Wednesday, May 9, 2012

On Dating

This is it.  

It's going to happen.

There's no stopping me now.

This post is getting written.  Because I've had this revelation (encouraged by a relief society lesson).

Know going into this that I feel I have less experience than most to be even remotely qualified to write a post on dating.  But lack of knowledge has never stopped me before.  Why should it now?

Within this post there will be honesty.


That is what I offer.  Take it or leave it.  Ignore it.  Whatever you please.  Apparently I feel strongly about this and will not be deterred from sharing my opinions, however ignorant or naive(I hate typing this word.  I never put the "a" before the "i") they might be.

P.S. this is kind of lengthy.

First thought (inspired by the words of a friend teaching a great lesson on standards):

Dating is NOT a commitment

Dating is a social activity with the purpose of interacting with another/other individuals in a one on one or groups situation so that you can get to know each other better.  It's an exercise in learning to read social queues and to associate with your peers in a respectful and enjoyable manner.  It's an important step in our social and mental development.

It is in no way an admission of devotion to another individual, nor a promise to love them and only them for all eternity.  You are not pledging marriage then and there nor even suggesting that marriage is even on the horizon.  Quite simply you are letting this other individual know that you admire certain qualities in them and would like to know them better.

I think a big problem comes from the misinterpretation of the phrase "you date who you would marry".  The statement isn't "you marry who you date".  Sure, a date is flattering because it says to the other individual that you see in them a potential light and goodness associated with an eternal companion.  However, rarely does one date bring certainty to either party that they are each others "other half".  And assuming that one date means more than a mutual attraction and admiration is not rational.

Yes there are exceptions, of course.  But we're not talking about them right now.

I will repeat.  One date is not a commitment.  5 dates aren't a commitment.  Honestly, there is no commitment until both parties mutually state that they would like to be committed to each other.  So until that happens, just chill.  Okay?  Let things be, and be willing to let things go.

Second Thought:

Dating does NOT have to be complicated.

I'm not saying it ISN'T I'm just saying it doesn't have to be.  We as humans LOVE to makes things harder than they need to be.

Dating is one of those things made unnecessarily complicated.

One of the first steps in making it LESS complicated is understanding the above statement-that it's not a commitment.

Another step is just RELAXING.  I mean really, it's just a date.

Here's another tip.  Don't be so quick to discount people.  You may be of the opinion that an individual has nothing in common with you, or maybe you think they aren't marriage material.  It is hard to muster up the strength to ask someone on a date.  Our greatest fear is rejection and embarrassment.  Remember that the next time someone asks you on a date.  Consider before you automatically say no.  Of course if a drunk off the street gives you their number, by all means DON'T call them.  But you honestly never know the kind of connection you may or may not form with someone.  You could have a blast!  And REMEMBER-it's NOT a commitment.  

 A person should not need to submit a resume in order to go on a date with you.  They don't need to go through a background check.  The whole idea of the date is to get to know them better.  And if you REALLY feel you wont connect, what's a couple hours of your time in the grand scheme of things? Give it a change, will you?

I feel that a lot of the complications we see in dating and the reservations we sometimes have for it come from a series of misunderstandings and stigmas.  Ones that can be understood if we just look past the whole culture falsely created by our current society.  Lets go into some of those, shall we?

Third Thought (acquired from "We Bought A Zoo"):

All you need is 20 seconds of embarrassing courage...

The asking.  Arguably the hardest part, no?

I've only asked a handful of times myself and let me tell you...ICK.

This is where I have the hardest time taking my own advice.

But truly, we draw out the horrible awkwardness needlessly.  It just takes 20 seconds (average) of putting yourself out there and then it's over.  1 of 2 outcomes occur.  You get a yes or a no.  And if the other person is merciful, they wont draw out that decision, making your life horrible.

Honestly, if you get a no, don't take it personally.  You are undoubtedly an awesome person.  Why fixate on the person who's not interested and waste time you could be spending moving on to someone who IS interested?

I know I have a tendency to put people on pedestals.  I believe that everything about them is PERFECT for me and if they would just realize that we are made for each other things would progress swimmingly onto marriage.  But really, if they don't show interest, they AREN'T interested.  That's doesn't make them a horrible person.  And you might find that if you let yourself, you can discover a good friend in that person.  So I repeat, DON'T TAKE IT PERSONALLY.

Suck it up.  Fight past the anxiety.  And just give it that 20 seconds of courage.  At this stage, you really don't have all that much to lose.

Fourth Thought:

Learn to understand, appreciate, and embrace the pressure

There is an immense amount of pressure put upon members of the church to get married.  There's a reason for that (COMMANDMENT).  Much of the pressure is exacerbated by the sometimes unavoidable dynamics of the LDS culture.  But it's there and it's not going anywhere.

So deal.

I don't mean this harshly.  While I know I cannot fully understand the amount of pressure the brethren are under in particular, I can appreciate it and sympathize.  It's kind of not fair, in many ways.  First it's GO ON YOUR MISSION.  Then it's GET MARRIED IMMEDIATELY AFTER!!  But at the same time GET AN EDUCATION!!!  Then GET A JOB!!!!  Eeeek.  I do not envy you men.

But there is a significant amount of pressure on us females as well.  We've got to walk the tight rope while balancing pursuit of marriage on one end of the bar and education/self-sufficiency on the other.  (Or if you are a LOTR nerd like I am, we stand upon the edge of a knife.  If we stray but a little we will fail).  If we focus too much on marriage and not enough on education, we risk not having a way to support ourselves if we don't marry young.  If we focus too much on school and self sufficiency, we risk ignoring marriage totally and not making ourselves available.

Knowing there is a trap is the first step in avoiding it.  Don't fall into the pressure trap.  It's there.  For a reason.  If dating, courting, and marriage were easy then we would have the same view as the world and have a great many more divorce cases.  It is GOOD that we have to excessively ponder our future and work to obtain it.

It's how we grow.

Understand the pressure you are under, appreciate, and embrace it.  Don't let it rule you and keep you from enjoying some of the best years of your life.  At the same time, don't choose to ignore it and the commandment that has been given to you.

Fifth Thought (one I feel particularly passionate about):

Lets dispense with the gossip and the jokes, shall we?

I get it.  Dating is kinda stressful and potentially uncomfortable.  The idea of marriage even more so.  And one way to alleviate stress is to make jokes.

You might laugh when after the first date you are saying to someone "so where's the ring?".  And the other person will laugh too.  Because it's a joke right?

But beneath EVERY joke or teasing statement (every. single. one.) there is an ounce of truth or sincerity.

You know it, the other person knows it, and it makes things uncomfortable.

Think if it's necessary.  Think if it's really going to make the situation better.

That brings me to the other thing.


THIS is the cause of a lot of that unnecessary stress and pressure.

We all know the drill.

The second you've gone on one date with someone the news spreads like wildfire.  Tongues start wagging, and before you know it there's talk of marriage.  I wish I could say that I'm exaggerating (Well, I am but only a little bit).  

Suddenly you feel pressured to make a premature commitment.  Because that's what people are SAYING is going to happen.  What SHOULD happen.

Now people are trying to date in secret or aren't dating at all to save themselves the stress, the embarrassment, and the trouble of having to sit through all those rumors.

It would be easy to say, "it's just gossip.  Don't listen to it."  But we all know how hard that is.

So I have an easier solution.


Really.  Just because two people go on a date does NOT mean they are even going to go on a second let alone get married. And there HAS to be something better to talk about with your friends than the social life of other people, right?

Here's another thing: stop asking people if "there is someone special" or "is there a nice guy/girl in your life".

It's never an appropriate question.  If I wanted to talk about my dating life with you, I would bring it up myself.  

I'm not saying that dating has to become a taboo topic (it does kind of sound that way, doesn't it?).  Just tone it back.  Remember that large groups of young single adults/college students have got grapevine communication down to a science.

Remember that while you jest, a little truth is felt behind every word.

Above all, remember that everyone is going through just as hard a time as you.  Be considerate of that.

Sixth Thought:

Online Dating: an unfair stigma

What thoughts come to mind when you think of online dating?

I'll tell you mine:

Lame.  Dodgy.  Desperate.  Creepy Stalkers.  Something for everyone else but not for me.

I've not actually tried online dating yet (though I won't be able to say that at the end of the month), so I cannot say with certainty that these words are false.

I CAN say that I believe them to be unfair.

Online dating offers an opportunity for an individual to expand their social circle.  It can be particularly helpful to those in an less than ideal social situation.

And it is not something to be sneered at.

Participating in online dating does not make you lame, desperate, or creepy.

It is, of course, something not to be taken too lightly (because the internet is, in fact, a dodgy place sometimes.).  Like every other thing on the internet, it can be misused in the worst way.

But used in the right way, the right setting, with the right mindset, it can become a useful tool.

It's not for everyone.  Just don't discount it because of stigmas produced by bad press and the opinions of those too afraid to give it a try.

And don't judge those who see it for what it could be.

Seventh Thought :

Don't Give Up

There will be times of rejection.  There will be the typical "I had a nice time,but lets just be friends" response.

These things happen.

And it doesn't feel good.  Rejection never does.

But it's also not the end of the world.

Don't make me go into fish metaphors.

Someone saying they want to be friends is honestly admitting to the you that they aren't the one for you. They are making your life easier!  You wont spend months of your time with them only to discover this later.  And honestly, while it seems crazy, it IS possible to be their friend.

Look past your own discomfort.  See them for what they could be not what you thought you were certain they would be.

And move on (trust me, I am still mastering this one).

Try someone else.

Don't let rejection deter you.  It is simply the opposition created to make this whole dating (and eventually marriage) thing ultimately worth it.  Allow me to add something cheese worthy and say that the best things in life are the things we work for.

A note on girls and TO girls (a potentially unfair generalization and some unsolicited advice)

I hate to harp on my own sex.  I think girls are pretty great sometimes.

But here's the truth.

While we may sit and pout and talk about how "STUPID" boys are, we are kettles talking about pots.

We're petty, immature, insecure, and overly expectant when it comes to boys and dating.  Please note that I say this knowing that there are many girls who don't fall into this category.  That being said, allow me to continue.

We're sometimes withholding.  We expect the guys to be forthcoming with their feelings and thoughts while we stand there, arms folded, and refuse to be honest ourselves.

We're hard to read.  Even I don't get all the complexities of the female psyche.

We're an enigma, wrapped in a riddle, wrapped in a big ball of emotional chaos.

But you know what, guys?  Cuts us a little slack.  We're going through this too.  We have our own challenges.  We have just as hard a time being honest about our feelings and guard our hearts just as much as you. We may have flaws, but aren't we ultimately  worth it?


Give the guys a break.  "Stupid" they may be, sometimes.  But they are under a lot of pressure.  And we're kind of a mess to deal with.  Don't take one look at a guy and decide that they aren't worth a chance.  How will you know for sure unless you GIVE them that chance.

If movies have taught us anything it's that anything can happen (vomit).  By that I mean stop secretly using movies as your template for the perfect relationship.


(Sorry Beckie, I know you hate the term "chick flick").

Life is NOT a romantic comedy.

Even if you are convinced that your Mr. Darcy is out there, remember that Elizabeth didn't even REALIZE Mr. Darcy was her Mr. Darcy.

I'm not saying settle or compromise.  I'm saying be realistic.  And compassionate.  And open.

Here's a little bit of wisdom offered by my Branch President in Maine.

1. There is no PERFECT man out there.

2. You can't change a man's personality to make him what you want him to be.

What I take this to mean is that while you shouldn't set your standards to unachievable heights and have a list of "deal breakers" a mile long, you should not compromise with the false belief that you will be able to change your husband once you are married.

Be worthy.  Marry worthy.

I think on that note I should close.  I have many other thoughts and I could just keep going for hours.  But I want to spare you.

I'm glad to have added my opinion to the plethora of unsolicited and unofficial dating advice in the world.

You're welcome, world.


Julina said...

yeah, that was kinda lengthy... but I wish more people would read it. It's good stuff.

genevieve said...

I like this. And I like that you recognize the positive and negative of both sides.

One point especially close to my heart is online dating. I cringe and am hurt when I read people's less-than-fair impressions of it, BUT I love that you said you knew that wasn't fair. You can't help your feelings, and you own that. And THAT is fair!

That said--I think it's a blast! I met so many great people I would never have known otherwise...and yes, obviously some frogs...but I would never have met my soul mate if it weren't for that option. I guess I liken the experience to regular dating more than others do--how is trolling a bar/dance/class/etc for a potential mate any less lame or pathetic than finding someone based on their personality? I love that I got to know my husband through his words and through him listening to mine rather than some first impression based on what cute clothes (or not) we were wearing at the time. When I met him in person...I already knew so much about him. I loved it.

Another thing--I wasn't finding any possibilities living in a college town as a single twentysomething. ZERO. And thanks but no thanks, I don't want a fratty college guy (even if I was their type). My other half was in the same situation living in Springfield, MO and we *never* would have met otherwise. both shy-ish, nerdy homebodies...nooooo way. :)'s scary and a world many folks probably never thought they'd be in. but it's ALL under your control, too. Here was my philosophy: Sign up, start chatting with someone. No names, no photos at first if I don't want. I can stop the second I feel uncomfortable. I never even need to meet anyone!

I was so surprised at how much FUN it was. I'm not telling you to go this route...I am not a proponent of unsolicited advice!! But that was my experience.

Erin said...

Love this post. So much truth!

I completely agree with Genevieve! I met Ryan through online dating and it really is a great way to meet a bunch of guys you would never run into otherwise. As long as you're careful and ignore any "hey" or "ur hot" messages, you'll be fine :) Something one guy I chatted with told me is that a great thing about online dating is that everyone there is looking for the same thing - finding a match. So if you don't feel like it's a match, just TELL THE PERSON and move on. No need to waste time trying to spare their feelings - if it's not right, find someone who is. I think online dating would be a good fit for you; you'll have to let me know how it goes!

Peeser said...

So what it it's a bit verbose? That's just the way our family is... And you stated all points very well. I agree with Juli- I wish more people would read this! I may have to post this on FB...

Also, Genny- thanks for sharing your thoughts on online dating- I have always had reservations about it, wanting instead to find someone in the traditional way. Well, that hasn't really worked. I used to think of it as a "last resort" kind of thing, something "desperate" people did... But you bring up some good points that have helped me think of it as a much more positive option. (And I didn't know that's how you met Neil- that makes me even more optimistic about the prospect!) So, thanks for your personal endorsement of online dating.
(That being said, do you have any recommendations on particular sites?)

Ellaniemae said...

Thank you for pointing out such important concepts. I wish I would have had that Relief Society lesson. I particularly liked the first point: "Dating is not a commitment." I have always thought of dating as a way to find your potential mate; I am only looking for someone that I can deal with their baggage, while they are looking to see if they can deal with my baggage. It was great to read that dating is NOT a commitment. Thanks so much for sharing!

Jeanne, the mom and grandmom said...

WELL said, daughter!

Elliott said...

I agreed with most of it, but saying that five dates isn't SOME FORM of a commitment is an oversimplification.

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