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How to find "the one"

Researcher's advice on dating and finding love

A girl hugs a boy from behind surrounded by lush greenery
Photo by Emarie Majors

Of all the men I have dated, only one gave me ‘sparks.’ It was the worst dating experience I ever had and left me feeling confused and hurt both during and after it ended. Since then I met, dated and married my husband, which was the best experience, dating or otherwise, of my life.

When I was single, I got annoyed by married people who talked about how great marriage was, but now I am married, I am that person too. I realized the change in myself after BYU-Hawaii President John S.K. Kauwe and Sister Monica Kauwe gave the first devotional of Spring Semester 2024 on dating and marriage. I wanted to ride that wave and share what helped me find and become someone worth marrying.

The spark often leads to relationships that burn out. Instead, you should go after the slow burn."
Logan Ury, a behavior scientist turned dating coach

The spark

Logan Ury, a behavior scientist turned dating coach, says, “The spark often leads to relationships that burn out. Instead, you should go after the slow burn.” However, to switch from looking for the sparks to looking for the embers, people need a new barometer, she said. Instead of having a shopping list with things like height, hobbies, career, and analyzing your dates like in a job interview, she came up with the post-date 8 questions. Those questions, according to the website Medium, are:

  1. How did I feel in their presence? Reflect on your emotional state during the date. Were you at ease or restless? Did the conversation spark joy and excitement, or leave you feeling indifferent or bored? Assess whether you felt a sense of confidence and authenticity in their company.
  2. Did I feel listened to? Evaluate if your date was attentive and showed genuine interest in what you had to say. Were they proactively listening to you showing real interest, or did they seem distracted and disinterested?
  3. What side of me did they bring out? Consider if your date encouraged positive aspects of your personality. Did they encourage positive traits such as kindness, humor, intelligence or spontaneity in you? It’s important to be with someone who brings out the best in you.
  4. Did they make me laugh? Laughter is a key indicator of comfort and connection, which is crucial for long-term compatibility. Did your date’s sense of humor align with yours, and did it contribute to a light-hearted and enjoyable atmosphere?
  5. Did I feel attractive in their presence? Self-perception in the presence of your date is key. Did you feel confident, valued, and appreciated, or did you find yourself feeling insecure or overlooked?
  6. Was there something about them I found intriguing? Identify any unique or compelling qualities in your date. This could range from their perspective on life, passions, or the way they handle conversations and situations.
  7. Did I feel energized or drained after the date? Your emotional state post-date is telling. Did you leave feeling uplifted, optimistic, and energized, or did you feel drained, stressed, or disheartened?
  8. Was I captivated or bored during the date? Assess the level of engagement and interest you had throughout the date. Were you fully absorbed in the conversation and activities, or did you find your mind wandering due to boredom or a lack of connection?

Lori Gottlieb, a psychotherapist and writer, cites a longitudinal study that followed people for 20 years, starting after their first date with their partner. She said people had a revisionist history of their memories. Those who were happily together said things like, “I knew immediately [they were the one,]” or, “I felt immediate chemistry with them.” However, that is different from what they reported at the time of their first date that was along the lines of ‘nice person, not sure,’ said Gottlieb.

On the other hand, couples who were unhappy together or had been divorced, reported things like, ‘I was never attracted to the person,’ or ‘I knew there were red flags in the beginning,’ which is different from what they reported at the time when they usually, ‘Wow! This person is so amazing.’

“[People] truly believe that they felt something different, but we have data saying, no you didn’t,” says Gottlieb. Many people think if they don’t feel head over heels on the first date, then that person is not ‘the one,’ she said. However, Gottlieb says, “People who are very, very happy together, totally in love, totally attracted to each other, often didn’t feel those sparks on the first one, two or three dates.”

My dad always said it was love at first sight when he saw my mom. I went through my dating years trying to find that same feeling, but I never did. I now wonder if he really did at the time, or if he had fallen so in love with my mom over their 20 years of marriage that previous moments like that are only seen through rose-colored glasses.

Red flags

Harvard trained psychiatrist, Alok Kanojia, says, “There is an idea that if there’s a red flag in a relationship, you dump them and run.” However, since problems in any relationship are inevitable, red flags are a good opportunity to assess the long-term health of a relationship, he said. Voicing a problem early on in a relationship will show how someone reacts to it.

When I was dating the boy who gave me ‘sparks,’ there were red flags like lying and inconsistency. When I met my husband, there were ‘red flags’ like his love of golf and video games, both things I didn’t like. When I addressed these issues with both the first boy and my husband, the first boy either didn’t listen or didn’t change. However, my husband did. I changed too because I realized my preconceived ideas about golf and video games were incomplete. Both my husband and I changed for the better because we talked through the possible red flags.

Growing together

Jennifer Finlayson-Fife, a Latter-day Saint relationship coach and therapist, said she believes marriage is a divine institution because it helps people grow in ways they can’t otherwise. To have a happy marriage, a person has to confront and address their weaknesses, she says. By being fully knowable with even the parts a person doesn’t know or doesn't want to know about themselves, they can draw closer to their companions, she explains. This connection, closeness, vulnerability and intimacy is not an easy thing to do, but it brings the most joy, she says.

In a Psychology Today website article on the happiness found in marriage, it quotes Harvard Professor Tal Ben-Shahar, who teaches a popular class on how to find happiness. He states: “Having people about whom we care and who care about us to share our lives with, to share events and thoughts and feelings in our lives, intensifies our experience of meaning, consoles in our pain, [and] deepens our sense of delight in the world. While relationships, in general, are important for the ultimate currency, romantic relationships reign supreme.”

Do not save these humble phrases for a special event or catastrophe. Use them often and sincerely, for they show regard for others."
Elder Ronald Rasband, member of the Quorum of the Twelve

In the last General Conference, Elder Ronald A. Rasband said the words people say really matter. He gave three simple phrases he said, “Can take the sting out of difficulties and differences, lift and reassure each other.” He counseled to use these phrases sincerely and often. They are,

“Thank you.”

“I am sorry.”

And “I love you.”

Elder Rasband explains, "Do not save these humble phrases for a special event or catastrophe. Use them often and sincerely, for they show regard for others....

"We can say 'thank you' on the elevator, in the parking lot, at the market, in the office, in a queue, or with our neighbors or friends. We can say 'I am sorry' when we make a mistake, miss a meeting, forget a birthday, or see someone in pain. We can say 'I love you,' and those words carry the message 'I am thinking about you,' 'I care about you,' 'I am here for you,' or 'You are everything to me.'”

"Believe me, in our emoji-filled world, our words matter....So be careful what you say and how you say it. In our families, especially with husbands, wives, and children, our words can bring us together or drive a wedge between us.