Monday, February 13, 2006 — It’s very hard for a guy to win on Valentine’s Day. He either does too much and comes across as trying too hard, or makes the very imprudent and insensitive decision of not doing enough, banking on guy-like logic that the relationship is far deeper and sweeter than any box of chocolates could express.

So guys, I’ve got an idea for turning a lose-lose situation into a dazzling date. I know you won’t like the sound of it, but it’s very effective, and in the long run will even save you a lot of money. Oh, now you’re listening. Here's the idea: Talk to your date about commitment. O.K., you’re no longer listening. No, you don’t have to talk to her about marriage just yet, and if it’s the first date, you better not. Just talk about the concept of commitment in general. Here’s why it’s important.

What Women Want

Ninety percent of women aged 20 to 30 say that pronouncing and living “I do…'til death do us part” is on the top of their all-time wish list. Eighty-seven percent of guys say the same. Now, how many actually get what they want? Reasonable stats show that 45% of marriages in America today will end in divorce. And of the married, less than 60% say that they are “very happily married.”

Where’s the glitch in the system? Well, we usually end up marrying someone we previously dated. Call me Sherlock, but if dating is a selection process of sorts, than it’s safe to say that dating is not working. It’s out of control.

Shows like “Sex in the City” have already foisted on entire generations, on all of us, a false vision of love: a vision where everybody’s looking to hook up and betting blindly that that somehow they’ll get hooked for good, and for the better. You might be thinking, “C’mon, Father, lighten up. Nobody takes those shows seriously.” I agree, sort of. Nobody is taking it seriously. I’m not just talking about sex, I’m talking about dating in general. Dating needs rehab.

Here are three tips for dating rehab and for finding real love on Valentine’s Day and beyond:

Tip 1: Look for Qualities that last.

It’s the “exaltation of the body,” Hollywood-style. Gorgeous models: a little tuck, perfect makeup, and oh yeah, nobody over 35, thank you very much. Of course, 99% of us can never hope to look like that and all of us plan to be over 35. Sure, it’s hard to see beyond the physical and as they really are. It’s never been easy, and much less today. You can’t go through the line at the supermarket without being assaulted by sex appeal. But open the magazine cover and the story is different. It’s all about “irreconcilable differences.” Physical beauty is a great quality, but it’s not the ultimate, because among other things, it’s not lasting. Go for what lasts.

Tip 2: Look for Shared Values of Similar Rank.

Opposites attract, but they don’t always stick. There is a difference between complementary personalities (a good thing) and two ships passing in the night. The best way to discern whether differences are complementary or outright contradictory is to take this test together: Make a list of personal values, rank them, and see how they match up. If becoming the best lawyer in the firm is higher on my list than raising children, it would be good for my partner to know that I may never be home for dinner. If my faith and religion define who I am in a way that nothing else does, my darling cynical atheist boyfriend should know that I think he’s got it wrong on what counts most. We can work out differences of opinions on secondary items, but it’s hard (not impossible) to reconcile “high ranking” contradictory values.

Tip 3: Live the all important proportion — Intimacy and Commitment.

The best way to never find the right person is to always allow intimacy to get ahead of commitment in a relationship. Intimacy and commitment: the two were made to match. When parents see their 13-year-old daughter spending hours on the phone with the love of her life, they can be pretty sure that things are going to end quickly and badly. Whether we’re 13 or 31, the principle doesn’t change. When emotional intimacy is out in front of commitment, a heart, or two, will be broken. And it doesn’t take religion to tell us that the same goes for the physical. When you find a man or a woman willing to keep the intensity of physical affection in proportion to the commitment he or she is willing to make to the other, you’ve found a keeper.

Guys, can we do it? Go buy the box of chocolate, make her dinner, tell her you love her, but don’t forget what’s on top of the all-time wish list — not just for them but for us: intimate commitment.

God bless. Father Jonathan

P.S. Those who have made the ultimate commitment, marriage, aren’t off the hook. We talked about proportion, so it goes both ways. Just as intimacy without commitment is a recipe for failure, commitment without intimacy is doomed. Today, remind your wife in an intimate way why she’s worth the commitment you’ve made.

P.P.S. I look forward to getting feedback from all of you on this. I know that what I have proposed here is easier said than done.

Write to Father Jonathan Morris at fatherjonathan@foxnews.com.