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Thriving and Growing as an LDS Single


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Book Review: Attached

A friend recommended this book, Attached: the New Science of Adult Attachment and How it Can Help You Find and Keep Love, which is based on the premise that we all handle relationships in primarily one of three ways: Secure, Anxious, or Avoidant.  I scored about equally on Secure and Anxious and my friend (his review and story is below) scored Avoidant and Anxious.  I would highly recommend this book solely on the insights this gave me. Also, it was an easy find at the library and an easy read.

Attached.jpg

There were some minor things that bothered me. The authors put a lot of effort into the premise that Anxious/Avoidant relationships are difficult and should probably be avoided.  I agreed with that premise. However, they make a big deal out of finding ways that married Anxious/Avoidant couples can “cope” or non-married couple of this attachment style should probably cut things off: but they only put a cursory few paragraphs on how people’s attachment style can change. I think with the amount of “Secure” people in the world versus the amount of Anxious/Avoidant there don’t seem to be many opportunities to marry a “Secure” and thus I think there should have been more encouragement to see a therapist or get help from family. I’m not one to think that things have to be the way they are.

Another thought: a friend who is a therapist agreed with me that just because someone has anxiety or an anxiety disorder doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily be anxious in their relationship style.

Anyway, on to my friend Ethan’s (name has been changed) story.

Allergic to Love
KNOW THYSELF was inscribed somewhere on the walls of the oracle at Delphi. It sounds trite, but I am 37.5 years old and still getting amazing jolts, shocking revelations about the whys behind my tendencies. My emotional makeup has elements I never knew about, although they affect my behavior and emotions anyway.
One recent revelation came from a book called Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment.
Pop-psychology and self-help literature can exist in worlds of their own, where laws are slightly different from those found in reality. They often tell us more about those who wrote them than about humanity in general.
However, when something works, it works. Who knows why magnets work? Regardless of how you explain it, they work.
When I find something that describes succinctly the how and why of my self-defeating behaviors, I treasure such epiphanies. This new book seems to describe why I am still single, afraid of love, and why I short-circuit my relationships and flee.

Attachment Styles
I feel like I have had a love-allergy ever since my divorce. (Love-phobia, even.) I was on Tinder, talking to a single mother my own age. She related that she was recently divorced. I related that I had just barely begun to open up emotionally again, to recuperate after my own divorce—over 13 years ago. She thought that was very funny, that it took me so long to thaw my feet. I giggle less and fret more about this emotional sluggishness.
I dated a girl who had just ended an engagement two months before we met, and she was ready to get back on the trail, hunting for Mr. Right. I was astonished at her quick turn-around time. Did she not care that much about the guy? Apathy and shallow feelings or lack of libido were not the reasons for her ability to let go and start over. The book described the reason for her emotional resilience, as well as my immensely cold feet and reluctant hesitation.

Attached describes three attachment styles: Secure, Anxious, and Avoidant. There is a test inside the book for self-evaluation. The girl who bounced back two months after her breakup? She was a Secure.
These people are the superheroes of romance, emotionally speaking. They give and receive affection readily; don’t play games; don’t expect that a fight or disagreement is the end of the relationship; and have no problem coaching their partners in how to be good at love, explaining how to meet their needs.
Anxious types worry when they are in a relationship. They are clingy, needy, nervous, hyper-sensitive to their partners’ moods, afraid that some text message or look (or the lack thereof) signals some displeasure portending the end of love. These poor souls are prone to jealousy, and easily hurt. They swing from ecstasy to despair in a heartbeat. Hovering over the phone waiting for a return call or text, assuming the worst all the time—this kind of desperate behavior typifies those with the Anxious attachment type.
Avoidants are allergic to love, in a sense. When they become attracted to someone, another system designed to inoculate them against affection throws them into a panic. They start to feel trapped, an irrational emotional claustrophobia, so to speak. They have one foot in the stirrup, and one foot on the ground. (How confident would you feel sitting on a plane next to someone wearing a parachute with his hand on the emergency exit? This is a good metaphor for the internal emotional posture of Avoidants.) These people can come off as heartless, behaving towards partners like cats toying with mice, instead of being loving and empathetic. They might be cruel, or flirt with someone other than their significant others, to deactivate love when attraction becomes too strong. Whenever attraction becomes too strong in themselves or especially others, they tend to bolt like frightened deer.
It is possible to possess elements of all three attachment types, though the authors assume that all people tend to favor one in particular.
What was my attachment type according to the test in the book? I scored high in both Avoidant and Anxious behaviors, and had almost nil in the Secure category.
According to the book, being Anxious or Avoidant does not mean the need for love and companionship and sex is diminished. It just means that these people are prone to self-defeating behaviors, bad love hygiene. They suggest being aware of these tendencies and behaviors, and why they surface, as well as suggesting courses of action to deal with them so that they do not torpedo romantic relationships.
Imagine a blood type that can’t donate to anyone, and can only receive blood from one type of donor. That’s a fair description of how the test in the book casts me.
The book suggests that Secures are like universal donors. Their calmness and openness rub off on both Anxious and Avoidant partners, and help them to begin to exhibit Secure behaviors. Like the tuning fork that causes sympathetic vibration in another tuning fork, Secures are medicinal for their insecure partners.
When an Anxious and Avoidant pair off, the Anxious will chase the Avoidant around trying to sooth her anxiety, and the Avoidant will become cold and insensitive and scarce in order to sooth his feeling of being smothered by the Anxious partner. A death trap, according to the book.
And a fair description of the shenanigans that went on during my brief marriage.
Excessive Immune Response
All this may sound strange to someone who isn’t Avoidant, but it really is like being allergic to love. That pleasurable sensation of being drawn to someone inevitably comes with an opposite and equal urge toward withdrawal, an instinct to bolt. I’ve heard about allergy sufferers who must carry epinephrine syringes to cope with accidental ingestion of peanuts. I wish there were such an inoculation against the fear of love that besets me.
One book about romantic love (Finding the Love of Your Life) asked the reader to create a personality portrait of the traits one’s ideal partner would possess, just to facilitate recognition of a good potential partner when one comes along. I drew a blank as I struggled to pick from the author’s list of traits—the words wouldn’t come. It was like a form of amnesia or mental paralysis. Something inside me recoiled from the Perfect Woman, even the task of describing her personality in writing.
Armed with the perspective of this book, I now have language to describe my bad behavior. I see why, being both Anxious and Avoidant, I get into relationships, then subconsciously sabotage them and bail whenever she gets too close for comfort.
When I’m in the middle of a relationship, I exhibit Anxious behaviors like hovering over the phone, worrying about little snips or criticisms, and fretting over the future. All this fretting turns to fuming, and I look for an escape hatch, often in the form of fault-finding.
The book describes strategies Avoidants adopt to kill love, to deactivate their attraction and thereby short-circuit relationships. Pining for a past relationship with someone and idealizing it, glossing over flaws and pretending it was so wonderful, is one of these strategies. How can I be with Miss Today when Miss Yesterday was so captivating?
Focusing on and magnifying a partner’s warts and flaws is another way of seeking for excuses to bail from a relationship.
(I often find myself drawn towards women with fatal flaws because such flaws look like a built-in escape hatch, a convenient way out of a relationship. If she’s too perfect, I might not be able to escape the swirling vortex of attraction. I never admitted any of this stuff to myself in words, until I read Attached.)
Are there silver linings for me? Anxious types can become hyper-sensitive to others’ feelings. Having an Anxious attachment style helps me to compensate for some of my male social obliviousness. Body language and hints can fly right by men, but when I am attracted to someone, the slightest twitch of the eyelid becomes a subject of interest, and I attempt to interpret these types of cues.
Being Avoidant could morph into being pickier about partners—not settling, not diving into unwise relationships (like I did when I got married). Caution will guide me to tie the knot firmly, with a rope that won’t fray. (Or at least that’s what I tell myself when I’m trying to be optimistic about my diagnosis of terminal love allergy.)
Independence Paradox
The book says that good relationships empower those in them to face the world. Being dependent on each other makes partners stand taller, and act with more apparent independence, confidence, and energy.
Those who approach the world alone might seem more independent, but they are not as secure because they are not fortified by emotional or physical intimacy. Unmet needs of any kind are a chink in the armor.
Ironically, being Avoidant means mistaking weakness—emotional starvation—for independence. Lone-wolf mystique is a big thing in America. We shun the collectivism of Asian societies, preferring to romanticize the iconic image of a solitary cowboy riding his horse mysteriously over the horizon, grimly rippling his jaw muscles and squinting eyes. We romanticize the alpha male man-on-a-mission.
Reality is a world of interdependence and interconnectedness. It starts with our mothers and branches out to fathers, grandparents, siblings, cousins, school mates, friends, coworkers, political parties, churches, and the whole world. When a mudslide across the world decimates a village, people who never met the villagers mobilize.
I made almost nothing I own, save a very few things. Am I independent because I roam the streets at night on staring at the stars? No, the food I eat, clothes I wear, car I drive, gasoline it burns, bed I sleep in, etc., where all made and shipped and sold to me by others.
Emotional sustenance is a real need, which is why solitary confinement is considered a severe form of punishment.
Why isolate myself?
“Introversion” is a term that gets overused to describe quiet and contemplative behavior. Someone who needs people a lot, yet fears them, is SHY, not introverted. Introverts may or may not be afraid of public speaking, but we need our space. We recharge our batteries during peaceful moments and alone-time; extroverts recharge by getting with groups of people and experience high levels of stimulation.
I am both introverted, and somewhat shy. All this means keeping me happy is easy and cheap (“alone” requires no money or planning; just walk away and there you are). Meeting other emotional needs? Combining Avoidant and Anxious and Introverted and Shy is a recipe for bachelorhood.
I hear Einstein wrote out some kind of contract for his first wife, including a bunch of stuff about how quiet she would be around him, and not bother him. This sounds juvenile, but there really are human beings (in case you were wondering) for whom peace is an end unto itself. Human contact is very stimulating—which is why extroverts crave it, and introverts often recoil.
Helpful Suggestions
A relationship (sigh) is mostly made of interaction with another human being. That means illusory independence has to give way to negotiating, stepping on each other’s toes, blame, constricted privacy, etc. It is like going from a single seat bike to a tandem bicycle. You have to agree and then start pedaling; otherwise you stop and disagree and discuss, or one partner is grumpy about the path the other has chosen for them.
This dreary description of being in a romantic or marriage relationship is, in itself, a pretty good sample of the kind of bitter bilge my brain comes up with in order to protect me from love. It is like a confused immune system, fighting off the good bacteria necessary for life (romantic Crohn’s Disease?).
What does Attached have to offer in the way of hope for the hopeless romantic (disaster area) like me?
In the first place, it gives room for fluidity. These labels are not set in stone, though habits of decades are hard to shake off in any case.
The most helpful part of the book (for me, so far) is a section of suggests from about page 127 to 130.
It is titled, EIGHT THINGS YOU CAN START DOING TODAY TO STOP PUSHING LOVE AWAY
I will sum them up here in my own words, with some commentary:
First, learn to identify deactivating strategies. Am I acting like an Avoidant? Am I fantasizing about love that can never be in order to escape love that is right in front of me? Am I magnifying my date’s flaws, and diminishing her qualities? This reminds me of the STOP survival rule: stranded in the wilderness, you must Stop, Think, Observe, and Plan. Running and screaming will get you dehydrated and killed quickly; it is the calm castaway that survives.
Being aware of the habits that lead to bailing from a relationship is the first step toward stopping them in their tracks. I still need closeness and intimacy, regardless of how expensive my flawed instincts tell me they are.
Second, de-emphasize being a lone wolf, or romanticizing that form of isolationism. Focus on mutual support, togetherness. “Let’s get together, yeah yeah yeah…”
Third, find a secure partner. Your strength gives me strength. I heard that ancient Israelite soldiers who were overly afraid were asked to leave the battlefront—cowardice and panicky behavior are as contagious as laughter. A calm soldier calms his fellows down. (I have often thought that, the quieter a woman whispers, the louder it resonates in a man’s brain (which is why nagging backfires, I guess–but hints don’t work; you have to actually whisper).
Fourth, beware of my tendency to misinterpret behaviors. Is a joke mean-spirited, or good fun? I recently ran from a date because her jokes reminded me of my ex’s abusive and belittling humor. Does my significant other really feel kindly towards me, and have my interest at heart? The longer she stays with me, the more likely the answer is “yes.”
Fifth, enumerate reason to be grateful about a relationship. Focusing on flaws magnifies them and obscures the very real good that is there. Acknowledge the good your partner does, and has.
Sixth, forget the phantom ex. I am no longer in that relationship for a reason—several reasons, probably. If she was “all that,” I would still be with her, right? So stop using her as an excuse to bail on the relationship at hand.
Seventh, forget about “the one.” It is easy (too easy) to imagine an ideal partner. That is not real life. I recently explained to a friend an analogy. Imagine a grocery store where, instead of items on the shelves, you find nothing but shopping carts that have already been filled with assorted items by someone else before you got to the store. You can’t take anything out of the carts, or put anything in. You simply have to look around and choose a cart that most closely matches what you wanted to buy.
This is a lot like dating and courtship. Qualities are either in people, or they are not. Some things that we perceive as flaws are in people (though someone else might see that raucous laugh and bubbly personality as qualities instead of warts). We can do nothing to change others; we simply accept them or reject them. To think we can sculpt and manicure and fix a person after we get married is flirting with disaster.
I have learned through rough experiences recently that we cannot love people in slices—we either accept the whole person, or it is not really love.
What about helping others to change? Change is a voluntary act. We cannot choose change for another.
Eighth, adopt the distraction strategy. A date might include an activity where you are facing each other the whole time, which will activate attraction, and hence drive Avoidants to flee: try a date where you focus on something else. Imagine cooking together. You aren’t having a staring contest at a restaurant table; you are bustling around the kitchen.
This is a little like smuggling yourself into a relationship. Low-dose exposure to stimulus, with successive increases in exposure, can habituate the subject to the stimulus. Low doses of attraction mean less nervousness, and fewer attempts to bolt.
This is perhaps the suggestion from the book I think about most. A perfect date might include something that allows me to be something other than twitter-pated.
Lately it seems like I have been dragging a five foot long piece of toilet paper stuck to my heel around for twenty years, and this book barely pointed it out to me.
Is it too late? Am I doomed? I feel that coming to understand myself is a good omen. In order to predict and control something, you must first have at least some understanding of it.


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Elder Gerrit W. Gong on being a perfectionist in dating

gerrit-w-gong-10.jpg  From an Ensign article, here. 

In the Sermon on the Mount, the Savior commands us: “Be ye therefore perfect” (Matthew 5:48). The Greek word for perfect can be translated as “complete, finished, fully developed” (in Matthew 5:48, footnote b). Our Savior asks us to become complete, finished, fully developed—to be perfected in the virtues and attributes He and our Father in Heaven exemplify.2

Let us see how applying the doctrine of the Atonement may help those who feel they need to find perfection or to be perfect.

Perfectionism

A misunderstanding of what it means to be perfect can result in perfectionism—an attitude or behavior that takes an admirable desire to be good and turns it into an unrealistic expectation to be perfect now. Perfectionism sometimes arises from the feeling that only those who are perfect deserve to be loved or that we do not deserve to be happy unless we are perfect.

Perfectionism can cause sleeplessness, anxiety, procrastination, discouragement, self-justification, and depression. These feelings can crowd out the peace, joy, and assurance our Savior wants us to have.


What helps those who battle perfectionist tendencies? Open-ended, supportive inquiries communicate acceptance and love. They invite others to focus on the positive. They allow us to define what we feel is going well. Family and friends can avoid competitive comparisons and instead offer sincere encouragement.

Another serious dimension of perfectionism is to hold others to our unrealistic, judgmental, or unforgiving standards. Such behavior may, in fact, deny or limit the blessings of the Savior’s Atonement in our lives and in the lives of others. For example, young single adults (insert: or older) may make a list of desired qualities in a potential spouse and yet be unable to marry because of unrealistic expectations for the perfect companion.

Thus, a sister may be unwilling to consider dating a wonderful, worthy brother who falls short on her perfectionist scale—he does not dance well, is not planning to be wealthy, did not serve a mission, or admits to a past problem with pornography since resolved through repentance and counseling.

Similarly, a brother may not consider dating a wonderful, worthy sister who doesn’t fit his unrealistic profile—she is not a sports enthusiast, a Relief Society president, a beauty queen, a sophisticated budgeter, or she admits to an earlier, now-resolved weakness with the Word of Wisdom.

Of course, we should consider qualities we desire in ourselves and in a potential spouse. We should maintain our highest hopes and standards. But if we are humble, we will be surprised by goodness in unexpected places, and we may create opportunities to grow closer to someone who, like us, is not perfect.

Faith acknowledges that, through repentance and the power of the Atonement, weakness can be made strong and repented sins can truly be forgiven.

Happy marriages are not the result of two perfect people saying vows. Rather, devotion and love grow as two imperfect people build, bless, help, encourage, and forgive along the way. The wife of a modern prophet (insert: Camilla Kimball) was once asked what it was like being married to a prophet. She wisely replied that she had not married a prophet; she had simply married a man who was completely dedicated to the Church no matter what calling he received.4 In other words, in process of time, husbands and wives grow together—individually and as a couple.

The wait for a perfect spouse, perfect education, perfect job, or perfect house will be long and lonely. We are wise to follow the Spirit in life’s important decisions and not let doubts spawned by perfectionist demands hinder our progress.

For those who may feel chronically burdened or anxious, sincerely ask yourself, “Do I define perfection and success by the doctrines of the Savior’s atoning love or by the world’s standards? Do I measure success or failure by the Holy Ghost confirming my righteous desires or by some worldly standard?”

For those who feel physically or emotionally exhausted, start getting regular sleep and rest, and make time to eat and relax. Recognize that being busy is not the same as being worthy, and being worthy does not require perfection.5

For those prone to see their own weaknesses or shortcomings, celebrate with gratitude the things you do well, however large or small.

Read the rest of the talk here.


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The Different Sides of Single and Chaste

By Suzette, from Exponent II, (from the series: Single and Married in the LDS Church)Single-1.jpg

I was almost 21 years old (just pre-mission) when I went through the temple for the first time and covenanted to “live the law of chastity”. At the time, I assumed I would have to “contain” my sexuality for a few more years – and then stay faithful to my husband for all the years after that. I didn’t think it would be very hard.

But, here I am, more than 20 years later – and I’m still on the “contain my sexuality part”. Because I stayed single, I’ve had to make the choice about staying chaste (according to the LDS temple covenant) many times. It is not an easy choice. And it is not an easy lifestyle.

In 2011, Nicole Hardy wrote an article in the New York Times called “Single, Female, Mormon, Alone”; it generated a lot of discussion among my single friends.  In her article (now a book), Hardy describes her decision to leave her celibate, Mormon life and explore sexual experiences. Her choices are different from mine, but that is not what bothers me about the article. I am bothered by the fact that she sees choices other than becoming sexually active as adolescent and even foolish.

She writes: “Most troubling was the fact that as I grew older I had the distinct sense of remaining a child in a woman’s body; virginity brought with it arrested development on the level of a handicapping condition, like the Russian orphans I’d read about whose lack of physical contact altered their neurobiology and prevented them from forming emotional bonds. Similarly, it felt as if celibacy was stunting my growth; it wasn’t just sex I lacked but relationships with men entirely. Too independent for Mormon men, and too much a virgin for the other set, I felt trapped in adolescence.”

Hardy’s experience may tell one side of the story, but I have another. Rather than feeling that my choice of chastity leaves me stuck in adolescence or handicap, I feel it heightens my consciousness around my own body.  I consider my sexual feelings deeply because I am compelled to consistently reconcile my beliefs and my desires.  I have considered my choices and fully own my sexuality. This depth of feeling creates, for me, keen consideration of intimate relationships – and a confidence that I am choosing for myself.

I am tired of the word “virgin” being tied to ideas like naive, simple, scared, fragile, and ashamed.  I would like to see the word make a shift to connect with ideas like courageous, determined, strong and sound … all attributes of a fully aware and responsible adult.   Making a choice is empowering. Gone are the days when I live the law of chastity for fear of my Bishop or the Lord. It is my choice – and I can own that. (And I can feel comfortable with my single friends who make other choices – and own those as well.)

There is still another side to this story. I give the Hardy credit for describing a situation that has my complete empathy: living chaste, at arms length with ones sexuality, into mid-adulthood is a hard way to live.  Sex is a normal part of adult life.  It is, however, a missing part of my live or the lives my friends who live single and chaste.  We are not only missing the act of sex, but the intimacy of shared living.

Many adults live without sex for a few years into adulthood while they finish college or “find the right one”, but we live without sex for an additional 15, 20 years or more. Over time, this physical isolation changes us; creating a wound in body and spirit. It is a dark hurt of longing, unsatisfied yearning, aloneness, and insufficient closeness.

The situation is exacerbated by the feeling that this wound is invisible to our married brothers and sisters who see only the benefits of a chaste life.  It seems that for them there is no real difference between chastity at age 17 and chastity at age 40.  Their sermons about the benefits of “saving ourselves for marriage” don’t fall on deaf ears, but seem to lack understanding. It seems that married leaders equate their 20 year old single experience to our current situation. We do see the benefits of living chaste, but our situation differs for that of a youth. Making sensible choices in a passionate moment is not as difficult in mid-adulthood as it once was.  We’ve had practice with drawing boundaries and are fully aware of consequences.  The harder part is the living; making the choice every day as the loss of a shared bed and a life companion grows. We miss intimacy into the deep parts of ourselves and know that some of those losses cannot be restored.

While choosing a chaste life comes with its price, I still believe it has been a powerful choice for me.  I feel strong. I feel free. I feel whole. And the scope goes beyond myself, which gives me reason to continue choosing it. On its own, the law of chastity may fall short on benefits, but combined with all the principles in the gospel of Christ, it holds greater weight.  All of these principles, together, create a tight weave in the fabric that connects me to God and to others in my faith community. It provides a sense of safety that spreads throughout my life.

Living chaste allows me to participate fully with my community of Saints – and holds me in solidarity with them. This community sustains me with their own faith and trust. I am better and live richer because I am whole with them.

By choosing to live chaste, I sacrifice parts of myself and am built stronger in others parts. My relationship with Christ allows me to believe that His atonement will, in time, heal my wounds and deepen my understanding.


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Myths (from the series: Single and Married in the LDS Church)

re-posted from Exponent II by permission

Singles question myths.jpgby Amanda Waterhouse

Marriage is not simply a relationship or tax status in our church. It’s a blessing, a rite of passage, a necessary part of salvation; which leaves single adults in a tricky place. If marriage is a blessing, why haven’t you received it yet? Why don’t you deserve it? What did you do wrong?

Of course, the flip side to the myth that single adults are single because of some worthiness issue is the idea that it’s not your fault at all. You just haven’t been given the opportunity to get married yet. All too often I have been reassured, “I’m sure you’ll be married in the next life!” by well-meaning members who don’t recognize the inherent double blow to self-esteem in a message that implies:

1) you’ll be better (i.e. “fixed”) in the next life, thus reinforcing the idea that something is wrong with you now, and

2) you are not enough. It’s tricky to maintain a strong sense of individual worth when you are constantly reminded that no matter how good you are, you won’t be good enough until you are partnered with somebody else. I am a child of God, but I’m not worthy of exaltation so long as I’m a single child of God.

Free agency further complicates this idea. When marriage becomes a matter of choice rather than a spiritual achievement or opportunity, it’s a gendered choice – men do the choosing and are failures if they do not choose correctly; women wait to be chosen and are failures if they are not picked.

And it’s just that – waiting. The idea that your life doesn’t actually begin until you’re married and have “a family of your own” traps single adults in a liminal space between adolescence and adulthood. A wedding, particularly a temple wedding, acts as a significant rite of passage in the church; and the church doesn’t know quite when to treat those who have not completed that ritual as full-fledged adults.

Marriage equals maturity; therefore singles must be immature. Singles wards and groups are not only given second-class citizen status in their segregation, but they are assigned married couples to “lead” them. When a newly-married couple in their early 20’s is placed in a leadership position over older single adults, the message is clear – a marriage certificate bestows more life-experience and capabilities than years of living as an independent adult. No wonder many Mormon single adults buy into this myth as much as non-single member do, to damaging effect. All too often single adults embrace a semi-adolescent lifestyle, neglecting critical responsibilities such as creating wills, saving for retirement, or establishing their own homes. We lose sight of the “adult” by focusing too much on the “single.”

Some of the most damaging myths about singles in the church are rooted in some of the most beautiful doctrines of the gospel, which makes it so much harder to untangle the truths from the myths. It’s worth it, though. Free agency, eternal families, celestial progression, and a real understanding of individual worth are worth the struggle to remind my fellow members and the struggle to convince myself over and over again that myths about single adults are indeed just myths.

Amanda Waterhouse teaches theater and a whole lot more in a high school outside of Denver. She loves traveling, Michelin restaurants, Marvel movies, and the Oxford comma.


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A Shout Out to Single Men (from the series: Single and Married in the LDS Church)

Re-posted by permission from Exponent II. Suzette:

single-man.jpgFour years ago, I published this post on single Mormon men. I think this series on singles is a good time to bring it back (with a few edits and updates) for a re-post. This article does not address divorced men in specific, but the same principles apply. Divorced men in the church are often viewed with more suspicion and judgment than never-been-married men. I hope this post will help us to re-evaluate how we view and treat our single men.

Throughout my single adult life, I’ve heard a lot criticism about Single Mormon Men (SMM). People say that they are selfish, lazy, irresponsible, and just plain weird. Everyone seems to have an opinion about SMM, including Nicole Hardy who calls them “left overs: awkward, uncompromising, and unlucky” (“Single, Female, Mormon, Alone”, NYTimes, 1/2011). I’ve read many unflattering theories for their singleness on Mormon blogs across the internet.

These men rarely get a break: the prophet is on their case about being unmarried, bishops keep the pressure on about dating, parents are ever inquiring, and ward members eye them suspiciously. Even single women (I am very sorry to say) seem to have free reign in their verbal flogging. There is a constant call for them to grow up, man up, career up, and get married already.

 

The SMM response to this censure? To walk away.

 

Jared Whitley writes “most single LDS males are probably not willing to complain … so they do the only thing they can do: suffer in quiet desperation [or] seek refuge elsewhere. [This] means leaving the Mormon Church, which compounds the imbalanced gender ratios among LDS singles.” (How Targeting LDS Males for Declining Marriage Rates Misses the Mark )

 

This needs to change.

 

These men are kind, genuine, engaging people – who are largely undeserving of the criticism they receive.

My experience with SMM is different from the opinions above. I have many positive experiences with SMM.

  • Last spring, for example, I put together an Easter event and rounded up dozens of people to help and to sing. Half of those who said “yes” were SMM.
  • Yesterday, I called three friends for a favor; the one who came through was a SMM.
  • In my daily life, SMM are interesting parts to my email strings, intelligent contributors to my conversations, and fun companions on a variety dinners, outings, and road trips.
  • They have given me blessings when I’ve been ill, brought me food when I’ve been recovering, reviewed my resumes, proofed my Exponent articles, and, along with my girl friends and married friends, have supported me in difficult times.
  • In their wards, I have watched them camp with the Young Men, visit the needy, lead missionary efforts, teach lessons, and sing in choirs.

To be realistic, they do have problems. But these problems are no more remarkable than yours or mine. Yes, they have disappointed me. And so have my single girl friends, my married friends, and my family.

I’d like to have more SMM around. I believe if they feel valued and loved in their friendships and wards – they’ll stay around. And we’ll be better for it.

 How to keep SMM around?

  • Appreciate them for all the ways they serve.
  • Give them callings at church that will allow them to use their skills and talents.
  • Call them for blessings.
  • Invite them to dinner, parties, and fun events.
  • Talk to them (for heaven sake). Ask them about their jobs and their interests.
  • Support them when they are in need.
  • Don’t make assumptions – any assumptions.
  • Be short on advise and long on love.

In short, treat them like you treat your friends. I believe if we engage our SMM, we will find our Mormon community stronger, more vibrant, and more supported. We need all the members in the Body of Christ.


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How to be a Good Parent to Single Mormon Adults (from the series: Single and Married in the LDS Church)

by Amanda Waterhouse at Exponent II, reposted here by permission. See the original post here. Singles: you may want to pass this along to your parents! It’s very tastefully done.

Note from Suzette: Amanda has spelled out several excellent ideas for good parenting to single Mormon adults. These same principles apply if you have single adult ward members or single adult friends. These missteps really do happen! (ie: couch sleeping, kids tables, invasive questions on dating, strange advice on marriage that might have applied years ago, awkward family picture moments, and even ignoring.) Hoping that when we all know better – we do better.

 

I’ll begin succinctly: Don’t treat a single adult differently than your other children.

You may not intend to; I hope you don’t intend to; but it is not unusual for single adults to be given an “other” status in their own families as much as they are given one at church.   Here are a few things to keep in mind that may help keep your interactions with your single child in balance:

  • Be aware of accommodations you make for the spouses of your children that put the single adult in a less-than desirable place. I understand the instinct to give more privacy to the marrieds, but if it is really fair to expect the single adult to always take the couch/backseat/kid’s table? (Yes, kid’s table. It happens.)
  • Don’t assume that their schedule is more flexible/less important than everyone else’s schedules. Yes, it is easier when there’s only one person’s time to account for; but please remember the toll it takes to always be the one who accommodates everyone else.
  • Be careful with the lure of grandchildren. By all means be outstanding, present, supportive, loving grandparents; but please recognize that the single child may be left out. Do you visit the single child as much as the ones with grandkids? Do you see the single child in his/her home, or do they only see you when they join you at the married’s house? When the family gets together, is it all about the babies and the recitals and what the kids want to do, or is there time for the adults to be adults?
  • Take an interest in their interests. Find out what your single child is doing and then learn about it yourself! Just as you might bone up on the latest Pixar release to talk to your grandkids, keep up with your single child’s hobbies, interests, and career.
  • Acknowledge that the older your child gets, your personal experience with singleness loses relevance.
  • Talk to your single child. Rather than focusing on what’s not happening, focus on what is happening. This doesn’t mean that talking about dating is completely taboo; it can be just as annoying to have your parents avoid that subject altogether. Just be aware of the balance of topics in your conversations and make sure that you acknowledge everything your single adult is rather than what he/she is not.
  • Understand that it is challenging to be single in this church, which means your single adult might have doubts, ask questions, or feel like he/she just doesn’t fit in as a Mormon anymore. Don’t freak out about this or rush in to “fix” things. Listen to your child; hear his/her perspective.
  • Remember that marriage doesn’t fix everything. Your child can have a full, enriching, fascinating, and worthwhile as a single adult. Love them, support them, listen to them, and please just make sure they know that they are enough, just as they are.

Amanda Waterhouse teaches theater and a whole lot more in a high school outside of Denver. She loves traveling, Michelin restaurants, Marvel movies, and the Oxford comma.