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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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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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.


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Sheri Dew on the Atonement and Being Single

Read text of entire talk here

Watch entire talk on YouTube

Sheri Dew

photo from LDS.org

There Is Power in the Atonement of Jesus Christ
Until I was in my thirties, I thought the Atonement was basically for sinners—meaning that it allowed us to repent. But then I suffered a heartbreaking personal loss and began to learn that there was so much more to this sublime doctrine.

My solution initially to my heartbreak was to exercise so much faith that the Lord would have to give me what I wanted—which was a husband. Believe me, if fasting and prayer and temple attendance automatically resulted in a husband, I’d have one.

Well, the Lord hasn’t even yet given me a husband; but He did heal my heart. And in doing so, He taught me that He not only paid the price for sin but compensated for all of the pain we experience in life. He taught me that because of His Atonement, we have access to His grace, or enabling power—power that frees us from sin; power to be healed emotionally, physically, and spiritually; power to “loose the bands of death” (Alma 7:12); power to turn weakness into strength (see Ether 12:27); and power to receive salvation through faith on His name (see Mosiah 3:19). It is because of the Atonement that, if we build our foundation on Christ, the devil can have no power over us (see Helaman 5:12).

There is power in God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ—power that we may access through the word, the Holy Ghost, the priesthood, and the ordinances of the holy temple.


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Recognizing the Spirit: a Story

candy ring1Recognizing the Spirit while dating: dare I even go there? What a complicated subject! I am going to attempt a couple of posts on it. It may not be that bad when we go with the basics we’ve already learned, and then apply them to our dating lives.

This story comes from my friends Jennifer and Parker, who are on their second marriage. I’ve shared stories from them before because they’re both masterful storytellers. This one comes from Jennifer. They’ve been married a few years now and have six children (four boys and two girls) between them from their first marriage (almost exactly like the Brady Bunch).

Jennifer:

When I decided to begin dating as a 33 year old divorced mom of 4, I knew things would be different than dating as a 19 year old college student. I was looking for physical, emotional, spiritual, financial, and familial compatibility with a potential spouse. That may seem very specific, but I knew if I could click with a man in at least 3-4 of these categories, he was someone I should consider.

For both Parker and I, living as close to the Spirit as possible was absolutely essential as we considered who to date, and more importantly, who to involve our children with. We prayed and studied scriptures daily, magnified our callings, attended church regularly, looked for opportunities to serve (and be served), attended the temple, counseled with our bishops, and sought blessings when needed. We chose friends and activities that would help us to keep holding to the rod during a time when it is easy to feel so vulnerable, helpless, and alone.

I still don’t know if it was the Spirit initially that told me as soon as I saw Parker’s picture that he was “the one,” because I had had warm, encouraging feelings towards at least one other person I had seriously dated that didn’t work out–but I do know that the Spirit helped both of us during our dating to overcome some major fears and hang ups we had–especially dating long distance with some big life changes one or the other of us would have to make in order for us to be together.

I think one of the biggest moments for us was a sort of “Liahona moment” we had when out for a walk one evening. We were both feeling very drawn to one another–(for my part, totally compatible in all the categories I mentioned before) but Parker was scared as to whether or not asking my children and I to move and being able to provide for such a large family (6 combined kids) would be a wise choice, and just scared in general. Based on a few bad past relationships, I was looking for some type of a commitment from him, even if it was just declaring that we wouldn’t date anyone else. It was hard to leave him for 3-4 weeks at a time and go back to Idaho and kind of worry about all the other girls I knew were trying to get his attention. Anyway, as we were out walking that night–Parker just happened to find a little flashlight on the sidewalk someone had dropped. He clicked it on and it worked. We didn’t think much about it until I also found a gold bubble gum machine ring someone had dropped. We laughed, but also felt very sober towards the fact that he had found his “light” and direction, and I had found a symbol of commitment. We still keep these two objects on the dresser in our bedroom to remind us that the Lord very much meant for us to be together. As we continued to date and counsel and attend the temple together, we just knew that we could overcome any trial or hardship together. Despite a lot of difficulties in getting us together and in adjusting to a new life in a new state in a new family situation, the peace from the Spirit was stronger than any outside trial.

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Star shaped container, or something less conspicuous?

Tupperware_plastic_containers.jpeg

Even though I’m in my forties, I find that I still learn from college students when it comes to dating. My cousin’s daughter, Julia, who is a junior at BYU, was explaining the “star-shaped container” theory to me over Christmas break.

Now bear with me. It may sound cheesy to compare dating to Rubbermaid® or Tupperware® containers, but it’s good.

She said that some people find their mate quickly because they’re “star-shaped”and so it doesn’t take as much looking around to find your “lid.” It’s an easy match. The rest of us are, perhaps, rectangles or squares. Some of us are glass containers, some Rubbermaid®, some Tupperware, Ziploc®, or….let’s say Anchor Hocking®. If we’re the plastic or rubber lid, we may go with glass or a plastic container. But we’re slightly different sizes and it’s not easy to sort through that big bin of lids.

I don’t think it’s a difficult analogy. The difficult part comes if you over-analyze it.

Here’s a fun over-analysis: “Maybe I’m a limited edition Sponge Bob Ziploc® lid and the bottom doesn’t have any matching pictures, so that’s making it hard.”

Here’s a useless over-analysis: “But what if I want to marry a rectangular baking dish and I’m a round plastic lid.”

Another over-analysis: “No one wants my type of container.”  Ouch. Don’t do that to yourself!

Fun analysis: “I’m a baking dish and I’m just too hot to handle.”

Bad analysis: “There’s only one person out there for me and I’ll know it when I see it.” You may give up just when you’ve found “it.”

Good analysis: Keep trying lids!


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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)