Sunday, February 12

(Drowning in) The Dating Pool

I've seen references in popular culture that claimed all the nicest guys (from a nonmember female perspective) are either Mormon or attracted to other guys; in both cases, the niceness is because they're not interested enough for objectifying to happen, or something like that. I'm not sure where I was going with that thought. Maybe a punch line that highlights being both... but that doesn't sound very compelling. Whatever.

I'm finding myself in a predicament that makes me step back and think. I'm dating more often as of recent - different girls, never really one in particular - and early in dates I sometimes see things that are major red flags. Lifestyle choices that are in direct conflict with mine and attitudes that are sometimes exactly opposite what I'm looking for in an eternal companion. Some of my dates are setups by others; some are spur-of-the-moment events when I can tell a girl is interested, and rarely there's actually something in a girl's personality that makes me think it's worth looking in to. The problem I face is this: how long am I supposed to give someone a "chance" in dating? How long should I put aside my lack of interest, or frustration with habits or lifestyle, to see if maybe sparks will miraculously appear where there is nothing, or should I even wait at all? Should I indulge the subconscious list of important ancillary traits or do none of my own personal feelings really matter?

Obviously some of my feelings aren't crucial. Wanting to find someone who can sing beautifully isn't really key to bliss in this life or the next. But I'm wondering where it all fits in with me. I've never fallen in love with a girl before. I have no idea how it will happen. But, if/when it does, that really shouldn't be enough to completely base an eternal relationship - even if falling in love is a miracle on my part. All the books and classes and conversations say that compatibility is a huge key in determining future difficulties in marriage. Yeah, a super-valiant guy can marry a super-valiant girl and make it work, but I'm already going to have to work a whole lot to make an eternal marriage work, considering the stories I've received from men and women who are doing the same thing. Worth it? Definitely. But hard? Much, much harder than they imagined when they set out, even with eyes open to the obstacles in the way.

I guess I'm trying to balance a few opposing ideals:

Dating for the sake of dating: getting to know others, having fun, identifying characteristics I can improve or that I may want in a future companion.

Dating to find compatibility: finding and dating people who closely match the traits that are important to me for raising a family and living the gospel.

Dating to fall in love: when a red flag comes up, staying in a relationship anyway, until I'm somewhat certain that I'm not going to fall in love, even with work.

Dating according to the Lord's guidelines: any girl is date-able if she is striving to be faithful, keep the commandments, follow the Spirit, and preparing to be a mother.

Dating while trying to adhere to the social norms everyone else follows: I don't think most people would date someone they are totally not attracted to. But, barring that difference, is it okay to go on three dates with a girl just for the sake of dating? I think that people usually drop potential dates when they see lots of red flags, unless there's something really compelling about the girl. They don't ask girls out again if they're completely uninterested.

I guess that opens up another avenue of questions. I don't think I've ever asked men who live with same-sex attraction, who knew about it during their dating years, who also fell in love with women and are happily married, how they approached dating. Obviously something worked for them, and while each circumstance is different, focusing on the success stories and their process might shed light on best practices.

Thoughts? What works for you in dating? What doesn't?

19 comments:

  1. These are some quotes that I found useful when I was dating.
    “True love is not so much a matter of romance as it is a matter of anxious concern for the well-being of one's companion.” Gordon B. Hinkley

    “Stop seeking out the storms and enjoy more fully the sunlight.”
    ― Gordon B. Hinckley

    “Love is the very essence of life. It is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Yet it is not found only at the end of the rainbow. Love is at the beginning also, and from it springs the beauty that arched across the sky on a stormy day. Love is the security for which children weep, the yearning of youth, the adhesive that binds marriage, and the lubricant that prevents devastating friction in the home; it is the peace of old age, the sunlight of hope shining through death. How rich are those who enjoy it in their associations with family, friends, and neighbors! Love, like faith, is a gift of God. It is also the most enduring and most powerful virtue.”
    ― Gordon B. Hinckley

    “Now, brethren, do not expect perfection in your choice of a mate. Do not be so particular that you overlook her most important qualities of having a strong testimony, living the principles of the gospel, loving home, wanting to be a mother in Zion, and supporting you in your priesthood responsibilities.

    Of course, she should be attractive to you....

    And one good yardstick as to whether a person might be the right one for you is this: in her presence, do you think your noblest thoughts, do you aspire to your finest deeds, do you wish you were better than you are?”
    ― Ezra Taft Benson

    The dating world is not an easy one. But it can be something enjoyable. I hope you can find what you most desire in this life. Thank you for your blog.

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  2. My dating experience was one where I'd date a girl no more than twice unless I sense a strong degree of compatability, similarity in values and spirituality (on a roughly equal level), and magnetism - a key ingredient. More than that is a waste of time, money, and emotional investment on both parties.

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  3. I wish I had better advice to give and since I don't know you I can only comment on what I read here. My thought is that maybe you are concentrating too much on that elusive WOW I am in love factor. As the quotes someone else put up, love is about concern for someone else's happiness. That has less to do with what you feel than what you do. Doing is the key to love. Like they say, if you want to love someone, serve them. Does that makes sense? Probably not. Anyway, maybe you can more concentrate on having fun with the girls you date rather than sizing them up immediately. First impressions can be tainted with first date nervousness and may not always give you an accurate picture. My husband was actually quite unimpressed with me on our first date (he thought I was nice, but nothing beyond that). If I hadn't asked him out for the second date (where we really hit it off), we would not be together today. Anyway, my two cents for what little they are worth.

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  4. "I don't think I've ever asked men who live with same-sex attraction, who knew about it during their dating years, who also fell in love with women and are happily married, how they approached dating."

    Does such a man really exist?

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  5. itbcn8:

    Such men definitely exist. I've spoken with dozens of men and women personally since beginning (G)MG who began their marriages with eyes open, had somehow fallen in love... and are still happily married... and there must be thousands more I've never met, in and outside of the Church. When I graduate from the dating scene into marriage, I'll fall into that group as well.

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  6. I've been on a number of dates with girls, and realized that it was simply complicating things for me. After a strange experience hanging out with a male friend of mine, I decided I needed to decide if I was going to date at all or not. After praying about it, I felt like it wasn't time for me to be dating girls right now. I honestly don't think it's a fair thing for me.

    As for the number of dates, I had one girl who thought I was committed with her after a single date. I've had another girl that I dated over a few months, waiting for some kind of spark to happen. I never remember feeling attracted to her.

    For now, I've decided to not try to force anything by dating girls and I definitely don't want to go start dating guys. That feels just a contrary to my feelings as dating girls is.

    I do know a number of same gender attracted men who are happily married. I know a number of them personally. They do exist!

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  7. It's wonderful that you are thinking about why you are dating. It's important to know whether you really want to find your eternal companion now or you just want to make-out with a bunch of cute girls. I like how Sunny put it; love is about concern for someone else's happiness. I've been married for 7 years now and that is exactly how our relationship started. We live for eachother's happiness. Sure, you have to find the right person to make it worth it. Love at first sight is not common. (This is the first blog post of yours that I've read) Have you thought of what is so attractive about men, and whether you can find those same qualities in woman? I doubt it's a purely sexual attraction. Besides, if it is, that hardly matters in your relationship prior to marriage. They just have to be cute enough to kiss ;)

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  8. Anonymous:

    I definitely am not dating with the intent to make out with girls, and I'd assume that is typical for other guys with same-sex attraction who date. The thought is actually somewhere between hilarious and absurd... If I had that issue, I don't think I would have an issue at all.

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  9. I've been married for five years, and the first few were rocky, difficult, and confusing. It made me question if I married for the right reasons. Truth be told, I struggled with it even before our marriage, but with much dedicated prayer, temple visits, and very strong spiritual confirmation, I could not deny that he was the man I should marry. I now know why, and through tender mercies, have received confirmation that following the spirit, rather than my emotional instincts, was the right choice for me. We have beautiful children, and he is an amazing father. The Lord knows what/who we need to become all he knows we can be. One of the purposes of marriage is to perfect those who are in it. You might need someone totally different than you think. Make sure you follow the guidance of the spirit more than anything else.

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  10. I thought of you this morning after being on Twitter because of this thought: #IfYouAreSingle God has the perfect person for you one day... For everyone at that. #loveispatient

    I truly do believe that God has someone for everyone. I've been married for nearly twenty years, so I do feel I have some insights into marriage. And while not coming from a background of SSA, I dated until I was nearly 30, until I found the man I am married to now. Here's the thing: when I met him, I thought of him as a friend, like a brother. Then one night, in desperation I prayed that I was tired of the dating game, that I really didn't want to date anymore, and please don't let me fall for anyone now, that was not my future husband. The next week I found myself in love with him, my future husband, a young man who the week before I was not attracted to at all. I hope you can see how I feel this applies to your situation. And I very much hope the same thing for you and your future wife. =)

    The knowing about marriage part: Marriage is never easy, no matter who you are and what your challenges are. Granted, you have a challenge that most of us married in the temple do not, but everyone has problems, and there is not one marriage that both parties do not bring challenges to. But the Lord knows our challenges, and more, our future challenges, and we have to trust that He is in control. I've seen good people, temple-married, fall away from the church. People change, and grow in both good ways and bad. So my thoughts are: The girls you are dating may or may not represent now what a future marriage could hold from your current perspective. Do your best, and be very prayerful along the way, and you will be lead in the path and the life the Lord knows is best for you. And remember that “Love is Patient.” I trust in this scripture from the Book of Mormon (2Nephi 32:5): “For behold, again I say unto you that if ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do.” And a few verses before it says that the scriptures will tell you all things that you should do. Hold tight to the gospel and the Lord and all things will work for your good. Hang in there, Mormon Guy!

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  11. I find this post almost a little startling to read because I just read a book called "As Always, Dave" by Jack Weyland. In this book Dave has gotten trapped in the "I'm friends with everyone in the singles group" trap that I think all of us who are involved get stuck in. And the book goes into how Dave goes from looking at all girls from a friend only perspective to listening to the Lord for those cues that help him grow, recognize his own shortcomings and strive to do better and find a companion. As a female who finds herself doing much the same thing, I found many neat insights into leaning on the Lord for such direction as the questions you just posed. You might find it a good read too.

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  12. I had a friend in college who asked me for advice in a relationship that she saw going nowhere, but eventually married the guy. Later when I was dating my husband, I called her and asked her what made her stay in the relationship. She told me that when she prayed she never felt the answer no, so she kept going. The same thing worked for me. I was going to go on a mission, but the Lord had other plans for me. If you are listening to the Lord (which from reading your posts I can tell you strive to do:) then He will direct you.

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  13. Anonymous Feb 13, 2012 02:18 PM:

    " I doubt it's a purely sexual attraction. Besides, if it is, that hardly matters in your relationship prior to marriage."

    I don't quite know how to say what I feel, but I'm going to try. If the words mess with the message, I pray that the Spirit may communicate what needs to be heard (which may be nothing at all.) :)

    Of course it's all about more than sexual attraction, but sexuality is VITAL in a healthy, sacred, eternal marriage. Sexual attraction outside of marriage DOES matter, becaue it GREATLY matters IN marriage.

    (G)MG is seeking to do the Lord's will, whatever that may be at this time.

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  14. Part 1

    Good Grief Mormon guy. You tend to analyze and nuance subjects to death. Ad nauseam. Here's an idea. Try being honest with yourself. You can't find a woman who is good enough for you because you see yourself as a spiritual rock star. "This guy commenting doesn't know me, or what he is talking about" you say? I've read enough of your posts to understand you see yourself as a modern day Ammon or Nephi. Out to save your flock. Not that you would admit to your readers, or possibly to yourself, that you see yourself that way. But it is as glaringly obvious as the horn on a rhino. "Where can I find a woman who is as amazingly spiritual as I am?"

    For a moment, let's choose to ignore your tendency toward priggish self righteousness and look beyond that to other more important issues. God gave men and women sexual drives in order to help us get past the lists and the constant analysis of every little character trait. Notice I said, get "past" the obsessing. I didn't say "ignore" the important things. Yeah yeah, I know. You are (gay) and consequently the whole attraction to women by sexual drives doesn't apply to you, right? Wrong. Because the fundamental principle is still true for all of us. God gave us sexual drives to bring men and women together. Just because you and I are wired wrong doesn't mean the principle changes. It just presents us with a challenge. But you appear to want to change the fundamental process God created in us and do it (G)MG's way. "Since I can't (oh really, who said you can't?) have attractions to women, I'll just change the process and analyze to death every woman I ever meet or date". This is an oversimplification of your thought process, but for the sake of brevity I cut to the chase.

    As a gay married mormon, the only general thing the two of us don't have in common is, I am married and you are not. But the rest of the stuff you talk about we generally have in common. The difference between us is in our approach to life. Before I met and fell in love with my wife, I wasn't walking around thinking of myself as God's special messenger to the gay world. I held 4 consecutive church callings, was a faithful home teacher and a good friend to my friends. I served. I was led by the Spirit in my life. I studied the scriptures. And I still do all those things, by the way. All the things you probably do. But the difference is, to me that was just being a normal Latter-day Saint. There are many good people doing all those things. Consequently, I saw no need to view myself as "special". On either end of the spectrum. Either as a special zealot or as a special martyr (the two extremes you sometimes bounce between). I was just one of a vast ocean of faithful people who were working to support and love and help and uplift each other. And so when this girl came along who I was attracted to [yes, totally (gay) as I was there was chemistry], I was able to enjoy our relationship with only minimal 'obsession' about "is she THE one"? Which allowed us to enjoy spending time together in a 'normal' and comfortable dating environment. The same sex attraction didn't magically go away. But I was able to experience an enjoyable relationship with my girlfriend that even involved chemistry. Because I didn't blow my search for an 'eternal' companion out of proportion, and obsess about it, and analyze it to death. I trusted God and went out there and enjoyed friendships, male and female, and got involved socially. But I never labeled myself as a "teacher" of my fellowman. I labeled myself as a friend.

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  15. Part 2

    Dude, someone has to say this. Sometimes you take yourself WAY too seriously. Even Nephi, candid as he was about so much of what he thought and felt, never lamented or obsessed in his writings about his choice of a wife. He was the leader of his people, but you never once see him writing about whether he could find a woman good enough to be his eternal companion. The Lord sent them back to Jerusalem for Ishmael's family and Nephi took one of the daughters of Ishmael as his wife. Just like everything else, the Lord said go do this and he went and did it.

    I'm still living with same sex attraction. I don't know if it will ever go away during my mortal life. But I married a wonderful woman I was attracted to on multiple levels and she was attracted to me, even though she knew about the same sex attraction. It has taken work (show me a good marriage that doesn't take work) but it has been worth all the effort. And even after several years of marriage, she is still the most important light and love in my life. Along with my relationship with God.

    Only YOU can know who is the right woman for you. But I do have some dating advice. Get over yourself. Get over this, "when I walk into a room people realize they need to change their lives" perception. I mean, really, who says that? Nephi? Nope. Alma? Nope. Paul? Nope. Joseph Smith? No again. Jesus? Maybe. But you're not him. You have many terrific qualities MG. Why don't you allow yourself to be a real person; instead of some exaggerated caricature of yourself? Try allowing yourself to just be a friend, instead of a self-proclaimed "teacher". Not only is that whole "I'm your teacher" thing really annoying and a complete turn-off, but even worse it robs you of the opportunity of loving and being loved for who you really are. Seems to me you can hold rigidly to your view of being "special", or you can come down off the pedestal YOU have placed yourself on and enjoy the love and companionship of your brothers and sisters as a "fellow citizen (i.e. an equal) with the saints". Your choice. But I honestly don't believe you can have it both ways.

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  16. Anonymous:

    Thank you for sharing your experience finding your wife. I'm glad that your marriage is going great.

    Thank you also for being honest. I don't get a lot of honest, critical feedback in my life, and I'm grateful that you care enough about me to share your thoughts.

    Your comments hit on what, in my opinion, is the biggest issue I face in life - my perception of others and their perception of me. Even if I were a great guy, and doing everything right, perception would always have a bigger impact on relationships than anything else. I realize that people own their own perceptions, but perceptions always mirror some part of reality... and in the end, my actions or inactions help cause positive and negative reactions.

    I'm sorry that I've come across as holier-than-thou. I do feel an obligation to do everything I can to help people. I feel that God gave me a calling to help others. But I think that God gave everyone that calling. And, in fulfilling it, I'm definitely no better than the next guy in the world, no better able to solve problems, no better as a conduit to God. I'm not a prophet or a martyr - just a guy who probably over-thinks everything that happens in life and is willing to put his thoughts out for others to see. That said, I'm failing in some way if my demeanor comes across as self-righteousness instead of just being another Mormon guy... if people see my posts as didactic instead of personal... or whatever.

    I don't share all my background or the whole story behind my thoughts here on (G)MG. That probably influences your perception of me. Either way, though, perception is reality as far as relationships are concerned, and I guess I've done something to mar yours... and probably a lot of other readers who can also easily see my weaknesses, but who weren't willing to share as well.

    I can't promise that it's going to get miraculously better anytime soon. You and others may still see good reasons to believe I'm arrogant, standoffish, and holier-than-thou. But hopefully this exercise - in communicating with others openly and honestly, regardless of the abilities or disabilities we bring to the table - will help me to better understand what it is I'm doing wrong, or what I'm not doing right. And hopefully someday I'll be able to reach the ideal you outlined - where people can see me as a friend.

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  17. Date for compatibility! Definitely! Chemistry follows compatibility. Even though I struggled a bit later in our dating (wondering if my husband was the "right" guy for me... I had to get over myself too, unfortunately), I can remember that first date feeling so magical. Not because we were in love (we weren't yet) but that we just felt so natural together. It was unlike anything else I had ever experienced dating before , and I dated a TON having gone all the way through BYU as a single woman. So I say date for compatibility, and you will find that with someone who you are truly compatible with, there will be sparks. And I liked the story from Anonymous, I think it's more common than one might think.

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  18. 1st- so glad I found this blog, but that is neither here nor there.

    2nd- I dated my husband for 2 years before I agreed to marry him. We had shared e-mails for about a month before we met in person, and marriage was on his mind from the very first date. I wasn't sure. I wasn't dating anyone else, but there were too many questions in my mind regarding his faith, his upbringing, his choice of career and subsequent ability to provide stable income... and my attraction to him. To be brutally honest, I wasn't attracted to him at all, kind of the opposite actually. But as Tristen says, chemistry follows compatibility. We are so perfectly suited to one another- everyone else could see how perfect we were/are for each other. Lucky for me he is unfailingly patient, and he waited around for me to make up my mind.

    I thought I was being "wise" in seeking someone more faithful or stronger in church, but my husband was the strong one... He was able to accept that I can't be a mom, or that family is going to be one heck of a trial for us, without hesitation. He was able to accept my gamut of medical issues without blinking an eye. He was able to see past the physical flaws that I have and still claims that he can't even see what I am talking about. He was the one who related my issues to the promises in his patriarchal blessing and take comfort in the holy ghost's promises that it would be OK. I can say now that I think Satan had his fingers in my indecision. He was there whispering every flaw into my ear and highlighting the imperfections that I should not have been bothered by.

    I guess that my input would be to not do as I did. Don't confuse that desire for someone "striving to keep the Lord's commandments" for someone who only looks like she is. Anyone can look like they are doing it, you have to give these girls a chance to show who they really are. Actions can be awfully shallow.

    Does that make any sense at all?

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  19. The person you marry has to end up being someone you decide you cannot live your life without, because they mean that much to you. Much in the same way family members feel. For me it means that I think about them when I see something interesting that I want to share with them. "Oh, man that makes me think of _____ I'll have to remember to talk to them about it!"

    For me... it also means that I slowly fell in love without ever realizing it. I've been in love with my closest guy friend for several years, but because the physical attraction wasn't very strong, I ignored him in favor of other young men. Granted, I was a hormonal teenage girl, but looking back I'm kicking myself for it.

    He's now off on his mission, and i'm praying by the time he gets home that I will be the kind of woman he wants to marry. I feel like I have so much work to do to be worthy of an amazing guy such as him! But then again he would probably feel the same about me.

    The point is, whomever you marry will become your friend, first and foremost. You will confide in them the inner workings of your mind and heart, and sincerely respect their opinion when making decisions. Every time you are unsure of yourself you will think about praying about it, and about talking to them to get their take on it.

    This person might have traits that aggravate you, but they will also have some habits that endear them to you completely. My guy loved choirs and would find the most beautifully haunting music and we would talk late into the night about anything and everything, especially the gospel. When you have a friendship based upon common interests and centered around the gospel, THEN start considering if you could develop an attraction to the girl. Most likely, the more time you spend with someone you genuinely love being AROUND, the more likely you are to develop real feelings of passion towards that person.

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