LDS Singles

Thriving and Growing as an LDS Single


Leave a comment

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.

Advertisements


3 Comments

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.


4 Comments

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.


Leave a comment

Unrequited Love

Thpurple-42887_640.pngey say that most people have dealt with unrequited love at least once in their lifetime, at least 98% according to an estimate in this article in Psychology Today . I think most of us who are single are nodding our heads sadly in agreement.

How to deal with it

  1. Remember that what was in your head probably won’t match what would actually happen had you been in a relationship with this person, no matter how good a person they may be. Even in marriages, the way you think things are going to go and the way they actually go are usually two very different things: and you don’t know this person that well.
  2. Most likely this has happened to you before. You overcame it and then you found new people to be interested in. Sometimes that took a while. Maybe it’s time again to get a better relationship with yourself, or your siblings or parents, or other family or friends. It’s hard when, each time, it seems like you’ve found an even better match for yourself but then it doesn’t work out yet again. This is not the end of the road. Maybe it’s time to focus on service or work or school or a church calling for a while.

Where do I go from here?

I hate getting over crushes or unrequited love: call it what fits you best. You have to go through the pain of realizing that something you’d hoped for, something important to you, may never be. At certain times in my life this has been harder than others. I had someone writing me when I was on my mission. Towards the end he was still writing. I was freaking out because I wasn’t sure what I thought, but in theory (because of the letters he was writing), he was still there.

Only he wasn’t. I got home to find out that he was engaged to someone else. It was a heartbreaking time for me. I had at least hoped I’d come home to have him as my friend, there, to talk about my mission with, as we’d corresponded nearly the whole time. Even though I wasn’t sure that I wanted more than that, the loss of the friendship was the most difficult. heart-642154_640.png

Another time period in my life I really liked someone and just wanted to get to go out with him. What I didn’t know what that he was dating someone else on the sly (heard of “stealth dating?”) and so when I told him how I felt he turned me down. Even though I felt embarrassed, I tried again a few months later. I got the same response and was mortified when I decided what a fool I’d made out of myself. To this day I still wonder if the girl he was dating (who became his wife) was bugged by me, or if she realizes that I’m long over it and that I saw almost immediately that they were a much better match, once they finally “came out” as a couple.

Getting over both these situations was painful, but tools our Heavenly Father has given us ultimately brought peace and healing for those times and others. In Isaiah 49:16 the Lord reminds us that he’s always there for us:

16 Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.

 

Heavenly Father does want us to be happy and if we pray for his help, He will help us move on and he will help us through the pain. The pain can be a bittersweet opportunity to look at ourselves and say, “Why am I hurting? What was I expecting?” and we can use these answers for future goals and expectations. Sometimes some of the greatest things we do come on the heals of painful experiences.


4 Comments

Marriage Won’t Solve Your Problems

248936_444158605660219_430948644_nA kind, attractive, hard-working, intelligent and spiritually minded sister in our ward that I admire a great deal and look up to made a statement in Relief Society that echoes a sentiment that I feel like I’ve been hearing a lot lately: “I was thinking the other day how nice it would be to have a cute man to go home to (note: husband, of course) to talk over my problems with,” she then followed that by saying, “but I’m realizing today that i can turn to the Lord to help me with my problems.” Another close friend said recently, “I know that getting married won’t solve all of my problems, but…” when most of her conversations on the matter betray the fact that she actually is expecting that to some extent, and having a hard time giving up that wish. Any man would be blessed to have either of these ladies as a wife, not to mention every single one of the other women at church that I hear these statements from.

Lately it seems like these kind of comments have been happening more and more, several times a month if not occasionally several times in one Sunday. Being the somewhat more jaded divorcee in the group (not sure how many of us there are, exactly) I feel for these women and I hope they get all they’re looking for.  The longing to be married probably won’t (and shouldn’t) go away, and probably neither will the temptation to hope that marriage will come and solve everything, the same way we wish for other things that we don’t have: but hopefully there can be a turning to Heavenly Father for gratitude and other ways of dealing with these wishes, rather than the temptation to feel bitter and even jealous of others who are married.

What is marriage?

What is marriage? Well, it’s learning to love your spouse even when you realize that you’ll both continue to be imperfect. It’s having a hard time with something at work, and coming home so grateful to have someone there to talk with about it, only to find out that he’s still getting used to this marriage thing, too, and he’s really wrapped up in one of his own problems, and hardly listens to you. It’s then working out this problem, then working it out again later in your marriage, and yet again, when it presents itself in a different way.  It’s a blessing. It’s a blessing because you learn patience and longsuffering, and hopefully he’s a good person to learn it with because you love him/her, right?

cause pain bornWhen I was going through my divorce almost ten years ago, suddenly the women in our ward were coming to me, telling me their marriage problems and how they’d been getting through them. I think both they and me were hoping that I’d find something in their problems that would help me with my failing marriage, but that wasn’t to be. Instead, what I got was just as valuable: I heard what a lot of “normal” marriage problems were for young families. I realized, unhappily, that my last hopes of saving mine probably weren’t going to work. I did gain quite a bit of fear that I’d ever find a happy marriage, and a lot of worry for my two children. But I hope that didn’t make me anti-marriage.

I’ve been in some great relationships since then, even if they didn’t “work out,” and had ten years of learning all kinds of other things that I wouldn’t have learned in quite the same way if I had been able to get married again quickly. In my case (and I can judge only my case) I needed these past 10 years to grasp what was ahead of me with my health, in making the best decisions for my kids, and in learning to let go of all those expectations I’d had for my life.

For you women and men who have never been married:

  1. You are just as worthy of getting married as any of your married siblings or friends are. For some reason, it hasn’t happened yet, but Heavenly Father loves you just as much as anyone else.
  2. We are promised compensatory blessings for the trials we experience in life. For this reason and others, we just can’t compare ourselves to each other.
  3. Sometimes I hear women say that maybe Heavenly Father is saving them for a future apostle or someone who is otherwise amazing. Well, maybe so…but are you now judging the husbands of all those who are already married? Does the Lord not love us equally? Give up your fears of the scary parts of dating, and maybe you will run into that wonderful person for you, (and actually talk to him) who is wonderful for you in the ways that other peoples’ spouses are wonderful for them.
  4. Remind yourself of #2 and #3, Otherwise you may be setting yourself up hoping for an unattainable Cinderella story that will end up disappointing you and that you’ll have to work on overcoming after you get married.

“I’m not progressing”hopscotch

In church, one of the single women who has never been married opined that she often feels like she’s not “progressing” because she’s still not married. I feel for her. I’m also pretty sure that it’s Satan who is tempting her, and all of us singles, to feel that way. While we do want to feel that “push” to get married, when we’re doing all we can, we in our situations are learning our own lessons from our unique circumstances that Heavenly Father has prepared for us. I highly recommend reading and reviewing this talk by President Hinckley to singles in which he encouraged us to:

Be Anxiously Engaged in Good Causes
For those who do not marry, this fact of life must be faced squarely. But continuous single status is not without opportunity, challenge, or generous recompense.

young-adults-serving-1154938-galleryI believe that for most of us the best medicine for loneliness is work and service in behalf of others. I do not minimize your problems, but I do not hesitate to say that there are many others whose problems are more serious than yours. Reach out to serve them, to help them, to encourage them. There are so many boys and girls who fail in school for want of a little personal attention and encouragement. There are so many elderly people who live in misery and loneliness and fear for whom a simple conversation would bring a measure of hope and brightness.

 

He also talks about:
-Recognizing the divinity in ourselves and others
-Thanking the Lord for blessings and challenges
-Being anxiously engaged in good causes
-Continue to Learn
-Serve in the Church, and
-Be prayerful.

Many of you have probably read Seth Adam Smith’s aptly titled blog entry that went viral, “Marriage Isn’t For You.” What he learned, from the excellent advice that his dad gave him, was this:

My dad giving his response to my concerns was such a moment for me. With a knowing smile he said, “Seth, you’re being totally selfish. So I’m going to make this really simple: marriage isn’t for you. You don’t marry to make yourself happy, you marry to make someone else happy. More than that, your marriage isn’t for yourself, you’re marrying for a family. Not just for the in-laws and all of that nonsense, but for your future children. Who do you want to help you raise them? Who do you want to influence them? Marriage isn’t for you. It’s not about you. Marriage is about the person you married.”

Recommended resources and talks online:

A Conversation with Single Adults
Gordon B. Hinckley
From an address delivered on 22 September 1996 at the Salt Lake Tabernacle.

To the Singles of the Church
Kristen M. Oaks • CES Devotional for Young Adults • September 11, 2011 • Brigham Young University

Savor Every Moment of Life
By Janice Southern

**Kristen Oaks: A Single Voice (book) 

 


Leave a comment

Elder Holland on Delaying/Fearing Marriage

from

An Evening with Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “Be Not Afraid, Only Believe”

Address to CES Religious Educators • February 6, 2015 • Salt Lake Tabernacle

christmas-lights-929217-wallpaperLet me list some specific things that I think you should teach your students to be glad about and over which they should cease being fearful. I note, for example, getting married, having families, and welcoming children into the world. We in the presiding councils of the Church hear far too often—and perhaps you do as well—that many of our youth and young adults are terrified to get married. In extreme cases they are fearful that the world is about to end in blood and disaster—something they don’t want to take a spouse or child into. In less severe, more common cases, they are fearful that the world will just get more difficult, that jobs will be too hard to find, and that one should be out of school, out of debt, have a career, and own a home before considering marriage.

Good grief! On that formula Sister Holland and I still wouldn’t be married! Seriously, when we got married we were both still undergraduates at BYU, with neither set of parents able to help us at all financially, no way to imagine all the graduate education we had yet ahead of us, and this with $300 dollars between us on our wedding day! Now that may not be the ideal way to start a marriage, but what a marriage it has been and what we would have missed if we had waited even one day longer than we did once we knew that that marriage was right. Sure, there was sacrifice; certainly there were restless days and weeks and months; certainly there was some burning of the midnight oil. But I tremble to think what we would have lost if we had taken “counsel from our fears,” 15 as President James E. Faust would later tell me over and over and over that I and no one else should ever do. What if we had delayed inordinately? What would we have missed?meme-holland-future-1245993-gallery

I still think the best definition of marital love is James Thurber’s, who said simply that love is what you go through together. 16 I will be eternally grateful for what Pat was willing to go through with me—that she did not feel I had to have my degree and a car and a home and a career all in hand before we could marry.

And we wanted children as soon as we could get them, which in our case did not turn out to be as easy as we thought. In fact, if we hadn’t determined to have our family as promptly as we could, we might well have been a childless couple, as some of our friends and some of you, through no fault of your own, have found it your lot in life to be. It took us three years to have our first child, another three to get a second, and four to get a third. And then that was it. A full-term miscarriage for a fourth closed that door to us forever, so we have rejoiced in the three children we have been able to raise. But what would our lives have been like if we had waited or delayed or worried unduly about the economics of it all? Which of our children would we give back? With what memories or love or lessons with each of them would we ever part? I shudder to think of it.

holding-hands-411428_640Brethren and sisters, I think we have to start earlier to teach our students the place of marriage and family in the great plan of happiness. Waiting until they are of marriageable age puts us way behind the curve. And I don’t have to tell you that social trends, declining moral standards, and the “vain imagination” 17 of popular entertainment will regularly be in opposition to that teaching.

For example, it is alarming to us that in the last 50 years the natural median age for men to marry has risen from age 22 to age 28! That is the world’s figure, not the Church’s, but we eventually follow the world in some way in much of its social trending. Add to this such diverse influences on the young as the increased availability of birth control, the morally destructive rise of pornography, an increased disaffiliation with institutional religion, the pervasive quest for material goods generally, the rise of postmodern thought with its skepticism and subjectivity and you see the context for anxiety and fear that a rising generation can feel. With these kinds of winds blowing in their lives, they can be damaged almost before mature, married life has begun.what if you fly

Furthermore, so many young people I talk to fear that if they do marry they will be just another divorce statistic; they will be another individual who dove foolishly into marriage only to find there was no water in that pool. Couple that leeriness about the success of marriage with the tawdry, foul, often devilish mocking of chastity and fidelity and family life so regularly portrayed in movies and on television and you see the problem.

engaged-couple-1249058-galleryWe have our work cut out for us to preserve and perpetuate both the holiness and the happiness of marriage. You can begin by showing the blessing, the reward, and the reality of a happy marriage in your own lives. That doesn’t mean you should be Pollyannaish about marriage; every marriage takes work, and yours will too. But, as always, your first and most penetrating lessons to your students will be the lessons of your own life. You show them in word and deed that your marriage and your family mean everything to you because they should—they must. Help your students “be not afraid, only believe” 18 in marriage and family in these last days. Lucifer will make that harder and harder to do even as it becomes more and more important to do.

15. James E. Faust, “Be Not Afraid,” Ensign, Oct. 2002, 6.
16. See James Thurber, in “Thurber,” Life, Mar. 14, 1960, 108.
17. 1 Nephi 12:18.
18. Mark 5:36.


1 Comment

50 Shades of Destructive Entertainment

Last April I wrote a book review of Pulling Back the Shades, an excellent book by Christian author and speaker Dannah Gresh and Dr. Juli Slattery, a clinical psychologist and sex therapist. After the popularity of the book and subsequent series 50 Shades of Grey, they felt compelled to warn the Christian community (and everyone else) about the dangers of reading graphic romance/sex novels, and the dangers in particular of 50 Shades of Grey. Now that the movie is out, I am hoping that I can (even in a small way) dissuade some of you from going to see the movie, and if you already have, to help point out the dangers of believing that this movie is a good influence for any of us.

mr darcy

I won’t go into any particulars, because so many writers and bloggers have already done such a good job. So, I’ll post my brief opinion, then a few things that our church leaders have said that I believe apply particularly to this movie and book. First, what is hopefully obvious: women’s hormones are well-driven by erotic novels. But even though some are saying that women will be more affected by the book than the movie, we already know that the movie involves on screen nudity and sex scenes. Hopefully most of you have heard by now that the male character stalks the female character and is extremely controlling. Readers and viewers may feel like this is “okay” because the male character is wealthy and handsome, and comes to some kind of “redemption” by the end of the series. This is not how controlling relationships usually end. It manipulates the feelings that we often have as women to want to “save” the bad boy, when we need to be running the other way.

I’ve read accounts online of LDS women who have read the book to see what the hype was about. If you haven’t done so, please don’t. There are many reviews online from psychologists, feminists, and other bloggers who will tell you what is in the book and what is in the movie, and give you specifics, so you can understand the fuss/controversy without having to deal with the book. I won’t judge those who have already read the book, but receiving pornography in any form will dull your spiritual senses.

Morality in Media Criticizes R-rating for Fifty Shades of Grey

Psychologists Find a Disturbing Thing Happens to Women Who Read ‘50 Shades of Grey’

WHAT DO PSYCHOLOGISTS THINK OF ‘50 SHADES OF GREY?’

Even the co-stars of the movie think 50 Shades of Grey is awful (and maybe even a bit like Hitler)

From Elder Oaks, in a Priesthood Session, but we women obviously need it too:

Last summer Sister Oaks and I returned from two years in the Philippines. We loved our service there, and we loved returning home. When we have been away, we see our surroundings in a new light, with increased appreciation and sometimes with new concerns.

We were concerned to see the inroads pornography had made in the United States while we were away. For many years our Church leaders have warned against the dangers of images and words intended to arouse sexual desires. Now the corrupting influence of pornography, produced and disseminated for commercial gain, is sweeping over our society like an avalanche of evil.

Patrons of pornography also lose the companionship of the Spirit. Pornography produces fantasies that destroy spirituality….Some seek to justify their indulgence by arguing that they are only viewing “soft,” not “hard,” porn. A wise bishop called this refusing to see evil as evil. He quoted men seeking to justify their viewing choices by comparisons such as “not as bad as” or “only one bad scene.” But the test of what is evil is not its degree but its effect. When persons entertain evil thoughts long enough for the Spirit to withdraw, they lose their spiritual protection and they are subject to the power and direction of the evil one.

…Consider the tragic example of King David. Though a spiritual giant in Israel, he allowed himself to look upon something he should not have viewed (see 2 Sam. 11). Tempted by what he saw, he violated two of the Ten Commandments, beginning with “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Ex. 20:14). In this way a prophet-king fell from his exaltation (see D&C 132:39).

But the good news is that no one needs to follow the evil, downward descent to torment. Everyone caught on that terrible escalator has the key to reverse his course. He can escape. Through repentance he can be clean.

President Hinckley: do all that you can to avoid pornography. If you ever find yourself in its presence—which can happen to anyone in the world in which we live—follow the example of Joseph of Egypt. When temptation caught him in her grip, he left temptation and “got him out” (Gen. 39:12).

broken_heart_ness_by_cork232-d3c4lkm