Our ward’s brilliant and hilarious Home Evening Chair and her able and dutiful assistant came up with a great idea for Home Evening: a panel of four couples who answered previously submitted questions on topics such as how they met, how long they dated, and what obstacles they felt they had to overcome in their relationships and in themselves before they got married. While I don’t know that we heard anything “completely new,” the condensed refresher of information both comforting and humbling seemed to have been enjoyed by all.
I asked the participants their permission if I could report some of what they said, (that which I managed to get in my notes) and they agreed.
The four couples:
- Martin & Emily – married 3 years with two children
- Dave & Erin – married one year with one child
- Earl & Mary – married a month
- Ben & Natalie – engaged with no children
First subject: How long did you know each other before your first date, and how long did you date before you got engaged?
Martin: We were in the ward together for two years before our first date. We dated 5 months before we got engaged. We were not really friends before our first date. We were engaged for 3 months.
Dave: We were friends for about 9 months before our first date. Erin: We had also gone on a cruise with a group of friends, which allowed us to get to know each other a lot better. Dave: We dated for 1 1/2 years, then were engaged for two months.
Earl and Mary: We dated from May to December, then we were engaged for 4 weeks. (My note: they met country dancing before Mary joined the ward, but they didn’t date exclusively until after that.)
Natalie: I was in the ward for 3 years, and Ben had been in the ward for 1 1/2 years when we started dating. We started dating the end of last February, and got engaged on December 1st. Ben: I kept trying to get to know her, but I’d head to the side of the room where she’d been, then she’d be gone. Natalie: (not sure I have this one right) don’t be hard on yourself, thinking you wouldn’t be right for someone. Get to know them first so that you can make that decision. Ben: also, don’t assume that you know what a person is like. Get to know them so you can give them a chance.
Martin: The best location for a date is not the movies. You want to be able to talk. Also, go on a date with a purpose: to get to know them.
Erin and Dave: Our best “location” date was just to stay at home and talk. We were comfortable that way, just being ourselves. Also, that way there was no stress of having to plan a date. Erin said again that she felt like they did a lot of talking and just “being together” and getting to know each other at their places, and that she felt that was a really important and crucial part of their courtship.
Earl: I asked Mary out for the next weekend for dinner. Mary: then I needed a date for a school dinner (Mary is a teacher) so I asked out Earl. Earl: then she ran off most of the night and left me alone while she talked to other people. Mary: I knew he’d be okay. He was with a guy we met in line for food. Earl: it was a good test of whether we felt like we had to be next to each other’s side at every moment. It worked. Mary: while we were dating, we just hung out and talked a lot. It gave us the chance to ask each other deeper questions, to find out what each other liked, and to go places together. But we talked about a lot of important things. I didn’t even know what Earl’s favorite color was until just before we got married. It also gave me the opportunity to be vulnerable, and to share things that were deeply personal.
Ben: the good thing about dating for a long time means that you have to see each other on the bad days, too, and learn to work out difficulties. (somehow I missed what Ben and Natalie like to do for dates, especially during their courtship)
Did you have a “list” or a “type” before you met your spouse/future spouse, and did they meet your expectations?
Emily: at the age of 17 I made a 4 page list. (laughter) Of course, I got rid of it when I was older. I then just wanted someone committed to the Gospel. Martin: I think there are two lists. The first is the list for the “one”, and that list is selfish. It involves your goals and your dreams. Then there was the list for myself, the things I wanted to improve in myself. That was the important list. Work on yourself: spiritually, financially, your self-esteem, etc.
Erin: I had a tendency to put people on a pedestal. No one can live up to that. I threw my list away, because it can sometimes be a bad thing. Dave was a math teacher, and I didn’t like that. (She didn’t relate to it…Dave told me later that everyone in her family sings and is very “artsy.”) Dave doesn’t sing. I revised my list. The most important thing was that he had a temple recommend and that he was active in the Church.
Earl: You need a list that is “Up to Date.” I dated a long time, and I needed to constantly revise it. I think if you find someone who meets 80% of your list, you’re pretty fortunate. You need to be equally yoked. Mary seems to be ahead of me, but not by far: I’m catching up.
Ben: you learn by going out with people what it is that you’re looking for. And don’t make the ultimate decision to date someone (exclusively??) until some time is taken to get to know them. Also, know yourself and your needs. I’m very frugal, and I knew I couldn’t handle, for instance, marrying someone with more than $15,000 in debt.
Other General Advice:
How to move past “but I have a crush on so and so and I’m waiting for them…” Martin: If it’s been a year or months and months and that person was interested in you, they would have done something about it. Plus, they’re probably different in real life than they are in your head. Move on.
Erin: You’re vulnerable in a relationship. You see a lot of flaws in yourself. Mary: you need to be vulnerable to be in a relationship and make it work, or to find out if it will work. You need to share a lot about yourself. I didn’t get a big lightning bolt in answer to my prayers as to whether or not I should marry Earl. Trust in the Lord, and trust in His timing. Natalie: Ben’s kindness, sincerity, and honesty impressed me. He was patient with my weaknesses in expressing myself. It’s nice to be able to work on your weaknesses. Ben: Sometimes it’s hard to move forward. It gets easier with more dating. (Don’t forget, it’s just a date!) Natalie: when it comes to disagreements, be aware of promptings that help you know when to bring things up. Earl: Do what helps you become unselfish. (He mentioned the movie Fireproof and the book Love Dare as illustrating good principles for relationships). Think, “What can I do for the other person?” Mary: when it comes to disagreements, cut out the negative emotions when expressing what is wrong. (She mentioned this for women, but of course it goes for everyone!)
More General Advice:
Mary: Keep perspective when you’re single. Stay busy, and move forward in life. You need to choose to have life be good to you.
Natalie: If it doesn’t work with someone you’re dating, it doesn’t mean that you’re a bad person or that they’re a bad person. Stay positive!
Ben: I realized, looking back, that there were times while I was dating people that I actually didn’t want to be married. But I was still dating. If you’re hurting and need to take a break, then do. It will happen when you’re ready.
Natalie: I realized that I don’t have to be a perfect person to get married.
Mary: don’t expect the person you’re dating to change. Don’t marry someone if you wouldn’t accept how they are. Move on.