Dear daughter,

I’m writing this far in advance of the day you will start dating, but I’m preparing myself for the inevitable. I cannot keep you from growing up, but I can be there for you when you do. Your father and I have dreaded this day from the moment you were placed in our arms, but only because all we ever want to do is protect you from harm.

Dating can be a pretty scary thing. There’s a chance you could one day marry your high school sweetheart, but there’s also a high likelihood it’s going to take you a while to find the one you’re meant to share the rest of your life with. You may go through dozens of breakups or you may go through a handful. There is no special equation of when the perfect time to meet someone is, but everything does happen for a reason and your special someone will be placed in your life at precisely the right moment.

So, my dear daughter, here are a few things to remember as you navigate the world of dating:

1. Follow your heart but take your brain with you.
It’s important to use both! Don’t be afraid to listen to your instincts. I know sex is going to happen, use your brain and stay safe. I will not think less of you for asking about safe sex. I will be overjoyed that you came to me for help.

2. If it feels wrong, it is.
You can’t force someone to love you and you can’t force yourself to love him. Mr. Right might take a while to meet, so don’t force something to happen. Not everyone meets the one they’re supposed to spend forever with before they’re 20.

3. Sometimes opposites attract, sometimes they don’t.
You really can’t go off of that saying. You will want to be alike in some ways yet be different in others. Only you will know what is right for you.

4. Don’t be afraid to be the pursuer.
My mom always told me to not pursue the man, but I went after your father because my heart and head told me to. It turns out that if I had not pursued him, I may have missed out on the best thing that has ever happened to me.

5. It’s OK to say no to someone.
About sex, a date, anything. Don’t do anything you’re not comfortable with. The one meant for you won’t ask or expect you to.

6. Don’t settle for less than you deserve.
When you meet him, he won’t make you settle.

7. You are enough, just the way you are.
A man who asks you to change is not your soulmate.

8. A real man deserving of your love will never raise his hand to you.

9. Looks aren’t everything, so don’t choose someone based of that alone.
Looks will fade after time and you’ll come to learn that when you truly love someone, you love the changes that will come.

10. The little things matter.

11. Communicate.
He won’t understand the silent treatment reason unless you tell him why you’re upset. He isn’t a mind-reader. This was hard for me to understand and something your dad had to make to realize.

12. Pay attention to how he treats his parents, servers, and the general public.

13. It is OK if it doesn’t work out.
If it doesn’t, then he wasn’t “The One”.

14. He will have annoying habits that irritate you, and that’s OK.

15. Be honest with what you want in the relationship.
Communicate your expectations, goals, and desires.

16. Neither of you is perfect; you will both make mistakes.
It is how you recover from those mistakes that make the difference. There is no room for pride in a relationship. You either work together or you stop making it work.

17. If it isn’t working anymore, it’s OK to get out.
Don’t feel obligated to stay if there really is no love left. But, don’t be so quick to give up, either! Only you will know if it’s worth fighting for or if there is no fight left.

18. Don’t take marriage lightly—it is not something done out of obligation.
If you are weary of marrying someone or feel you have to, you will only become unhappy and the relationship will be doomed.

19. I am always here if you need someone to talk to.
However, once you’re married, one of the best pieces of advice I can give you is to not belittle your spouse to us or anyone else. Your problems need to stay between you and your significant other. If you can’t work it out among yourselves or feel you need outside help, seek a therapist.

20. You don’t marry the one you can live with—you marry the one you can’t live without.

I love you,

Anastasia Smothers

Anastasia is a mother of four children under four and a proud wife to a veteran. When not with her children, she works full -time and also has a part-time position as a substitute teacher.