7 keys to successful dating for young single adults

A multi-day course at BYU Education Week covered “YSA Survival 101: Navigating the Dating World”

PROVO, Utah — Using experiences, studies, quotes and humor, Stephen K. Hunsaker spent two days teaching young single adults — and some parents — his seven keys to successful dating. 

Hunsaker, who has a master’s degree in family and human development and currently teaches institute classes at Utah State University, drew upon principles from his 22 years of teaching experience.

To begin, he quoted Sister Wendy W. Nelson’s remarks from the May 2022 worldwide devotional where she advised young adults to ask themselves every day, “What would a holy young adult do?”

Said Hunsaker, “If the only thing you learn in this class is to date like a holy young adult would date, you will find great joy in this journey.”

Reminding the class of President Russell M. Nelson’s remarks from that same devotional — that they are each a child of God, a child of the covenant and a disciple of Jesus Christ — Hunsaker told the class members to always date with covenants in mind, keeping their eyes on the next covenant they want to make of eternal marriage in the temple. 

His seven keys to successful dating are:

  1. Learn to be happy single
  2. Date unselfishly
  3. Face your false beliefs
  4. Commitment precedes revelation
  5. Stay in the present
  6. Trust is greater than love
  7. Recognize flags in dating
Stephen K. Hunsaker teaches the first day of a multi-day class called “YSA Survival 101: Navigating the Dating World” at BYU Education Week in Provo, Utah, on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022. | Mary Richards, Church News

Learn to be happy single

“I hear, ‘once I’m married, I’ll be happy,’” Hunsaker said. “Brothers and sisters, if a circumstance is required to make you happy, you will be miserable for the rest of your life.” 

Always trying to live in the future or regretting the past only leads to anxiety. Make the most of right now, while hoping and seeking for the next covenant. And seek first to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.

“Single life does not equal death,” said Hunsaker. “Are you sure?” yelled someone from the crowd to laughter. “Yes,” responded Hunsaker. “There is so much you can do in the Church.”

“Single life does not equal death,” he continued. “It equals a grand way to serve in the kingdom in ways that you could not otherwise.” 

Date unselfishly

Hunsaker showed a video about two seas, the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. The former is teeming with life, the latter is filled with salt, although they are both fed by the Jordan River. The difference is the Sea of Galilee has an outlet, while the Dead Sea does not.

“When life just becomes about us, it becomes toxic — because there’s no outlet to clean the garbage. Unselfishness allows the Spirit to come in and create something beautiful,” said Hunsaker.

“When life is about you, you just stress and worry a lot about you. When you get outside your own head and start to think about others, God now has space to teach you what is true and what is right.”

He said he advises people in his classes to go on dates thinking of how to serve the other person. They report back to him that when they thought of the other person, they came home much happier. 

Facing your false beliefs

Hunsaker explained that life experiences and environment influence one’s beliefs, definitions and expectations. This influences one’s attitude or emotion about someone or something, which then affects behavior. 

For example, having a bad dating experience in the past can affect the way someone thinks about the whole thing.

“When you change your belief, the emotion and behavior will flow automatically from a place of truth,” Hunsaker said.

Keeping a belief doctrinally correct — being single does not define one’s worth or identity — can help individuals see that a lack of dating or a breakup doesn’t mean something is wrong with them. They know the Lord will help them, and they feel peace, calm and reassurance. They then continue to date and improve. 

“You can be happy right where you are at,” Hunsaker said. “Unselfishness, no matter what state we are in, works. And truly if you see what you really believe, you’ll start to understand what you feel and why you do what you do.”

Education Week attendees descend the stairs to the lower floor of the Joseph F. Smith Building on BYU campus in Provo, Utah, on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022. Stephen K. Hunsaker’s class on successful dating was held in this building. | Matthew Norton/BYU

Commitment precedes revelation

Hunsaker explained to listeners that they must commit to dating and being present in the moment with the other person. That way they can learn more about each other and themselves.

“If you are not committed, God can’t tell you anything. Until you commit, He can’t reveal,” Hunsaker said.

When he hears from young single adults demonstrating FOMO — “Fear Of Missing Out” on someone better, or missing travel or career opportunities or freedom, etc — he said he reminds them that fear does not come from God, but rather from the adversary. 

Sometimes people bring up the idea that they want to keep waiting for someone more attractive. To that he said, “The world has overemphasized beauty so badly, we can’t see it any more. And we base it on judgements on what the world has taught that it is. And that’s sad.”

Stay in the present

Hunsaker asked class members to consider what they stress about before, during and after a date. Answers they gave included worrying about what to talk about, whether it was going to work, will everyone have fun, and will there be a second date.

But he said often, people are worried about things that are out of their control.

“We can live in the past, in the present, or in the future. Those are the three choices we have,” said Hunsaker. “If you choose to live in the past, you will live a depressed life. If you choose to live in the future, you will be anxious all the time. If you live in the present, you will have peace.”

Learn from the past, prepare for the future, but do it within the present. “Enjoy the date you are on,” he said.

Trust is greater than love

Trust comes from experience and choices, Hunsaker said. “You are looking for a spouse you can trust, but are you, yourself, trustworthy?” 

Even the little things that people do for each other will make the difference in building trust or distrust. He emphasized boundaries, reliability, accountability, integrity, generosity and other elements that build trust. 

These are elements to look for in a partner and to grow in oneself.

Participantes se preparam para o segundo dia da aula “Curso de Sobrevivência do JAS: Navegando pelo mundo do namoro”, na Semana da Educação da BYU em Provo, Utah, em 17 de agosto de 2022.
Attendees settle into their seats on the second day of a multi-day class called, “YSA Survival 101: Navigating the Dating World,” at BYU Education Week in Provo, Utah, on Aug. 17, 2022. | Mary Richards, Church News

Recognize flags in dating

Hunsaker said the most common question he is asked is, “How do you know they are the right person?” 

He said he broke up with his future wife three times while they were dating, because he thought he needed a clear, loud answer. But God was talking to him the whole time, by teaching him in continuing revelation.

With that in mind, Hunsaker told the young single adults to watch for patterns or a consistent and recurring characteristic, which can serve as an indicator for predicting future behavior. 

His examples were green, yellow, orange and red flags. Green flags mean go forward, and include things like, he or she loves the temple, keeps covenants, loves the doctrine of the family, is morally clean and modest, follows the brethren, is meek, serves others, etc.

“These things you should first be developing in yourself, and then looking for in someone else,”

Hunsaker said, “If you are developing them first, it will be much more natural for you to notice them in someone else.”

Yellow flags can include personality differences, physical attraction, interests that are very different, some communication struggles, having to live near family, and not progressing in their understanding of the gospel.

With these, people would have to make a choice if they are not on the same page, and decide whether they could live with the difference or whether it’s a deal-breaker. 

Orange flags — which can change to green or red flags if they become a pattern — might include sarcasm, a wide difference in standards, anger problems, money issues, modesty struggles, low desire to have a family, and apathetic attitude towards the temple, the brethren or the gospel. 

Red flags are based around a trust issue, said Hunsaker. They have a pattern to them, and can include, lies, belittling, manipulation, pushes the physical side of a relationship, trying to receive revelation for the other person, current pornography use, mocking, ridicule, uncontrolled anger, and negative or antagonistic feelings toward the temple, brethren or the Church.

“Trust is at the highest level,” he said. “Trust can’t be there if these flags are there.”

Hunsaker quoted a talk from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles given at BYU in February 2000: “In a dating and courtship relationship, I would not have you spend five minutes with someone who belittles you, who is constantly critical of you, who is cruel at your expense and may even call it humor.

“Life is tough enough without having the person who is supposed to love you leading the assault on your self-esteem, your sense of dignity, your confidence, and your joy. In this person’s care you deserve to feel physically safe and emotionally secure.”

Husanker said those are two good litmus tests of a relationship — feeling physically safe and emotionally secure. 

“Ask yourself, ‘Am I working on the flags in my own life?’ (Then) date the other person long enough that you know enough about them that you can make a decision.”

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