The long journey to find my true Valentine

In a week when the world celebrates love, I was thinking: Is love a battlefield, blessing, or both?

I recently read a poll that reported 86% of Americans believe true love really exists. Sixty-seven percent said they themselves had experienced it. Most of the rest indicated they just hadn’t found it yet but were hopeful.

Not so surprising, the older respondents were more likely to say they had experienced true love:

  • 65% of those between the ages of 30 and 44 said they had experienced true love;
  • 69% of people aged 45 to 64 said they had, too;
  • But, for those over the age of 65, 75% said they had experienced true love.

What that poll seems to say is: Stay alive long enough and you really will experience true love.

I found that to be true in my life. Like so many of you, I had lots of trials and errors in the earlier parts of my life.

But, at the ripe age of 58, I met my true love and Valentine when I was filming “Walker, Texas Ranger.”

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One of my best friends, Larry Morales, came to Dallas for a visit while I was filming.

At the time, I was living the single life, and even though I had a successful TV series, I was miserable. I used to devote my life to fame and fortune. I had learned a hard lesson in those years: If your whole life is spent trying to make money and you neglect the important people in your life, you will create a deep void in your heart and soul, not to mention your relationships. I fell into this trap.

Larry realized that I had everything but I had nothing, so he decided to introduce me to a lady he wanted me to meet. It just so happened that she had a modeling assignment in Dallas.

One evening, I was at a sushi restaurant with about 12 friends, including a date, when Larry walked in with a young lady.

He began introducing her to everyone, but I was engrossed in conversation with my date and didn’t notice – that is, until Larry called my name and said he wanted me to meet Gena.

I looked up at her, and all I could see was an angel staring into my eyes. I stuttered, “Oh … er … hi! Nice to meet you.”

When I finally turned back to my date, all I could see were daggers in her eyes. She immediately got up and left.

After the meal, Larry took Gena back to her hotel. But the next morning she and I had breakfast together, and she invited me to her fashion show, where she was modeling wedding gowns.

One particular gown had a long train, and as Gena was walking, it hooked on a potted plant, and she dragged it down the runway. She was quite embarrassed.

Kiddingly, I said, “I was thinking about buying that potted plant!”

The next day, I called my mom and told her all about Gena and about her modeling gowns.

Mom asked me, “Is that giving you any ideas about marriage?”

“Nope,” I said. “I’m never getting married again!”

Famous last words!

On Nov. 28, 1998, we were married! And we’ve now been married almost 26 years!

How did we do it? I’ll tell you.

It’s easy to get caught up in infatuation, but true love takes time and a lot of work. It’s also tempting to give up, especially when times get tough. But there’s no prize without perseverance. It’s true in sports. It’s true in relationships.

Love is a battlefield, but it’s also one of the biggest blessings in this life. And the blessings far outweigh the battles if you’re doing it right.

My advice? If you’re dating, you must not leave your brains at the door. Don’t merely consider the other person’s outer traits but discover what makes that person tick on the inside. Don’t compromise your morals or principles when searching for a soul mate. Make sure your core values and beliefs align with the other person’s.

And don’t be in a rush – take your time. Otherwise, you might succumb to the folly of Socrates, who once said, “By all means marry; if you get a good wife, you’ll become happy. If you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher”! (Same is true for husbands, right, ladies?!)

Speaking of humor, entry No. 9 in my “101 Official Chuck Norris Facts” book reads: “On Valentine’s Day, Chuck Norris gives his wife the still-beating heart of one of his enemies. (Being the romantic type, Chuck believes every day should be Valentine’s Day!)”

That’s funny, but there’s a profound truth in there as well.

I think we all should be that vigilant to fight and protect our relationships, especially through increased stressful and difficult times like people are experiencing right now around the country and world.

A health article I recently read explained that relational love is more at risk today than ever before because of enhanced stressful environments like social media, family and financial struggles, substance abuse and even differing political opinions.

If you care for each other, if you value your relationship and the institution of marriage, discuss the potential problems that can possibly await you. Make a plan to keep your love and relationship a priority above all.

Gena and I decided early on, through thick and thin, we were going to stay together no matter what. We dedicated ourselves to fight for love, in us and others. And to discover all the fruits that God intended to bless us with in our marriage and long-term love journey.

Pray together. Ask for divine help for you, your family, your country and your world.

And don’t forget to be quick to forgive just as God forgives us. As Dr. James Dobson once said, “A great marriage is the union of two good forgivers.”

Be patient. Be kind. And don’t go to bed angry without resolving it.

As the great love chapter in the Bible says, “Love is patient. Love is kind. Love is not easily angered. … Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

The reason why I have to persevere and work doubly hard to stay in good shape now is because Gena wants to celebrate our 50th Golden Anniversary together. I’ll be 108 years old, but I intend to be there!

William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania, once said, “She is but half a wife who is not a friend.”

Gena is my best friend, the love of my life and the instrument to my spiritual renewal as a Christian. I’m beyond blessed to have her as my wife. She is my heart.

Happy Valentine’s Day, my love! The truth is: Every day is golden with you!

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