Recognizing the Spirit while dating: dare I even go there? What a complicated subject! I am going to attempt a couple of posts on it. It may not be that bad when we go with the basics we’ve already learned, and then apply them to our dating lives.
This story comes from my friends Jennifer and Parker, who are on their second marriage. I’ve shared stories from them before because they’re both masterful storytellers. This one comes from Jennifer. They’ve been married a few years now and have six children (four boys and two girls) between them from their first marriage (almost exactly like the Brady Bunch).
When I decided to begin dating as a 33 year old divorced mom of 4, I knew things would be different than dating as a 19 year old college student. I was looking for physical, emotional, spiritual, financial, and familial compatibility with a potential spouse. That may seem very specific, but I knew if I could click with a man in at least 3-4 of these categories, he was someone I should consider.
For both Parker and I, living as close to the Spirit as possible was absolutely essential as we considered who to date, and more importantly, who to involve our children with. We prayed and studied scriptures daily, magnified our callings, attended church regularly, looked for opportunities to serve (and be served), attended the temple, counseled with our bishops, and sought blessings when needed. We chose friends and activities that would help us to keep holding to the rod during a time when it is easy to feel so vulnerable, helpless, and alone.
I still don’t know if it was the Spirit initially that told me as soon as I saw Parker’s picture that he was “the one,” because I had had warm, encouraging feelings towards at least one other person I had seriously dated that didn’t work out–but I do know that the Spirit helped both of us during our dating to overcome some major fears and hang ups we had–especially dating long distance with some big life changes one or the other of us would have to make in order for us to be together.
I think one of the biggest moments for us was a sort of “Liahona moment” we had when out for a walk one evening. We were both feeling very drawn to one another–(for my part, totally compatible in all the categories I mentioned before) but Parker was scared as to whether or not asking my children and I to move and being able to provide for such a large family (6 combined kids) would be a wise choice, and just scared in general. Based on a few bad past relationships, I was looking for some type of a commitment from him, even if it was just declaring that we wouldn’t date anyone else. It was hard to leave him for 3-4 weeks at a time and go back to Idaho and kind of worry about all the other girls I knew were trying to get his attention. Anyway, as we were out walking that night–Parker just happened to find a little flashlight on the sidewalk someone had dropped. He clicked it on and it worked. We didn’t think much about it until I also found a gold bubble gum machine ring someone had dropped. We laughed, but also felt very sober towards the fact that he had found his “light” and direction, and I had found a symbol of commitment. We still keep these two objects on the dresser in our bedroom to remind us that the Lord very much meant for us to be together. As we continued to date and counsel and attend the temple together, we just knew that we could overcome any trial or hardship together. Despite a lot of difficulties in getting us together and in adjusting to a new life in a new state in a new family situation, the peace from the Spirit was stronger than any outside trial.