Last January, I didn’t know he existed. I had been searching for him for what felt like forever, signing up for Catholic dating sites on and off, going on blind dates set up by family friends, expecting my own version of a love story to materialize while standing in line at Starbucks or while running on the trails.

I even tried to not care, heeding the advice almost everyone in the world tells a single person, “It’s when you stop looking and least expect it that you’ll find him.” 

By trying not to care, I cared even more. 

Maybe I was too picky? 

No, I had high standards and I wanted a soulmate. I was looking for someone who would, among other things, be my best friend, understand me, love me for who I am, stand by me, care about more than himself in this world, have a close relationship with his family and a strong faith. Someone who felt like I did – that chivalry isn’t dead.

And then it happened, just like “they” said.

He liked the first line in my profile: “I know how to treat people, especially the ones I care about, so I’m looking for someone who knows this too.”

And my curly hair.

I liked what he wrote in his: “Most importantly, I’m looking for someone with a good heart. And by that I mean someone who knows, offers and asks for forgiveness. Someone who decides to spend a lifetime with you because of who you are, not who they want you to be.”

Last January, I would have laughed if someone said that I’d be dating someone for nine months by January 2014; now, I scold myself for having little faith and, I admit, getting mad sometimes that I was still single. 

When friends and family are struggling, I’m quick to say things like, “Just remember, if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans,” and other quotes that I’ve taped next to my bathroom mirror or written in my planner.

I can’t help but smile when my boyfriend feeds these lines back to me in my moments of doubt.

As silly as it sounds, I planned on being married by age 23, because that’s how old my mom was, and no later than 25, because that was my dad’s age.

I’m glad my plans fell through.

The 23-year-old me wasn’t ready, until spending almost two years in it, to say no to a relationship with someone who was missing some of the deal-breakers, like faith. Fr. Jerry Herda offers advice on respecting religious differences in relationships without abandoning your own beliefs on Page 9.

I’ve grown a lot thanks to the added perspective I get from sharing life’s experiences with my boyfriend who loves me unconditionally and embraces my perceived flaws. 

And I have a lot of growing to do.

The accomplishments and growth that mark my 2013 may not be noticeable to just anybody, but they are to me. 

I didn’t run in any races last year, but I ran. I plan to train for a half-marathon this fall, maybe with my boyfriend by my side – he went from not running regularly to running up to five miles by my side last year. Sometimes his encouragement is what made me work harder, run longer.

We’ve promised to always challenge each other, to help each other improve and aim high, to work together to strengthen our faith – and not just because it’s a new year.

Last year is marked with love – I can only imagine what that means for 2014.