19 Important Dating Tips

  1. Be Open to Learn – There are many myths and misconceptions about dating that are just plain wrong. Many of us are hoodwinked by them, and tend to dismiss the truth when we hear it. Research from many fields indicates that our beliefs about dating and relationships have little basis in reality. When that reality hits home, it can have tragic results. Be open to re-examining your beliefs and learning from the wisdom of others.
  2. Get Education on Healthy Relationships – Few of us know much about healthy relationships because there is little to no education or training available on it. Although social scientists have a lot of knowledge about forming healthy relationships, it’s a well-kept secret. Most health care and mental health professionals don’t know the research or resources either. We have good programs, books, websites, and other resources on dating. See our resource list and programs for more information. Don’t regret it later – get educated so that your dreams can come true.
  3. Invest in Your Future – Given the constant cultural messages that tell us we deserve instant pleasure and gratification, relationships take longer than we want or expect. Think about it. We spend years getting an education for a job or career. Then we work hard to get the job, not to mention learning to do the work. The paycheck and benefits come afterward. In relationships, we somehow believe the rewards should come first, and that we shouldn’t have to work for them. Go figure. Invest in your future by doing the work to develop healthy relationships.
  4. Be Careful Online – Online dating can increase your chances of meeting someone. But meeting someone is just a start. Online contacts can easily fool you. It’s like playing dress-up; people make up who they are online. Getting to really know someone can only be done in person. Do not trust a relationship that is only an online connection.
  5. Look in the Right Places – Avoid the pressure of bars, blind dates, sexting, and alcohol or drug centered activities. Look in places you are already involved. Follow your interests, hobbies and values. You are more likely to meet someone doing the things that are meaningful to you.
  6. Use Your Social Network – Meet people through the social connections you already have, and do it in a group. Expand your social network rather than pairing up right away. Talk with your family and friends about someone you’re interested in. Get feedback from the people who care about you most.
  7. Get to Know Each Other – Don’t give in to pressure to rush into a relationship. Take the time to get to know the person you’re interested in. Observe them in different situations with a variety of people. Notice how they interact, especially with your friends and family. Seek out feedback from a variety of people.
  8. Be Genuine – There’s nothing wrong with making a good impression. But getting to know someone means letting them know who you really are. Be honest with the other person, and expect the same in return. End a relationship that is based in deception.
  9. Look for the Deeper Things – We often think compatibility means liking the same things. Although these make a difference, they are not enough. Think deeply about the qualities you need in a life partner, and how you want to live your life. Look for similarities in what gives your life meaning and purpose. Find out if you share fundamental beliefs and values. Openly explore these things with someone you are serious about.
  10. Resist the Hookup Culture – Sex is designed to be intensely fun and pleasurable. But quick sex is the fastest way there is to ruin a relationship, not form one. Recent brain research says that having multiple sexual partners damages our psychological ability to attach to a partner. Male or female – quick “hook ups” will hurt you in the long run. Read more about this stunning research under dating on our resource page.
  11. Wait to Have Sex – Sex is very powerful. It can feel like love, and many people are fooled by it. Sex can express love, but it can’t create it. Waiting brings out people’s deeper motives and character. Don’t sell yourself out, or let the intensity of sex blur your ability to see a relationship clearly. Abstinence strengthens relationships before commitment, while good sex strengthens and deepens relationships after commitment.
  12. Test Your Relationship – Don’t believe the cultural myths about cohabitation. Living separately is the real test of a relationship. Cohabitation does not prevent divorce or show you if a relationship can make it. If you aren’t sure, do not live together – that’s the test for a wobbly relationship. Abundant research says cohabitation leads to more instability, insecurity, hurt, physical abuse, alcohol/drug abuse, and problems connecting to a future partner. Cohabitation also makes it very difficult to get out of bad relationships, and those who later marry have higher rates of divorce. Meanwhile, you miss out on other possible partners, and waste years of your life. Accept the truth about this crucial issue. Read more about cohabitation under dating on our resource page.
  13. Keep Your Heart Open – When people get hurt they often harden their hearts by refusing to be emotionally vulnerable again. Even after discovering that quick sex hurts them, singles often don’t stop. Instead, they eliminate the one thing that would protect them – commitment. Walling yourself off stops you from having emotional intimacy and lasting love. Don’t cut yourself off from love because you’re afraid of getting hurt. Stop doing the things that hurt you!
  14. Face Your Fears – If you are afraid of getting hurt, chances are you already have been. Identify the things that hurt you, and address them head on. If you were hurt in a relationship where there was low commitment, learn from it. If you’re afraid that marriage can’t last because your parents divorced, find out how to have a healthy one. Face what you are afraid of and grow from it.   
  15. Learn What Love Is – Love is more than having wonderful feelings. Real love goes hand in hand with commitment. Think about how parents love children. Parents experience the range of intense joy to deep discouragement and frustration. Either way, their commitment to their children does not waiver. More than anything, love is expressed through constancy and dedication in good times and bad. Parents do what is good for their children no matter what. The same is true for marriage. Wedding vows pledge commitment, not that you’ll always feel happy. Commitment carries us through the tough times. Love is a verb that flows out of commitment. Read more about marital love on our resource page.
  16. Prepare for Your Marriage – Most couples prepare more for their wedding party than they do living their lives together. Put the marriage first. Get pre-marriage counseling from a qualified counselor or program. Couples say these are very helpful.
  17. Have Children After You Marry – Don’t have children alone. Single parenting is much harder than you think. Besides that, lots of research says children need two biological parents living in the same household in order to thrive. Learn how to have a healthy relationship instead of condemning you and your child to a life of going it alone.
  18. Get Help When You Need It – You don’t have to figure it all out yourself. Before or after marriage, smart people seek input from others. Relationship education and skill training are excellent ways to learn how to have successful relationships. Marital counseling is an option you might need down the road. Agree to get help together if you need it.
  19. Follow This Sequence – There is an order to major life events that works. First, delay sexual involvement. Focus instead on learning how to develop a healthy and loving relationship. Second, don’t marry as a teenager. Most of these end in divorce. Third, live together after you marry. Fourth, marry before having children. People who live their lives in this order are usually successful and have low divorce rates. 
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Duane Nelson

Born and raised in the Minneapolis, Duane is a Marriage and Family Therapist who has made his home in Rochester for the last 25 years. Duane has been married for 33 years to his wife, Cathy. The two met while doing music at the same church in Minneapolis. Duane and Cathy have two adult daughters, and the family love to travel and play cribbage together. Duane plays guitar and percussion, and the couple still make music together. Duane enjoys gardening, cookouts, hiking, reading, downhill skiing, and hanging out with friends. Duane holds three graduate degrees, two mental health licenses, and two major counseling certifications. He has worked professionally for 37 years in addiction treatment, mental health, clinical social work, pastoral counseling, and marriage and family therapy. Duane is widely regarded as an expert in marriage and family therapy. Following his retirement from Mayo Clinic, Duane founded Healthy Relationships Rochester. This innovative organization is based on developing the concept of Relationship Intelligence through teaching and disseminating best-practice relationship education and skill training programs in a variety of non-clinical settings.