Saturday, June 16, 2012

Dating Difficulties Part I

It’s quite interesting to look back at the evolution of view-point and perspective in your life and recognize that how you view the world today differs quite drastically from even just a few years ago. This has been the case with me as I recognize that my thoughts and opinions on dating, relationships, courtship and friendship have been gradually adjusted each day as to only faintly resemble what they were when I first entered into the "singles scene." I feel as though I want to express some of these view-points and hope to do so in a manner that will not excite offense or ill-feelings toward any person nor do I mean to embarrass, judge or condemn anyone. I understand that each person goes through life and gains experience and with that experience comes their personalized view-point and perspective. Perhaps my introspection and desire to express my thoughts is aroused by a milestone that will occur in my life in the next few weeks. I will be turning 31 and as such will no longer be eligible to attend a singles ward congregation for my church. Confronting the reality that after 10 years of attending a congregation consisting only of other single adults of my faith, I am still single and will shortly be joining a congregation made up primarily of married couples, babies, children and young adults under the age of 18, has not been an easy task for me. Furthermore, as I review even my most recent dating experiences as well as those long past I must confess that I have made just about every blunder a man can make in regards to dating, so much so that my perspective and view-point on dating in many instances is exactly contrary to much of  my dating behavior. I therefore can only claim that by my insistent and consistent failure have I obtained this understanding. It is coupled with an exhaustive study of books, lectures, conversations with friends and family, personal observation and of course my ever growing experience. I make no claim of authenticity of my opinions nor do I claim myself to be a master of that which I have learned. I recognize that I am nothing more than a student of life who constantly turns in essays with typos, grammatical errors and insufficient research. I only offer to those who read this that I will be completely honest and open, I will not sugar coat or will I patronize, but I will be genuine and sincere in my intent to share. My intent is simply the hope that I can spare someone, anyone, any of the difficulty and frustration I have experienced through a long arduous journey of dating. If what I have to say resonates with no more than one individual who is able to use my experiences and insight to help them recognize when the stove is hot and not to touch, then I will consider it a success...

Dating Difficulties Part 1: Expectation

It has finally occurred to me that perhaps one of the greatest frustrations in dating, and perhaps life, is unfulfilled expectations. I know in the LDS culture marriage is so highly taught, encouraged and expected that is places a tremendous amount of intensity and expectation on dating and courtship. When I think of so many of my dating experiences I realize that before I would even knew a girl’s name I was sizing her up for marriage from across the room. If I found her attractive "enough" I would then try to meet her, hope she seemed interested, try to get her number, ask her out on a date, etc. etc. Little did I realize that for me this "intent" of mine was actually a tremendous stumbling block to my capacity to create meaningful dating experiences. I was so focused on the objective of marriage that I was ignoring what, and even more importantly WHO I was interacting with. Instead of a beautiful individual human being with experiences, passions, disappointments, history, talents, weaknesses, and virtues I was only interested in whether or not they would be my wife. Notice the expectation, and what an expectation!!!! Yet I was generating that expectation from the first moments a woman was introduced within my atmosphere. No wonder I was constantly disappointed and frustrated. 

There is another great fallacy to this ideology and that is I was looking for a woman who would fulfill some sort of preconceived notion of what I wanted from a partner. I was approaching dating as though every woman was a possible Santa's sleigh, full of toys and joys that would make me happy forever and if it turned out there wasn’t a pair of roller blades and an ex-box in the sleigh I would stomp my feet and pout! What a foolish expectation to project on someone who I scarcely knew, and because of that expectation I would most likely never really know

After years and years of generating unrealistic and unfair expectations on women to whom I had scarcely taken the time to know I have now finally tried to allow myself the opportunity of generating healthy and meaningful relationships with women without immediately expecting that the relationship will lead to a marriage partnership, but rather approach it as an opportunity to have my life enhanced by an individual who has unique experiences, a unique past, unique characteristics and unique attributes. Should our interactions become more romantic then they become romantic, if they tend to lean toward friendship then they lean to friendship, if the interactions fade all together then they fade all together. Training myself to resist the tendency to immediately size up every woman as the future Mrs. Green has consequently diminished a tremendous deal of my frustration and discouragement toward dating and women in general, and has led to many enhancing and meaningful friendships, interactions and dates that may not have occurred had I forfeited the probable interaction the moment I deemed marriage unlikely. 

As it has now become apparent that my social interactions will shortly be limited due to the circumstances of which I have become subject I am tremendously grateful for those women in my life who are there even though we are not husband and wife. I am so grateful for friendship and relationship even without romance. I can only speculate as to what fulfillment and friends I would have had I recognized my folly earlier in life, but as we all know such speculations warrant no entertainment. 

So to conclude part I of this endeavor I have espoused (there was an intended pun in that word usage) we will only be married to one person, as so, every other person in the world will not be married to us. What a tremendous opportunity to create meaningful relationships with all those individuals who we meet on the way who can enhance our life if we allow them to; And what a missed opportunity should we immediately place expectations on those who we feel could be more and what a disappointment to discard them when they fail to meet our lofty expectation.


  1. Thanks for this essay, Paul. I'm glad you are writing about your state of mind upon outgrowing the singles ward. It must feel a lot like being cast out of The Garden, although Adam at least had already found his mate when he got the boot. As you have learned to cherish all the young ladies you meet as unique, valuable individuals regardless of the outcome of the acquaintance, I hope you will value yourself equally, as a miraculous manifestation of life, intelligence and feeling regardless of your relationship status. Your essay reminded me of a talk Moj gave in Sacrament Meeting when he was very young. He told about a child who discovered a delicate filament which, when pulled, would allow him to skip ahead in time. If he was in pain, discouraged, in trouble or just bored, he could give a few tugs to the thread and skip forward in time to a later date when his trial had ended. It wasn't until he was an old man that he realized he had skipped out on far too many hours, days, weeks, and even months of his life. Not only could he never reclaim those precious years, but he had cheated himself of all their most valuable lessons. The moral is obvious: Even if our current leg of the journey of life is definitely not undertaken on roller blades or via Xbox, it is still priceless, and we can embrace the most hideously painful trials with gratitude for the privilege of the journey. I think your first-hand narrative of how it feels to be single in a coupled world is valuable for all readers. I hope your blog will be widely read, and that your friends will join the discussion with the same honesty as you have shown in opening the dialog.

  2. Your post was very well said and I love how you are able to express yourself. That is a rare and admirable character trait in a man. I think you are incredibly insightful on how you have approached your relationships and I'm sure you are not the only one. I believe we are given trials & experiences in our lives to teach us and help us grow, your thoughts shows a growth and a knowledge learned through what you have experience first hand. I do believe some people come into our lives for many reasons and I am glad I was able to get to know you and have your friendship. I wish you best of luck in your new chapter in life in a "family ward" but it could be the best thing to happen to you, you just never know. :)

  3. I enjoyed your post. A couple of thoughts, if you'll allow me.

    First - expectations and unfair judgement. The sentiments you express I find can be very applicable outside of spousal relationships. Depending on the circumstances, I will often assign expectations to people I meet in all areas of my life. If they do not meet those arbitrary expectations, I may find fault in them or fell they are less valuable (music is a big one for me). I don't always allow for the other person to show me their value and what they can bring. If they don't meet my standards, they fail (to put it harshly).

    Second, expectations and ignorance. We often don't know what we want/need. I could have put together a "shopping list" for what I wanted in a wife and written off anyone who didn't meet that criteria. However, my list could never have contained the wonderful and essential qualities that my wife possesses; either I didn't know they existed, or I didn't know I needed them.

    Third, no expectations. How many times have we heard the stories of the couple who started out as friends with no romantic interest, then through whatever series of events their relationship evolved into a courtship and then spousal relationship? You are correct in your observation that it can be damaging to apply unwarranted expectations to every relationship. You may miss out on developing the one that will evolve into something more.

  4. I have to say, Paul. This was a fun read. And I will agree that it's a good point for we who are not in the dating world. We all judge, size up, and discount friends that don't meet our needs, and all relationships require attention and time. You are a wise man. And I think your advice to yourself of letting go and enjoying the ride is brilliant. Life's too short to be unhappy just waiting to be happy! I hope you write more, this is fun!

    Love you!

  5. Sam, your "second" thought is the topic of a blog, coming soon.

  6. This is a very interesting analysis, Paul! I look forward to the sequel. There are lots of singles events for the over 30s crowd, including two dances a week, Institute classes, firesides, and Temple sessions. I hope that you have as much fun or more than before. : D

    Catherine Cook

  7. Does the church not have over 30 singles wards anymore? I know they used to. Although even if the wards don't exist, I'm almost positive they still have over 30 single activities in just about every stake. Don't consider your social life over yet. :) Besides that, I'm sure you've gotten to know a lot of people in your current ward. There's no law saying you can't still hang out with them outside of church activities. :) You'll be fine!

  8. In so many words, you realized that desperation of exceeding an expectation that seemed simple, is not the approach needed for dating.

  9. Insightful, as always, Paul. It seems as though you understand that it's not about dating at all. It's not even about the other people, the girls, in the slightest. It's about your internal filter.
    Find your joy. Joy will find you. And serve without expectation of recognition, with a heart trained towards the other's well being.
    Your singledom is your reaping for the sacred fire for God's sacred bread. Partnership might make you complacent, who knows? God wants you here.
    Love, Camille