The Thoughtful Plan

There are four main questions to consider when choosing how to be thoughtful:

1. When is it appropriate?
2. Why are you doing it?
3. What would make them happy?
4. How are you going to carry it out?


As Marilyn Brodeur became absorbed in “The Soloist,” a movie about a homeless man who had a passion for playing the cello, tears slowly streamed down her face. Brodeur had played in symphonies most of her life, but three years ago her cello cracked down the back and she hadn’t played since.

“Grad school kept me really busy and I didn’t have time to get my cello fixed,” Brodeur said. “Playing the cello had always been a part of my life since I was in fourth grade. The movie caused a flood of memories to come back and made me a little emotional.”

Her husband noticed her damp cheek and knew why she was crying. A few days later, he went out and researched cello repairers and found a good company. He had her cello fixed for a surprise gift on her birthday. Brodeur was completely surprised and felt cared for; in turn, she cared for her husband more. She said it meant a lot to her because he paid attention and made her feel like her talents were important.

Everyone has different preferences on what they would appreciate most as an act of service, but almost everyone will appreciate any thoughtful action that shows they are understood and cared for. As shown in Brodeur’s situation, her husband knew to fix her cello because he paid attention to her and knew her talents.

When is it appropriate?

Depending on where you are in a relationship determines how extravagant your thoughtfulness should go.
For someone you are interested in and haven’t gone out with yet, just getting to know them and giving them your undivided attention is the first step, said Marty Erickson, a Marriage and Family therapist and BYU professor. You can also do nice little things for them like helping with homework.

After you have been on a few dates with someone and you notice there is mutual interest, (see page 28) being thoughtful to your crush may increase the chance of forming a relationship. Listening and being observant are the main keys to learning what the person would appreciate.

Erickson explained a few tips for someone of interest. “Talk to them about them, be cautious and don’t assume too much, be interested in them for who they are, and not who you want them to be.”


After talking to them and you realize they love tennis, take them on a date to play tennis. If you find out they love chocolate chip cookies, make some together. But offering things like foot massages when they don’t feel comfortable around you yet is probably not a good idea.

If there is mutual interest, find out if they appreciate creative dates, small gifts, hand written notes, hugs, etc. You will find these things out the more you talk and spend time together.

When in an exclusive relationship, many of the same concepts apply as when you weren’t dating yet. Really get to know the person and apply what you have noticed they enjoy.

A great time to do something for someone is when you recognize they are going through, or about to go through, something hard. Here are a few examples of people who experienced the thoughtful acts of their significant other during a difficult circumstance:

Why are you doing it?

There are many occasions to do something thoughtful for someone, but you really don’t need an actual reason to be nice. The main reason people do thoughtful things is because they care for the person they are doing it for and want them to be happy.

“The key to being thoughtful is to really be interested in the person,” Erickson said. “By being interested and digesting the information you learn, it is easy to be truly thoughtful.”

If you are doing it to make yourself look good or to make the other person do nice things for you, you may want to reconsider your priorities.

Now that you know you want to be thoughtful, how do you go about making your special someone feel cared for?


What would make them happy?

After getting to know the person you’re interested in, it’s time to get creative. What are their favorite things? In the beginning of this article, Brodeur’s husband knew she missed her cello so he had it fixed for her. What could you do that would make your significant someone smile?

Service encompasses almost all acts of thoughtfulness. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines services as a contribution to the welfare of others.

Service is a way many are emotionally touched; here are a few real examples:

[quote align=”center” color=”#0E742E”]“When Eric and I first started going on dates, I had to go study for a big test and couldn’t hang out with him. I told him I had no idea how I was going to get everything done plus laundry (I didn’t have quarters). After spending hours in the library I came home to a bag of quarters and a gallon of my favorite chocolate milk. After that I really liked him.” (Meg and Eric are now married, so it worked for him!)
—Meg Mena, BYU-Idaho alumna[/quote]
[quote align=”center” color=”#0E742E”]“I had gone to my boyfriend’s house (who was just a friend at the time) to hang out one winter night, but we decided to leave to get food and then go to my house down the street. We ended up taking his car to get the food, so mine was left at his house. I didn’t bother getting my car that evening. So the next morning when I walked over to go get my car at his house I saw he had cleared all the snow off my windshield and windows. It was very sweet.”
—Kayla Abilez, BYU alumna[/quote]
There are many self-help books that give different suggestions about how to know what your significant other will most appreciate. One book that is widely used is The 5 Love Languages. Languages is written by Gary Champan, a marriage and family therapist, who noticed a reoccurring theme in his clients. Many of them received love in certain “languages” and not in others; he discovered many spouses had different primary languages that didn’t mean the same thing to their spouse. His theory is everyone has a primary love language of touch, gifts, acts of service, words of affirmation or quality time.

Consider taking the free love language test at with your significant other to find out about their preferences then adapt the way you show love to them accordingly.

How are you going to carry it out?

Just go for it! Try to make sure your act of thoughtfulness will be something they will enjoy. If you are doing something extravagant, check with one of his/her friends to see if that is something they would appreciate. Also if you need help you might want to ask some of them to be in on it.

It is important to know you don’t have to do something outrageous to be thoughtful. Being helpful (doing the dishes, looking up the movie schedule, etc.), giving a hug or taking time to actively listen to the person you care about are all great ways to show your love.

Becoming Your Best Self

In Greek mythology, there is a story about
soul mates. Zeus feared how powerful humans would be so he split them in two, forcing them to roam the Earth until they found their “other half.” In the story of Cinderella, the Prince loved the glamorous version of Cinderella. She feared that he wouldn’t love the real her, even though she was the same kind person he met at the ball, but with uglier clothes. In Grease, Sandy and Danny both changed the way they acted and dressed to please each other, when in reality, they liked the person they met on the beach at the beginning of summer. Summer loving had them a blast. (Stuck in your head yet?)

Becoming the best person you can be is going to get you a lot further in life than “becoming the person you want to marry.” When you really examine yourself, your personality, your strengths and weaknesses, you are able to better understand yourself and then extend that understanding to others.
Girls, you are not a princess that needs to be rescued. Guys, you are not a punk that needs a woman to reform you. You are you.

Why is self-improvement important?
Self-improvement is not just a buzzword created to sell books. Self-improvement and reflection are a vital part of becoming happy and comfortable with yourself. When you work to improve yourself, you can have higher self-esteem.
Aimee Heffernan, a licensed marriage and family therapist, describes self-esteem as having a warm regard towards yourself. It’s not thinking you are perfect and great at everything. Rather it is being able to recognize your weaknesses but still believing you are a good person and are of worth. Sure, you may need to work on your gossiping problem (who doesn’t?) but that does not mean you are a bad person who deserves to be unhappy. But self-esteem does a lot more for us then just giving us good feelings.
“When you have self-esteem you make better choices,” Heffernan said. “In order for you to be happy, married or not married, you need to have self-esteem so that you make good choices no matter what. I see that on so many levels, every day, all the time.”
Without self-esteem, people often look outward to gain the recognition and worth they crave. This can often put them in danger of having dependent, abusive and generally unhealthy relationships, according to Kristin Hodson, a therapist specializing in sex and intimacy therapy at The Healing Group in Salt Lake City.
Another reason to work on self, echoed by many, is that when it comes to dating, you are the only person you can control. You cannot control other people’s thoughts, feelings or even who you meet.
Marty Erickson, a counselor in BYU’s Counseling and Psychological Services, said, “So much energy goes into being angry or frustrated about not being in a relationship. Put that energy into becoming a better person.”
Josh Weed, a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, echoed that sentiment. “We can definitely fine tune ourselves and our own spirituality and our own sense of self,” he said, “so that when we do encounter that person that feels right and it feels comfortable and it’s working, we’re able to recognize it for what it is.
By becoming your true and best self, you put yourself in a better place to meet someone. And whether you get married or not, you will be happy and comfortable with yourself.

Check yourself before you wreck yourself
Popular culture often tells us that you need to change to get the girl or have a happily ever after but according to Weed, changing yourself just because you want to get married is not going to help you in the long run.
“When I see people that are trying to improve themselves in order to achieve a relationship or something having to do with interactions with others I find that self improvement work is less genuine and it’s not really them improving themselves,” Weed said. “It’s not them taking an assessment of their own personalities and traits and trying to improve those things. Instead it’s usually someone trying to fit a mold or somebody else’s expectations. That can work for a little while but it’s bound to crumble over time.”
People often say that they need to be worthy of the person they want to marry. But Erickson said, not only does that perfect person not exist; it’s going to be incredibly difficult to live up to that person.
Heffernan also explained that we undermine our personalities and ourselves when we act a certain way because we think we are supposed to as opposed to because we want to.
“If you fake it and you put on a facade, you’re doing yourself no favors at all because then you are married and you realize, this person doesn’t love the true me,” she said. “And it’s a really painful place to be. You have to show up 100% yourself, imperfections and all. You have to realize that your spouse will have imperfections too.”

Just do it
The best way to begin the process is to hold an honest inventory of yourself. What are my strengths and weaknesses? What makes me happy? What makes me uncomfortable? Am I surrounding myself with good people?
While this can be done on your own, it will be more productive with a little help. Of course, prayer is really important.
“Heavenly Father is amazing in that He helps you see your strengths while showing us our weaknesses so that you’re not discouraged but you’re able to want to improve and want to become your best self,” Weed said.
He also said that listening to feedback from those that you love and that love you will help you see strengths and weaknesses. Most people will see a pattern in the feedback and that’s what we need to embrace.

Ask the therapists; they can help you
If you don’t feel comfortable talking about it with friends and family, you can also see a counselor. Counseling is not just for people who are depressed or have a mental illness. Just like you go to a medical doctor just to check up on your physical health, you can go to a counselor to check up on your mental health. It can be very beneficial to anyone who genuinely wants to start this process. A counselor can help you with the process of self-discovery. Any full-time BYU student can receive free counseling services through the Counseling and Psychological Services office in the Wilkinson Center.

A few things to remember
No one is perfect. You have weaknesses and that’s ok. By accepting your weaknesses, you will become more comfortable accepting weakness in other people. On the flip side, when you see your worth, you are more likely to see worth in others. You will also be more comfortable accepting when you are wrong in a situation, instead of placing blame on the other person, according to Hodson.
There are parts you won’t be able to fix. Some things are just part of your personality. When you do a self-inventory, you will be able to find these areas. However, according to Weed, no matter the problem, you can always find “negotiation corners.” If you are sarcastic, your “negotiation corner” may be to not use sarcasm to belittle others.
It takes time. I once heard someone say he wanted to find a girl just like his mom because she is just perfect. He did not realize though that his mom had been working on becoming that way for 50 years. Neither you nor your partner is going to be and remain “perfect” when you turn 24. Weed said self-improvement is not something that should only be a priority while single but also while dating, engaged and married. It is a continual process as people and situations change and grow. And remember, things will change.
Expectations. All us girls have those lists we made at sleepovers of the traits we want in a husband. Throw those lists away. While we should have a basic set of values we want (kindness, spirituality, respect etc.) things like “well-dressed” or “intellectual” are not as important. We should be focused on values, not behaviors.
“The marriages that I see work are marriages that are people that are pleasantly surprised with who they ended up with,” Weed said.
Whitney Lawter, a BYU graduate living in Kansas City, Missouri remembers getting ready to start the next chapter in her life and meeting the right person.
“After thinking about it way too much, I decided to give up,” she said. “I actually wrote in my journal ‘I’m just going to focus on my goals, be the best Whitney I can be, and let the Lord take care of the rest.’”
Two weeks later, she met the man she eventually married. So while it probably won’t happen that fast for you, when you are working on yourself and trusting in the Lord, good things happen.

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Should I Ask Them Out?

Asking someone out sounds great in theory, but can be difficult when the moment arrives.

Situation 1: You can’t tell if she is interested.
“I think girls need to show if they are interested in guys,” Brian Parkinson said. “Guys won’t likely ask girls out who show no emotion toward them.”
Ladies, it’s hard enough for the guys to work up the courage to ask you out – don’t make it more difficult by acting indifferent or detached around them. If you like the guy, show him.
Guys, one way to avoid this problem is to specify that you are taking the girl on an actual date. Girls often feel confused if the guy invites them to “hang out” or come along on a group activity; should they act like they came with you or should they just act like a friend?
It’s hard for girls to show emotion if they don’t know if the guy is interested, just like it’s hard for the guys to ask a girl out if they don’t know if she’ll say yes.

Solution: Act how you feel! If you like someone, show them. If you don’t like someone, tell them.

Situation 2: You want to get to know that cute guy or girl you see around campus but don’t know how to introduce yourself.
The key here is to make sure you come across as friendly, not creepy. If it seems like the other person notices you too, introduce yourself the next time you see them and invite them to get a Jamba Juice or study together sometime. If your first real interaction goes well, proceed with asking them on a real date.
However, if the other person avoids eye contact, seems to be in a hurry, is with another person or looks worried when you approach, abort the mission.

Solution: Introduce yourself, but respect the other person and read their body language. If they seem uninterested, gracefully end the conversation and move on.

Situation 3: You don’t know which method to use to ask someone on a date.

The unanimous response to an informal survey of BYU females found they prefer to be asked on a date in person.
“Every girl wants a guy who makes them feel wanted,” Jessica Alessi said. She went on to explain that when guys ask girls out in person it makes them feel appreciated and special.
If you need pointers on what to say, see situation four.
If you’re uncomfortable asking someone out in person, the next best option is over the phone. By calling. NOT TEXTING.
Facebook, Gchat, Twitter, etc. are not preferable outlets for asking someone out. It takes courage to ask someone out using your own voice, but it’s always better to hear from you than the impassive silence of technology.

Solution: Ask someone out in person if you can, and if you can’t call them on the phone.

Situation 4: You’re asking someone out in person but don’t know what to say.
When you ask someone out face-to-face, don’t feel like you have to go up and ask him or her on the date then walk away. There are ways to bring up going out without making it awkward or putting either of you on the spot too much.

Ways to ask them out:
A. Find a way to do something alone after a group activity:
“Do you want to grab a milkshake after the football game on Saturday?”
B. Follow his or her lead:
“Oh you like MGMT too? We should go to the Twilight Concert Series next week!”
C. Invite him or her to a school event:
“Hey I’ve got this extra credit lecture I have to go to but I don’t know anybody who will be there – do you want to come with me?”
D. Look for interesting activities:
“Did you see the poster for the Dating Game activity this week? We should go!”

Situation 5: You are under the impression that asking someone out needs to be an extravagant spectacle.
No. This is not prom; this is real life. Please do not feel like you need to make a big deal out of asking someone on a date.
All this will do is put pressure on both of you, which will make it difficult to really get to know your date.
When you ask him or her on the date, don’t try to be someone you’re not. Don’t think you need to buy dozens of flowers, ask them to a super expensive restaurant or write their name in glitter on the front porch.
You want the person you ask on the date to say “yes” because they like you, not because they feel like they have to go because you asked them in such an elaborate way.

Solution: Show the person you are asking out that you are interested, but don’t make them uncomfortable when you go about the asking.

Situation 6: You believe girls can’t ask guys out.
Ladies, most guys we surveyed said they love it when girls ask them out. Sometimes they don’t know if you are interested, but when you ask them out they know.
“I asked a guy on a date a while back and it was really fun and I would do it again, but I’d plan better,” Brittany Hiatt said.
Some guys may not like it if you ask them out, but you won’t know until you try. At the worst they say no, at the best you have a wonderful time together because you took a chance.

Solution: Go for it!

Smell Delicious

Perfumes, colognes, eau de toilettes and many other names cover the scents that men and women spray on their bodies to smell good and appeal to the opposite sex. Darlene Jensen, a 20-year veteran in the fragrance industry, has many tips about fragrances. Jensen uses four criteria that should be considered when choosing a fragrance: season, climate, occupation and occasion.

SeasonDuring fall and winter fragrances are warm, spicy and often have chocolate as an ingredient. For spring and summer, scents are light, fresh and citrusy.

ClimateA rainy day may make you feel colder than usual, so wearing richer body fragrances may be what you wear to “warm up.”

OccupationIf you were to work in a healthcare setting you would want to wear clean and fresh scents, to maintain a professional appearance.

OccasionDifferent occasions change how you may dress and dress changes what fragrances you would wear. For a night out you may want to wear warmer fragrances. But season and climate most often should be taken into account with occasion.

Scents She Likes on You

Many men assume women prefer woodsy, musky scents, but that’s not necessarily true. There aren’t specific scents men and women like on each other. Jensen says a person’s mood can change how a fragrance smells, so depending on your personality, the scent may alter to fit you. Because of this, a scent she may like in the bottle may smell completely different on your skin. Try sample size colognes and let her smell them on you before making a purchase.

Scents that Go Well with You

Your body chemistry should be considered as well. Fragrances may also smell differently from one person to another. To ensure you purchase a scent that suits you, spray a sample on your forearm then let it sit for a few minutes – move away from the fragrance counter then smell it. This will give the scent long enough to settle and you won’t be bombarded by the other options.

Where to Apply Fragrance

Pulse points are the most important places to apply fragrances because they emanate heat. Some pulse points are on your neck, wrists and even the back of the knee. “Never spray it in the air and let it just fall on you,” Jensen said. “That’s just expensive room freshener.” Fragrances should not be rubbed because the movement changes their components. Jensen suggests letting your body “marinate” in your fragrance before putting on clothes to avoid staining them. Fragrances do not last, as long in higher, dryer climates, so in climates like Provo you may need to reapply more often. If an individual has oily skin or lives in a more humid
climate their fragrances will last longer. — Britania Busath

More Than Small Talk

Dating involves more than just asking a person out and then going on a date. You need to have some sort of conversation on the date, hopefully with substance and enjoyment.

Don’t Interrupt
Let your date finish their thought before interjecting your own. Wait for a pause in the conversation.

Don’t Hijack the Conversation
In other words don’t try to “one up” your date. For example, if your date is venting about their crazy roommates, don’t interrupt by saying, “Well you think that’s bad, my roommates do this and this.”

Don’t Be Negative
Few things are more of a turn off than being negative about the activity or life in general.
Venting about a hard time in your life with someone you have built a relationship with is okay, but it shouldn’t become a habit to vent to your date on the first few dates.

Ask Open-ended Questions
Questions that involve more than just a yes or no answers.
Often you can reword close-ended questions to develop a deeper conversation. For example, instead of asking “Do you like your roommates?” say “Tell me about your roommates. Have you known them for a while?”
Follow up a closed-ended question with an open-ended related question.

Make Eye Contact
This goes for the person talking, as well as for the one listening.
Wandering eyes will signal to your date that you are not interested, even if you may be.
Men tend to give stronger eye contact when they are truly listening, but they do like to break away for a few seconds and then return to deep eye contact Allred said.

Listen to Your Date
Give signs you are listening, nod your head, offer feedback and conversation interjections at appropriate times.
“Women give occasional verbal cues called ‘listening noises’ such as ‘yea,’ ‘mmm,’ ‘oh,’ ‘uh huh’,” Jennifer Allred, adjunct instructor in interpersonal communications at BYU Idaho, said.

Going Out on a Limb…For a Kiss

It’s happening: you’re dating that special guy or girl who has occupied your thoughts and they’re giving you the look.
The Look
Eye contact that is playful, flirtatious and occasionally punctuated by subtle glances at the lips.
Once you two start exchanging the look, move in a little closer. The proximity is subtle – don’t rush it and don’t invade his or her space. Get close but leave them wanting more.
The Proximity
If you’re sitting, gradually shift into the other person and angle your shoulders to them as you talk. If you’re standing, step a little closer than you normally would and look into their face during the conversation.
While this cue isn’t required, some people feel more comfortable going in for the kiss after seeing how their date would feel about it. Steer the conversation away from last night’s NBA game and drop the hint about what’s on your mind.
The Hint
Whether it’s asking about your date’s first kiss or joking about kissing in general, this will tell him or her what you’re thinking about.
You don’t have to talk about kissing before it happens though – there are physical cues to show your date that you’re feeling it.
The Lingering Hug
If the goodbye hug leaves you wanting more, don’t let go: gaze up/down into your date’s face and if they smile or give you the look, that’s your cue to go for it!
The Giggles A woman tends to giggle around the guy she’s interested in to boost his confidence. If she seems to laugh a lot around you, it’s generally safe to say she’s enjoying her time with you and might be receptive to your affection.
The 90/10 If he or she leans in (most of the time it’s generally not the full “90 percent,” but definitely over “ 50”), it’s up to you to close the distance a nd make the kiss happen.

If someone is giving you the look and you don’t feel the same way
You Don’t Want to Kiss
Whether your date is giving you the look or already leaning in, there are ways to avoid a kiss if you’re not feeling it. It’s OK to not want to kiss someone. Try to be kind when you reject his or her advances.
Be Honest from the Get Go
If you know from the start that you don’t want to kiss your date, don’t lead them on with flirty body language. “I feel like there are ways to avoid being kissed if you don’t want it,” said Savanna Rush, a freshman studying exercise science. “Keep your distance from the beginning.”
Start Talking
If a lull in the conversation occurs and it looks like your date is moving in for a kiss, start talking before they get too close. “If the guy (or girl) comes in for it and you don’t want it, back up or start talking to distract them,” said Heather Hansen, a recent graduate of the School of Family Life.
Move Away
If your date seems intent on kissing you and doesn’t pick up on your subtle clues that you don’t feel the same way, be more obvious with your body language. “If you don’t want a guy to kiss you, put your head down and pull away,” said Taylor Turley, a freshman studying health science.

Your Girlfriend is Crazy!

That’s it; you can’t take it anymore. It’s undeniable: your roommate is dating a crazy person.
Some of you have been here before. You may have heard the significant other say something demeaning or cruel and see it as a sign of terrible things to come. You may simply just get the “heebie jeebies” or other creepy feelings when you are around them.
Either way, from what you’ve observed, you think your friend is going out with Mr. Hyde. Naturally, you want to do something about it.
So how do you approach the situation? You can’t just come right out and tell your roommate you think they’re dating someone from the asylum. That would just cause drama.
The first step is to let your roommate know you are merely sharing observations because you care about them. Tell them you honestly want to avoid any drama and emphasize that you are only trying to help. Share your observations only as observations – avoid giving too much of your opinion because it isn’t your relationship. Finish by telling them you’re worried about them and this relationship, but you respect their opinion and decision.
Before you go that far, you may want to look for more concrete evidence that your roommate’s significant other isn’t a good fit. Make absolutely sure your roommate’s significant other is as bad as you think he or she is and try to see their relationship from another perspective. Try to remove as much bias from the situation as possible.
If that doesn’t work, the list to the left has some pretty straightforward signs that your concern is warranted.
However, this is an inconclusive list and there are other signs that something could be fundamentally wrong with the relationship – consult with a trusted friend, relative or counselor for further help.
On the other hand, if there aren’t any clear signs like these, you might not want to get involved. It might be difficult, but perhaps the best thing you can do is stay out of it and let things take their natural course. If your roommate and their significant other truly aren’t a good fit, then the natural forces of relationships and catalyst events in their lives will help them realize it eventually.
The reality is you don’t know the whole situation. If your roommate asks you to remove yourself from the situation, respect their decision and move on.