(Based on Elder Holland’s BYU Devotional “How Do I Love Thee?”)
1. Dating should not be separated from discipleship.
Believe that your faith has everything to do with your romance, because it does. You separate dating from discipleship at your peril. Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, is the only lamp by which you can successfully see the path of love and happiness.
Too often, we allow ourselves to take a different approach to dating than we do the rest of our lives. We allow emotions, lusts, and other things to silence the Spirit, and we believe we have a certain right to be dishonest, or even sometimes mean. While dating is certainly a minefield to navigate, and it’s not always easy to do so without hurting feelings, we should do our very best to maintain integrity and Christ-like love for others in all our dating endeavors.
2. Love comes from God, so you’ll need to seek Him to find it.
“Wherefore, . . . pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons [and daughters] of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; . . . that we may be purified even as he is pure.” – Moroni 7:47–48
If your love doesn’t bring you closer to God, it’s not love. If it doesn’t yield the fruits of the spirit – peace, joy, charity, and all those other good things, it’s not love. I believe love is the greatest gift God has given us, and we can’t possess it without Him. Not the kind that lasts, anyway.
3. Love is a verb – an action word – and isn’t just a rush of feelings.
It doesn’t come without effort and it doesn’t come without patience, but, like salvation itself, in the end it is a gift, given by God to the “true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ.” The solutions to life’s problems are always gospel solutions.
True love blooms when we care more about another person than we care about ourselves.
It’s for this reason that I don’t believe in “love at first sight”, or getting engaged after three weeks. Love requires time. It involves regularly and constantly putting someone else’s wellbeing before your own, and being willing to make sacrifices for the happiness of another person. It’s very different from infatuation, which typically involves a rush of feelings and a twitterpated obsession with someone.
4. Love shouldn’t make you selfish.
There are many qualities you will want to look for in a friend or a serious date—to say nothing of a spouse and eternal companion—but surely among the very first and most basic of those qualities will be those of care and sensitivity toward others, a minimum of self-centeredness that allows compassion and courtesy to be evident.
We sometimes become so infatuated with the other person that we start to neglect other important responsibilities, such as service and friendship. Love should make you want to be better, and shouldn’t cause you to spend all of your time watching movies on the couch with someone. You’re not much use to Heavenly Father while you’re doing that.
5. Love that which is not fleeting.
I suppose no one is as handsome or as beautiful as he or she wishes, or as brilliant in school or as witty in speech or as wealthy as we would like, but in a world of varied talents and fortunes that we can’t always command, I think that makes even more attractive the qualities we can command—such qualities as thoughtfulness, patience, a kind word, and true delight in the accomplishment of another. These cost us nothing, and they can mean everything to the one who receives them.
This is one of my favorite quotes in the world, and I invite you to read it as often as you need to – whenever you feel “not enough”.
6. Finding true love requires us to take leaps of faith and be vulnerable.
No serious courtship or engagement or marriage is worth the name if we do not fully invest all that we have in it and in so doing trust ourselves totally to the one we love. You cannot succeed in love if you keep one foot out on the bank for safety’s sake.
We need to stop being scared to commit “just in case” there’s something better out there. If someone doesn’t feel right for you, that’s totally fine. Don’t date them. But if they have the qualities you’re looking for, and you make each other happy, and they love God, move forward! Don’t be paralyzed by fear.
7. Don’t be self-absorbed.
In all that Christ was, He was not ever envious or inflated, never consumed with His own needs. He did not once, not ever, seek His own advantage at the expense of someone else. He delighted in the happiness of others, the happiness He could bring them. He was forever kind.
Dating isn’t about finding someone who ticks every box on your list. It’s about finding someone who you are truly compatible with, and can progress with forever. Remember that you’ll need to be worthy for your spouse – it’s not a one-way street.
8. Be with someone who makes you happy, not someone who makes you anxious.
In a dating and courtship relationship, I would not have you spend five minutes with someone who belittles you, who is constantly critical of you, who is cruel at your expense and may even call it humor. Life is tough enough without having the person who is supposed to love you leading the assault on your self-esteem, your sense of dignity, your confidence, and your joy. In this person’s care you deserve to feel physically safe and emotionally secure.
I can’t even count the number of times I’ve watched people continue dating someone who’s wrong for them because they’re infatuated, and they’re just too scared to end it and be alone. I’ve been guilty of it myself. God isn’t the author of confusion or fear. Keep that in mind when dating.
9. Don’t fault-find or be quick to take offense.
Temper tantrums are not cute even in children; they are despicable in adults, especially adults who are supposed to love each other. We are too easily provoked; we are too inclined to think that our partner meant to hurt us—meant to do us evil, so to speak; and in defensive or jealous response we too often rejoice when we seethem make a mistake and find them in a fault. Let’s show some discipline on this one. Act a little more maturely. Bite your tongue if you have to. “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city” (Proverbs 16:32).
Don’t spend your dating relationships looking for “red flags”, and reasons that someone isn’t good enough for you. Recognize that you both have weaknesses. We often make dating one big game of who can hide their weaknesses long enough for someone to love them. That’s not what it’s about. Love isn’t about being blind to someone’s flaws, it’s about seeing them and loving them anyway.
Think the best of each other, especially of those you say you love. Assume the good and doubt the bad.
10. Trust God, be believing, and try not to freak out.
Bear up and be strong. Be hopeful and believing. Some things in life we have little or no control over. These have to be endured. Some disappointments have to be lived with in love and in marriage.
Dating kind of sucks, and we all know it. So do your best to stay close to the Lord, who doesn’t want you to be unhappy. He will help you. He will lift you up and guide you.