“Finding Your Eternal Companion: Are You Standing In Your Own Way?” Ensign, June 2020
I spent the better part of my 20s feeling like an abysmal failure when it came to dating and relationships. Most of my dating career consisted of blind dates and setups—all of which never panned out. And when I entered my 30s, the dating pool got even smaller. I attended meetings and events and did anything I could to meet other singles—devotionals, conferences, institute, parties, even online dating. And for me, it seemed that whenever I found someone I connected with, I had arrived too late. Any prospects usually shut me down with, “I’m sorry, I’m dating someone else.”
So there I was, smack in the middle of “What do I do now?” And though many people find spouses and get married in their 30s, 40s, and beyond, a lot of single adults might start asking some very painful questions:
What if I never find a spouse?
What am I supposed to do as a single person in a church that puts so much emphasis on family?
The hardest part for me, however, was learning that I had been “failing” at dating for my entire life because of one thing:
Here’s how I got out of my own way, along with some tips for you to do the same.
Oftentimes on our journey of looking for a spouse, we are much more idealistic than realistic about the characteristics we expect our potential spouse to have. We might think things like, Wouldn’t it be nice if my spouse played an instrument? spoke a foreign language? had a great singing voice? earned lots of money? and so on.
As I got older, finding someone to marry started to seem hopeless, but in truth it wasn’t. I realized that it was mainly my unrealistic expectations standing in my way, and I had to learn to rely on Heavenly Father to help me move past them.
I started asking myself what qualities actually do matter. Just when I was beginning to realize I needed to get out of my own way, my dad pointed me toward an article that was eerily accurate and applicable to my own situation. In the article, the author listed some “deal-makers” that she and a friend felt mattered most when it comes to dating:
“Is he a worthy priesthood holder who respects and honors his opportunity to do work in the name of the Lord?”
“Does he attend church and the temple?”
“Would he make a good husband and father?”
“Does he strive to do the Lord’s will in all things?”
“Does he demonstrate charity?”
“Does spending time with him help me to ‘come unto Christ‘?”1
Note that this list of characteristics doesn’t mention salary, physical attractiveness, or height and weight requirements. I realized that I had sometimes prematurely judged dating prospects on those kinds of outward qualities. Maybe his teeth weren’t exactly straight. Maybe he used really bad grammar. Or maybe he was a little overweight. The list went on and on.
I really had to look inside myself to figure out what superficial expectations were holding me back from getting to know amazing people.
I think most of us want to get married, but often the only way we want marriage is when it’s according to our terms. Don’t believe me? How often have you uttered phrases like “He’s a nice guy, but I just don’t feel a connection” or “She’s a lot of fun, but I just don’t think she’s the one.” Or my personal favorite: “He’s a really good person and a really good friend, but I just can’t see myself marrying him.”
I said things like this. A lot. And looking back at my life, I’ve felt significant regret in wondering how many great relationships I likely passed up. I realized that this kind of thinking is probably rooted in a fear of missing out on something a little better. I mean, sure, the person we’re dating or the person we’re even just friends with is great, but what if someone even better comes along eventually? Or to put it another way, “This person I’m dating is great, but they aren’t [insert unrealistic expectation the world has you convinced is realistic here], so I think I’ll pass on pursuing this relationship any further.”
Going on first dates expecting we can surmise whether or not we could marry our date based on their outward traits and always hoping for something better isn’t how we should be dating. I was certainly guilty of this. And I have too many friends, both men and women, who were rejected or who are rejecting potential companions because of this. To borrow a phrase from Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, we should “stop it!”2
Sadly, I ignored the greatest piece of advice from my friends for a long time. They would tell me that if I had a good time on a date, I should keep going out with and getting to know the person until I had a legitimate reason to break things off.
“But what’s the point,” I would counter after every first date, “if I already know I’m not going to marry him?” This and the fear-of-missing-out mind-set kept me miserable in dating—until I realized what I had been doing and stopped it. Instead, I decided to look for Heavenly Father’s hand in my life and allowed Him to guide me.
The final time I opened myself up to dating seemed like any other. Slim prospects. A whole lot of effort for seemingly little return. But this time I was determined to be more open-minded than I ever had been. I wanted to give the guys I encountered more of a chance and keep building up our relationships until I found a legitimate reason not to.
It was hard work to change the mind-set I had had for so many years, but I didn’t give up. Through online dating, I got to know six different guys who showed qualities that made them good prospects for an eternal companion. Those six were eventually whittled down to two: Man A and Man B.
Man A seemed like everything I could have hoped for in a relationship. He owned his own business and wanted to find a wife who would travel the world with him to promote it. He was funny, easy to talk to, and loved the same pop culture things I did.
Man B was cute and kind, but I had some reservations. One of my life goals was to be a stay-at-home mom, and on the surface it didn’t seem like this would happen if I married him. He hadn’t graduated college yet and was still figuring out what career he wanted to pursue. But as I got to know him, I realized his genuine interest in me. We talked about everything—the Church, our likes, our interests. He made me laugh, and he made me feel special.
After a while, Man A seemed more interested in the idea of dating than actually dating. With him I felt like an afterthought.
Because I gave them both a chance, I got to know more about them and realized that although Man B wasn’t what I expected in some ways, he really was everything that mattered in a relationship. He was kind, considerate, and patient. He had a good relationship with God and his family, and most important of all, he loved me. I remember reading in my patriarchal blessing about the qualities of my eternal companion, and he fit the bill. And there were also a lot of experiences in our relationship that I later realized were promptings from Heavenly Father.
So, after months of courting, I married him.
I’ve always hated the phrase “It only takes one.” But it’s true. I would supplement that with my own adage: “Dating is the worst until it isn’t.” For me to really gain perspective on dating, the real question I had to ask myself was “What really matters?” I take to heart the words of President Dallin H. Oaks, First Counselor in the First Presidency: “A good marriage does not require a perfect man or a perfect woman. It only requires a man and a woman committed to strive together toward perfection.”3 That’s all that matters.
Now, I’m not saying that doing these three things is the definite way to find your eternal companion. Just because it worked for me doesn’t mean it will work for everyone. But if you’re struggling with dating and nothing seems to be working out, take a step back and evaluate yourself. You might have certain habits or expectations that are standing in your way to a happy and fulfilling relationship. Whatever your circumstances may be, Heavenly Father will guide you if you put your trust in Him.
I know if I had still been my past self, the one who judged based on superficial qualities and had so many unrealistic expectations, I would have missed out on Man B. And he has become one of the greatest sources of happiness in my life.
Thankfully, I got out of my own way.