Whether you're dating for the first time or experiencing re-entry, remember that no one is an expert – everyone struggles with matters of the heart.
What's more, there are no magic formulas for finding that special someone. And although there is no one-size-fits-all advice, there are some “dating universals” that can help any marriage-minded single looking to find, build and deepen a relationship into an enduring marriage:
1. Commit to Dating
Make no mistake about it, you need to invest yourself in dating; treat your search for a marriage partner the same way you would your search for a job or dream home. Put your short and long-term goals into focus. Know your values; know what you are looking for. Know your strengths and weaknesses; know what you have to offer as a spouse. Know your time-frames – when would you like to be married? Knowing these will help you gauge your relationship's progress.
But that's not all… surround yourself with positive dating and marriage models and mentors who will inspire and advise your search. Be sure to network, to let your social circle know that you're on the lookout for lasting love.
2. Know Yourself
You can't evaluate someone else's compatibility with you without knowing who you are. Think seriously about how caring and considerate of others you are. How responsible and trustworthy, how committed to high morals and personal growth, are you? Do you have high self-esteem? Are you kind-hearted? Are you good at building relationships and committed to doing acts of charity? Remember, confidence attracts, and it's much easier to be confident when you know yourself well and recognize your match.
3. Be Selective
As a rule dating for marriage is not a numbers game. Date fewer people, but ones that line up with what you're looking for. Save time by pre-screening potential dates. Check out the compatibility of your goals, values, aspiration and lifestyle. Past performance is a good indicator of the future, so consult people who’ve known your prospect in a variety of settings over a period of time. Remember, you are not looking at how attractive or how accomplished this person is, but how compatible they are with you. Keep your options open, but don't be desperate – date only those prospects with whom you see a potential click.
4. Be Wise Online
If you opt for dot-com dating, proceed cautiously. The Internet should be an arena for meeting people, not for conducting an entire relationship. Beware of Internet dating phantoms – people who develop alternate personalities online. If you think you've met a prospect online, arrange to meet face-to-face as soon as possible.
Stay anonymous until you've met in person – don't give out your phone number, address or other identifying information until you know who you're dealing with. Also, make sure that first meeting is a safe one. Arrange a short coffee date in a public place, and let a loved one know where you'll be and who you'll be with.
5. Date Consciously
Once you've started dating, pay attention to the details and get your act together. Looks do matter, so dress for success! Slovenliness, poor hygiene, bragging, littering, and slouching can turn a date off.
However, personality counts most of all, so be you. Attempting to impress triggers emotional reactions – “He's trying too hard, so something must be wrong.” Date consciously, but normally. Know how to act polite, be a "mench", and show consideration.
6. Understand What a Girl (or Guy) Wants
Guys, here’s what women want: to be cherished, shown love and given security, provision and protection. They're interested in your ability to earn and learn. Don't try to buy her off or manipulate her attention or affection, and don't treat a woman that you've just met as if she's the one that you'll marry. Give it time.
Women, you have to know that that premature expression of affection can send a man running for the hills. Keep your timeline in the back of your mind, but also let the relationship deepen naturally over time. Timing is everything – be sure to share and disclose at the right time for your relationship to grow.
7. Let it Flow
Dating for marriage is a progressive and blooming process; it moves from friend to beloved. Be patient, but remember that love does not conquer all; core issues are not easily compromised, and sometimes it's better to just walk away. Avoid dating unqualified prospects; stand firm, and resist compromising on what's important to you. Above all, marriage is the most important relationship you'll ever create, and it's worth holding out for the right partner.