Love. It goes straight to the heart and overwhelms the brain rendering it dysfunctional. Parents the world over dread the day they hear their offspring mutter the words “boyfriend”, “girlfriend”, “date”, “kissing” or…

*gasp, double gasp*


I recall my first date and subsequent boyfriend from way back in the 90’s… my entrance into the dating world. And the world of love and loss and living my life after the fact.

More than a few boyfriends and breakups later I found the man with whom I plan to spend the rest of my earthly life, but it took some misjudgments, mistakes and heart-wrenching errors to find him. And it was worth it. (Well, most of it anyway. There are a select few I could have done without, but that’s another story.)

So what did I learn? What advice do I have for those of you out there realizing life and love aren’t always roses and diamonds? I have a few select bits of wisdom I feel moved to share. Take note, however, that all advice must be taken with a grain of salt and put into proper perspective with regards to your own unique situation. Nobody knows your heart like you do. Sometimes you have to follow it, sometimes you have to let your brain take over. Sometimes there is nothing to do besides trust God and let him be in charge.

Starting at the start, where I wish someone had told me to begin, is…

Making a List of Requirements

From the time you were old enough to like someone “that way” you were old enough to have a list. It was likely a short list, but a list all the same.


Nice Teeth

Fresh Breath

Cool Clothes

You’ve matured and so has your list, but have you put thought into it and put it on paper? Shown it to your friends and discussed it? Until you really put the effort into the list you don’t really know what you value in a potential spouse. Without that knowledge, can you determine who is worthy of your time?

Outside Opinions Matter

Looking back on some of those “could have done without” relationships that I mentioned earlierI realize now the knowledge was there. It was the grasping and feeling and understanding of that knowledge that was lacking.

Those you keep closest to you (your core group) are often times the best measure of your relationship. Those who stick with you through all the good times and the rough have an opinion that should matter the most to you. They have the opinions you should listen to and take to heart, no matter how difficult it may be to hear. Friends and family see the good and the bad. The beautiful and the ugly of your relationship. They see it first-hand and they see it in the afterglow or tears that follow your dating interactions. They see how you are growing and changing, how you are being true to yourself or how you are compromising yourself for the sake of another. They see it and feel it. They love you and want the best for you and if you let them, they’ll tell you what they see.


Take it to heart.

Feel it.

Time Outs

Time Outs aren’t just for basketball teams and toddlers. Taking time out for yourself and your friends is a great way to judge the strength of your relationship. Weekly or monthly “Time Outs” with your friends, even for just a night, give you a chance to each stay connected with your core groups. Introduce this at the start of a relationship and set a standard that you plan to continue this regular time with your friends and you expect your new significant other to do the same. If they balk at the idea from the get go, you should get going. That’s a sign of a possessive nature and you don’t need that drama!

Time Outs between relationships are also a M.U.S.T. Taking months of time after the conclusion of a relationship gives you time to reflect as well as revisit and revise your list of requirements based on what you learned. Taking this time to spend with friends and family also refocuses your energy on yourself and your goals. This life is yours, be sure you are tending to it and making it fulfilling in a way you can self-maintain.

Be Your Best You

Nobody else can be you, so make sure you are being the best you possible. Putting the honest and true you “out there” from the get-go is simply following the old adage, “honesty is the best policy”. The person with which you are entering into any type of relationship (friendship or otherwise) deserves to know the real you from the start. Being up-front isn’t just doing them a favor, but really is in your best interests in the present and future. The list is long and really includes every aspect of you: faith, politics, morals, food, music, social activities, personality type, vices… you get the point.

As you get older the things you value highly now may begin to diminish in importance while others rise to the top. Tastes in music and food may seem important in the early days, but later in life when marriage is a valid topic of discussion those concerns may be less significant and the areas of faith and social tendencies take precedence. Making your stance in those areas known from day one make those transitions much easier, especially when you are both on the same page… where you should be on those major, major topics.

I believe that when you are true to yourself and only present the honest and real you at all times God will put the right people into your life at the exact right time. Use your real you as a gatekeeper. You’ll know who to let in and who to best avoid.

Stand Strong

Being strong walks hand-in-hand with Outside Opinions Matter and Be Your Best You. You will know if you are being taken advantage of, taken for granted, abused or used. You might also make excuses for that type of behavior because of the way “love” goes straight to the heart and renders the brain dysfunctional. This is where having the opinions of your valued and treasured friends and family comes into play. Keeping those relationships strong will help you avoid a negative relationship. Being strong both as an individual and with the help of your core group is of the utmost importance in avoiding dangerous situations.

Being strong from the inception sets a standard and lets everyone know you don’t put up with anyone’s crap. Never let yourself be bullied. Once you’ve been bullied you’ll find yourself consistently pushed around. Like I tell my kindergartener, “Don’t let yourself be bullied. Stand up for yourself and your friends and they’ll leave you alone.” She learned that lesson early in the school year by doing what I told her and, to my knowledge, she’s never had a problem again. Be strong. If my kindergartner can stand up for herself, so can you.

Value your Decisions

Simple. Every decision you make has a consequence that you carry with you through life. Spiritual consequences – things you’ll have to forgive yourself for and then ask God to forgive you for. Physical consequences – how you use and abuse your body with activity, food and drink. (When you hit 30, 35, etc you’ll really get this one.) Emotionally – the highs and lows we all experience are dealt to us, in part, by our own actions.

Making good decisions might seem simple on paper and in our minds, but often times when it comes down to “go time” we buckle under pressure and choose the wrong path. Here’s a simple guideline for decision-making: If would be too ashamed to tell anyone, (think best friend, mom, grandma) DO NOT DO IT! Simple.

Be True to You, but Grow Too

Being true to who you are doesn’t mean avoiding change and growth. A new relationship will undoubtedly bring you new experiences. Embrace those opportunities to grow and learn. Finding someone who challenges you to do the things you wouldn’t do on your own is part of the thrill and pleasure of a relationship. Go camping, skiing, dancing and shooting. Skydiving, para-sailing, and bungee-jumping. Try it at least once, several times if it is something that could be a make-or-break type of deal in the relationship. Knowing about major conflicts of interest early on is key to either allowing the “fanatic” to lower their standards and expectations, allowing the “disinterested” to gain genuine interest, or allowing a parting of ways.

Compromise and sacrifice are major parts of a healthy relationship and marriage. The ultimate goal of any relationship is marriage and a long and happy life together or there would be no reason for dating and courtship. By determining during the dating phase what compromises and sacrifices you are each willing to make for the sake of the relationship is crucial. Acknowledging that these are lifelong compromises is even more significant. Going weekend camping on a yearly basis for the next 60 years may be doable, while submitting yourself to a weekly dance-a-thon might be a deal-breaker for you.

Know yourself. Know your partner. Consider the unity of the two. Consider the rest of your life.

Feature image source

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Check out our new Keepsake Companion Journal that pairs with our So God Made a Mother book!

Order Now
So God Made a Mother's Story Keepsake Journal

Kristin Herrera

A Country Girl at Heart, Kristin rediscovered her love for writing and can't get enough now. Claiming a small Central Nebraska town as home, she visits as often as possible to relax and re-energize. Her "home-home" is her source of peace, calm and inspiration. Her welcome note on her blog says it all: "I love to write and loose the thoughts that are rambling through my mind. This is where you'll find them..."

I Had to Learn to Say “I’m Sorry” to My Kids

In: Kids, Motherhood, Teen, Tween
Mom hugs tween daughter

My two oldest kiddos are at the front end of their teen years. I remember that time in my own life. I was loud, somewhat dramatic, I let my hormones control me, and I never—ever—apologized. This last part was because no one ever really taught me the value of apology or relationship repair. Now, I could do some parent blaming here but let’s be real, if you were a kid whose formative years were scattered between the late ’80s and early ’90s, did you get apologies from your parents? If so, count that blessing! Most parents were still living with...

Keep Reading

5 Things Your Child’s Kindergarten Teacher Wants You To Know

In: Kids, Motherhood
Child raising hand in kindergarten class

I am a teacher. I have committed my life to teaching children. Of course, before I began this career, I had visions of standing in front of a group of eager-eyed children and elaborating on history, science, and math lessons. I couldn’t wait to see the “lightbulb” moments when students finally understood a reading passage or wrote their first paper. And then I had my first day. Children are not cut out of a textbook (shocking, I know) but as a young 23-year-old, it knocked me right off my feet. I was thrown into the lion’s den, better known as...

Keep Reading

To the Extended Family That Shows Up: We Couldn’t Do This Without You

In: Kids, Living, Motherhood
Family visiting new baby in a hospital room

This picture—my heart all but bursts every time I see it.  It was taken five years ago on the day our daughter was born. In it, my husband is giving her her very first bath while our proud extended family looks on. It was a sweet moment on a hugely special day, but gosh–what was captured in this photo is so much more than that. This photo represents everything I could have ever hoped for my kids: That they would have an extended family who shows up in their lives and loves them so deeply.  That they would have grandparents,...

Keep Reading

You’re Almost Grown, But You’re Always Welcome Back Home

In: Kids, Motherhood
Teen in room studying with computer and smartphone

Dear child, In the days before you could walk or talk, there were times when you would wail—when my rocking and shushing and bouncing were seemingly futile—but it didn’t matter. Each day and night, multiple times, I always picked you up and welcomed you back into my arms. As a toddler and a preschooler, you had some pretty epic meltdowns. There were times when you would thrash and scream, and all I could do was stand by and wait for the storm to blow over. Eventually, you would run to me, and I would welcome you back with a warm embrace....

Keep Reading

No One Warned Me About the Last Baby

In: Baby, Kids, Motherhood
Mother holding newborn baby, black-and-white photo

No one warned me about the last baby. When I had my first, my second, and my third, those first years were blurry from sleep deprivation and chaos from juggling multiple itty-bitties. But the last baby? There’s a desperation in that newborn fog to soak it up because there won’t be another. No one warned me about the last baby. Selling the baby swing and donating old toys because we wouldn’t need them crushed me. I cried selling our double jogger and thought my heart would split in two when I dropped off newborn clothes. Throwing out pacifiers and bottles...

Keep Reading

Parents Are Terrible Salespeople for Parenting

In: Kids, Motherhood
Tired mother with coffee cup on table, child sitting next to her

As the years of fertility start to wane, many of my childless peers are confronted with the question, “Should I have kids?” With hesitation, they turn to us parents who, frankly, seem overwhelmingly unhappy. They ask sheepishly, “Is it worth it?” We lift our heads up, bedraggled, bags under our eyes, covered in boogers and sweat and spit up, we mutter, “Of course! It’s so fulfilling!” It’s like asking a hostage if they like their captor. Sure, it’s great. We love them. But our eyes are begging for liberation. Save me, please. I haven’t slept through the night in years....

Keep Reading

Soak in the Moments because Babies Don’t Keep

In: Kids, Motherhood, Tween
Roller coaster photo, color photo

I love marking the moments, the ones that count—making a note and storing them for memory. But I often miss out on them when it comes to our oldest. ⁣ ⁣The day he wanted to be baptized, I was at home with another kiddo who was sick. He called me from church excitedly, emphasizing he was ready and didn’t want to wait. I couldn’t argue with that, so I watched him go underwater through videos my husband and sweet friends in the congregation took. ⁣ ⁣On the day of his fifth-grade graduation, we found ourselves at the pediatrician’s office. Instead...

Keep Reading

Sometimes a Kid Just Needs a Sick Day

In: Kids, Motherhood
Little boy outside, color photo

My middle son stayed home from school today. He said he was sick. I’m not sure that is the truth. I was lucky enough to have a mom who was an amazing caretaker, especially when you were sick. She pulled out all the stops. A cozy clean space to be, a thermos with ice cold juice by your side, Mrs. Grass’s soup, and Days of Our Lives on the screen while she tidied up the house. It was the best feeling in the world to be home and cozy with my mom when I was sick. It felt cozy and...

Keep Reading

Sometimes We Need Someone to Just Sit With Us in Our Struggle

In: Kids, Motherhood
Sad woman sits on floor, black and white image

Early this morning, I told (yelled is more accurate) my sons to get up with the same furious ferocity I use every morning when I realize they should be ready to go, but are still unconsciously snoozing away. One son lazily said, “I’m up, Mom” (even though he was very much not up). The other son, who typically has no problems getting up, had overslept and immediately freaked out, thinking he would be late to school. He proceeded to have a mini-meltdown from the dark recesses of his bedroom. That overflowed into the hallway where I found him lying face-down,...

Keep Reading

Daughter of Mine, Do Not Let the World Extinguish Your Fire

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother and young daughter, color photo

Daughter of mine, I see the fire behind your eyes. Do not let it die. Daughter of mine who runs wildly and loves freely and whose anger is always whipping silently just under the surface like a pilot light, ready to ignite with one tiny spark. Do not let it die. RELATED: There is Wild Beauty in This Spirited Child of Mine Daughter of mine, one day you will become a woman, and the world will try to steal you and mold you and tell you who to become. Do not let it. It will try to fit you in...

Keep Reading