To all you wonderful men & women who are single and want to be married & have a healthy/happy relationship someday, I present to you our best dating tips....
Please, please choose someone (& be someone) who is...-GROUNDED. Emotionally & spiritually. I cannot stress this enough. Do not for a moment think that someone will snap out of a dysfunctional, depressed, or immature state just by getting married (nor will you!) If you sense that someone is not quite there yet & is not doing anything to improve their unfavorable situation or their tendency to be a victim, assume they just aren't quite ready to get married yet and move on. Immediately. Do not second guess yourself. Just rip the band aid and do it. I know this is not easy. I was stuck dating someone for 5 years (!) once cause I couldn't just walk away. Please, please separate yourself from thinking you should be together, just cause you feel you are "in love". Again, just cause two people are "in love" does not mean that they should marry each other. "Love" does not equal marriage! (I put love in quotes here just because while dating, what we call love is not always representative of the kind that makes for a happy, enduring partnership.) You need timing, you need to be on the same page with a lot of important things (see below). Just kindly wish them the best and move right along to make yourself available to meet someone else who is grounded & ready for a meaningful, healthy relationship.
-ABLE TO FACE TRIALS WITH INNER STRENGTH. One of the #1 things you should know is...how does this person react to a trial?? Duh. Why didn't I ever think of this before? This is one of the easiest things to pinpoint because there are little or big trials everyday. Family drama. Car repairs. Stolen laptops. Loss of a job or job dissatisfaction. Health issues. Long work hours. A death of a loved one. An offense from another person. Parking tickets. A rainy day. Literally anything large or small. If you are going to be partners with another person, trust me that you want someone that can face a trial with inner strength, hope, faith, charity, forgiveness and love. Cause life ain't a picnic everyday. And you want someone who will be with you through the long haul; someone one who will not just endure the trials, but appreciate those trials along the way for the refining power that they will have. I would say if someone DOES know how to handle a trial well, they will likely be more capable of having a rock solid marriage & life. And they'll be capable of teaching your children how to handle their OWN trials.
-NOT ONLY KIND TO YOU...But to everyone. Of course they will be kind to you, right? (They better!) But more importantly, how do they treat everyone else??? How do they speak to others (& about others)? How do they treat your families, strangers, friends, & even enemies (ha)? Wow. Pay very close attention to these things. This will be a more accurate display of their character. Boy oh boy. Also, like I said earlier, there is nothing more attractive than a charitable person. Being married & being a parent is one huge, HUGE service project. So, if the person you are dating doesn't jump to serve others & makes it clear (by their behavior) that serving others is not a priority to them, then....mmm....it makes me wonder what kind of service they'll be capable of offering a spouse & children.
-SERIOUS ABOUT THEIR DUTIES. Life has many duties. Eating. Learning. Sleeping with a roof overhead. Working. Paying bills. And most importantly, serving others and being a positive influence in this world. Marriage is also like a duty...It's for grown-ups who care about duties and do their best to fulfill them each day. I'd say if someone doesn't care about these important duties yet....then maybe they have some growing up to do, which is perfectly okay! And if there is a lot of growing up to do, it's best to do that while single, when you are not responsible for a spouse or any children. Also, for all the Mormons out there, you will know how serious someone is about their service duties if they a. take their church calling seriously. b. hold a temple recommend. Kinda cool that you can tell very easily where they stand just by these two things. These were two deal breakers for me.
-HAPPY. Danny & I both feel strongly that one of the biggest deal breaker qualities that you should look for in a spouse is H-A-P-P-I-N-E-S-S. It's so pleasant to come home to someone who is happy and positive about life and knows how to tap into happiness, even when life can be a little (or a lot) difficult. Anything else is just - - not so pleasant & to be honest, quite draining. Make sure you find someone who knows how to be happy INDEPENDENT of you & the relationship & circumstances. That is the true test....being able to find joy even without a partner & even in crappy circumstances. When it comes to relationships, I really feel that light is attracted to light. If your relationship is not shining on both sides, there will be discord sooner or later.
-NOT IN IT TO FIX SOMEONE, OR TO BE FIXED. Too often, men play the role of rescuing a damsel in distress and women play the role of reforming the bad boy or healing a broken man. We do this because there is a great deal of ego gratification in those roles. "I feel important! I feel needed! I can fix them!" It feels good to be the steady rock in the relationship, it feels good to be needed, or to think you're the reason they are making some changes in their life. It feels good to be a source (sometimes sole source) of happiness in someone's life. But that rarely (and I mean RARELY) lasts. The truth is, we are each responsible for our own happiness (as mentioned above)...which means you aren't capable of fixing someone. They must learn to fix themselves. A great relationship is about partnership, and true partnerships can only be achieved when both people are willing and able to carry a load...together, equally.
And, do I dare? Yes, here goes...
-RESPECTFUL OF SEX. There is nothing more bonding & powerful in a relationship than sex. It is an amazing bond that keeps husbands and wives faithful to each other. It most certainly can (& should) be an expression of respect & love. However, sex is also like a drug. No matter what religion you are, I know what sex does to your brain...It kinda makes it go to mush. This is a good thing...in a marriage - it helps you to be forgiving, helps you to look past your spouse's weaknesses, helps you to forget about the worries of the day, etc. But while dating, the risk is that you will form a bond with those you have sex with, EVEN IF they are not "marriage quality". That bond is so strong, that you may find yourself attached at the hip with someone who, if you stepped back and observed with a clear head, would NOT be the kind of man that you would admire....or the kind of man that you'd even want to have kids with. I say make sure you're in the position to have a clear head while making the biggest decision of your life.
-SPIRITUAL. I can think of no better way to have all of these things above, then to have a clear sense of who you really are, an ability to heal yourself, an understanding of what this life is all about and a desire to reach your true potential. I, myself, barely had this when I got married the first time. And I mean barely. It was more like I had the desire to have some spiritual convictions, but the truth is, I didn't really have any. But I learned how to get there. I will have a post soon dedicated to things that you can do to become more spiritual.
Now, if you feel you need to work on any of the areas above, don't despair! :) :) It's ok! Just get on a good path and stay dedicated to working on these qualities in yourself. If you do, you'll be in the best place of your life, ready to meet the spouse of your dreams.
Danny & Mara
p.s. Does anyone else have some suggestions to add? PLEASE DO!
Very first photo, above, from one of my favorite photographers of all time, Vivian Maier.
(She was a nanny in Chicago and an avid street photographer the 1940s.)
Photos of Danny & I by Saydi Eyre Shumway.
Photos of Danny & I by Saydi Eyre Shumway.