4 Steps to Making a “List” of Your Future Spouse and How We Always Do It Wrong

swan dating ducks
With a spouse, I don’t want someone to be the wind beneath my wings (nor vice versa), but rather, I want someone to fly with me. That sounds nice, but what does that actually mean, on a human day-to-day level?


To help me answer that, I came up with 4 steps to make a list of what attributes I want in my future spouse.


BUT before we get into making a list, there are two stories that are absolutely critical to read.




I have a friend who was dating this guy.


She really liked him, but couldn’t quite figure out if it was worth going to the next level, so she wrote out a list of pro’s and con’s. There were some really good things about him, but just some stuff that bugged her too.


If only he could change these things,’ she thought.


Then, she took the list to the Lord in prayer to find out what else she might be missing. She felt prompted to open up her scriptures to a random verse and what she read hit her right between the eyes.


“Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?…Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye” (Matthew 7:3-5).


Bam. #GodSlap




I recently had my buddy write out all of the things he wanted in a wife. After reciting a long list, I read it back to him and he nodded in agreement.


Then I asked him if that list described him.


He didn’t even need to think about it.


The answer was no.


The 4 Steps:


You might be like me, when, after reading these stories, could give a tisk*tisk finger wag and think of a few friends who should read this post.


But I would encourage you to fight against the urge of thinking of others and take a fresh batch of humble pie to realize that so often in life, we underestimate others while overestimating ourselves. We find the fallible in others and excuse the errors in ourselves by feigning good intentions without giving the benefit of the doubt to others.


Is it wrong to make a list? NO!


But make sure you include all these steps:


  1. Think of the people you wish you could have married/dated and think about what you respected most about them. Write it down.
  2. Think of your ex’s and why you broke up. Write down the opposite.
  3. Choose ONLY 5 must-have’s and 5 nice-to-have’s. Put the others aside for review later.
  4. Make those attributes your personal goals.


So today, make a list and check it twice…but make sure the second time is for yourself.


For remember, you don’t attract a swan by looking like a duck.




3-Word Formula to Choose Your Love

Young couple holding hands

“Choose your love and love your choice.” When Thomas S. Monson made that statement, I thought I understood what he was saying.


I still think that I get the second part—love your choice. To me, that means being committed.


But what does that first part mean? How do we choose our love?


We often get so lost in trying to understand what it means to choose our love, that we never gain what we want (or at least want to want): marriage. Or better-put, a great marriage.


For years I was convinced that I was doing my part to get married, until I realized recently that there was a three-word formula. It is a formula for helping us all to choose our  love—not just waiting around for him or her to appear.


  1. Open.
  2. Service.
  3. Time.


See, not long ago, I met this girl. She was pretty, smart, and motivated, but we weren’t really one another’s type. I thought she was a little too high-strung, and I could tell she thought I was immature (turns out one of us was right–her). I never asked her out, but we became good friends. Then one day, I thought to put the “choose your love” counsel from President Monson to the test and see if I could really like her. So I decided I would make myself vulnerable and not even care if she didn’t like me back. Every time I saw her, I would give her a compliment, try to make her day a little better, and be more eager to help her out. Basically, I served her. Not in a creepy way, but in a way to help her day be a little bit better.

Over time, something happened.


Week 1: I did not feel much of a change.

Week 2: I started to notice myself glancing at her more often.

Week 3: I caught myself thinking about her randomly.

Week 4: I noticed butterflies.

Week 6: I was looking forward to seeing her.

Week 7: I really liked her . . . a lot.


I realized this was the same lesson I learned on my mission with difficult companionships, but I didn’t think it would translate into romantic relationships as well. But why shouldn’t it?


Gordon B. Hinckley said, “If every husband and every wife,” (and I don’t think he is excluding singles,) “would constantly do whatever might be possible to ensure the comfort and happiness of his or her companion, there would be very little, if any, divorce” (“The Women in Our Lives,” General Conference, Oct. 2004).


To read the conclusion of this post and my epiphany on how this relates to the Atonement, continue reading at LDSLIVING.com <–click that!

Who Has It Harder in Dating: Guys or Girls? 4 Arguments and Remedies

dating matches


I was talking to a few of my friends on the way to Japan from Beijing (had some down time en route…like a lot) about whether dating is harder for guys or girls.


Who gets the short stick in this game of sparks we call dating?

4 Reasons it is Harder for Guys and what Girls Should do to Help:

  1. Guys have to make the first move and put themselves out there emotionally without any agreement of reciprocity.
    • So girls, make yourself a little more available if you’re intersted.
  2. Guys have to pay for dates. While girls get free dinner, guys get to use a few hours of their pay to fund it. I’ve calculated my total dating expenses once…and never have again.
    • So girls, express gratitude.
  3. Guys have to plan dates that are fun, but not too fun so that they fall in love with the date and not them.
    • So girls, if there is something you’d really like to do, throw out a few suggestions in the planning or pre-planning phase.
  4. Guys have to follow up and guess if the girl likes him with being confident, but not too pushy. Tough balance.
    • So girls, send a post date text and tell them that you’d love to see them again.


4 Reasons it is Harder for Girls and what Guys Should do to Help:

  1. Girls have to wait for a guy to ask them out (granted, they CAN do the right things to get asked out…but no one seems to take that advice.)
    • So guys, stop being obtuse. Take the plunge if you think you’re getting the signs.
  2. Girls have to suffer through dates they don’t want to be on. Can you imagine spending your time with someone who is painfully dull? (granted, some people call that alone time…)
    • So guys, have questions that will help you get to know them and stop talking about yourself. Read how to Win Friends and Influence People more and your last year’s birthday comments less.
  3. Girls have to have a date paid for by a guy they will never want to see again.
    • So guys, don’t take first dates to elaborate and expensive activities. It is awkward.
  4. Girls have to reject guys.
    • So guys, don’t take it personally. Know that it is okay when you are rejected. It doesn’t mean that you are terrible, but that it just isn’t going to work out. Be cool about it and maybe her mind will eventually change…but don’t count on it.


So in the end, I don’t really think it matters who it is harder for. (Why yes, that is a dangling preposition, thanks for noticing)


Each gender plays their own role in creating this very difficult thing we call dating. What that means is that we should all seek to be a little kinder and a touchmore understanding. We’re all in this dating boat together, so date selflessly.


Ask yourself if what you are doing is making dating harder for the other person and let’s stop worrying so much about ourselves. It is good to practice this selfless thing now anyway, for I have, on really good authority mind you, that this perspective of charity will make for a great marriage (Gordon B Hinckley, “The Women in Our Lives,” Oct General Conference 2004).


5 Ways to Combat One of the Biggest Reason for Singleness and Divorce: Confirmation Bias

dating sparks


One of many many many many (and some may want to add one last “many”) many reasons why I am single is the social and behavioral psychology philosophy called confirmation bias.


Confirmation bias is when an individual will skew or interpret observed data to substantiate a preconceived notion. Thus, the data that is agreeance with the belief is exacerbated, embellished or just plain fabricated while that which is contrary is deemed erroneous, irrelevant or inaccurately identified.


And that, my dear children who haven’t been born, is why your mother and I aren’t married yet.


I can think of girls I’ve dated where it seemed everything was wrong–but I was smitten! It was almost as if she was TRYING to give me signs that we weren’t going to work out, but I couldn’t see them.


I was blind to signs. For example:
When she was unkind, I blamed it on a hard day.
When she was emotionally aloof, I knew it was just because of family issues.
When she was lying, I figured it was my fault for not being open enough.


And I gave her WAY too much credit. For example:
When she smiled, I took it as a sign that she was the happiest person (never mind the extreme mood swings).
When she texted, I felt her love bleeding through those emoji’s (never mind that she only texted back ½ the time).
When she answered her phone, I confirmed her ability to drop everything for me (never mind she was unemployed and only answered one in three times I called).


And yet I’ll drop girls where there isn’t that initial spark for the stupidest reasons!
I look at a girl who has her whole life together, but likes pictures straightened or over corrects an group project and assume that she is a crazy girl and super anal retentive and if I ever mess something up in the house when we are married she will flip a lid.


I look at a girl who is an observer and not a performer and assume that she is boring, reserved, a recluse and at our 50th anniversary, she will want to watch some movie on oculus rift and not talk with people and she’ll make me a hermit.


I look at a girl who is a friend and assume that it would be so weird to be anything but friends and I could never make a friend more than a friend.


You get where I’m coming from?


Well, let me tell you where I’m going with this.


Yeah, let’s all just stop. Can we, please?


So many divorces and so many people remain single their entire lives because they look for the smallest insignificant reasons to confirm and ignore the biggest most important reasons to deny their own bias! (guilty)


Let’s take a step back and take an objective look at who we are and what we want/need. Let’s not cloud our judgement with “sparks”…because those embers will die as soon as the first rains of adversity come in that mirage of a marriage.


So what are you to do?
1. Take an inventory of your past relationships to see if you are guilty (oh, by the way, if you are single you are guilty).
2. Ask your best best best friend for advice as an objective third party to see if your heart is way too far ahead of your brain.
3. Reevaluate reasons you stopped dating people.
4. Reconsider reasons you never dated people.
5. Move forward with self-honesty and take notice of your confirmation bias.


As we do this, I’m confident that our dating lives and marriages will be more fun, less analytical and we can give people the benefit of the doubt–until they give reason enough to doubt the benefit.



4 Steps to UN-Friend-Zone Someone


friend zone people


Maybe they’re out of your league.

Maybe you are scared of rejection.

…or maybe everyone just assumes you’re gay.


Whatever the reason, you’ve taken a perfectly good dating prospect and friend-zoned them. You put the quarantine signs of “Radioactively Unavailable” in your yard and no amount of milk shake is going to bring the boys (or girls) back.


I recently received an email from a young lady who has spent so long friend-zoning every eligible male around her that she cannot help but come to the realization that yes, indeed, the cats of singlehood are scraping at her door.


She, thinking that me having a blog on dating means I know anything about dating, asked me what she should do.


So I looked at the times in my life and my close friends’ lives when they have been able to get out of the friend zone and put together 4 steps to un-friend-zone someone. There are 2 STOP’s and 2 START’s.


  1. STOP talking about other relationships. I had a dear friend who was one of the most internally and externally attractive people on the face of this earth. We would always talk about each other’s interests until one day I told her that I was done talking about other relationships and thought that we should just have one ourselves. While it didn’t go over that well…at least I wasn’t wasting either of our times. Which brings me to my next point…
  2. STOP pretending you will stay friends. Look, in 5 years you and that (un)special someone will either be married or not talking. It is possible on rare occasions to have friends after marriage of former interests because there is always an exception, I can safely say—you’re not it.
  3. START believing you deserve more. You have to first believe that you CAN get them and deserve it. None of this self-pity. You deserve to be treated well and feel lucky.
  4. START showing interest. Flirt, get them to ask you out (girls) or ask them out (boys), put in a movie and cuddle…or just, ya know…kiss them. Seriously. It works super well (sometimes for some people).


Now if they still don’t respond, remember the golden rule, either they aren’t interested or they are too dumb for you to have kids with…and nobody needs that.


So this is your friendly reminder to start and stop putting down the walls and let them in…milk shakes optional.





3 Things to Do When Your Interest Isn’t Interested in You

if they aren't interested


A dear friend of mine, let’s call her, Lilac, was interested in this boy. After a few dates, she realized that she wasn’t interested and sent him a text letting him know. Not only was he incredibly rude, but bitter and childish, informing her that he was about as good as she could get and that she was a [insert non-BowlofOates-appropriate-word-here] for leading him on.


This kid is a real class act.


She texted me their conversation and suggested a post about it. I couldn’t agree more.


But estrogen-infused reader beware: THIS ADVICE IS FOR BOTH MEN AND WOMEN! I don’t want any women sitting back being like, ‘Yeah, ew. Why don’t boys do this?!’ Women need to put forth a little effort as well in letting the guy know they are interested.


So what do you do if they aren’t interested and you are?


  1. Go for it. Yeah, you heard me. Win them over. Charm them with your personality. Dazzle them with your humour. Intrigue them with your mystery. (Just buying them something nice can work too)
  2. Go with it. You put forth effort, now see how they respond. (If I hear of one more person NOT adhering to the three point rule, I think I’m going to scream.)
  3. Go from it. Go from it a better person…REGARDLESS if they reciprocate or not.


Go from it with gratitude if they become interested.


Go from it with no malice if they stay uninterested. That doesn’t mean that you can’t be friends, but ONLY if you can handle it. Realize that just because they don’t like you doesn’t make them a bad person and it certainly doesn’t say ANYthing of your worth.


We’ve all had that one time that someone liked us and they were great and nice and fun…but we just weren’t into them?


Did that make them a bad person?

Did that make us satan’s spawn?


No! (not necessarily)


It is just part of dating.


And while it is a tough pill to swallow, it is true: dating NEVER works……….until it does.

So remember to give it a shot then be happy with the miss or the hit. Go for it, go with it then from from it…and I’m sure you’ll go far.

You Suck at Dating–And That’s Awesome

i suck neon dating

I was talking to one of my friends recently about her dating life.


She has been having a hard time.


And granted, she probably should.


After all, she is a pretty bad dater.


“Zack, I feel like there is a big neon sign saying ‘I Suck.’” she said, almost in tears, “I don’t know how to play the dating game. Can you teach me?”


As I was contemplating what I could say to her to impart, if but a parcel, of my bounteous wisdom [insert ‘gafaugh’ in an nasally pretentiously obnoxious laugh] in dating…I had a realization that stung me to the core with honest introspection.


All of the things that make her really bad at dating…make for a really good spouse and parent.

She is genuine.

She puts time into things.

She throws her whole heart into any relationship.

She is committed.

She is generous.

She is kind.


All of the things that someone may do to be “good” at dating…make for really crappy spouse and parent.

They use manipulation.

They pretend to be too busy.

They hold back their emotions.

They keep options open.

They get physical.

They don’t care.


One must ask, “What is the POINT of dating?”


Now there are the things that people do along the way, but the end game, the honeypot of dating…really, what is the point of dating?




And a good one, at that.


Let’s stop playing the dating game. Let’s start playing for keeps. Let’s unlearn the dating game.


So what was my advice to her?


While she may not go on as many dates, may not be as good of a flirt and might not appear to be as self confident as others who are ‘professionals’ at the dating game…she is much closer to marriage than any of them.


No, that sign certainly isn’t for her.


So if you are a good person, don’t worry about being a bad dater.


Daters gunna date (date date date date so shake it off).


The rest…well, I’m pretty sure that is what marriage is for.



Part 2 of Diminishing Deal Breakers: The Doubt of the Benefit

deal breakers dating


As you may recall, this chart depicts how you should act when dating: keep things below the line and don’t be yourself too quickly—that is, if you are kinda…”unique.”


BUT, this chart isn’t just about you giving a slow reveal of your oddness, it also can help you in understanding your feelings for someone you are dating.


See a few years ago, before I understood this chart, I asked this girl out. She was beautiful, fun and seemed to be pretty cool.


Then she revealed that she hates hot tubs.


…on a first date.




I told her, “It goes 1.Religion, 2.Families 3.Hot tubs.” She disagreed.


I never asked her out again.


To me, that fell above the line and entered the “Drop Zone” during “Stage 1-Feeling it Out.”


But in retrospect, I was ridiculous! To stop going out someone because they hate hot tubs? #facepalm

give the benefit of the doubt

It is one thing to dislike something that I like, but the big question is WHY! See, not liking hot tubs falls into the “Seriously?!” category (for me) which, if I would have invested a little more time or discovered a little more emotional connection, would not have been a deal breaker at all, for I would have progressed to “Stage 2-Feeling Good” and it would then be below the deal breaker line.


The process of falling in love with someone is simply understanding them.


That understanding doesn’t come though knowing WHAT they do/don’t do or like/don’t like, but though a deeper appreciation of WHY they do/don’t do or like/don’t like.


Take the hot tub hater, for example. People understand and love her deeply. She has best friends, siblings, parents, (now her husband who is “Stage 3-Feeling Sure”) and yeah, especially God, who thinks that she is the best most incredible person. And I didn’t get a chance to see why they think that because of a ‘heated’ debate. I was too immature to look beyond the curve into “Stage 2” where I could have seen her for the amazing person she is.


Shame on me!


We often get so caught up in the deal breakers that we forget one important fact: once the relationship strength increases, our concern often won’t even be a deal breaker—hence, the Law of DIMINISHING Deal Breakers. The further you progress, the less things will throw you off.


Have a few nonnegotiables, and then it all comes down to this: give a person the benefit of the doubt—until they give you reason enough to doubt the benefit.


And this goes well beyond dating, keep in mind. This is about humanity.


Next time you look at an old person, realize that one time they were held as a baby.

When you see the quiet person, remember that they have made people laugh until they cried.

As you meet everyone, assume they are trying to be good.


For in the end…don’t we hope that they can look at us the same?

The Law of Diminishing Deal Breakers (Part 1)

Last week we talked about how it is important to be ourselves in dating and not trick people into falling for us.


The chart below is explains why we have a hard time being ourselves—because we aren’t supposed to!


It is called The Law of Diminishing Deal Breakers.


The law states that the correlation between the relationship strength and the severity of the deal breaker is a Gompertz function (“S-curve” (thanks Google)) where the further you progress in the relationship, the greater the concern must be in order to become a legitimate “deal breaker”.


“Relationship strength” is defined by the time invested multiplied by the emotional connection. It isn’t just about connection or time, but both!


Anything that falls into the “Drop Zone” is out like a fat kid in dodge ball.

Everything in the “Go Zone” is on like Donkey Kong.



The severity of the deal breaker is a subjective parameter by the evaluating party.


Let’s understand this from the perspective of being observed.

deal breakers dating

STAGE 1: Feeling it Out

On a first date I don’t mention the fact that I have leopard sheets, hot tamale PJ’s, bear claw slippers and a little mermaid pillow case…that’s a little too much into the “Seriously?!” boundary.


So keep it normal at the start—even (especially) if you aren’t.


Now this does not mean to lie. If you don’t like parties, you don’t have to say, ‘I hate parties and everyone that goes to them because they are stupid!’ You can say, ‘I would rather do something else next time if that is okay.’


Stage 2: Feeling Good

It is at this stage that you can begin to explore a little bit of letting them get to know your quirks. Your weird ‘alone in the car’ habits may be a little too soon here, but start to test the waters with the number of shoes you have, your disdain for open cupboards and your fetish with pulling out nose hairs.


Stage 3: Feeling Sure

This can be called in the bag—brown paper bag, that is. Regardless of how strong your relationship is, everyone has a limit of what they are willing to handle. Remember that last time you got paper bags with three jugs of milk in it? Yup. Hard pass. Things like killing people, SUPER [censored] internet habits or sneezing into you hand instead of your elbow would fall into this category.


Moral of the story:

As my mother always tells me, “Zack, don’t not be you…just…be—less of you.”


Share and stay up to date on the upcoming book!


Stop Lying in Dating…yeah YOU.


lying in datingI had been going out with this girl for a few weeks and we were starting to get a little more serious—becoming more comfortable with each other. One Saturday we went on a pretty casual date to play sports, hit up the hot tub and then off to grab a bite.


By eating time, it was late. We were both tired and hungry.


About 15 min into the dinner I had a sudden rush of fear.


‘Oh no! She hasn’t laughed the entire time I’ve been sitting here! I’m a terrible date!’


And that is when it hit me.


‘No…’ I though, ‘I’m just comfortable.‘


See, I’ve realized recently that on so many of my dates, I’ve been lying.


And so have you.


We lie when we are going out to a dance party and having a blast when we really want to be home watching Netflix.

We lie when we open doors for women only for the first few dates.

We lie when we say that we aren’t picky about restaurants and then end up only liking one place.

We lie when we read intellectually stimulating books just to say that we did.


So let’s all just stop.


Stop pretending.


Too many guys have married a chill girl only to find out she was bat-tart crazy.

Too many girls have married a perfect guy only to discover he is a total creeper and abusive.


On the not so sever side, too many have dated a really fun person to find out they are super lame—a movie goer who hates movies—a partier who hates parties—a person who is only being what they think the other person wants.


Just be you.


Don’t stop trying…but be honest.


Because I promise, you are worth being loved and will be loved; but the problem is when people fall in love with what you want them to think you are.


You are worth it…all by yourself.


Yes, it’s okay to be tired and hungry and NOT funny.

It’s okay to have a bad day.

It’s okay to even be a little vulnerable.


You aren’t on some stage trying to entertain your date with a character portrayal of everything they wantyou are sitting at dinner with someone who just wants to be with you.  


So let’s try to improve ourselves, but be honest with who we are because there is no role in the act of love for liars.



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