We were sitting on a ridge above Horsetooth Reservoir in Fort Collins, Colorado, when my cousin made her profound statement. I didn’t know it at the time, because I was 22 and completely oblivious, and maybe a little shallow.

You’ll know he’s the right guy when you feel cherished.

The fact that she used such a corny word, at a time when Kool and the Gang had completely ruined that word for me, made me nearly dismiss her wisdom. I still don’t know why it was so sticky for me. Many wise statements had gone in one ear and out the other for a few years, after all, it was college and I wasn’t making all the best choices.

We had been discussing the guy situation and I had shared a few uncomfortable stories about recent dates. One declared his love for me on the first date, seriously awkward since I hardly knew him. Another had, after buying me an expensive dinner, decided I owed him something when he dropped me off at my apartment. It took a swift kick and calling out to apartment neighbors to get him out of my doorway. And still another offered to drive me to work one night, since my car was on empty and I didn’t have money for gas, but was 20 minutes late to pick me up, making me miss part of my shift and nearly get fired. My taste in men wasn’t so good back then.

Sarah, you’ll know he’s the right guy when he treats you like you’re valuable, important, with real strength and ideas to share.

You’ll know when he encourages you, has more confidence in you than you have in yourself, and likes you for all of your quirks and inconsistencies. That’s what I mean by cherished.

I stopped looking around, distracted, and looked right at her serious, sincere expression, and realized I needed to pay attention to what she was saying. A few hours later, as I put on my tuxedo shirt, black skirt, and pumps so I could go to work, the conversation was gone from my head.

a to hold dear :feel or show affection for

  • cherished her friends

b :to keep or cultivate with care and affection :nurture

  • cherishes his marriage

Lots of dates came and went over the next few years, and her words didn’t surface again in my foggy memory until I met my future husband. We went on a few dates and got to know each other; spent some time walking his dog and listening to music. I didn’t know why it felt different, just that I was more confident when I was with him. The world seemed a little more approachable, and my future a bit brighter when we were together.

The first morning I woke up at his place, he delivered a perfect espresso to me in bed. I grinned, feeling spoiled and cared for. It was a Saturday, and we spent the day exploring along a river with his dog. A few days later, I spent the night again, and he planned to take me to work the next day. He woke me that morning with a perfect espresso to start my day.

Within a few months, I was spending more nights at his place than mine, and every morning, he delivered a perfect espresso to me in bed. Eight months after we met, I woke up to the smell of that amazing coffee. As I sat up and he helped me arrange a pillow behind my back before handing me the cup, the memory of my cousin’s words flooded my brain and my heart. I blushed, kissed him, and realized exactly what she meant on that beautiful spring day in Colorado: This is what it feels like to be cherished. A week later, I asked him to marry me.

Everything wasn’t perfect in those eight months, we argued a few times, gave each other space, and didn’t always agree on things, but my coffee was delivered every morning I stayed with him, no matter how the prior day had ended. He still brings me coffee, more than 20 years later.

It took me into my 30s to realize that her words didn’t only apply to romantic relationships. When we feel cherished by our friends and family, we are more confident to take risks, step out, and succeed in our goals. This is not about protecting people, or acting as though they’re fragile; to cherish people is to value them exactly as they are and demonstrate that in small ways at every opportunity, to nurture them. Cherish the people around you, know that life is unpredictable, and that you’re not promised tomorrow.

Treat people in your life as the incredible gifts they are. Cherish them.