to-be ex-spouse, but all too often, your feelings will be crushed beneath the surprising news that they are going to try to “work it out” with their spouse. So, unless they are free, flee.

2. ARE THEY MATURE? If you feel like they are selling a product, don’t buy. Look for someone who is reasonably confident in their self-worth, as evidenced by them admitting their flaws, instead of endlessly telling you about how big their job, house, car, or bank account is. If they are talking about how they are going to take care of “poor little you,” that is a sign that they are attracted to you because of your perceived weakness. Once you grow up, you will grow out of them.

3. WHY ARE YOU IN LOVE? To ask that question is not to cast aspersions on the love story of the century, but rather to simply ask what qualities of the person attract you. When people are unsure, but respond that “the chemistry is right,” I get the wrong feeling. Often, if someone was unloved by a parent, they subconsciously are attracted to someone who has a similar personality, the hidden hope being that if you can get this person to love you in the present, then maybe you could have gotten your parent to love you in the past. This often explains why someone puts up with abusive behavior, long after frustrated family and friends have advised you to “dump” this person.

4. WILL THEY WAIT? Often, men and women feel pressured to have sex, if not on the first date, then certainly by the third or fourth date, their fear being that the other person will leave them unless they “put out.” Why “sell out” for love? If someone truly is mature and loves you, they will wait, realizing that to physically “make love” to someone before you are psychologically “in love” with them is irrational.

5. DO YOU LOVE YOURSELF? To plunge into a relationship too early and too deep is a sign that you may be insecure, feeling that if you do not act now, all will be lost. Yet, true love is based on your true value, namely, such qualities as your kindness, sensitivity, intelligence, and commitment. Act in haste because you feel desperate, and you will have to repent in leisure with a painful divorce. So, go slow for a relationship that will go far. The point is that you deserve it!

Rev. Stimpson is executive director of the Trinity Counseling Service.

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