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The right guy will love you through the good and bad times

Up front, I'll tell you: This is a column that somebody out there - maybe more than one somebody - needs to read. Today's your lucky day.

As is oft the case, women - both young and not so young - write to ask for my advice. Since I am my mother's child, I am happy to pontificate and offer that which I have learned in life. And even that which I merely think I have learned.

One college girl wrote in great distress. She had met a guy with whom she quickly became besotted. On their first date, she gave in to everything he wanted. Yes, you know what I'm talking about. Then, as is usually the case, he brushed her off. No calls. No replies to her e-mails. No nothing.

"I read your book and realized I had really messed up," she wrote. "I knew when I did it, I shouldn't do it but I couldn't stop myself from doing it."

See, the trouble with trouble is that it always begins as fun. This I learned from watching "The Dukes of Hazzard."

When I replied, I used my version of a parable in which I told the story of one of my girlfriends. She remained chaste until the day she married at 28. She was beautiful, exciting and personable, all of which caused men to flock to her. There was no shortage of dates. She clung tenaciously to her set of values.

Then came the day that she started dating the world's biggest playboy. He was notorious. While it's easy for a woman to get a reputation, it's hard for a man to get one doing the same thing. This is how bad he was - he had a reputation.

"Uh oh," I clucked. It was obvious that she was smitten over the handsome thing so I warned, "You've just met your match." I was all for dropping him right then and there.

I figured he'd date her a few times then disappear when he found out how she was. Or how she wasn't. But I was wrong. Miss Prim and Proper tamed the wild cowboy who dated her for four years despite the fact that all he got was hugs and kisses.

Then he married her.

And for all the years since, he has simply adored her. No marriage is better or more loving than theirs.

"I appreciate the story," the college girl replied. "But with my generation, I just think that no guy is going to marry me or any girl before he ..."

I said a quick prayer and hit the reply button. I wrote:

"A guy who has to have that in a relationship is more interested in that component than in you. What I promise you will learn - Lord willing that you live long enough - is this: Intimacy eventually fizzles down in a relationship and what is left is either the genuine affection that a couple has or nothing at all.

"A man who will wait for that is the one who will love a woman through chemotherapy when her hair is gone, her body is ravished and she's throwing up all over him. In a love that is destined to last for decades, you will have many bad hair days (a shuddering thought) and a time when your stomach is bloated bigger than your chest. You want a man who will love you madly even then."

My girlfriend, a while back, was horrendously ill with food poisoning. She was hurling violently, leaving remnants on the wall. The former playboy trailed behind her, holding his nose and cleaning up the mess.

"Baby," she mumbled, weakly raising her head. "Tell me you still love me."

"Baby, I do," he replied. And then he promptly proved it by going out into the dark night to buy Gatorade.

Ronda Rich is a best-selling Southern author. Sign up for her newsletter at www.rondarich.com.