The Best Dating Tips We Can Muster

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.

With Love,

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.

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  1. Anonymous October 25, 2011 at 6:56 am - Reply

    this post and the "a major dating tip" post are exactly what i need at this point in my life. thank you SO MUCH for sharing your insight and wisdom!

  2. Kelly October 25, 2011 at 8:33 am - Reply

    Love your blog and fell victim to.the " I can fix.him" disease for.5 long (unmarried) Years. But I don't regret it to.truly appreciate my husband I.met soon thereafter (10 years ago tomorrow)who fit all the qualities I was looking for after spending 5 years w qualities I was not looking for.

  3. This girl loves to talk October 25, 2011 at 11:15 am - Reply

    I'd like to congratulate you on your use of 'sex' in your blog posts. Ummm seriously I would love to be so deep and open in mine blog but I just cant. I wanted to tell you since you seemed a little apprehensive, but so far in all the times you've mentioned it well, respectfully and tastefully in my opinion.

  4. Anonymous October 25, 2011 at 1:27 pm - Reply

    Well I can appreciate the helpful tips, but I cringe a little bit when I read things like this because really, no one is perfect. I see things on this list that both my husband and I could do better at and had I listened to something like this when I was dating I might have passed up an amazing husband and father because he wasn't perfect.

    I'm not trying to be the big party pooper here, because I think your blog is great and has a lot of great advice and insight…I would just be careful in labeling people who don't fit these categories as unmarriageable. Not everyone has a naturally happy disposition, or handles every little stress in life with perfect grace…yet they can still be good people worthy of a relationship.

  5. mara October 25, 2011 at 3:21 pm - Reply

    Anonymous – thank you for the comment, and no I don't think you were a party popper 🙂 I welcomed your comment as you bring up a valid point I tried to address but probably didn't do clearly enough. I'll try to go into more detail here for you and anyone else reading.

    At the beginning of the post I used the words "If you sense that someone is not quite there yet & *is not doing anything to improve their unfavorable situation* …, assume they just aren't quite ready to get married yet and move on".

    I don't believe we need to demand perfection in each of these areas…I think these are key areas to be aware of when choosing a partner, and deciding what kind of partner you want to be. I don't expect people to have it all figured out by the time they marry, especially if they marry at a younger age. But I think that someone's overall path needs to be headed in these directions, and that there should be some evidence of that and an overall desire to progress.

    Taking the two items you addressed, happiness and handling stress/trials, I agree with you. Someone does not need to be happy all the time (whether because of disposition, biology, or environment). But do they believe their current state is all there is? Or are they actively trying to develop something greater in themselves (even though this is a lifelong pursuit)? I believe we'd be wise to select partners who either already exhibit these traits, or are actively committed to developing them.

    Regarding trials…someone in their 20s doesn't need to know how to handle all trials with perfect grace (I certainly didn't), for all of us that is a life long process and only happens as the trials come along and you're forced to deal with them. That being said, I would be wary of choosing to date someone who consistently reacts to stress and trials (little or big) with negativity. This is a pattern that is hard to break. Again, you don't need to know how (nor are you going to know how) to respond perfectly to all things…but it's worth asking do they respond reasonably well already, and are they committed to actively improving themselves?

    The same could be said of how you treat others. We're not all perfect all the time. All of us can be jerks every now and then. But, the point I'm trying to make is that if the person you're dating is "wonderful" to you, but mean and spiteful and angry and complaining and gossiping about everybody else in their world…you can be sure that one day soon their niceness to you WILL wear off, and you will be the target of their anger, spite, complaints, and gossip. If you look for someone who more often than not is nice and kind and considerate and respectful of everybody, well then you've probably found someone who will treat you with those great qualities the rest of your life, as well as interact with your family in a similar way. Talk about a basis for a happy marriage!

    Thank you for showing me the need to clarify this, in case others are feeling the same way.


  6. Alison Rae October 25, 2011 at 3:29 pm - Reply

    Let me start by saying that I LOVE your blog! You write beautifully and have such good insight on marriage. This list on dating tips is very good and could be very beneficial, however, I would also agree with Anonymous that I cringed a little when I was reading it. I found so many things that my husband and I could also be working on and I had the thought "Oh no! Are we doomed to fail??!!" I think the most important thing is that both are willing to work together and forgive. The beautiful thing about marriage is that you have a partner to encourage you and make you want to be better while still accepting you for who you are.

  7. Lanna October 25, 2011 at 3:33 pm - Reply

    Ah, I recently split with my fiancee and partner of the last five years and really this advice is bang on! Thank you so much for it.

    Even since the break-up I think I've really analyzed my decisions and realized that I was in a position where I was trying to "fix" the man I was with. This never works.

  8. -Maria- October 25, 2011 at 4:56 pm - Reply

    I have to comment on this post. It's so good, so very good. This blog has become a new favorite- I love how hopeful and positive it is. Last spring I came across the work of Barry Neil Kaufman, (Happiness is a Choice and To Love is to be Happy With). So much of the content here reminds me of his philosophy. It has been so absolutely freeing for me to move from victim mode to realizing I have a choice in how I respond to life. I still have times where I get down but I am less judgmental of those times and happiness has become a greater part of my life.

    I think this is key- it's not about judging or discarding others but seeing if they have an attitude towards change/growth.

    "But do they believe their current state is all there is? Or are they actively trying to develop something greater in themselves (even though this is a lifelong pursuit)? I believe we'd be wise to select partners who either already exhibit these traits, or are actively committed to developing them."

  9. Amanda Blair October 25, 2011 at 5:56 pm - Reply

    Again, you are speaking the truth Mara. I completely agree with all of these tips. I think you really hit the nail on the head with being "happy independent of anyone else". I am working on that for myself as I realized in past relationships I had been dumping all my emotional baggage on the guy and demanding them to fix the problems, fix me and make me happy. Obviously, that didn't work 🙂 and now I see how important it is to find the happiness within yourself. Without it how can you expect to be a present, loving, respectful and fun partner to anyone else? So that's what I'm working on and all these other tips too because Lord knows, I have a lot to work on.

    in regards to the taking responsibility for your own happiness…I read this article and found it very interesting and thought provoking…

  10. Lizzi October 25, 2011 at 8:42 pm - Reply

    I love this post because as I was reading it I realized that these are all attributes that I hope my future children will learn, and I know one of the ways they can learn them is through the example of their parents. So I've got some more work to do!

    I also love what you said about sex. When I was dating, despite being LDS, I was pretty brazen. I'm pretty amazed that I didn't have sex before I got married, because I didn't think it would be the end of the world if I did. And honestly, it wouldn't have been the end of the world. I know a lot of people who have sex regularly outside of marriage, and they are fine, normal, well adjusted people. But the thing is, sometimes it's not about being just "fine" when there's so much more that you could have in a relationship. And sex can wait. It's fun, but it can wait. 🙂 I wish I'd have somehow magically been able to know that viscerally when I was younger!

    I've been wondering about how to impress upon my future kids (and anyone really) the importance of waiting until you're married to have sex, and I think the way you put it is wonderful! I'd never thought about it that way before. I hope I remember it! I'll have to re-read it a few times 🙂

  11. danny October 25, 2011 at 9:03 pm - Reply

    Alison – Thanks for the comment, I totally agree about being willing to work together and forgive, and accept people as they are! Wonderful advice and something Mara and I whole-heartedly believe. It's worth mentioning that this was a post about patterns to look for when choosing a partner. It's the first part of the maxim "Choose Wisely, Treat Kindly". I think your advice falls into the second part. And I'd say if that's your philosophy, failure isn't something you need to worry about 🙂

    Going back to Mara's comment above, I hope people didn't think we're advocating perfection. These are patterns that we should all be aware of in others, and in ourselves. If we recognize some areas that need improvement in ourselves, like Mara said in the OP "Don't despair". Diligently and patiently work on yourself. If you are dating and one of these is a serious enough problem…it may be a reason to move on and find someone else. If you're married and your partner struggles with one or many of these; patience and forgiving love really is the best way.

  12. danny October 25, 2011 at 9:12 pm - Reply

    Amanda, I read that link you posted and LOVED every word of it. Man did she nail it on the head…thank you for sharing that. I really related to so much of what it said as I tried to respond in a similar manner with my first marriage. And even though it didn't save a marriage, responding in that way is what taught me most of what you read in the posts Mara and I share here, and taught me how the great truth that happiness and circumstance are not as related as we think. Responding in that way made me a better human being, and as you've read in our early emails…it's what made me ready to meet and recognize someone like Mara who had learned the same things. Thanks!

  13. Amanda Greer October 25, 2011 at 11:32 pm - Reply

    This is a fantastic post! I think I've said before, but I'll say it again (or maybe this is the first time): I know all of these things, but they aren't always easy to remember. Especially when you feel like you're "in love." It is so nice to have someone else say (or in this case, write) what I need to hear, what I need to keep in mind always. Thank you, Danny and Mara!

    p.s. I'm looking forward to the post about becoming more spiritual.

  14. Brooke Reynolds October 26, 2011 at 12:50 am - Reply

    Hi Mara
    One thing my friends and I came up with in college was the rule "Four Seasons and a Road Trip". I still think it is really good advice.

    Date for at least four seasons, long enough to get past the "We're-So-Happy-Be-Dating!!" "Isn't-He-Just-Wonderful!" phase and see what someone is really like, from a rainy day in Autumn to a warm sunny day on the beach.

    And take a road trip. (This doesn't have to involve staying in hotels and such, JR and I traveled to Utah for his sister's wedding.) I think a trip presents you with certain situations you might not see in your daily life.. what does he do when the flight gets canceled? Does he get angry when you take a wrong turn and get lost? Are you sick of each other when you've spent four entire days together?

    We also started adding other things we found helpful, like:
    -Watching him play sports (one friend was shocked to see her sweet boyfriend absolutely lose it on the football field and almost strangle another player! Yikes!)
    -A visit to the E.R. (this one is hard to arrange, but you learn a lot about a person when you go to the E.R. together!)

  15. Bri!!! October 30, 2011 at 12:17 am - Reply

    I'm teaching a lesson on Marriage to the young women tomorrow and will be using this. Thanks! I love the sex one!

  16. beba October 30, 2011 at 3:37 am - Reply

    Your comment about duty reminds me of this article entitled "It's not about You":

  17. gazellegetsgoing October 31, 2011 at 11:24 pm - Reply

    A big one for me – Trying. Sounds simple, right? But when I was single, I was amazed at how some guys would just give up on the smallest things.

    My husband always tries. Tries to do better, tries to make me happy, tries to find a better way to do chores, tries to find ways to be better at us. In turn, I try.

    Therefore friends, the ball is always moving forward, just a little bit, every day. That is so rewarding!

  18. Jennifer Rod December 6, 2011 at 3:42 pm - Reply

    smiling ear to ear… i loved this post.
    im glad i am in the right place to read this because i receive it well… expect an email soon!!! 🙂 i think i love you two!!

  19. Nursemelanie December 28, 2011 at 5:05 am - Reply

    Thank you so much for your post! I am 26, single and still looking for the right guy for me. This post really helped me to re-commit myself to becoming a better person and more in line with what I am looking for in a future husband 🙂 I just started reading your blog and LOVE it! Obviously no one is perfect in every category but I love what you said "headed in these directions, and that there should be some evidence of that and an overall desire to progress."

  20. katilda April 17, 2012 at 11:14 pm - Reply

    i just stumbled across this, and i love it. the part about being kind is spot-on. it's terribly unappealing to me when a guy is unkind to anyone else, especially someone who could really use a friend. even if they treat me well, it makes me nervous that someday they won't be or that they will be unkind to our children. unkindness = not okay!

  21. amina May 28, 2012 at 1:47 pm - Reply

    I like watching people love each other. i`t the sweetest picture in the whole world)

  22. Chantel August 24, 2012 at 5:54 pm - Reply

    I LOVE this. LOVE it! This is truly the best advice on dating I have ever heard. You have such a strong mind Mara [and Danny]. I loved reading through this as a checklist for myself (and also as a filter for the men I meet). Thank you! 🙂

  23. Donna Robet September 11, 2012 at 9:29 am - Reply

    The dating tips was great.I love to read blogs but have never seen such blogs. Great go on ROCKING …

  24. rozer September 17, 2012 at 9:06 am - Reply
    There is nothing more bonding & powerful in a relationship than sex" this words are perfect

  25. Diana October 22, 2012 at 9:12 am - Reply

    Thanks for the tips. I hope that I can use these tips for my relationship with my boyfriend.

  26. Benjamin Lewis April 11, 2013 at 1:45 am - Reply

    I have just come across this blog of yours, I am absolutely loving it, brilliant writing 🙂

  27. C May 8, 2013 at 2:05 pm - Reply

    This is one of the best articles I've ever read about love and commitment 🙂 thank you so much for the insight!!! Wish I could share it with everyone, especially the points about being kind to everyone and being respectful of sex.

    Check out my blog at 25× 🙂

  28. Jess Cross June 27, 2013 at 8:57 pm - Reply

    Great post. What you wrote is quite mind-blowing.
    I guess beside respect each other, it is also important to be honest and understand each other well.
    There are a lot of couples out there broke up because they found out that their other half often lie to them and this broke their heart. This can be avoided when both of you understand each other well enough. Be honest to each other 🙂

  29. SarahN @ livetolist August 23, 2013 at 7:15 am - Reply

    ON the happiness point – what about mental illness, like depression?

  30. Anonymous December 21, 2013 at 4:15 pm - Reply

    This is a great article. I especially like hearing someone else say that love does not equal marriage. It is certainly important as you shouldn't be marrying someone if you can't stand them and don't care about them deeply. That being said, this is hardly all that's needed. You need, literally, a PARTNER in crime and by crime I mean this life. You are looking for someone who you can look up to, who you can go to for advice, who you can rely on. As the author said, you need someone on the same page as you – emotionally, spiritually, maturity-wise. I also believe that for any relationship to last, it is important to have activities and interests in common.
    Most importantly, be honest with the other person and most importantly, with yourself! If something doesn't feel right or feels very off and bothers you, talk it out, communicate it and do not force yourself into anything. If you have to persuade yourself into marrying/staying with someone, it is most likely NOT the right person for you.

  31. Jessica Helen January 10, 2014 at 2:36 pm - Reply

    What if you are already married, and you are (or are with) someone who does not fit this list? What then? Is the marriage ultimately doomed? Can that marriage be saved?

  32. DateinSky January 16, 2014 at 3:35 am - Reply

    This is definitely worth reading. Great post. Keep it up!

  33. Relationship Help August 23, 2014 at 7:17 am - Reply

    Thanks for the tips. Congratulations to you both. You look so adorable together. More power!


  34. January 7, 2015 at 5:07 pm - Reply

    Beautiful blog… I love it! A very useful guidelines for a better relationship. 🙂

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