The purpose of successful dating among singles is to develop one's own relationship skills and to find the right person with the qualities and interests that match their own. If they choose wisely in the courtship, they increase the probability of a satisfying and rewarding marriage.

With the current divorce rate at about 50 percent, people need to do a better job of finding the right person for them. Too many people don't know how to date successfully. They fall into the trap of being attracted to outward appearances. They begin to date, and their entire courtship consists of dinners, movies and making out.

In a few months they marry. With such shallow courtships, they did not get to know each other well and wonder why their marriages quickly become difficult and unmanageable, often to the point that they see divorce as the only option.

It takes time for couples to discover if they are a good match. Many mental health professionals suggest that couples date a variety of people over a period of several years. The key to doing this is limiting hugs and kisses and no sexual contact. Once sexual feelings are aroused, people no longer think straight. Before passions skew daters thinking patterns, they must get to know each other intellectually, politically, culturally, emotionally, socially, and spiritually. Successful dating requires creativity to vary the activities to allow couples to become best friends.

Here are a few ways to date successfully

Dating ideas may include working on projects together that require problem solving skills, a little give and take, maybe sweat and tears.

Do meaningful service projects. Read and discuss good books, articles, and newspapers that stimulate thinking and discussion. Serve on committees that allow you to see how well they accept responsibility for assignments and how well they follow through and show dependability. Enjoy group activities that allow you to see each others social skills.

Talk about those things that interest you as well as what is of interest to your dates.

If one is more interested in sports and the other in musicals, be willing to take turns enjoying each other's preference.

Notice how they treat clerks, waiters, janitors, drivers on the road, the elderly and small children.

Are they patient or quick to criticize, find fault, and blame others? How do they deal with frustration, irritation and disappointments? Are they moody and often depressed or are they cheerful and optimistic? Are they disagreeable or are they willing to negotiate, compromise, and work out differences? Do they act helpless and need rescuing? Are they domineering, demanding, controlling and manipulative?

What is their attitude toward education and seeking careers that are emotionally and financially rewarding?

Do they like to read and to learn new things?

Are you spiritually compatible; do you both feel the same about church and the level of church activity?

Would you be interested in reading the Bible and other inspirational books together?

Get to know the parents of your preferred dates

When people marry, they not only marry their sweethearts but their whole family. How will their cultural background effect your relationship? What you see in your date's parents, good or bad, may play a role in your potential marriage.

Dating helps you discover how honest and trustworthy they are. Do they have bad habits or addictions that need to be resolved?

Notice red flags from those with addictions, such as pornography: if they say, "Yes, I've had a problem off and on in the past, and while I know pornography is bad, it is not that bad." Realize, with that attitude, they have no motivation to change because, to them, the habit is not that bad. The same is true with any addictions. Would you prefer to marry on the promise the addictions will be resolved quickly or to wait and to see if the problems have really been put to rest?

Everyone can put their best foot forward for three months, so give the relationship plenty of time to see if those you are dating are real and genuine people. You don't want any unpleasant surprises later.

It is better and easier to succeed if you find those who have more in common with you

While it is said that opposites attract, it is also known that opposites make for more difficult marriages because there are more things to be negotiated.

Unfortunately, most people select their mates from one or two options instead of getting to know a number of potential partners. You can successfully date a lot of people providing you are not physically involved. The more people you date, the more you will know what kind of personality you most enjoy.

A common disaster happens to those good-hearted people who give and give with the hopes of having love returned in equal measure. Too often they get caught in relationships with someone who takes and takes and rarely gives back.

Doubtless, what you get in the courtship is what you get in the marriage. It is also likely that the faults seen, but overlooked in dating, will be exaggerated in the marriage and the strengths may diminish. Therefore, "keep your eyes wide open in the courtship, and once married, you keep your eyes half closed."

Editor's note: This article was originally published on Strengthening Home and Family. It has been modified and republished here with permission.

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