Education Week: Dating ‘survival guide’ for young single adults

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Seminary and institute instructor Stephen K. Hunsaker shared a dating “survival guide” to help young adults have more fulfilling dating experiences in his Education Week presentations. (Jackson Payne)

Editor’s note: Education Week coverage can be found in this section of the website.

Longtime seminary and institute instructor Stephen K. Hunsaker shared various tips to help young adults have more fulfilling dating experiences in his Tuesday and Wednesday Education Week presentations.

Speaking to an overflow crowd of young single adults, Hunsaker explained that he had a passion for working with such audiences and wanted to help them through the typical frustrations associated with dating. He first outlined 10 different types of “daters” and analyzed various reasons why young people become disenchanted with dating.

“We’ve come to this false concept that going on a date somehow leads to marriage,” Hunsaker said. “Where did this idea come from?”

“BYU!” One participant retorted, to which Hunsaker rewarded him with a high-five. Hunsaker’s dynamic, humorous teaching style had the audience engaged throughout each of his lectures, allowing him to speak with bursts of bluntness to drive home his most important points.

“Whatever type of dater you are, there’s ways to change and get better,” Hunsaker said.

Hunsaker’s keys for dating included learning to be happy while single, dating unselfishly, remembering the need for commitment before revelation, staying in the present and knowing that trust is greater than love.

“If you’re wise, smart, and have the Spirit with you, you’ll always know what to do,” Hunsaker said.

Learn to be happy while single

Hunsaker lamented the fact that many young adults trick themselves into believing that changing one’s circumstances automatically changes their feelings to be more happy.

“If you’re not happy where you are, being married or having a girlfriend or boyfriend is not a fix,” Hunsaker said.

Hunsaker said true confidence and happiness can only come through living the commandments to realize one’s personal standing with God, of which marital status does not equate to any sort of favor or disfavor.

“The feeling can be that not being chosen means that God is rejecting you, and that’s not true,” Hunsaker said.

Marriage is the only covenant that explicitly requires the agency of another person, Hunsaker explained, which God understands perfectly. He cited comments from President M. Russell Ballard’s most recent General Conference address which detailed the need for single members of the Church to utilize their opportunities to “serve in the kingdom.” Hunsaker testified that lasting joy stems from such a perspective.

“Learn to be happy in the eternal perspective, not the temporary,” Hunsaker said.

Date unselfishly

Hunsaker pointed out that many issues young people have with dating are because of underlying selfishness, where daters are focused inward rather than outward. Touting selfishness as “the killer of relationships,” Hunsaker said that oftentimes young people are overly critical on themselves following dates because they were more focused on their own experience rather than that of their company.

“Dating is exhausting when you worry about you more than them,” Hunsaker said. “If we misunderstand the purpose of a date, it won’t be enjoyable.”

Hunsaker invited the audience to begin looking at dates as an opportunity to serve the other person and help them have the best experience possible. He reasoned that such unselfish dating leads to an unselfish marriage relationship, which becomes a great source of power.

“Our dating must start the way we want our marriage to be,” Hunsaker said.

Commitment precedes revelation

Hunsaker noted that many young people have difficulty with commitment in a relationship because the world has continually put pressure against the idea of making and keeping commitments. He described commitment as an essential opportunity to receive God’s help.

“No commitment causes a lot of pain in our mortal journey,” Hunsaker said. “When we commit ourselves, it allows God to open the heavens and bless us.” Hunsaker sketched God’s intended sequence as committing, then receiving revelation, acting accordingly and ultimately being blessed.

Hunsaker credited the fear of missing out, or “FOMO”, as a distraction from the blessings of commitment. However, the first word of FOMO is “fear”, which is always the opposite of faith, Hunsaker reasoned. Therefore, a commitment is the path through revelation to find the best possible outcome.

“If you commit to make something work, and they do as well, it becomes the best it can be,” Hunsaker said of relationships. “You don’t find the best option, you create it.”

Stay in the present

While focusing on the past can bring sadness and the future can bring anxiety, living in the present brings peace and comfort, Hunsaker said. He shared that many times it becomes impossible for a couple to enjoy their first date because of the stress of whether there will be another.

“Enjoy the moment you’re in because you’ll never get it back,” Hunsaker said.

He emphasized that ignorance to one’s current setting is one of Satan’s greatest desires, especially when it entails forgetting about the past promises made, particularly those in the premortal life, and future commitments to God in a moment of carelessness.

“The adversary would love to have you live anywhere that isn’t in the present,” Hunsaker said.

Trust is greater than love

Hunsaker boldly proclaimed that love alone is a poor reason to marry a prospective spouse, stating that love paired with trust is the most important combination possible to determine such a future. Hunsaker shared that trust is the highest level of relationship God can have with His children.

“God loves all of His children, but He doesn’t trust all of them,” Hunsaker said.

Hunsaker detailed various principles to exercise trust in relationships, including respecting boundaries, being reliable, displaying integrity and holding each other accountable. Hunsaker concluded with his testimony that the most effective way to gain trust with both a relationship partner and God is to make and keep sacred covenants.

“Trust is shown in covenant keeping, and the power there is amazing,” Hunsaker said.

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