Wednesday, October 19, 2011

dating difficulties

as a semi-unsuccessful dater, i have discovered some problems with dating that i have been unable to find solutions for. these problems may be specific to lds people living in utah valley, though they could probably be applied in some limited or altered way to other situations.

what i am looking for: a lds girl who is (a) serious about her religion, (b) has goals and dreams, (c) thinks highly of herself and others, (d) takes care of herself spiritually and physically, and (e) has a good mix of intelligence, humor, and sobriety.

my situation: i am from a small town in arizona where there is one singles ward for two stakes. to people from the east, that sounds like a big mormon area, but to me it was normal; not big or small, just the way life was.

in my small town with its small ward, there are lots of opportunities to get to know each other. i love my little singles ward, and it is easy to know everyone. if i never left my hometown, i could have dated a girl in that ward and married. there were several attractive girls, and knowing all of them, it would have been fairly simple to narrow down my interests and choose between three or four girls (assuming they would choose me in return :)

since january 2010 i have lived in provo, where there are hundreds of singles wards and thousands of single women. it is hard to quantify exactly, but if you exclude all of uvu, and ignore all of the other singles outside of provo/orem area, i’m still looking at a lot of options. According to their website, byu has 32,947 full time students (2010). with 48% female, this gives me 15,815 female students. if we assume that an equal number of married students are female as are male (which is inaccurate, but close enough), we have 26% married, leaving me with 11,703. since i want a lds girl, i will further exclude the 1.5% nonmembers (again assuming that we have an equal number of male nonmembers as female nonmembers), leaving us with 11,527 single lds girls. now this is the extent of my statistics, because this is the info that byu actually records. that is a lot more than the three or four i was thinking of from my home ward in arizona.

if i wanted to get more specific i could make further assumptions, that are not at all grounded in statistics but are pure guesswork. out of the 11,527 single lds girls at byu, i could assume that 40% are engaged or dating someone exclusively (i’m trying to estimate high rather than low, but i really have no idea). now i guess i could go around trying to break people up, but that isn’t my thing, so i’m left with 6,916 girls. then if i wanted to be really extensive i could try to split this group down into subcategories; e.g., girls that go to the gym, girls that go to institute, girls that want to have a family, girls that have nunchuck skills, etc.

now lets make some assumptions about these 6,916 girls that are lds and actually single. we’re going to assume that they are serious about their religion. they should be, right? they are at a lds owned and operated school, and they have to regularly get endorsement from their ecclesiastical leader. we will also assume that they are at least moderately intelligent, because they should be--they are university students, and with a God-given mandate to seek knowledge (D&C 131:6, D&C 88:118). we should also be able to assume that girls at byu will be taking care of themselves. we have all been commanded to care for our bodies and our spirits. (For some great talks and info, see this talk by Boyd K Packer about the importance of the body, or this lesson on the Lord's commandments regarding health, or this info on personal testimony from Spencer W Kimball)

am i assuming too much? probably. but these are sound assumptions to make about byu students, because this is what is expected of us, male and female.

now all of this puts me in a quandry. and now i get to my point--as you increase the number of choices, the choice becomes increasingly hard to make. i find nearly all of these 6,916 girls attractive, and they all are (or should be) intelligent, goal-oriented, spiritual, incredible girls. so what do you do? i see only two options:

  1. hang out with a whole lot of people until you find someone you like, then ask them out.
  2. ask someone out without knowing whether you like them, and then evaluate your time with them.

let me discuss these options briefly:

  1. if you hang out with a lot of people while trying to get to know them, you will find yourself having lots of acquaintances and few friends. you will also find so many impressive people that you will be unable to date them all. this leads to a constant state of wondering whether you have met the right (or best) person yet. if each girl is incredible, but each has her own faults (as we all do), it is hard to decide to pursue any specific individual. result: you keep looking forever, thus developing few lasting relationships, and never marrying.
  2. if you ask someone out just because they are attractive, you will go on a lot of first dates that do not lead to second dates. this isn’t surprising, but it is a problem--if you don’t know someone well, you can only base your decision to ask them out on general, shallow appearance. is it bad to ask someone out because she is cute? no. but someone’s appearance has very little bearing on who they are, what their potential is, and what a relationship with them could be like. result: you waste time and money on lots of people that are not actually compatible with you. and since you are dating people you don’t know well, it never works out.

sorry for the bleak picture. i am not really that pessimistic, i promise. but this is how i feel. also i feel like you ought to be friends with someone before you date, and i think it is hard to move from friendship to relationship successfully.

now the positive note: the wonderful news is that it only has to work once. that should give us all hope. if every relationship you have ever had has failed, that is okay. dating teaches us who we are and what kind of person we want to be with. some of these dating failures we have experienced were necessary for us, and we should be grateful for them.

nevertheless, my questions remain: what do we do? how do you narrow it down? how do you know when you’ve found someone that is worth all of the time and attention i want to give to an eternal companion?

if you have ideas and opinions, comment below!


  1. Jeremy... dude, first off I love you. Second, I totally understand where you are coming from. My only suggestion is that as you date, you figure out and improve yourself as much as you can. I find myself choosing of your options, number two mostly. Does that make me shallow? Maybe... Idk.

    The reason why this has worked for me is that really I get along well with pretty much anybody. But I do have a couple of things I do first. I am kinda a people watcher. I notice that the way people treat and talk about their friends says a lot about them. These people typically know them the best and these are the situations where they are most comfortable. This leads me to two different situations:

    1. The beautiful stranger in your YSA ward. She is cute, funny, and all of her friends share meet your standards so guilty by association, she must be pretty outstanding herself. Only caveat is the rumor mill and gossiping known to occur in BYU YSA wards.

    2. You can tell a lot about someone by the clothes they wear, the way they carry themselves, the way they treat strangers, and a lot of other common public behaviors. So if you have maybe a class with someone you are interested in or happen to be in the same place frequently, mix it up and see what happens. Take their seat in class but save the one next to you. Start a perfectly random casual conversation. Be a missionary again, know what I mean?

    Obviously I am not married myself but I can say I have lived, loved, and learned. And the more I date, the easier it is for me to recognize some of these behaviors so I end up finding more girls that I am interested in, even if they started off as perfect strangers.

    There is no secret formula that you have missed. There is no power of translation that helps us understand them any better. It just takes a lot of work, a ton of luck, and for some of my friends, the occasional Facebook stalk. Not my style, but whatever works I guess. My only suggestions is both patience and diligence. Don't give up but don't try too hard. If she is as interested in as you are in her, it will be obvious. Best of luck bro!

  2. hahaha. This reminds me of a post I wrote in January...
    In answer to your questions...I have no idea.

  3. Hey Jeremy! I love this post! I got married when I was 19 to someone I met in South Dakota so I can't say I know exactly how it feels to be in your situation. But, I lived in Provo for 3 years and watched quite a few of my friends facing these stats, trying to find their eternal companion. Some did and some are STILL looking.

    First of all, I don't think most of us were meant to "gather" at BYU. It's almost like it's mistaken for a doctrine of the gospel. "Get baptized, Graduate High School, go on a mission, then go out to BYU where it's mating season all year round!"

    I think the biggest mistake people make is..."THE LIST." Screw the list. I didn't marry my husband because he had every characteristic I was looking for. He was flawed and I was in love with him anyway. The fact is, people change dramatically in the first years of marriage and then again through the years of child rearing. A lot of my strengths became my weaknesses and vice versa. Same with my husband. The person you marry will be a different person within a very short period of time. So, like I said, screw the list. Find someone you think is attractive, someone you love, someone Temple worthy. It's as simple as that.

    The other thing that is SOOO important is being candid. Everyone is always trying to play it cool. They meet someone and like them but don't want to seem over eager so they leave the other person confused. If you feel chemistry with someone, do something about it! Be completely candid about your feelings for them.

    If you are doing these things and it still isn't working-you aren't meant to find your other half yet, or you aren't meant to meet her at BYU...

  4. My solution? Blind dates. Granted, I'm 23 and single and thus not particularly skilled with the whole "find a husband" thing, so apparently my solution hasn't worked yet. BUT blind dates (or having a friend introduce you to someone, at least) are great because you have someone who knows you well saying, "Hey, I think you'd like this person." The other person goes through a filter (i.e., your friend or family member) before you even meet. Just beware of the (usually already married) friend who thinks, "Hey, you two are both single and therefore should date." This friend is in more of an everyone-should-be-married-like-me mindset than a Jeremy-has-a-lot-in-common-with-this-girl mindset, and you may find yourself on a date having nothing to talk about. haha.