LDS Singles

Thriving and Growing as an LDS Single


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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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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.


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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


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Hippo love, and Unsolicited Advice on How to Find a Mate.

photo by Raimond Spekking

photo by Raimond Spekking

by Betsy VanDenBerghe at First Things. Re-blogged with the author’s permission.

In one of his lesser known comedies, playwright Neil Simon depicts the irrationality of undiluted physical attraction through the love-struck yearnings of Norman. A ’60s radical, second in his class at Dartmouth, and writer for a subversive magazine called Fallout, he falls hopelessly in love with the Star-Spangled and athletic Southern girl from Hunnicut who’s moved into his San Francisco apartment building. “I’ve become an animal,” he tells his friend Andy. “I’ve developed senses no man has ever used before. I can smell the shampoo in her hair three city blocks away. I can have my radio turned up full blast and still hear her taking off her stockings!”

When Andy remains skeptical of the unlikely couple’s compatibility, Norman demands, “Did you ever hear of physical attraction? Pure, unadulterated physical attraction?” Andy replies with a sage definition: “It’s when one hippopotamus likes another hippopotamus with no questions asked.” To which Norman rejoins, “Exactly. Now it’s five-thirty and my hippopotamus will be getting off her bus. . . . Leave me alone.”

I can’t help but wonder what would happen to Norman Cornell and the un-requiting object of his affection, Sophie Rauschmeyer, were the play to undergo a makeover today. Would it end differently than Norman gradually coming to his senses towards the conclusion and realizing, after multiple conversations and encounters, that his intellectual inclinations and incendiary worldview probably aren’t the best fit for someone whose reading material consists of Sports Illustrated and whose goal in life is to marry a United States Marine? According to stereotype, today’s play might conclude with Norman and Sophie hooking up, or moving in together before Sophie realizes Fallout isn’t exactly the Reader’s Digest.

Researchers from the University of Portland, however, found that young people today actually preferred traditional dating relationships to hook-ups and are indeed very interested in long-term love. Although recent findings from the Pew Research Center confirm that so-called Millennials marry in far smaller numbers than their Generation X or Baby Boomer counterparts, a large majority of them—69 percent—still want to marry. They just don’t feel ready economically.

Maybe they’re also not ready emotionally or psychologically. Relationship formation today tends to cloud judgment, obscuring the most important factors that contribute to a lasting relationship, according to scholars and therapists who write about preparing for a successful marriage. Instead, the emphasis on pure, unadulterated attraction—whether it’s to the way someone looks, or to his or her career prospects or intellectual inclinations—takes precedence. While attraction definitely plays a valid role in marriage formation, other components do, too.

When David Brooks of the New York Times gave his widely quoted commencement speech line that “if you have a great marriage and a crappy career, you will be happy [and] if you have a great career and a crappy marriage, you will be unhappy,” he also described his failed attempt at convincing university presidents to create courses on how to marry. “Everybody should get a degree in how to marry,” he explained. “Nobody listens to me.” However, at least one innovative professor, at Boston College, assigns students to go on actual dates after receiving this plea for help at a campus lecture: “How would you ask someone on a date? Like, the actual words.”

Fortunately, a few self-help marriage prep books offer motivated young adults a course of their own. How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk, by marriage therapist and researcher John Van Epp, offers five essential factors to consider in a relationship—factors not only by which to judge potential marriage partners, but by which to evaluate yourself and make needed improvements. These factors, I recently told my son for whom “not having read or at least seen Lord of the Rings” is a deal breaker, should take precedence over books, films, looks, alma mater, or online persona. The first two cover familiar territory: Analyze compatibility in familial, religious, and financial values and priorities, and work on communication skills like self-disclosure, mutual assertiveness, and ability to apologize.

Van Epp’s other three factors may not seem as significant to the uninitiated, but the experienced can vouch for their importance. For example, pay attention to how your partner, or you, behave, and behaved, in other relationships, including with strangers, significant others, family members, and in various situations. Sooner or later, he claims, all these relationship scripts will merge in marriage and predict how she or he treats you—or how you will treat a spouse. The fourth factor consists of getting to know patterns of family background (expressing affection, resolving conflict, parental role modeling, and dealing with differences) because early attachment matters in our ability to form healthy relationships and can deeply influence our approach to family life. People can and do overcome less than ideal home situations, but according to Van Epp, the motivation to change is much stronger before than after the wedding (emphasis added).

Number five seems particularly crucial to those serious about long-term marriage: What are my or my partner’s patterns of conscience? Without a healthy conscience, Van Epp points out, all of the above matters very little: relationship skills actually become manipulative and self-serving in the hands of someone with very little conscience. How do you or your partner handle feelings of guilt and admit to being wrong? Interestingly, though, a healthy conscience not only avoids being underactive (never apologizing, oblivious to shortcomings), but also eschews being overactive (neurotic, rigid, controlling, and self-centered in its own way).

Perhaps the greatest challenge the Jerk book poses to fledgling relationship students in a Girls-saturated zeitgeist consists of Van Epp’s theoretical method of coming to terms with all of these considerations. He calls it the Relationship Attachment Model (RAM), and holding off on sex is a crucial component. According to RAM theory, the only safe zone in a relationship consists of never going further in the following bonding dynamic than you have gone in the previous one: know, trust, rely, commit, and touch. Accelerating the steps or going out of order provides a recipe for unhealthy relationships and ramps up the likelihood of falling in love with a jerk, or at least the wrong hippopotamus. Van Epp spends several pages helpfully debunking the view that sex doesn’t necessarily transform a relationship.

David Brooks, in his frustration over colleges not helping students in the art of marriage formation, recommends reading Austen. Think of her heroines, and a hero, who may have ended up with Wickham, Willoughby, or Lucy Steele had they not abided by the eighteenth century RAM plan, or, as a more academic marriage expert, Scott Stanley, puts it, found “low cost” ways of getting to know their suitors. According to Stanley, sex and moving in together attach a precipitously high cost to a relationship—involving not only premature intimacy, but also shared rent, cars, relatives, and often children. Consequently, a couple often “slides in” to marriage rather than commits to it. Conversely, low cost methods of courtship, like dating, taking classes, pursuing shared interests, working on projects, and getting to know each other’s families, writes Stanley, contribute to what he sees as the ultimate foundation of a lasting marriage: commitment. Another low cost way to add depth to a relationship consists of taking surveys found at relate-institute.org, which help couples understand the various factors, influences, and beliefs each partner brings to the table.

My husband and I celebrated our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary in June. We met at a group activity and, admittedly, felt attraction for each other. I immediately responded to his mention of a book by Malcolm Muggeridge about Mother Teresa. He liked my long hair. Neither criterion turned out to be the basis for our marital satisfaction. Ends up he’d actually only heard of the Muggeridge book, and a few years after we had children, I cut my hair. But even better, my hippopotamus actually turned out to be Mother Teresa, always the one to clean up kids’ vomit or to sleep on the worst side of any bed. He continually exhibits what yet another marriage expert, Ty Tashiro at the University of Maryland, calls the winning trait for marriage—agreeableness—which bests the other “big five” personality traits: extroversion, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness. I’m prone to what Tashiro calls the loser relationship trait, neuroticism, but contribute healthy doses of conscientiousness and extroversion to our union. To me, though, the grace of God beats any and all other factors in creating a lasting marriage. May it be upon young people today as they seek out lifelong companions.

Betsy VanDenBerghe is a writer based in Salt Lake City.

Find First Things online, First Things on Facebook,  and follow First Things on Twitter.


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Book Review: “Pulling Back the Shades”

pulling back the shadesSince the release of the book 50 Shades of Grey, the popularity of what is called “erotica” or “graphic romance” novels has skyrocketed.  It is often claimed that while women may not be at first drawn to pornography like men are, romance novels can be what draw them in. What authors Dannah Gresh and Dr. Juli Slattery show us in this book is that we don’t have to be completely drawn into the world of pornography for the world of graphic romance novels to cause us problems spiritually and for them to damage our happiness and sense of gratitude for what we have.

Moody Publishing has offered to give one reader a copy of the book Pulling Back the Shades, which boldly gives us a perspective of the possible dangers of reading books like 50 Shades of Grey and why they can be as dangerous for women as pornography.

This book is written from a Christian perspective, and while the authors aren’t LDS, I don’t think it takes away from the message for those of us who are, as with any book or anything that is “of good report or praiseworthy.” The Bible verses they quote aren’t from the King James version, so it takes some getting used to, but it’s a fun opportunity to look them up in the KJV and thus help lock the verses in your own memory.

It’s a quick and engaging read.  Gresh and Dr. Slattery use many real life examples from women they know and have met.  I think my favorite example was a woman who read so many Christian romance novels that she held real men to an impossible standard.  I have no issue whatsoever with Christian/LDS romance novels, in fact I’ve read some myself and (gasp) enjoyed them, but I think the principle follows that the best ones invite us to an escapism that isn’t so far out of reality that we no longer appreciate reality, or that we expect our own lives to follow an unreal standard after reading even the best-written ones.

Dannah Gresh is a Christian author and public speaker and the founder of Pure Freedom, an organization that teaches young girls about chastity. You can read more about her here, or at the Pure Freedom website.

Dr. Juli Slattery is a clinical psychologist, sex-therapist and coauthor of Passion Pursuit, written with Linda Dillow, her cofounder of Authentic Intimacy,  “a non-profit organization designed to minister to women on all topics related to intimacy in marriage and intimacy with God.” (website)

 **Drawing over

Congratulations Krystine on winning the drawing!

I’ll be contacting you with more information.

 

Kylee Shields: Let’s Talk About Sex

*Warning there are going to be adult words/content in this post*

Recently, a male friend of mine asked, “Can I ask you a very personal question?” Because I trusted him and because I knew if I didn’t want to answer that would be the end of that I said, “Yes.”  He continued, “Can we have a conversation about how you deal with your sex drive as a 34 y.o single female?” That was the beginning of an incredible conversation.

About 3 weeks previous to that conversation I was sitting with a friend who had left the LDS church and we, among other things, ended up talking about sex. My friend, who was struggling with many things in the church, had “messed up” with his girlfriend and got his temple recommend taken. He talked with me about how hard he had struggled, as a guy, to not give into his sexual desires. How he tried to avoid p*rnography and m#sturbation. Sure, he struggled in those areas but he was really trying to be “a good man.” He wanted to work with his Bishop and his girlfriend but he could no longer …READ MORE HERE