Pairing Off: Pairing Off: How do you know if you've found 'the one'?

Published: Thursday, May 19 2011 6:00 a.m. MDT

As young single adults, we often get advice about how to tell if a person is “the one.” One friend of mine said she knew it was right when her then-boyfriend fit in seamlessly with her family. One knew it was right when he found how well his then-girlfriend’s array of strengths and weaknesses complimented and compensated for his own. My aunt always hated taking out the trash; she knew she wanted to marry my uncle when he volunteered to take out the garbage.

More recently, I read an interesting column that said a man could tell if a woman was right for him based on how she served him. I find this a bit disconcerting because of its potential to be used for compulsion (“If you really loved me, then you would fold my socks”) or to be entirely misleading — while a person’s service might elicit gratitude, it doesn’t always instill one with a desire to spend eternity together. In response to this idea, I would like to submit my own two cents of what I believe is a safer and more personally telling indicator of a relationship’s potential: the way it impacts your desire to serve.

Because I’m single, it’s arguable that I have no real idea of how one would tell if a person were “the one.” Luckily, though, we have modern prophets who lend inspired insight to the subject. President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “I have long felt that the greatest factor in a happy marriage is an anxious concern for the comfort and well-being of one’s companion.” I believe this quote whole-heartedly.

In keeping with President Hinckley’s message, I believe the best way you can know if a relationship is a good fit for you is whether your happiness has become intrinsically tied to the comfort and well-being of your significant other. When your greatest desire is for another person’s happiness, you will find that you want to serve them without being asked or compelled.

On the other hand, there may be situations where your significant other has great qualities, but for some reason you can’t put your finger on, it just doesn’t feel right. For whatever reason, you don’t really desire to serve this person, and you might even feel somewhat protective of your time or resent things asked of you. While this person might look great on paper, your lack of feeling probably means that he or she doesn’t fit some as-yet ineffable needs you have for a relationship.

I find it interesting that many of my friends “just knew” based on some observation they made about the other person. These observations were great icing on the cake but almost never the most important factor in the relationship. My aunt and uncle would probably have gotten married anyway if he hadn’t taken out the garbage on that fateful day. And my friend already loved and would almost certainly have still married her husband, even if he had been a bit awkward around her family at first.

So, when faced with a question of such eternal magnitude, that of whom you ought to marry, I’d suggest you avoid basing your decision on some arbitrary indicator or action performed by the other person. Rather than considering how he or she serves you, take a look at yourself and ask, “Do I earnestly want to serve him or her?”

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Julia Shumway grew up in Centerville, Utah, and is studying maternal and child epidemiology at the University of Minnesota. Her column, “Pairing Off,” explores the intricacies of the Mormon YSA experience. She’d love for you to contact her with your dating stories, questions and complaints at jshumway@mormontimes.com.

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