How to Date for Marriage

I know what you are thinking. What does a woman who has been married 26 years possibly know about dating in the 21st Century? You are right to wonder. What I can’t give you are specific dating tips, but I can offer you some basic gospel principles to follow along with some social science statistics to help you make sense of the challenges you will face. My goal is to give you the tools necessary to achieve a happy and committed relationship that leads to marriage. This journey starts with you, who you are and your level of readiness, and then it’s turned over to God’s timing. What I hope to offer is some knowledge and peace so you can feel confident on your path toward marriage. With that, let’s talk about the things that are within your power.

A Journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step.

Lao Tzu

The first step of this journey is to determine the type of marriage you want. “Your family experiences; your relationships with significant other adults and peers; and your personality, attitudes, and emotional health are just a few of the factors that influence how well you master the ABC’s of mate selection (Thomas B Holman, Frank Poulsen ch.2).”

With fewer marriages happening and higher divorce rates over the years, chances are that you know 1st hand about divorce. It is important to know that you are not doomed just because your parents, aunts and uncles, peers, etc… have divorced. You get to determine your destiny. That isn’t just some pie in the sky fantasy. It’s true because I did it. I broke the mold and so can you. You have to do some healing on your part and move past those bad experiences if you don’t want to drag low expectations and self sabotage with you into future relationships. You don’t have to believe me though. Researchers Martinson, Larson, & Jackson found in 2010 that those who had come to terms with their unhealthy family experiences had similar romantic relationship scores to those who came from healthy family backgrounds.

If you’re not in a good emotional state, you are going to choose people to date that don’t treat you well or are not compatible long term. I have seen so many settle for controlling and selfish partners because they convince themselves that something is better than nothing. You are worth more than that. Believe in good things to come.

As you strive to become a quality person, commune daily with your Heavenly Father who knows you best of all. He knows your talents, your strengths, and your weaknesses. You are here on the earth at this time to develop and refine these characteristics. I promise you He will help you. He is aware of your needs.

Marvin J Ashton

True love is a process. True love requires personal action. Love must be continuing to be real. Love takes time. too often expediency, infatuation, stimulation, persuasion or lust are mistaken for love. How hollow, how empty if our love is no deeper than the arousal of momentary feeling or the expression in words of what is no more lasting than the time it takes to speak them.

Marvin J Ashton

Everyone is looking for that spark. We attribute finding true love to being physically attracted to someone. While that is definitely a factor in the process, it shouldn’t be the only one. You need to know what kind of person you will potentially spend the rest of your live with. Knowing someone doesn’t happen when the main interactions you have are elaborate, infrequent or group dates. They need to be smaller scale and more frequent to really have a chance at getting to know each other. You also need to see each other in a variety of scenarios to be able to accurately assess compatibility. You don’t want to only rely on what the other tells you they are like, you need to see their character in action. If one of your criteria for a spouse is that they are hard working and successful, doing a service project together is a good way to see their work ethic in action. Are they working or spending most of the time sitting around and chatting, or looking like they are working without actually doing anything? Sure it’s tempting to hang out with someone who is sitting around because they have time to hang out and flatter you, but they won’t be what you said you were looking for if that really matters to you. The same goes for yourself. Someone who is hard working wants a companion who is hardworking as well. The best piece of advice I have is that you need to be who you want to marry. Not pretend to be who you want to marry, but actually be the person because in order to have your best chance at a long and successful marriage, you will want someone with similar goals and aspirations.

Now that you’ve spent some time getting clear on what kind of character traits you are looking for, you’re wondering how you are going to get dating “right” when there are so many dating rules that it seems impossible and hopeless. What I can tell you is that there is research that shows how to progress from acquaintances to a relationship. It was done in 2008 by Guerrero and Mongeau that “showed those who successfully progressed had certain behaviors. Those behaviors included high levels of routine contact and activity (for example, calling, texting, going places together, and just spending lots of time together), providing emotional support and positivity (comforting each other, and being optimistic), talking about the relationship (sharing feelings about the relationship and feelings of love), and instrumental support (such as sharing tasks or giving advice).”

You may be tempted into avoiding heavy subjects or any talk of commitment due to fear of scaring your date off, but you’re not doing yourself any favors. That’s not to say on your first date you need to hash out everything because it’s not appropriate yet, but you do need to be working toward that if you are going to continue seeing someone. The best way to build intimacy is to be vulnerable. When you share meaningful things about yourself and the other person receives that information in a positive way, it builds intimacy. This causes the other person to allow themselves to be vulnerable which builds more intimacy and the next thing you know, you’re in love. 

Courtship is a time for two people to get acquainted. It is a time to get to know someone, his or her interests, habits, and perspective on life and the gospel. It is a time to share ambitions and dreams, hopes and fears. It is a time to test someone’s commitment to gospel living.

Lance B Wickman

What should you do if the person you are seeing is raising some questions that are leading you to believe that maybe you should break up? How do you know when to let go of a relationship and trust that you will find the right person? 

“Church leaders counsel that when there is a lack of love (Widtsoe, 1944), temptations to break commandments and covenants (Tuttle, 1974), or partners who do not inspire the best in you (McKay, 1953), couples need to think seriously about ending the relationship. Certainly if one does not receive clear spiritual confirmation or if there are critical issues, one should seriously consider whether the relationship is viable” (Thomas B Holman, Frank Poulsen ch.2).

Dissolving a relationship is a confusing and difficult decision to make. There are some specific things to look for that will help you to evaluate fairly and feel confident in your decision to either move forward or dissolve the relationship. The following table is a great tool to help you in the evaluation process. 

Aspects of Love

Emotional Part of Love


Belief Part of Love


Behavior Part of Love


( Table taken from Thomas B Holman, Frank Poulsen who based on Noller, 1996)

Immature Love

Possessiveness, Jealousy, Infatuation, Preoccupation, Anxiety

“Love is Blind,” Love is External to Us, “Cupid’s Arrow,” Love Is Beyond Our Control

Selfish, Lustful, Concern Only for Satisfying Own Needs, Clinging, Over-Dependent, Obedience from Partner

Mature Love

Lasting Passion, Desire for Companionship, Warm Feeling of Contentment

Love is Something You Have to “Decide,” Love Means: Commitment, Trust, Sharing, Sacrifice

Creates an Environment of Growth and Development, Allows Partner Space for Growth

“Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward” 

Hebrew 10:35

The most important thing you can do is to not lose hope. Don’t get caught up in all the social dos and don’ts of dating, be who you are and take mate selection seriously. Don’t stay too long in a relationship that is going nowhere and find yourself sliding into the next step (marriage) without really choosing it. Be purposeful. The most important thing you can do is work on you because ultimately you marry who you are ready for, so be ready. In the meantime, “… I recommend you come to know your Father in Heaven. Come to love Him. Always remember that He loves you and will give you guidance and support if you will but give Him the chance. Include Him in your decision making. Include Him in your heartaches and heartbreaks. Include Him when you take inventory of your personal worth. “For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men [and women] to perform their labors” (Alma 34:32). Marvin J Ashton

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