The Dating Mistake to Stop Making this Year


This is for anyone looking for a loving relationship, or know someone who is.

I made a mistake in my dating years that I wish I had stopped making way sooner.

I spent over a decade fumbling my way through first date after first date, and 2-month relationship after 2-month relationship.  I made my share of mistakes, breaking hearts or getting heartbroken.  Finding love is no walk in the park, pun intended.  But if you’re still reading to this point… you get that.

There were two things I said I’d never do when it came to marriage, but did.  And it taught me something.

Why does this matter?  

Our preconceived ideals could cause us to miss someone (and something) amazing.

I said: I’ll never marry someone who has been married before.  Maybe not even engaged. Because I don’t want to be someone’s second choice.”

What I did: I married a man who was married before me. In fact, I attended his first wedding.  (Long story, for another day)  I have never felt second choice for a single second.

I said: I’ll never get engaged to someone without seeing them through the seasons of a year.  If we haven’t been dating at least a year, we haven’t been dating long enough.

What I did: I got engaged to Justin after dating for 10 weeks. We’d been friends for 13 years, co-workers for 5, and saw each other almost daily.  Including through one of the most painful season’s of Justin’s life; the breakdown of his first marriage.  Dating had never been on the table… ever. Until one day… it was.  (Again, story for another day)

I could have never imagined how God was going to orchestrate our love story.

Rewind to my single university days.

There I was, sitting on my bed in flannel PJ’s. My clean, new university-branded clipboard propped up on my knee and a fresh white, lined sheet of paper staring at me. I wrote on the top “My Husband is…

And so it began.  Point after point.

The List.

Not everyone puts their “list” on paper.  But everyone has one.

Everyone has things they want their ultimate partner to be.  Funny.  Intelligent.  Good Looking.

And we carry around this list in our head with the best of intentions. Not wanting to “settle.”

But – what if the things on the list don’t matter as much as we think they do?

Who cares if your partner likes sushi, paints with watercolour or drives a luxury car?  

What if you miss an incredible match because they didn’t fit your preconceived idea of them?

Who are you missing if you hold onto the ideal height, weight and eye colour? Or ideal income? Or ideal history?

I’m not saying forget your hopes, lower your standards, or settle for someone you could live without.

Why don’t we value what’s valuable in a person? 

My list was riddled with appearance and interest preferences that were shallow and worthless compared to the valuable traits that I now cherish in a healthy, loving marriage.

Sure, shared interests are important. But they’re not the foundation of a healthy relationship.  They’re only the building blocks and they will inevitably grow and change with you.  

The foundation of the relationship needs to be far more concrete.  Hence, foundation.  The thing everything else is built on.

Think about it.  

If you and your partner are both foodies and enjoy red wine, does that make up for them getting furiously angry every time they drink too much?

If you and your partner both love to run and do yoga, does that make up for them thinking your faith is a joke?

If your partner has the physical features of the guy/gal of your dreams, does that make up for the fact that you rarely have meaningful conversations and your relationship is 90% physical?

No, no and nope.

What are the most valuable traits in a loving partner?

What are your relationship deal-breakers?

When I started asking myself that question, it changed everything.

I stopped focusing on the dozens of “nice to have” preferences and started focusing on finding someone with qualities that were deeply important to me. Foundational.

For me, it came down to 3 things I knew I couldn’t compromise on:

  1. An active relationship with God
    The most important part of who I am is that I am
    created by God, loved by Him, and pursuing an active, personal relationship with Him.  If my partner didn’t share that, or at least have genuine interest in learning why, he would never really know who I am and our dreams wouldn’t align.
  2. Strong Character
    This is so easy to overlook when you’ve got love-goggles on!
    When I started valuing this over anything else, I was attracted to entirely different people.
    I asked for Gods help with this. You can ask for Him to attract you to people with strong character.
    This gets you through hard stuff. Painful seasons, misunderstandings, full work schedules, disagreements.
    And when you’re on sleepless night 98 with a newborn, you want this far more than a 150 k salary.
  3. Someone I just loved to be around.  
    Perhaps more intangible than the first two, at the end of the day, do I just love being around this person? No matter what we’re doing?
    Good communication, chemistry, attraction. Yep, physical attraction counts, too… of course it does. But in its proper order. Not on the 1st place pedestal.

And you know what?

The man I married has all 3 of these in spades.  A LOT has changed in our relationship in the short years we’ve been together, but these 3 foundational things haven’t.

If I had held on to my “I’ll nevers” or “the list” I’d have missed the greatest love of my life.

So, whether your list is on paper or in your mind – burn it.  Boil it down.

Don’t let your preconceived ideals cause you to miss someone (and something) amazing.

Start focusing on the foundational qualities you need in a partner. What values are absolutely foundational to your future relationship?  Name your deal-breakers and don’t compromise on them.

Then start looking at dating a little differently.

What do you think?

If you’re in the dating world – what are your learning?  If you’re married – what words of wisdom do you have if you could go back and do it over again?


Sarah according to Justin – brings a kindness, compassion and empathy to every conversation she finds herself in. She has a remarkable gift for reaching out and leaving others better than when she met them. She’s also a devoted, patient, and loving wife and mother with a passion for seeing God’s love realized in this world.


  1. Linda Paisley January 11, 2018

    Really well said! Refreshing!

  2. Steph January 11, 2018

    Your love story is my favourite one Sarah. God’s plans are so much better than ours, eh?
    I greatly appreciate you sharing your thoughts on this. I’ve passed this article of wisdom along already, and it’s not yet 7:30am! 🙂

  3. Raquel February 7, 2018

    I love this Sarah! I just read this post for the second time because there is such wisdom here. It’s amazing how we can focus on the things that don’t truly matter when it comes to relationships. But hopefully, with age we learn to desire the deeper, more important qualities in the opposite gender. I think the struggle to see beyond the surface and to throw away our lists, is real. Thank you for your openness in sharing how God changed your heart and encouraging us all to continue to have high standards while keeping our hands and hearts open.

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