In preparing for this talk, I continually thought of a song once sung: “I’ve been a victim of a selfish kind of love…I need to make a change…and I need to start with the man in the mirror.”
I realize the difficulty in this subject. I realize its difficulty, both in the introspection that it causes, and in how we want to judge others fairly, not make any set rules, or “deal breakers” that could end up making us close-hearted and close-minded.
The first thing that came to mind when I thought of what I wanted is a play on a quote from Liz Lemmon, who, I’m paraphrasing, as said:
“I’ll tell you what I do want. I want someone who will be monogamous, and nice to her mother. I want someone who thinks that Seinfeld is funny, and that E.T. is terrifying. I want someone who will actually empty the dishwasher instead of just taking forks out as needed, like I do. I want someone with clean hands and feet and a smile that lights up a room like a Disney princess. And I want her to genuinely like me, even when I’m old. And that’s what I want.”
But not everyone’s dating situations are the same, or similar in any way. With that in mind, there are three things that I feel are very important in finding success in long-term dating, and these are traits I’m trying to develop, so that I can be who I am supposed to be.
Plan: Planning things together involves being able to communicate openly about things that need to be done, and things that you want to do. Planning involves thinking about others, and how your plans and their plans affect each other’s plans. I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that there are several instances in the scriptures where our goal for Eternal Life is called a “Plan,” whether it be of happiness, salvation, or forever families. Joseph Smith, in the King Follett discourse says that the world was “organized”, not merely created, and the Book of Abraham records that the Lord “organized us” before we came to Earth. There are 173 references to preparing in the scriptures, 44 references for plan, and 19 references to organize.
It’s important to be able to have candid and open lines of communication with everyone, but especially with someone you are considering spending eternity with. Fear of feeling foolish or inadequate when speaking to someone is common. Try your best to learn how to speak to others, as the Lord has taught, “in their own language.” Learn to listen, and to respond to others words in words that they will understand. How you say something can be just as important as what you say, and much more frequently than you would think, the tone and feelings evoked in words are more powerful than what was actually said.
The second thing that I find important, is to know that the person you want to date seriously is going to be imperfect. But you can’t focus on that. That is a Pandora’s Box, and once opened, is nigh impossible to close. We all do things that annoy others. Boys can be cocky, and ignorant of other people’s feelings. They’re going to yell at the TV during sporting events, though we know that they can’t hear us. We think that no one else on a group project is doing their share. We will probably think movies like Billy Madison and Dumb and Dumber are funny until the day we die. And guys, girls are going to want to have dress up dates, expect you to think it’s ok to listen to country or Justin Bieber every once in awhile. They’re going to want to watch the Bachelorette and want you to think that Bentley is just as evil as they do. They’re going to think that you should drive the speed limit, and use good grammar, and stop wearing flat brim hats. And guess what? That’s ok.
But focusing on these minor things is not going to make a great relationship. It doesn’t sound like a relationship built on love and patience, one that you both want to last forever. When we focus on the things that aren’t important, it can impair our ability to follow the Spirit’s direction. Be one that can be said to “scatter the sunshine.”
I feel like most people want to be the best person that they can be. Men want to be the perfect husband and father. Women want to be the perfect wife and mother. And because our strengths can become our downfalls, these self-imposed expectations can be suffocating. Be positive. Accentuate their best characters. Go out of the way to say something nice, or to give an extra hug on a bad day. Make dinner. Plan a date idea. Do little things just because they want you to. Notice her earrings. Tell her how much your care. Text him first sometimes.
Tell him that you think he’s great. Write nice notes. Joseph Smith would often refer to Emma’s letters as “sweet morsels” or “pieces of paradise.”
The things that build relationships, whether it is with the Lord or with another person are simple: with the Lord, it’s faith. It’s prayers. It’s scripture reading. It’s temple attendance. It’s being loyal. It’s the same with dating. Communicate. Learn together. Serve together. Find joy in each other’s successes. Make time for little things like intramural games, or walks in the park.
The third thing in spiritually being prepared for dating involves recognizing when the Spirit confirms that the person is right for you to choose. I’m not going to tell you how you will know that it is right. Revelation, like love, is intensely personal. Each person feels them individually, and I personally find it difficult to describe how I feel when I receive revelation. But there are certain things that I can do to help myself receive inspiration from the Spirit.
I pray and ponder, I read the scriptures, I write things down, and I talk with my mom. I think about what one of my mentors would say, and I try and decide what is best. I tell the Lord my plans, Everyone seeks and feels Find what’s best for you, and develop the talent of revelation. Sister Julie B. Beck has said that it is “the single most important skill one can acquire in this life.”
Earnest prayer and inspiration are needed in all situations, and perhaps there is no other event I can foresee that requires more earnest prayer and inspiration. The Lord wants you to be happy. Just also remember that just as importantly, the Lord lets you choose. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has said:
I would like to have a dollar for every person in a courtship who knew he or she had felt the guidance of the Lord in that relationship, had prayed about the experience enough to know it was the will of the Lord, knew they loved each other and enjoyed each other's company, and saw a lifetime of wonderful compatibility ahead--only to panic, to get a brain cramp, to have total catatonic fear sweep over them. They "draw back," as Paul said.
"I am not saying you shouldn't be very careful about something as significant and serious as marriage…beware the temptation to retreat from a good thing. If it was right when you prayed about it and trusted it and lived for it, it is right now. Don't give up when the pressure mounts. …. Face your doubts. Master your fears. "Cast not away therefore your confidence." Stay the course and see the beauty of life unfold for you.’
If it works, it works. Don’t be afraid if things are working out more quickly, or better, than you expected. Trust the Lord. Keep his commandments. You will receive His direction. And He will want you to follow it.