I am struggling and I need some advice or encouragement or wisdom, I recently got back in the dating scene. I’ve been single forever and my last serious relationship was before I got baptized in 2010. I don’t have very much experience with Mormon dating and I struggle to keep my thoughts clean. I don’t want to fall back into past behaviors and I feel like I’m having a hard time staying true to myself.
Dating guys, and being attracted to guys, reminds me of the past in relationships where I was used for sex and not valued. I’m having a hard time believing someone could fall in love with me as an EC [eternal companion]. Do those relationships progress just like non-member relationships? I just want to be myself but I’ve never had a serious romantic relationship as a member of the church…
Thank you so much for your question. Your concerns and reservations are felt by many, both in and outside of the church. We all have desires for intimacy but also want to make sure that we are striving for relationships of meaning and value. As Latter-day Saints, we definitely choose to follow a strict standard of chastity, which the Lord has commanded. However, just because you are new to the church, your struggles are no different than those of lifelong church members. All of us strive to exercise faith and diligence in obeying the commandments and all of us are just as prone to the natural man as any other.
Regarding the progression of LDS relationships compared to non-member relationships, it is difficult to say because relationships are so drastically varied. The rate at which two individuals meet, court, and enter into different levels of commitment changes from couple to couple. However, there are guidelines that will make the process of Mormon dating easier, so I would encourage you to do the following:
- Take an inventory of your expectations before entering certain levels of affection and commitment. In other words, set your own standards, because no one else will set them for you. If you want a guy to call you and ask you out on an official date, instead of texting you to “hang out,” then don’t date guys who do not meet that standard. If a guy texts you to hang out, communicate that you are looking for a man who appreciates traditional dating, not just hanging out.
Dating is challenging for men as well as women, and a lot of guys have been burned, rejected, ignored, stood up and disrespected as well. Consequently, they often have no idea how to approach a woman in any particular situation. However if you make your standards clear, a guy who is really interested will respect your standards. If he’s really interested, he will call and ask you out on a date! Setting a pattern of clearly stating expectations and communicating them will provide a strong foundation for any relationship, whether brand new or seasoned.
- Next, set standards for the levels of affection you are comfortable. No man has any right to your affections no matter how much money he spent on a date, no matter how much time he has spent with you, or how many dates he has taken you on. Your affection is priceless and is only to be expressed when you are good and ready, not when the man expects it or seeks for it.
- The first few dates should be spent having a good time, enjoying a wholesome activity, establishing emotional and spiritual connections, and building physical chemistry and anticipation through dancing, hiking, baking cookies, rock climbing, laser tag, bowling, finger painting, and other involved, yet light-heart activities.
- Regarding personal displays of affection, hugs are sufficient for the first few dates. If a man seems a little aggressive or anxious to progress to kissing and cuddling, especially while lying down, or seems to always suggest activities at night, or one on one at his house or yours, I would be cautious about his true intentions. If a man does seem to be pushing for dates that may not be wholesome in their intent, I would again recommend clearly communicating your expectations and standards. For example, saying something like, “I appreciate the invitation to come over to your house tonight, but I like to have several opportunities to spend time with a man in a more public setting before spending time one on one at their property. Let me know if you have another activity in mind that would be fun.”After three or four dates it may be appropriate, if you feel comfortable, to hold hands, and perhaps even a peck or two. These are my own recommendations for time frames that are appropriate to express affection, but of course, you may adapt them to your comfort level. I would strongly caution against any kissing in overtly intimate settings, such as lying down on a couch watching a movie, swimming alone, in the car etc. And I would definitely caution against any excessive kissing, making out, tongue kissing, necking, etc. Think of it like this: Is the kiss romantic, sweet, fun and building your connection to each other emotionally, physically and spiritually, or is it more passionate, intense and sexual in nature? The latter is best experienced a lot further down the road, and if avoided early on, would help prevent the relationship from leading to regretful behaviors that would result in guilt and shame.
- Regarding frequency of dates, starting out, I would recommend no more than one date a week, if not every other week. We seem to be so anxious to get into a relationship that as soon as we meet someone we like, we want to spend every waking moment with them. Although there are plenty of success stories of such romantic whimsy, I would say jumping head first into a relationship will make physical intimacy progress rather quickly, making it difficult to keep standards and commandments. If this type of intimacy occurs too quickly, when you are uncertain if you want to be exclusive with this individual, it can create confusion, shame and even guilt if the affection progresses to a point that has compromised chastity.Dating is a process, and if you respect the process and allow the relationship to grow and progress steadily, you will find yourself on far more solid ground then by going full steam out of the gate. After three or four dates, it may be appropriate to begin seeing each other once or twice a week and involving each other in activities such as family dinners, work parties or social events. This is one step away from exclusivity and as the relationship progresses, becoming exclusive would be the final step in courtship before engagement and marriage.
- One final word of caution, and this may seem extreme, but I would avoid any excessive making out until you are at least engaged, if not already married. Also avoid being alone in compromising situations such as a bedroom, a dark living room, etc. Remember that as much as the Lord wants us to be happy and find fulfilling eternal relationships, the adversary wants us to slip up by making bad decisions and compromising our eternal destiny.Our society seems to place sexual interaction as the most crucial and fundamental focal point of all relationships. Although it is definitely an important component, there are other aspects that are far more crucial and necessary in an eternal relationship, such as compatibility, spiritual sensitivity, a desire to live the gospel, open and respectful communication, sacrifice, patience, forgiveness, etc. A relationship based on these attributes will have a greater capacity to last into eternity than a relationship based on making out for a couple hours after knowing each other for a week.
I appreciate your openness and your concerns. Have faith that God will bless you if you are obedient and set up boundaries to help protect your virtue, the law of chastity and the sanctity of the priesthood that the men you will be dating hold. When a man recognizes your standards and you carry yourself with respect and dignity, he WILL respect your standards and will never do anything to compromise his chances with you. If he is truly interested in you as a person and as a prospective eternal companion, if he makes a mistake, he will recognize his error and will seek your forgiveness.
You made such a courageous decision to be baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ, great blessings await you as you continue to be faithful. You need not fear Mormon dating, God is aware of your concerns and He will bless you and guide you as you seek to find a man worthy of enjoying the blessings of eternity by your side.
Paul Green, is a real estate broker and professional improvisational comedian, actor and trainer. He has trained thousands of professionals and teenagers on principles of leadership, communication, team building and creative thinking and has provided heart-filled advice and encouragement to all who he has had an opportunity to interact. His greatest passion is helping individuals find creative and uplifting solutions to the many challenges of life by applying the principles and doctrines of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He looks forward to hearing and understanding the challenges of his readers and helping them to overcome these challenges. For his full bio, click here.
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