Dating & Marriage: Good, Better, Best, but regardless it's a Choice

I had a friend once ask me how to find the right man for her. I shared with her a theory I had developed from my own dating days when I noticed a pattern in my life and in the lives of my friends. Keep in mind that these are just my observations, and I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments. I can’t help but   think there is at least a nugget of truth here. 

This is based on a post I wrote about a year ago on a private blog I had. I kept feeling like I needed to get it out there again! 

For starters, I personally don’t believe that there is a “one and only” for each of us to fall in love with. What if your “one” marries someone else, or they die, or leave the country or whatever else might happen… does that mean you have to settle or go without love for the rest of your life? I just can’t believe God would give us only one option. I think there are many, many options.

I think the many different kinds of people with whom we could fall in love can be divided into 3 separate categories. To borrow a phrase from Dallin H. Oaks, there are those that are good, those that are better, and those that are best for us. I should mention that I don’t think these categories are permanent—if somebody meets or marries someone that is only “good” for them, by working consistently and unitedly together, every single couple can transition from “good” to “better” and eventually move into the “best” category.

Here it goes:

Those that are Good: When I think of this category, I picture it as the one with the most options. For the sake of this discussion, lets say that each person in the dating scene meets 20-50 people in this category each year, meaning that people who are “good” for us are a dime a dozen. You don’t have to work as hard to find them. There is probably a physical attraction that sparked your interest, and you have fun together. However, the relationship does little to challenge you or provide you with stability and happiness. There may be frequent negative disagreements and a lack of change and growth in the relationship. You might fight about silly, menial things all the time, thereby leaving little to no opportunity for real personal growth and relational depth. If you are with someone who is good for you, you may live with them and love them for the rest of your life, but you have to work your guts out to make it work and to stay together, and there is always a certain level of conflict. However, it can be done.

Those that are Better: This category has fewer people, maybe those actively dating meet 10 to 20 of these people each year, meaning it might be a little harder to find someone who is better than good. This type of relationship provides more than just physical attraction. You are more likely to have similar goals and values. You have a lot in common and get along pretty well. However, there is a lot of comfort in the relationship. That’s not necessarily bad, but I have found that a vibrant and successful romantic relationship requires a certain level of stretching—growth that both individuals go through in order to learn difficult life lessons while becoming even closer to each other. This type of relationship is definitely better than a good relationship, but it can still leave one lacking in important character building opportunities. When in a “better” relationship, it might be easy to coast, or stick with the same routines and do the easy kind of stuff in life together. No one in the relationship really tries to stretch or grow. This isn’t terrible, but it isn’t necessarily awesome for relationships either. However, you don’t fight over silly things too frequently, and you still learn and grow, but you might move at a slower pace in learning these life lessons or never learn some of the most meaningful ones.

Those that are Best: The people in this category are the most difficult to find, requiring those in the dating scene to search with purpose and to become the kind of person that they want to find. Those that are earnestly and intentionally looking might meet one or two of these people each year that they could fall in love with. It’s much more difficult to find someone in the best category. This kind of relationship is where you and your spouse/significant other are very much in sync. You have the same types of personal goals and values, and actively strive to make couple goals in order to learn and grow together. These are the relationships that stretch us and really make us grow. The statement “they make me want to be a better person” applies here, but it isn’t cliché because it is 100% truthful and applies to every single day you are together, especially because they DO make you a better person. This is a relationship where you are able to lift one another and then turn around and lift those around you together. In this relationship the basic issues and spats that couples may have don’t even get in the way. Of course they are still present, but both people in the relationship are actively working on fixing them so that their love constantly deepens and the relationship is revitalized. The best relationships have two people who are willing to work hard to stay humble, be mature, and act selflessly in order to make the relationship as strong and blissfully happy as can be. By entering the relationship at this level, they are able to progress faster and do a lot of good in the world because they know how to quickly resolve the inevitable challenges of home-life and use them to grow closer together. Of course problems arise, but they don’t cause huge dramatic issues that can lead to long-term emotional suffering.

These categories don’t have really clear divisions, and I realize that it takes practice and patience to find somebody that is in the best category for each person. I think realizing that we can fall in love with a whole range of people is helpful in the uncertainty that comes from being single and on the lookout. Don’t sell yourself short, try and find someone in the best category! But also, don’t be too picky and think that no one is good enough. It’s a delicate balance. When choosing who to spend the rest of your life with, be wise.

The whole approach to the romantic relationship changes once you are married. Once you have committed yourself to one person, it no longer matters what category your dating relationship was in. You made your choice because you loved the person and knew you wanted to spend the rest of your life with them. Therefore, choose every day to make your marriage a “best” marriage. You know the person you chose very well (hopefully!). For the most part, you knew their flaws beforehand. You chose to give your life to them. You chose to make them a permanent part of yours. Therefore, choose every day to make it the best possible marriage it can be.

When Kyler and I got married, we were so excited to begin our life together. People we loved, respected, and looked up to, helped us see that every single day of our married life, we would have to wake up and choose to make our marriage awesome. We were also a little bit surprised by a few pieces of advice we got from others. “Oh just wait, in a year you’ll hate each other.” or “You’ll have fun for a few months but then you’ll just want to scream and yell at him, in fact, you probably will.” “Marriage is so much work, kiss those care free days good bye.”

Since both Kyler and I have strong personalities, those comments started us on a mission. They united us in a feeling that we had something to prove. We were determined not to dread the hard work of marriage. We both felt committed to fight to make our marriage amazing not for just one year, but forever.

We certainly don’t do this perfectly. Kyler and I are two imperfect people who are often impatient and who often get frustrated. Sure, we don’t scream and yell at each other, but we have had our fair share of tense moments and lively disagreements. But in the end, our imperfections make us stronger. Where one of us is weak, the other is strong, and can pull the other back up to remember the goal. We try to remind ourselves often that we want this marriage to do better than simply last. We want it to be the best marriage ever.

Life is full of one hundred million little choices. Sure, marriages are hard work, but that does not mean that we have to fall into lazy and damaging habits when it gets hard. It’s a choice to yell. It’s a choice to be selfish. It’s a choice to give up. Yes, marriage can be very hard. You have to work at it every day. You are in charge of doing your best to add to another individual’s happiness and that can be very trying at times. You have to sacrifice, and be humbled, and remember what is most important. But you can do it. You can choose to do it. 

Sometimes you might slip and yell, or you might realize that you’ve been acting immaturely or unfairly to your spouse. That’s okay. The goal is to make those mistakes smaller and less frequent. Good thing you can choose the next day to start over and work harder!

So, if you are still on the dating scene, choose carefully who you will date. Is it someone who is simply good for you? Maybe someone who is better? Or is there a best out there? Don’t be overly picky, but for goodness sake, it’s the rest of your life, so choose wisely. :) Most importantly, once you are married (or if you already are), choose every day to love your choice and to make it the best ever. We can’t take decisions back, but we can choose every day to change our situation.

No matter what happens, don’t forget that you have the power. It’s a choice.