BEFORE YOU GET MARRIED, Know There’s Someone Better

alone thinking


So you’re thinking about getting married.


Well before you do, there’s something you should know: there’s someone better for you out there.


That’s right. This little bundle of perfection you are personifying as your spouse is not the best match for you. There is someone who aligns with your dreams, your goals, your political persuasion better. There is someone more attractive, funnier, smarter. There is someone with a better family, with cooler friends. There is someone wealthier, more ambitious, more spiritual.


Here’s the catch: You can’t find all that in one person.


As my boy Leo Tolstoy has said, “If you look for perfection, you’ll never be content” (Anna Karenina #TheRealRussianNuke).


Sure, find someone who has a better family, but maybe they’ll be a total slob and smell bad. Meet someone that is funnier, but maybe they aren’t as kind. Chat with someone who passionately aligns to your political views, but maybe you don’t want a debate partner for a spouse. Connect with someone who is a model, but maybe then you can’t eat hamburgers and fries.


And even if all those “but maybe’s” are true, good luck at them being interested in you.


Yes, you found someone that meets the 5 most important criteria (after you made your list) and they exist. They are there and they are real. And no, that’s not settling–that’s falling in love with a human.


Now don’t get me wrong. Marriage is not a cavalier choice that you can make after two months of knowing someone when one of those months is long distance; it is an important decision to be weighed out and prayed about over time. (But then again, you might get lucky.)


Because once that decision is made to take it to the next step, don’t worry about any lists you’ve made in dating.


What I’ve admired about the best marriages I’ve seen is that the spouse becomes the other person’s “list.” It is no longer a ‘I wish you had this’ or ‘If only you didn’t have that,’ but rather a beautiful appreciation of the person for who they are that leads to a love and commitment that last forever.


Plus, regardless of who they are and who you are now, you’ll never stay married to the same person. You’ll change and they’ll change. The key is changing together.


You do that by setting your long-term goals as the same destination. If you both are constantly working towards that singular goal, you become less of single individuals and one whole.


So stop looking for the one. There are ones all around you. They key is to choose your love and then love your choice


As an author at The Blaze commented after hearing the devastating news that Nicolas Sparks and his wife separated, “I didn’t marry The One, I married this one, and the two of us became one.”



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I Never Knew How Much a Person Could Hide Until I Married My Wife



I never knew how much a person could hide until I married my wife.


It was about six months after we had been married and I turned over in bed to see a stranger laying there next to me.


Granted, I proposed after exactly two months of knowing her and we were on different continents for one of those months.


And granted, we got married exactly four months after I proposed and were in different states for three of those months.


…but still.


I mean, who was she?


I thought I had it all figured out when I was dating. Before we met, I created my “must have” list for a spouse. It consisted of 5 things:

  1. Beautiful
  2. Positive
  3. Kind
  4. Leader
  5. Who put God first


From the day we met until the day we married and even until this point, she had shown her colors as truly exemplifying all of those traits.


But still…something wasn’t adding up.


I mean, before we were married she would make jokes, but I wouldn’t consider her very funny.

She would occasionally cook, but it all was quite bad–burnt, bland or soggy.

She would watch me clean my room on Skype, but revealed a scene behind her that looked like a candidate for Hoarders.


But you see, I didn’t marry her because she was funny or a good cook or could clean. I married her because I loved who she was and was willing to work with those things that were in my “nice to have” list. Not in any way feeling like I was settling, but realizing that some things in life need to be de-prioritized.


Sure, I love laughing, food is my second religion and messiness is something I cannot function in–but with funny friends, eating out and my self-satisfaction in cleaning, I figured we would be fine.


But, six months in, I found out that I was so wrong about her.


She was funny. At least once a week I was crying laughing because of her jokes.

She was an incredible cook. Her dinners became the daily culmination of a culinary crescendo–no matter how expensive my expensed lunch was.

She was cleeeeeean! Her cleaning habits made me look at the budget to see if she had hired help.


Yes I married her not even know how amazing she was.  


Truly, I fell in love with a sandbagger.


Turns out we just weren’t around each other enough in person for me to really get her humor. The few meals she made all happened to be without a some key ingredients. And the room she was temporarily living in until we got married was really a family storage room.


Now don’t get me wrong, I discovered some new weaknesses too. Like how she isn’t good at opening bags of chips (she hulk-rips them “every” time sending cereal cascading down the hall) and can’t find a way to snap and sing at the same time; but my manly thumbs and amerature beatboxing solved both of those.


And while she has had some surprises from me too, I’ll leave that for her to talk about.


So six months into marriage what did I learn? As you get to know people, allow them to build themselves on the foundation of their strengths. Let them pleasantly surprise you.


For marriage isn’t so much a matter of being grateful that you found the one as working together to become one as we help fill the weaknesses and discover the strengths together.


Seek for the good and you will find it.


Everyone is incredibly loved–find out why (especially with those closest to you).



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Dating Never Works Zack Oates



Stand Together; but Not Too Close

old couple


A month ago, my wife and I were at a beautiful beach wedding in the Dominican Republic. The groom’s father stood up to give a toast, and instead of a speech, he simply read from the works of a turn of the century poet and philosopher, Kahlil Gibran.


The essence of the poem is found in the last stanza,


be pilars“Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.

For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.

And stand together, yet not too near together:

For the pillars of the temple stand apart”

(“On Marriage,” The Prophet)


I was honestly bugged by that poem.


I mean, shouldn’t you stand by your spouse no matter what and be their everything and have them be your everything? Isn’t that the point of marriage for two to become one? A complete trust in giving your heart?


The poem and my confused frustration stuck with me until we found ourselves at another wedding sitting across from Lanor. She was a fast-talking, energetic, divorced New Yorker who had been a “shrink” for over 40 years focusing on family and marriage.


I asked her for advice. (…I mean, how could I not?!)


“Don’t make each other your sole source of happiness.”


That’s when it clicked.


It isn’t that we can’t spend a lot of time together and give of our hearts completely one to another, but that at the end of the day, we must realize that we are both human.

We both make mistakes.

We fall short.


As pillars holding up the short roof of the temple, we must remember that togetherness is at times apartness—for when one feels weak, the other can give more.


If our happiness is completely based on our significant other, then we’ll only be happy when we are feeling 100% and they are feeling 100%. Which happens far less behind closed doors than any are willing to admit.


Basically, we can’t rejoice in each other, but not rely on each other for joy.


Isn’t the scriptures even clear on this subject about not trusting in the arm of flesh?


If we first become content with ourselves and in our own individual happiness, then we can supplement that happiness with a companion and be more optimistic about life.


Because as with a mission so too with marriage—no matter how good life is, if the relationship is rough, everything is rough; and conversely, no matter how rough life is, if the relationship is good, everything is good (or at least we know it will be).


So as we stand in holy places under the temple marriage roof, truly, we must remember to stand together, but not too close.



Dating Never Works Zack Oates
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6 Reasons Marriage Will Never Make You Happy

marriage is hard


“Zack, you just can’t understand the happiness I feel—because you’re single.”


My friend had been married for almost a year and was telling me about the void he felt in his life before he was married. Marriage filled that void.


At the time, I was single and just couldn’t understand the ‘happiness that would forever evade me if I stayed in my pathetic lonesome state.’


He spoke as if happiness was this great ocean before me and I was stuck on dry ground.


It bothered me.


And it really bothered me that he was one of too many people who had told me the same exact thing: ‘Happiness is on the other side of singledom.’


I always knew that if I was doing the right thing, I would be happy; and in my opinion, trying to get married was the right thing regardless if I made it yet or not!


See, I really liked my single life.
I loved my friends, the dance parties, the trips, the hot tubing and meeting new people.
I felt close to God and genuinely happy.


I never understood what void I was missing.


Now that I’m married I can say I really like my married life.
I loved my friends, the dance parties, the trips, the hot tubing and meeting new people.
I feel close to God and genuinely happy.


Marriage doesn’t make you any happier than winning the lottery; you may have more money, but studies have shown that happiness is all relative.
Marriage doesn’t make you any happier than going to church; you can be in the building and walk out empty hearted.
Marriage doesn’t make you any happier than you already are.


Yes, indeed, it isn’t marriage that makes you happy—it is your choice to be happy regardless of circumstance.


Marriage doesn’t change you, but it reveals yourself to yourself…and scarily enough…to another.


And no, marriage isn’t the same as being single, but it is as great as your attitude will allow it to be.


Charles Swindoll (author educator and pastor) said, “Attitude, to me, is more important than … the past, … than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company, a church, a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day.” (Daniel H. Johnston, Lessons for Living (2001), 29.)


Sure you can’t swim on the sand, but you also can’t build sand castles in the water. Both are great, if your attitude looks for the greatness.


But too often, we only see the sands of time slipping away our best years single while waiting to be happy when we’re married.


But waiting to be happy is like waiting for Godot.
Waiting to be happy is like starving to death waiting for a food truck while sitting on a loaf of bread.
Waiting to be happy is like searching the world for acres of diamonds that are hidden beneath your own home (that link is worth the read).


happy woman in marriage

But it isn’t like these married people are all lying. They genuinely (and erroneously) think that it is marriage that makes them happy.


So what is it then that all these married people are really talking about? If not marriage, then why are they happier than when they are single? It’s because…


Marriage gives you more opportunities to do the things that make you happy.


Let’s go through these six examples:


1. Giving genuine service makes you happy.
If you are seeking to always make someone’s day better, then you will be happy. You can do that single, but marriage puts you in fairly close proximity to one person every day whom you can serve.


2. Being loved makes you happy.
Whether or not you are single, there are people who love you, but it can be hard to see sometimes. Being married allows you to look down at your left hand and see that someone said, ‘Even you, Zack, are worth being loved.’


3. Best friends make you happy.
This ties very closely to being loved, but it is amazing knowing that I have a best friend who has my back. Marriage isn’t the only way to get this, though.


4. Purpose makes you happy.
We can have purpose whether we are single or married. Some people need a spouse to give them that purpose; others can have a spouse add to their purpose.


5. Having kids makes you happy.
Now I don’t know anything about this and quite frankly have heard mixed reviews about kids…but what I have heard in the end is that it is a sacrifice and service that goes beyond what I can now understand. I look forward to it and know that now that I’m married I’m one step closer to it—but whether or not you’re married, simply preparing for this step brings happiness. For are we not all mothers/fathers?


6. Coming closer to God makes you happy.
Yes, making promises with God and my wife brings happiness, but married people don’t have a monopoly on God’s love. As Jeffrey R Holland said, “The gift of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and strength of heaven to help us, we can improve, and the great thing about the gospel is we get credit for trying, even if we don’t always succeed” (“Tomorrow the Lord Will Do Wonders among You,” General Conference April 2016, original emphasis). If you are honestly trying to get married, that is enough.


So, to my dear friend who said that I couldn’t understand happiness, I thought you were wrong on the shores of singledom, and I still think you’re wrong in the ocean of matrimony.


While marriage provides a wonderful venue to practice these 6 (and many more) activities that creates happiness in one’s life; it never will make anyone happy. (After all, have you ever heard of “unhappy marriages?” About half of my married friends certainly have.)


Now, when people ask me if I’m happier married than when I was single, I’d say yes—but not because of marriage. I’m happier now because I am able to do those things more frequently that bring me happiness.


Don’t look to marriage tomorrow for happiness.

Do the things that truly make you happy today.



Marriage Isn’t As Big a Deal As You May Think

help my marriage


It was late, and my wife and I were getting ready to go to sleep. I rolled over and looked at her.


“What?” she asked, smiling at me.


I asked her a simple question: “How do you know that I love you?”


Certainly, I thought, it is going to be the surprise cruise honeymoon that cost thousands. Or maybe the book of 100 reasons why I love her that took over 10 hours to make. Or maybe the rose petals I saved from our proposal and pressed for Valentine’s Day. Surely, one of those things is how she knows I love her.


Her response left me speechless.


“Because you brought me my water bottle.” I had completely forgotten that I had grabbed her water bottle on the way to bed and handed it to her. She usually keeps it on her nightstand, but it happened to be in the kitchen, so I just brought it in.


“And because you did the dishes.” But she had cooked . . . isn’t that normal if she cooks and I clean?


“And because you text me during work.” Doesn’t everyone?


“And because you give me kisses.” Isn’t that for me too?


To be honest, I was a little bugged at first. She had mentioned so many little things that I hadn’t even thought about that I felt like my grand gestures hadn’t been appreciated. But then I remembered something I had read when we were engaged: “Marriage isn’t any big thing, it’s a lot of little things. Acts of kindness every day create a happy marriage” (John Bytheway, What We Wish We’d Known When We Were Newlyweds).


It wasn’t until my wife answered her own simple question that the quote made sense. That’s when I stopped looking for one really big way to yell “I LOVE YOU!” and instead made a goal to find lots of little ways to say the same three words.


But this advice isn’t just about marriage—it’s about all relationships, even those in our business and personal lives. Studies have shown that…



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“How Did You Overcome Thoughts of Divorce?”

Mormon wedding


Whenever I have the chance and the situation is right, I’ll ask people who have been married a few years a question that is met first with surprise, then with confusion, then with deep contemplation and finally with wisdom.


The question is simple–but oh, so complex.


“How did you overcome thoughts of divorce?”


I’ve asked this question over a hundred times, and while it seems really probing, it is surprising how much people will tell you if you just ask. 


There are three categories of responses:


1) A handful said, ‘It honestly never crossed my mind.’

2) A few said, ‘I divorced them the first time, but as for this marriage…’

3) But most just say, ‘Phew–tough question…’


In the end though, they all tell me that marriage is “hard.”


Five months into marriage, I can say that the only hard thing is staying humble as I beat my wife in Rummikub over and over and over or making sure I don’t overcook the burgers on our Saturday bbq’s or finding a baby to hold during church.


Now I know that most of you married folks are thinking, ‘Ha…just wait.


And I know that things will get hard, but for now we are just enjoying our single married life (all the benefits of being single AND married).


But I know that there will come moments when playing games will seem like a distant memory, bbq’s will be a great time for me to get out of the house and we are going to be looking for some young naive couple to hold our kids during church.


And it is those hard times that yield solid that hopefully, when they come, we are not surprised, but we are ready.


So down to it–the advice.


The advice that I’ve been given most of the time as a result of this question is just as simple yet just as complex:


Just keep going.


Lift your head up from the thorns and see the beauty that is the garden.  


Yes there are hard times, but if you keep perspective that everything will work out, it does.


Now I’ve met a lot of people where ‘working out’ means divorce and I’ve seem many situations that require divorce. Those are not the situations that people are talking about. Nor are they the situations that Dr. Alan J Hawkins, a man who has devoted his life to studying marriages was talking about when he said, “a large majority of individuals in unhappy marriages who hang in there and avoid divorce end up reporting their marriages are very happy a few years later.” (“Should I keep Trying to Work it Out”)


Or, in the words of Jeffrey R Holland, “Don’t give up…Don’t you quit….You keep trying. There is help and happiness ahead–a lot of it…You keep your chin up. It will be all right in the end. Trust God and believe in good things to come” (“An High Priest of Good things to Come,” Oct 1999 General conference) 
I’m grateful for the wisdom of religious leaders, social scientists and the 100+ people who have helped me to see that building up enough momentum during the fun downhill parts of marriage will give you enough inertia and desire to get you through the hard uphill parts as well.



Counsel that Helped me Get Married: “Date Less”


Hot Pop Tart

“How’d your meeting go?” my roommate asked.

“Well…he gave me the oddest dating advice I’ve ever heard.”


It was a few years ago and I had just met with a respected PhD in behavioral science to get his advice about life and the topic of dating came up. I told him that I was dating and felt that I was really on the path to marriage.


As he asked about the name of the girl I was interested in.

A chuckle escaped my smirk.

“THE girl?!” I responded.

He smiled in slight confusion.

I pulled out my phone with the list of 7 girls I was perusing.

His smile quickly faded.

Mine swiftly followed as I realized how stupid I looked.


I felt like a dog showing off an album of chased car bumpers or an old man displaying a list of kids he had shaken his fist at from the front porch. Not only did I not catch any of them, but had I—I don’t think I would have known what to do.


He rubbed the bridge of his eyes, trying to wipe away the disbelief of my naivety. “There’s an old proverb, ‘chase two rabbits, both escape.’ Think about that.”

“All I’m trying to do is get married. I mean, shouldn’t I hedge my bets?”

“No, Zack, you are being selfish. What you need to do it date less.”


His words stuck to me and burned like piping hot toaster-fresh Pop Tart filling.


I soon realized that I didn’t date a lot of girls at once to hedge my bets, but to make sure that I wasn’t left alone and feeling hurt. I had gone after too many girls who didn’t feel the same way and I didn’t want to have my heart broken, so I distributed it among enough supports, that I never had to feel the pain of falling…falling in love alone, or out of love together.


Yes, my heart was in the right place, but my mind wasn’t. I truly was thinking about myself. I gave no thought for how the girls I was dating would feel if they knew they were on a list I arrogantly showed off.


I used to judge those who never dated and assumed they were just too afraid of getting hurt and just needed more courage.

I realized then, that I was no different for dating too much.


Now I’m not saying that when we are looking for a spouse we should only ever go out with one guy or gal at a time, but I am saying that you should be honest and be careful.


Be honest with yourself to really take a good look at why you date the way you do.

Be careful with others, realizing that true love is only found in one.





My 20 Blanking Minute Relationship (Parental Supervision Recommended)

pg 13 rating

(I’m not sure who would read this who needs parental supervision…but I’m going to talk about [blank], so consider yourself warned.)

Waiting for Sex

I was a senior in high school taking an acting class with one of my crushes.

She was smart funny and turns out, had a crush on me as well.


So after hanging out with her at a couple of parties, I did what any suave confident 17-year old king of the school would do in 2003…I chickened out in asking for her number, looked her up in the paper directory, waited until my evening minutes kicked in on my brand new flip phone, called, hung up when she answered and then called right back blaming her for hanging up.




After a few minutes, I confessed my like for her and told her that I thought we should start to date…like officially.


…she agreed!


I had a girlfriend.


Life was complete.


20 minutes later…I was single again.


Here’s how it went down:


Her: So now that we’re boyfriend/girlfriend…like, what are we allowed to do? You know, since you’re Mormon and all?

[Side note: I was the only Mormon in my school…ever. I also was the only Mormon that most of my friends had ever even heard of.]


Me: What do you mean?

Her: Like, you can kiss and stuff right?

Me: Yeah [giggle—cough—manly laugh] of course!

Her: What else can you do?

Me: Else?

Her: Yeah, like can you [blank]?

Me: Uh….no.

Her: Can you [blank]?

Me: I don’t think so. [I wasn’t really sure what that second “blank” was, but assumed it was similar enough to the first to get the gist.]

Her: I mean you can at least [blank]…right?

Me: That is a definite no.

Her: [sigh of frustration] Well look Zack…this just isn’t going to work.

Me: Wait…seriously? Why?

Her: I just will never know that you truly love me. It’s too old fashioned.


And just like that, my 20-minute relationship was over.


It is a “relationship” that I have thought about over and over again. Her last words have been etched into my mind as a view of physicality the world holds to be sadly self-evident.


While I wasn’t sure what love was, exactly, and I’m just barely starting to learn what it is now… I am pretty sure what it is not.


And it is not blanking, blanking and certainly not blanking.


Love, indeed, is when you are willing to wait until you can have that blank space in your heart filled forever—not with the dissolvable glue of selfish satisfaction, but the cement of celestial charity.


Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you can be fulfilled with anything other than true love. Everything else will leave you feeling…blank.


And know that there are those reading who might have had things happen in their past from their own or another’s agency that might make them feel uncomfortable reading this—to you I say: the Atonement leaves no trace.




But I’m so grateful for the shortest and most frivolous relationship ever, which has helped me better prepare for my marriage—the longest and most meaningful relationship ever.

Fear Not; Great Things Await You

keep holding on

It was 2008 and I was really like this girl.


It was our third date and I thought it went well…so I decided to ask her out for another.


She turned to me, looked away and then down at her feet.


I assumed she was racking her mind as to how to cancel her other dates so she could spend more time with me.


I assumed wrong.


“Zack…” she started with a slight stutter, “you’re like a wet keg of gunpowder. Everything is there, but there is just no spark.”


I can’t say that I was devastated, but certainly discouraged. I mean, I only found a girl I even liked once or twice a year–and this was one of them.


After an awkward last doorstep scene, I got into my car and started to pray.


I prayed to find out why I was still single, how much longer I would be single, why dating was so hard and why things just never seemed to work out for me.


In that moment I felt a prompting that was so strong, it was almost like a voice. “Zack, it will all work out. Don’t worry. Your wife will be worth it.”


I knew my patriarchal blessing told me I’d get married, I knew people always said I would get married, I knew that God wanted me to get married…but in that moment in that car, by myself—it was just me and God. That prayer filled me with a peace that kept me going…for another 8 years.


Now don’t feel too bad for me. Dating wasn’t painful.


Oh sure, dating was fun. But make no mistake about it—fun and loneliness are no strangers to each other.


At times the thin threads of loneliness are so delicately interwoven with the fabric of fun that they are almost an indistinguishable veil separating reality from our emotions.


But keeping that perspective that “the eternal purposes of the Lord shall roll on, until all his promises shall be fulfilled (Mormon 8:22) and that “great things await you” (Doc&Cov 45:62) helped keep me going.


And when things got hard and loneliness started to take the center stage of my mind, I remembered the words of God, “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee” (Isaiah 41:10).


And so to you, if you are wondering what your future holds, just hold on. It will all work out. Don’t worry. Your life will be worth it.



The REAL Reason You Fear Commitment

vain woman

I’ve heard many reasons of why people are afraid of commitment and, to be honest, I’ve given even more.


But a commitment-phobia isn’t just founded on the fear of being hurt by someone or even the fear of hurting someone–it is founded on the fear of self reflection.


You see, the more you commit to someone, the more you open up to them, the less your walls are put up, and hence, the more “you” you become around them.  


And all this amount to one scary fact: This means coming face to face with the person you’ve been trying to avoid.


The person who, when you saw them strutting over during an argument, you leave.

The person who, when you saw them steaming onto the court during basketball, you take a water break.

The person who, when you saw them gossiping about a friend during a text conversation, you put down your phone.


That person is the real, honest, genuine you.


Not the “you” you wish you were or think you can become or hope others perceive you as…but you just as you are.


Not that you aren’t great, but there are part of us we all want to…hide. The selfishness, the anger, the pride–the natural man.


But in a marriage there is nowhere to leave, take a break or put things down.


In our proverbial house of “self,” there is an orderly and tidy living room, a robust and glitzy entertainment room and (for me) a decedent and plethoric dining room (I like to imagine it being a Golden Corral on Friday night–seafood night (and yes, I DID google “plethora adjective” just fyi)). But with butterflying from person to person to never get too close, only happy posts on social media to never get too deep and mumbled whispers of anger to never seem too honest–it can be pretty easy to avoid the biggest room in our house: the room for improvement.


But not in marriage.


It has been said that marriage is the great magnifier.


There are no locked bedroom doors, no high junk drawers, and no selective household tours.


There is no vain mirror to cry fables of you being the fairest, for when you enter true commitment, you become introduced to the raw you, completely naked in honesty.


But it’s supposed to be this way.


“If men come unto me, I will show unto them their weakness” (Ether 12:27).


You cannot go back to God unless you are totally clean. Not mostly, or just about, or all the way except for that one thing that you don’t even admit to yourself–totally clean.


The only way you can get clean is to see what is dirty.


As you make the commitments to bring yourself close to God, you come closer to the Light of Christ which will illuminate every crevasse of your soul to enable you to see what it is that needs to be cleaned.


So fear not your greatest fear–for if you keep moving forward, keep cleaning and keep growing into commitment (to your friends, your family and your God), you eventually will have the light of Christ shine in your countenance and you will see Him as He is, for you will be like him (Moroni 7:48).