How to Choose a Mate

Perhaps love is the process of my gently leading you back to yourself.
~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery

That is not to say that someone else should rescue you or give meaning to your life, but it is to say that when we love well and are loved well, we become more of our true selves, the selves we were created to be, something more than our self alone.

When I have young girls who think they are in love come in to my office, or young women who are scared they might actually be, or older women who have forgotten they have been and still are, there is always a specific handout that I teach them, read to them, make them read to me, and send home with them to memorize in their hearts. I teach it to them earlier, if they have mothers who are awake and alert and participating.

It’s the “How to Choose a Mate” handout by my favorite Jungian author, Clarissa Pinkola Estes. I have blogged it before, but it is time to share it again.

These girls in my office are not ready for marriage yet, and most of them know this. But the choice comes long before marriage unfolds, and we all know that at some point the person we marry will be someone we have dated. That does not mean we should skip enjoying the dating phase for a future that may or may not come tomorrow, but it does mean we should choose well at the beginning.

So this is not an eternal-marriage handout, but it is a learn-who-to-date handout.

I think every young lady should read it, and talk about it with the grown-ups in her life.

This evening I got trapped by my family into confirming the news that after many weeks of
epistolary introduction, I officially have a boyfriend.

By “trapped”, I mean that I spontaneously blurted it out.

My five year old niece promptly responded with, “well, it’s about time!”

She then proceeded to explain that she is only five, and has already had a boyfriend her whole life.

This was news to me, and news big enough to hold family council about dating, even if she is only five.

The things on this handout are the things I would want all my nieces to know. This is what I will teach my nieces (and my daughters) in normal and appropriate settings as the opportunities arise as they grow and learn and become young women and ask questions about who to date and who to marry. These are conversations that should happen long before marriage, conversations needed at some level even if you are only five.

There is more I will share with them, and teach them, about choosing someone of the covenant, and about Temple blessings, about the many, many scripture verses and principles available to show us the way, and all of these sacred things that we all teach our girls. For us with those commitments, these things should already be understood (even at five). But within the context of those guidelines already given, here are the other pieces I would add, will add, do add as I teach the young women in my life about who to marry by choosing carefully who to date… and how to know when they have found someone not only worthy of the priesthood he holds, but also someone worthy of her.

Choose someone as though you were blind.

See what you can feel of their capacity for kindness, insight, devotion, ability to be concerned; their ability to care for themselves as an independent being and their willingness to care for you (about you) as a companion

Choose someone with the ability to learn.

Choose someone who is willing to be like you.

Shared values, morals, and goals. His projects are things you are willing to support (morally, financially, physically, emotionally, etc.), and he is willing to support the things important to you. He is able to be both strong and sensitive, tough and fragile… like a tree which is flexible in the wind, bending, but not breaking (sensitive defined as the ability to be alert to things around oneself)

Choose someone who when you hurt them, they feel pain and are willing to show it. (Say sorry!) And when they hurt you and you show pain, they are able to see your pain and they feel sorry.

Choose someone who has an inner life, who has something they love (hobby, spirituality, passion), who is on their own journey and sees you as a sojourner.

Someone who prays, studies the scriptures, testifies, and utilizes his priesthood in power (more than just holding it); someone who has their own activities, projects, and plans; someone who understands that you need your own time, friendships, and projects (though spouse is the primary relationship) and that these things nourish you

Has the ability to be separate as well as together, where there can be merging and separation without breaking the bond that exists between two people :

But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you…
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.
~ Kahlil Gibran on Marriage

Choose someone who has similar passions as your own.

Passions defined as qualities of relationship vital to keeping the relationship healthy. It can be simple, like walking around the block every night after dinner. Also, make memories together, and create your own rituals, participate in shared playtime activities outside of parenting or other roles.

Choose someone with similar values as you.

Family roles, childbearing, childrearing, religion, roots, roles, money – work out these issues before making long term decisions; someone who is able to be flexible on these issues as needed specific to your individual circumstances, while remaining in the bounds of the values you agree upon together

Choose someone who is compassionate.

Who is willing, able to listen, who gives equal time, who is kind, who is respectful, who is generous, who is an active participator

Choose someone who can laugh at themselves.

Especially in times of conflict or difficult learning; practices learning to stop an argument in mid-sentence

Choose someone who is able to overlook certain faults and characteristics.

Know what characteristics you can live with, and avoid characteristics that take the person away from their soul life (i.e., addictions, lethargy, not trying, “stagnant”, getting stuck, not participating)

“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. ‘That best portion of a good man’s life [is] his . . . kindness,’ said Mr. William Wordsworth (‘Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey’ [1798], lines 33–35). There are lots of limitations in all of us that we hope our sweethearts will overlook. 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.”
~ Elder Holland

Choose someone you can be friends with beyond your roles as spouses, parents, or cohabitators.

Choose someone who makes your life bigger rather than smaller.

They do not shame you, embarrass you (on purpose), humiliate you, say negative things about you in public, or criticize you (and neither should you squash his spirit). He strengthens you, uplifts you, edifies you, encourages you, and celebrates you (as you should for him).

“One good yardstick as to whether a person might be the right one for you is this: in her presence, do you think your noblest thoughts, do you aspire to your finest deeds, do you wish you were better than you are?”
~ President Ezra Taft Benson

Posted in Dating permalink

About Emily

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2009. I serve as a Chaplain, and work as a counselor. I got bilateral cochlear implants in 2010, but will always love sign language. I choose books over television, and organics over processed. Nothing is as close to flying as ballroom dancing - except maybe running, when in the solo mood. I would rather be outside than anywhere else, especially at the river riding my bike or kayaking. PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, and currently doing a post-doc in Jewish Studies and an MDiv in Pastoral Counseling. The best thing about Emily World is that it's always an adventure, even if (not so) grammatically precise. The only thing better than writing is being married to a writer. Nathan Christensen and I were married in the Oklahoma City temple on 13 October 2012, and have since fostered more than eighty-five children. We have adopted the six who stayed, and are totally and completely and helplessly in love with our family. Nathan writes musical theater, including "Broadcast" (a musical history of the radio) and an adaption of Lois Lowry's "The Giver". He served his mission in South Korea, has taught song-writing in New York City public schools, and worked as a theater critic for a Tucson newspaper. This is not an official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


How to Choose a Mate — 3 Comments

  1. Emily, I shared this blog entry with the Young Women’s presidency in our ward. My daughter is a laurel, and we’ve been talking about dating standards and they are planning a special evening for the girls regarding this very topic. She was wondering if they could have permission to reproduce and distribute your blog entry? It would be such a blessing. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. I’ve been trying to discuss this topic with my daughter who has been dating a non-member, and my son is who is only a year away from dating. I so much appreciated your insight. I love following your blog!