Zelophehad’s Daughters

Being a 30-something Single Woman in the Church: Part I, Dating

Posted by Seraphine

I’ve been meaning to make a series of posts on being a 30-something single woman in the church, especially as regards the topics of dating, relationships, and sexuality. This past week I read Elna Baker’s The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance, and it (along with the conversation prompted by Kevin Barney’s response to the book) has finally jumpstarted me into making my first post (in what will be a series) on these subjects. This post isn’t going to be a review of the book–if you want, e-mail me, and I can send you my review–but instead, reflections about my own experience prompted by the book.

Let me also preface my comments by saying my experiences are not representative of the essence of Mormon female singledom–most 30-something singles in the church have complicated stories about dating and relationships, and while they share themes in common, there are a lot of differences from person to person. So, please read my posts as what they are: one single Mormon woman’s thoughts that have been shaped by her own personal difficulties. I encourage other singles to share their own stories, which I’m sure are different from my own.

The primary aspect of the book that resonated with me was Elna Baker’s depiction of living in two worlds simultaneously and her struggles to negotiate dating and relationships in these worlds. My experiences have been different in a lot of respects from Baker’s (one difference is that my second world is that of academia/feminism rather than being an actress/comedienne in NYC), but we share a central dilemma: it’s difficult to find Mormon guys to date when you’re outside of the norm of Mormon womanhood, and it’s difficult to find non-Mormon guys to date when you’re trying to remain a committed Mormon.

I’ll be honest. I haven’t had an abundance of experiences with dating and relationships in my life, and to a certain extent it’s been my fault/choice. I’ve struggled to find Mormon guys to date. While currently the struggle is partly age-based (there are more active single women in their 30s than men), it’s never been easy for me to find guys to date in the church. I do not fit the stereotypical image of Mormon femininity. I’ve always been better at having intellectual conversations than flirting. I’m not “cute” or “feminine,” I’m a bit socially awkward, and I’m emotionally reserved when I’m getting to know people. Additionally, I’m not good at sending signals to guys that I’m interested in them.

There have been a lot more opportunities for me to date non-Mormon guys. In fact, when I got to the end of college and beginning of grad school and I was getting attention from guys outside of the church, I realized there wasn’t something inherently wrong with me. I realized that perhaps one of the reasons I struggled to date in the church was because I just wasn’t compatible with the majority of Mormon men I knew. However, I shut down most of my dating opportunities with guys outside of the church before they began because I didn’t want to deal with the complications of trying to date non-Mormons.

One of these complications (the primary one that Elna Baker explores in her book) is the whole chastity-sex issue (and I’m going to post more about my thoughts on chastity and sex in my later posts). But, for me, just as difficult was trying to date people who couldn’t comprehend why my religious identity is so important to me. I didn’t necessarily need to find someone who shared my spiritual identity (this can be a struggle even when you share a religious background with someone), but I wanted to find someone who wasn’t utterly baffled that I had a meaningful relationship with a higher power, and that this relationship was one of the most significant aspects of my identity. Most of the guys in my social circle were fellow graduate students, and graduate school, especially in English/cultural studies, tends not to attract people who have strong ties to faith and religion. While there were guys I could have dated, I tended to purposefully keep things in the realm of friendship because I didn’t want to deal with the messiness that would ensue from trying to negotiate religious differences in romantic relationships.

Reading Elna Baker’s book has prompted me to reconsider my approach to dating. While her say-yes-to-almost-anything approach would most definitely not work for me, I think that I’ve been too cautious. I’ve spent the last year pondering questions like “who do I want to date?” and “what do I want to do in order to put myself out there dating-wise?” I had already determined that I was going to try dating non-Mormon guys again, but I wasn’t sure how avidly I wanted to pursue this option. My past approach has been one of extreme caution, but I’m at a point where I’m kinda ready to throw caution out the window.  Yes, my religious identity is still central to my life and I have to find someone who accepts this. No, I haven’t decided it’s time for me to go start having sex. However, my most recent relationship experience has taught me that Mormon guys aren’t necessarily going to be the people who give me the most space to be myself, and that a shared religious background doesn’t necessarily make for compatibility. And perhaps most pertinently, there just aren’t a lot of Mormon guys my age to date (at least, not where I live).

I will conclude my post with the final sentences of my review of Baker’s book because not only do they sum up my review, they sum up my thoughts about my dating struggles: “In this book, Baker reveals that thus far in her life, committing to a man has meant committing to one of her two worlds (and abandoning the other), and in the end, she decides she’s not ready to make this decision because she’s not sure who she wants to be yet. While she may make that choice someday, for her sake (and mine), I hope that she finds a way to live her life in as complicated a manner as she desires and that she finds someone who doesn’t ask her to make any choices that would limit her definitively to one world or another.” In fact, thinking about it now, I think I would make that final sentence a bit stronger; for her sake (and mine), I hope that she finds someone who values her attempts to embrace the opportunities and negotiate the difficulties of her multiple worlds.

99 Responses to “Being a 30-something Single Woman in the Church: Part I, Dating”

  1. 1.

    I’ll be watching your series and the comments with interest. I, too, have recently decided to date outside the church. Like you, I don’t fit the stereotype of LDS womanhood, and I’ve experienced challenges in dating within the church as a result. I was praying about it, and I got the prompting to find a good man regardless of whether he is a member of the church.

    I’m not sure how to find these good men. I’ve looked at school, but I’m older than most of my unmarried classmates. I don’t think it’s really proper for me to pursue my unmarried professors (that opens up a whole new can of worms). The club/bar scene isn’t really for me, since I’m a bit shy. I joined eHarmony last week (I get everything else online, why not a boyfriend?), and I’ll see how that goes.

  2. 2.

    I also look forward to reading your post. While I am married, I share some of your challenges. I’m an academic, have been divorced, and am 6′ tall (which in general limits my selection – because not many short guys are okay with tall girls). I was fortunate enough to stumble into a friendship with an amazing nonmember, which then developed into a relationship and later, a marriage. While I was very concerned about religious differences, they have all worked out. We both believe very similar things, he just happens to not see the importance of organized religion.

    With the imbalance of men and women YSA, I wish the Church (or at least the church and culture) would be more open to interfaith marriages. Oh yeah – and not look at mine with pity. Just as I was not on many Mormon men’s radars, they were far off of mine.

  3. 3.

    Seraphine, this was some powerful stuff. As an “older” single girl out in the Protestant church, I do not have quite the same struggles that come with the LDS theology, but the idea of having two worlds so captures the way I often feel about my life. I am more than my academic accomplishments, but reducing me to my spirituality is just as dangerous.

    I am excited to see where you go with this. Thanks for a blog read that challenged me to think about how I’m living my life.

  4. 4.

    I’ll look forward to your series with great interest. You have an authority that I clearly lack, in that you’re actually living this situation.

    (Keri, I actually prefer Mormon women who are unique and don’t fit the stereotype, but unfortunately I’m probably a minority that way.)

  5. 5.

    Like that1girl, I’m also married to a non-LDS man. I married at 27, about a year after graduate school. We have two children who are being raised LDS. My sister, in her mid-30s, has chosen to not date non-LDS men. She is single. So, from a couple different angles I’ll be very interested to read your thoughts on this subject.

  6. 6.

    Somewhere in the church someone has probably been recently baptized or divorced, who would be a wonderful companion for you. Be careful looking for your life’s companion outside of the church. Such promptings are personal of course; if you have fasted and prayed and feel sure of this prompting. I can understand looking for someone’s companion outside of the church.
    But proceed with great caution, for upon this choice will rest your happiness, not only for this life but for all of eternity as well. Do not close yourself off to the meeting of singles in the church if you do.
    In today’s world, we are more connected than ever, even in such blogs as this one. The chances of meeting the right person are better than ever for all of us, but the pressures of our modern society try to counteract that to a very great extent.
    There is one question: Are WE the right person?
    I once met a lady at a single’s dance. Surprisingly, she complained to me (who was I?) that we men overlooked women like her all the time. She, in short had a bit of an attitude! No doubt caused by years of fruitless efforts to find an eternal companion. This is a real quandary for many women, and a few men as well.
    I pondered how best to respond. Finally I decided to point out her strengths AND weaknesses as I perceived them to her, with an admonition that until she turned her weaknesses into strengths, she was not doing all she could to meet her special someone.
    Surprisingly, she took my advice. She changed her hair style. She lost weight. She maintained her temple recommend. She changed her manner of dress – still conservative, but more flattering. And she worked at just relaxing and having fun. She changed herself into a more attractive person and increased the depth of her spirituality.
    It was amazing in time to see those changes, with the corresponding increase in friendships within her life. I don’t know how her story turned out today, but I hope she persevered.
    I know many of us are attractive, bright spiritual professionals who still struggle for some reason with finding someone special. I qualify. I wish I knew 20 years ago what I know today. My story would be much different, but without my experiences, I would not be who I am today, and I like who I am today. ;)
    More importantly, I know the Lord likes who I am today. Sometimes we have things happen that are out of our control, and finding someone special in our life is not entirely within our control, but the opportunities for finding someone special IS entirely within our control.
    The Lord knows there are good men and women out there. Make the effort to go to the single firesides, conferences, dances, and yes, even the singles wards. Talk to your bishop in your home wards too.
    My last comment would be that we need to remember to seek the Lord and His righteousness first. I know that if we lose our life in the Lord, we will find it.

    Ken

  7. 7.

    Somewhere in the church someone has probably been recently baptized or divorced, who would be a wonderful companion for you.

    It’s a nice idea, but I do think in conversations like this, we have to acknowledge the demographic realities. There are far more “older” active single LDS women than there are men. Advice to focus on being the best person you can–while certainly good advice, regardless of your marital status–isn’t going to change that reality. Some LDS women simply aren’t going to be able to marry inside the church. (For some interesting ideas on how that issue might best be addressed, see this old post of Ziff’s.)

  8. 8.

    Keri, I’ve done LDS on-line dating sites, but I’ve never done ones like eHarmony, etc. It’s something I’ve pondered doing. Another thing you might want to try is meetup.com. You can find groups of people in your area that meet based on interest (gamers, people who like to watch classic movies, foodies, etc.). It might not lead to immediate dating, but if you make friends with people who have similar interests, at the very least you’ll have some new friends!

  9. 9.

    Thanks for the tip, Seraphine. I decided to give eHarmony a 3 month try. (It’s a bit pricey, so I don’t want to throw money down a hole if it’s not working.) I’ll probably blog about it at some point when I have something to report. I was kind of nervous about doing it because I tried a few LDS dating sites, and I had worse luck with those sites than I did at actual singles’ activities. (Which is saying a lot.)

  10. 10.

    that1girl, I’m 6 feet tall too! I’m glad that the interfaith marriage thing has worked out for you. I think some wards/members are dealing with this better than others. For example, one of my good friends (in my previous ward) is married to a non-member, and even though her husband is not interested in joining the church, he supports her by attending church with her. Even though he’s not a member, the ward embraced him–they’ve given him callings, made him an honorary elder’s quorum member (by asking him to help with moves), etc. They’ve included him in the ward family without judging or pressuring him (at least to my knowledge, this hasn’t happened). And they definitely don’t look at my friend with pity.

    Charis, thanks. I definitely don’t think that the dilemma of living in two worlds is unique to Mormonism, though I think some of our doctrinal teachings/cultural practices provide some unique challenges.

    Kevin, thanks. And while I may have more authority than people not living as an “older” single in the church, I’m hoping that others like me chime in because I really don’t want my experience to be taken as representative.

  11. 11.

    Seraphine – cool! I’m sure we can share tall girl stories some day. :) Luckily, I’ve been in two wonderful wards who have, for the most part, accepted me and my husband. (Though an upcoming move may be interesting.) DH does come to church with me on occasion (well, at least when we don’t have 8:30 church) and the bishopric and EQ have always just treated him like a friend and one of the guys at ward parties and even personal get togethers. It will probably get more complicated as we add children to the mix, but he has supported the idea of them being raised in the LDS church and respects that in our faith, every member has the choice of baptism.

    Ken, while I do see the point in your post, please don’t think that all of the older single ladies are the same. I maintain my hair, makeup and clothes and try to dress fashionably. I stay in shape and have many male friends, both LDS and of other (or no) faiths. Simply taking better care of ourselves won’t necessarily endear us to other YSA males, nor will it endear them to us. That said, I also appreciate the implied respect with the decisions made by those of us who did fast and pray in choosing to date and perhaps marry outside our faith. (I even got my answer in the temple, which was a bit surprising at the time. Now it makes perfect sense.)

  12. 12.

    Elizabeth, thanks. I have my next few follow-up posts (on related topics like chastity and not getting married) already planned and partly written.

    Ken, I see the error of my ways. I need to dress in clothes that are more flattering and lose my “attitude.” Then I will be more attractive, and that will solve all my dilemmas. Whatever would I do without your help?

  13. 13.

    Keri, it’s been hit-or-miss with me with LDS sites. I met my ex on an LDS site, but I tried again after we broke up and didn’t have much luck. I’m definitely interested in hearing how eHarmony goes for you. Good luck!

    that1girl, I’m glad that you’ve been in supportive wards. I hope things go well for you after your move.

  14. 14.

    Seraphine – Good on ya Thanks for the space to comment. I love reading this.

    Also an accomplished, intellectual side, shy, un-pink, older than 30, card carrying, faithful servant, totally love church/Monson/Joseph/callings/temple kind of girl. Very independent. nurturing, (not anti-pink, just primarily un-pink), friendly, funny, confused, never married and don’t what to believe about why, despite the hours of time evaluating and rehashing the situation. Every other year, it’s the fault of the men in general, the next year, it’s my fault. I take turns spreading blame to be more fair.

    Dated tons before I joined church in college and then I was so looking to getting out of the worldly dating situation. I got out allright. Hardly a real date since. I had high standards and was so looking forward to someone being attracted to me for the right reasons. So devastating when it all dried up. Return missionaries seemed to be drawn to younger females, and fewer men were available in my age range every year. The very men I looked up to didn’t look twice at me, except to be friends with. Many times a bridesmaid. Many, many times a shoulder to cry on with men who lost their relationships with the other girls. I went on a lot of “group” type dates with guys and had tons of fun. Never singled out to date one-on-one. I’m sure I would have a large family now if I hadn’t joined the church. So the irony and the pain are planted deep.

    Leaving the YSA ward was so hard. Didn’t see that coming. I recently moved to another state, weeks in a single girl graduated in from the local YSA ward. She sat with a smile in RS and facing her from the front wall row of chairs, I watched a tear roll down her cheek, then another. I started to cry as well. So hard.

    One day, I left RS just in time to avoid an avalanche of emotion welling up inside and sat in my car to control it. My wonderful mother of 3 VT, came out several minutes later to see where I had gone and asked me what was wrong. Sobbing I explained the RS women were complaining about their husbands leaving socks on the floor. I’d pick up a hundred socks a day not to face this loneliness.

    I’ve no idea if I should invest in e-harmony to search out new horizons or to look inward and pay for counseling to change myself a little more,

    Always growing, that’s a given, new skills, hobbies, friends etc but the self analysis focus is a different animal. Do I need to change to be married? Or is it a matter of finding the “other”. (My struggle topics. Don’t worry about addressing the answers.)

    Is it I, Lord? Do I grow where I’m planted or do I Exodus myself into new places for the next 40 yrs?

    And if marriage doesn’t occur, how do I then see my life’s mission? As a successful waiting assignment? What is the vision here and how do I seek it out? Is it common at all? Or so un-sharebly individual that we can’t lump it into a cohesive understanding? And if we can or do, will that be any more comforting?

  15. 15.

    lj, thanks for your comment and for sharing your experiences. I can definitely identify with the whole “who to blame?” feeling. While I think it’s easy to try and assign blame (either to oneself or to members of the opposite sex), I think it’s more complicated than that. I sometimes wonder how anyone manages to find someone they’re compatible with at all. :)

    Leaving the YSA wasn’t hard for me (it’s a long story that I’ll tell another time–maybe one of my follow-up posts will be on singles wards), but I can definitely understand how and why that transition would be difficult.

    I don’t have any good answers when it comes to all the dating/marriage stuff, but it has helped that I have a job that I really feel like is a “calling.” Between that and my academic pursuits, I’m leading a fulfilling, meaningful life. Which makes me lucky.

    P.S. I haven’t tried eHarmony, etc., but I have done counseling/therapy, and it’s been quite helpful. It hasn’t helped me figure out clear-cut answers to my dilemmas, but it has helped me be more okay with who I am and my life. Which I think is important.

  16. 16.

    It sounds like Ken should consider watching The Ugly Truth, which I will only say stars a Mormon who decided to marry a non-Mormon. ;-)

    I too am interested in hearing how eHarmony goes for Keri and possibly Seraphine. I kind of made a plug for the site today at BCC. I am thinking of trying it at some point in the future. One of the things that impresses me about the site is that men can’t browse through pictures of women, unlike those photo/date directories that were (and may still be) so common in the BYU wards.

    I look forward to the rest of the posts in this series. Do any of you whether there is a blog for Mormon single men over 30?

  17. 17.

    Sterling, if I decide to try eHarmony, I’ll definitely let people know how it goes.

    Also, this blog is actually not solely directed at single women over 30. It’s a group blog (with both marrieds and singles), but I’m doing a series of posts on “older” (can I just say that I feel weird referring to myself as someone who’s “old”) singlehood, and I’m talking about being a single woman because that’s who I am. However, I’d love for single men to share their experiences as well (especially since I think they are even less understood than single women since they get blamed for the existence of singles in the church).

    And no, I don’t know any blog that is specifically aimed at 30+ single men in the church, but if I hear of one, I’ll let you know.

  18. 18.

    I’ve actually heard some pretty good things from Mormons who have tried eHarmony. If any of y’all try it, please report here (or on one of Seraphine’s other threads) what the experience was like.

    lj, reading your comment broke my heart. I wish there was a silver bullet for all of the LDS singles who want so much to be married and for whom it hasn’t happened for whatever reason.

  19. 19.

    “…Mormon guys aren’t necessarily going to be the people who give me the most space to be myself, and that a shared religious background doesn’t necessarily make for compatibility.”

    Seraphine, I love this post and also the above. I have a comment up on the thread at BCC, but to sum up, I’m a 30 yr old woman dating a non-member and have had many of the same issues with LDS dating as commented. In a lot of ways it’s much easier for me to be with a non-member than to constantly fight with a conservative LDS man (I’ve dated a few so I’m not generalizing) who dislikes my unwillingness to blindly follow and never question. Just because we both have testimonies of the Atonement and Joseph Smith does NOT make for an easy time.

    About a year ago I had a bishop tell me that if I find someone that loves and supports me and shares the same values to not pass them by, regardless of religion. It shocked me then, (I’d never heard such outlandish talk!) but I now believe it was inspired as a few months later I met my current boyfriend, someone who fits that bill entirely. Contrast to a leader who recently told me it would be better to be single my entire life than marry outside the church. *ahem* It’s very easy to say that when you’re already married and a life of loneliness and celibacy isn’t looming before you.

    Would certain things be easier if we all married in the church? Of course. But will that happen? At this point, most likely no, and I include myself in that. And we need to remember that a temple marriage, while ideal, is sadly NOT a guarantee. I’m sure we all know people, or are that person, who have stories about apostasy, abuse, adultery, addiction etc. (Apparently marriages are only broken by things beginning with ‘A’)

    And as for chastity while dating a non-member, well, I’ll wait for your post on that… ;-)

  20. 20.

    Martine, you are right that sharing a religious faith doesn’t necessarily make you compatible with someone. Actually, I think one of my co-bloggers made a post along these lines awhile back:

    http://zelophehadsdaughters.com/2009/07/31/interfaith-dating-it-aint-just-for-nomos-anymore/

    And I look forward to hearing your thoughts on figuring out the chastity thing while dating a non-member!

  21. 21.

    Seraphine,
    I’m so glad you’re writing this series. I can see how important this topic is for so many women I love. It breaks my heart to think that there are women who want to be married who aren’t.

    I do want to make a quick correction. For people who have never met you in real life, they may assume from your description of yourself that you’re “not cute,” perhaps stand-offish and maybe not that conversational. That’s just not true. You are beautiful, fun and articulate. Your features are breathtaking and you have gorgeous skin. Did I mention that you’re thin and tall? Goodness, that’s a lot of things going for you just on the outside. :)

    I know the search for a mate is not all about looks, I have a cousin that’s tall, thin and gorgeous like you, and she is in the same boat: 30 something and single. She reminds me that people of every shape, size, and disposition get married every day. So my point is just to alert your dear readers that they should not rely solely on your own self-image when they think of you.

    Carry on.

  22. 22.

    Jessawhy, you’re making me blush. :) I wasn’t trying to talk about my appearance above. I was mostly trying to explain that I spent much of my early dating years not really able to talk to guys, which is not really helpful if you want to be dating. But you’re right that people of all types get married and stay single, and that a lot of it has to do with meeting the right person at the right time (or jumping into a marriage with the wrong person at the wrong time, which is not really my cup of tea).

  23. 23.

    Good point, Jess. When Seraphine said she wasn’t “cute,” I read her as referring to a sort of personality type. But you’re right some people could have misread that as referring to her appearance. As you rightly say, Seraphine is physically gorgeous. Which can actually be kind of depressing for others, I imagine. If I were an LDS woman, I might think if so incredible a woman as Seraphine has difficulty dating, what chance do I have?

    Martine, I’ve actually had the same thought, that there would be certain advantages to dating outside the Church. I’m a faithful believer, but I’m also quite liberal and intellectual. Negotiating that with a non-Bloggernacle type LDS woman could be challenging, and in some ways it might be easier dating a non-LDS woman who doesn’t have a pony in that race. When I was young I never would have considered seriously dating outside the Church, but with greater maturity were I in that position today I would be much more open to such a possibility. I really like the counsel your bishop gave you.

  24. 24.

    Marrying non-members ain’t nothing but trouble.

    /ducks

  25. 25.

    I’m a faithful believer, but I’m also quite liberal and intellectual. Negotiating that with a non-Bloggernacle type LDS woman could be challenging, and in some ways it might be easier dating a non-LDS woman who doesn’t have a pony in that race.

    Seems like we need a singles’ bloggersnacker!

    Marrying non-members ain’t nothing but trouble.

    /ducks

    Jack, I appreciate the things you’ve written about marriage between an LDS member and a non-LDS member (both the positives and the negatives). Your post on Times and Seasons on the subject helped me realize some ways I could make it work if I find myself in that situation.

  26. 26.

    #24, LOL!

  27. 27.

    Jack, your comment made me laugh, but I echo what Keri said–I’ve also appreciated your thoughts on the challenges and positives of interfaith marriages.

  28. 28.

    Thanks, Keri and Seraphine.

    My heart really goes out to you LDS singles when I hear your stories. I got married when I was 21, so who am I to offer any advice or reflections on the single life to people who are still single in their 30s or 40s?

    But before I met my husband, I was honestly worried that marriage was not in the cards for me. I’m 6’0″ tall, I’d chosen to attend a college where there were barely any other men from my faith, a lot of guys seem to have a hard time with ambitious, intellectual women (an extremely intelligent friend of mine here at TEDS had a guy break up with her recently because he was intimidated by how smart she was), and the only “serious” boyfriend I’d had thus far had been an online relationship. I had plenty of guys flirt with me at BYU, but I wonder how much of that wasn’t due to my status as a forbidden non-member. I doubt I’d have gotten the attention I got had I been just another Mormon girl.

    I don’t really have much point to sharing all that other than to say that I feel your pain in spirit. There are days when I long for the freedom I had when I was single. I’m sure you’ve had your fill of single by now, but try to enjoy that much of it while it’s there.

  29. 29.

    What you are all saying here resonates with me immensely. My first boyfriend was not LDS. We dated for 4 years. I finally broke up with him because I didn’t want to just date without getting married in the temple being a goal, despite how we loved each other. I honestly thought, back then, that I’d be married by the time I was 20. 21 at the latest.

    I’m 35 now, and I’ve only had two semi-serious relationships since then–two boyfriends and about 20 first dates. I am not kidding when I say I’m lucky to go on one date a year, and that a bad one. I just recently broke a 3-year non-dating streak with an awful date, and I don’t know if it makes me feel worse that the only dates I go on are bad, or if I’d rather just not date. So when I say that I honestly don’t know how to date anyone, member or not, I mean it. I’m pretty sure I’ve long forgotten what it feels like to have a guy honestly look at me with love, or even affection.

    Sometimes I look back and wonder if I should have just married that first boyfriend—after dating a few more years, of course. But then I remember all the things that have happened in the last 15 or so years, and all the people I’ve met, the degrees I’ve gotten I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise, the person I’ve become, and I know that despite this long, hard road I’ve been on emotionally, it was the right choice.

    Yet I can’t help, sometimes, to feel punished for making the right choice. Which is silly, but as others have mentioned above, that blame game is well familiar to me. I can’t help but let it affect my self-esteem when I let myself think about it.

    So lately my way of coping is just to forget that dating exists. It’s easier to deal with it by not dealing. I can’t control that aspect of my life—not by becoming anorexic enough to suit the Mormon boy attractiveness factor, not by pretending I’m not a smart, master’s-degree-holding businesswoman with a strong drive to succeed, not by pretending I’m not interested in “weird” things like fantasy and science fiction and that I’m not at all interested in things that are more universally accepted.

    It’s not like any of the guys I know will ever ask me out, and I find that the older I get, I find that it’s just easier to deny that that part of me even exists. If it doesn’t exist, it can’t be in constant pain, can it? Then I can at least pretend to feel like a normal person, not the victim and object of pity that so many people think a woman of a certain age who isn’t in a relationship is.

  30. 30.

    stacer
    well said. I so hear you. thanks for sharing.

    So hard to articulate because for most out there, this situation presents as a 19 yr old dating situation (just with a longer duration pattern) yet still with 19-yr old solutions. It so isn’t. Emotions are different at this age, repeat experiences with rejection make it very different. Perspective make it different; personal and spiritual maturing make it wholly different.

    Most respond to it in the only way they know how and that’s to relate it to when THEY were single for those brief, youth tainted 3 yrs between 18 and 21 and they anxiously gush over with advise and encouragement that would fit a 19 yr old, but isn’t even inside my ballpark anymore.

    Like you, I like many pieces of my life. I’m scared to death that’s a detriment to my marriage possibility, though I’m told that people who aren’t happy before entering that little sealing room, prob won’t be happy afterwards either. But I sense, deep down, that the chances grow slimmer that more able I become to function well on my own. That makes me not happy. So torn here.

    I can’t fit back into those 19 yr old marriage expectations (not talking physical here, but it’s a good metaphor-speaking emotional/spiritual/growth-ful.) I’ve become happy and older and accomplished and unless I find someone to sit at this piano (John Bytheway metaphor) with me without those 19 yr old requirements, it’s going to be hard.

    And I’m not sure I know what to say either, to be honest. I’ve often thought we needed to get a bunch of lds single’s together to write a guidebook, each writing a chapter of the how to’s of being single over the years and still not loose the ideal of marriage (yet not go crazy). Like Kathryn Soper’s “The mother in me” but called something like “The Mahana in me – Why I bought my own cows”. “What do I do with my own cows”? maybe Got cows?

    Being older and single is just wayyyy hard and definitely not for sissies.

  31. 31.

    I must admit that I know that my way is not the healthiest way to deal. Because then when I have to acknowledge the pain I feel, like when I read threads like this, I fall apart. Which is fine in the privacy of my own home, but if someone forces me to discuss the subject–such as the latest “so-and-so is single and so are you, so you should get together” talk, or the latest “what’s up with your love life?” talk with family or friends–it’s embarrassing and painful. But I honestly don’t know how else to deal with it.Wearing my heart on my sleeve in my much-more-hopeful 20s only got me where I am today, rejected by pretty much every guy I ever got close to. After a decade and a half of being told you’re not worth someone’s time, how can you not close yourself off?

  32. 32.

    These comments make me wonder if it would be possible to create a humorous Mormon version of _He’s Just Not That Into You_ ;-)

    I am reading Steve Ward’s new book and really wondering why there are really no professional matchmakers among the Momon people. If our culture wasn’t in such denial about the dilemmas faced by LDS singles, I think there would be a huge market for their matchmaking services.

    A guidebook could be a good thing. But we are such an insular people that it might be tough following Elna Baker’s lead and writing for both LDS and non-LDS audiences. At least I assume that would be point if we are talking about interfaith dating.

  33. 33.

    Jack, there are a lot of things I do enjoy about being single, and I definitely take advantage of them, but you’re right that these things, while nice, aren’t consolation when you want to be married.

    stacer, I’ve definitely hit those points in my life when I decided I couldn’t deal anymore and decided to just forget about/ignore the whole dating thing. Inevitably, for me, however, it’s not an attitude I can maintain. And I’m sorry that this issue is so painful for you. You’re right that the more you are rejected, the harder and more painful it can become.

    lj, yes, you are definitely right to observe that dating advice you might give to a 19-year-old just doesn’t work for a 30-something year old. Sometimes when people give me dating advice, I’m tempted to give marriage advice in return. Something tells me it wouldn’t go over that well. :)

  34. 34.

    Sterling, I think you’re right that our culture is in denial about challenges facing singles. Or, more accurately, I think singles are increasingly on the radar of church leadership, but they often try to do things that just aren’t that effective (repetition of “you will get married in the eternities! I promise!”).

    I think a guidebook on interfaith dating would be great, but then we’d have to figure out what to do with the whole “you should only get married in the temple because otherwise you may not make it to the Celestial Kingdom” advice. I think a lot of members would appreciate tips on interfaith dating, but I’m not sure if as a church as a whole, we’re ready to acknowledge that interfaith dating might not be a bad thing.

  35. 35.

    I’m not sure if as a church as a whole, we’re ready to acknowledge that interfaith dating might not be a bad thing

    And that’s kind of a bummer, especially for those of us that are in interfaith marriages. I know we’re a minority, but we’re a growing minority and so far, the strategy seems to be to just smile and nod. Or look at us with pity.

  36. 36.

    Isn’t a temple marriage required only for the highest degree of the celestial kingdom?

    Maybe if the guidebook was written for singles over 30, there would be a greater openness to interfaith dating.

  37. 37.

    hmmmm….. I should probably do a literature review to see what’s out there.

    I think John Bytheway is the only one I’ve heard really touch on the practicals of this situation and then only for older YSA’s, not for the older not YSA’s anymore.

    After that, Sherry Dew only vaguely hints at what can be construed as a broken relationship that caused her to have to pray to survive that painful episode. She talks in general terms about how she copes spiritually.

    There’s some of the 5,000 foot view of how to handle it, but not much that talks at ground zero about what it’s like or what to say to us, or what to say back, or how to understand what might or might not be phases.

    Rather than a dating only guidebook, how about a fall-apart-in-your-own-home book-tell all (channelling Matsby’s “your not alone – o wait, yes you are. Even though right now your on your own”) written by those who want the temple scenario.

    Or a series of random chapters,
    one on dating members,
    one on dating non-members,
    one on not dating,
    one on spiritually dealing with it,
    one on what to say to members of your forever ward, which is now a “family ward” and you are decidedly not an easy fit,
    one for ward leaders on practical ways to include those and re-activate those who’ve become ghosts.
    a chapter on why some things should NEVER be said, even when I’m not within earshot, etc…
    a chapter on the myths, like if I don’t buy a house while single, i’ll be more dateable or similar things.

    Myths, both those of others and my own are constantly being revealed. I’d buy the book, just so I didn’t have to go through this all first hand and so unprepared.

    Every new thing I discover seems to leave a nasty bruise before I can get my mind around it and figure out what to do with it.

    Would a book help anyone not have to do it like this? Would it help those around us understand what never gets to be said aloud due to time and individual interest factors? People have severe Attn deficit disorder when it comes to this topic so much of it never gets said but brushed off with a comment including “next year” or “next life” phrases.

    Always the myth but never the Mythes? (Mrs.)
    My wayyy single life?
    One of these things is not like the other?
    Marriage prep 1001 – for the afterlife?
    Where the boys are (here) and why I’m waiting. (In a good way) *Think Patsy Cline’s “Where the Boys are song lyrics”

    (ok humorous book titles are the only thing keeping me from crying here.)

  38. 38.

    I was really disappointed last year to learn how church manuals are teaching 1 Corinthians 7 (one of the most significant passages on interfaith marriage in the Bible). I did a blog post on this here.

    I can understand the church not “encouraging” interfaith marriages per se, but I see little justification for obscuring the positive things that the Bible says on the subject.

  39. 39.

    One of the myriad of problems is that unlike Soper’s wonderful book, it deals with raising children, including children with down’s syndrome and that’s a situation people understand making long haul plans for.
    Problem here is, I’m not supposed to be making long haul plans for dealing with single/hood/ness/ship. I’m supposed to pretend that it will only last for three more months and then taa-daa – it’ll be resolved. So we don’t talk about it as a long term issue.

    And even if singleness isn’t the majority case for mainstream folks, I bet you’d be surprised at the number of people who are touched by the issue in terms of sisters, aunts, daughters (flip the wording for males) somewhere in sphere’s of daily life.

    So it’s hard to not write a how to book for singleness and still include, but don’t plan on being single because that’s bad.

    How do I live in something I can’t ever plan for? How do I plan for it without giving up on something I hold dear? How have others done this that might help me do it for myself, individually?

    This is way worse than planning food storage for a disaster that you hope never comes. Warning about long term singlehood has such a “let’s not talk about it” quality.

  40. 40.

    If this guidebook becomes a reality, I could probably help with research and statistics. These elements could be useful if the book includes a section on facts vs. myths. I have some ideas, which I haven’t tested yet, for calculating the activity rate among male and female single adults and the interfaith marriage rate. I also think the book would be incomplete without a section on tips for reactivating Mormon single males. But the only way this book could probably ever work is if the ironies of life as a Mormon single could be discussed with a considerable dose of humor.

  41. 41.

    Fluharty,
    I’m in and I agree. A heavy dose of non-mean spirited humor is a must.

    And it can’t be angry at others or the church or church leaders. It should teach and awaken, and make understandable the sorrow, even make some things funny, more than provoke or embarrass anyone.
    *And we could automatically be off the hook here because if any take offense at anything we say, we could just brush it off to their being oversensitive to their status as outsiders. (sly grin)

    I don’t think “those other” people are aware and if they were, I think they would cringe and stop immediately. I’ve never thought the harm was intended. Unoffending humor, without being dismissive, is definitely how Bytheway got by with it.

    Love to see a humorous take on Seraphine’s marriage advice that I never gave in return for single advice that I couldn’t use.

    Top 10 things I never said….

    Mary Poppins perfect Nanny song lyrics come to mind

    If you want this choice position
    Have a cheery disposition
    ………………..
    You must be kind, you must be witty
    ……
    Never be cross or cruel
    ……
    Love us as a son and daughter
    …….
    If you won’t scold and dominate us
    We will never give you cause to hate us
    ………
    Many thanks Sincerely, Jane and Michael Banks:

    Vacay, holiday, running a little random here.

  42. 42.

    I think it sounds like a great idea. If it happens, I know a wonderful lady (think Donna Reed), with a PhD in clinical psychology who just retired from a long, successful career as a marriage counselor. She married a non-member who later converted, and she has been the biggest cheerleader of me and my interfaith relatioship. She may be able to provide some tips, tricks. and myths she has seen.

  43. 43.

    I don’t know if a manual for interfaith dating would ever exist since there isn’t even any guidance for LDS intrafaith dating really. If interfaith dating was ever officially acknowledged I suspect the position would have to be that the same guidelines apply to both — primarily the great obssession, pre-marital abstinence (see K. Barney’s recent post at T&S).

    However, I think some guidance on interfaith marriage is conceivable. I think the key element of this would be to encourage discussion of critical issues such as (1) whether the non-LDS partner understands the demands of the LDS lifestyle, and the extent to which they are willing to accommodate their LDS spouse’s Church activity and (2) the great issue in any interfaith marriage, the religious upbringing of the children. It would help to facilitate this if we could try to formally accommodate non-LDS fiances, fiancees, and spouses by finding ways of encouraging them to participate in the ward or branch free of constant proselyting pressure.

  44. 44.

    E-harmony info at a glance
    just fyi, for interest – it’s free communication at e-harmony through Sunday. So I took the free plunge and registered as a female and then as a male to see what would show up. I copied exact preferences so that I’m a conjoined twin in both profiles but I don’t match myself when I logged on again.

    that explains a lot. I’m not even interested in myself.

    For the male version of me: (exact same profile)
    From 31-54 age range, 7 females show up for the male subscription that I set up – all in Provo/Orem/Highland area. (Wonder what that shows) Setting said distance was no object. Still, only 7 females pay a hefty fine for dating services, all clustered around BYU-dom, not even N or S Utah, just in the one area.

    For the female version of me: (exact same profile)
    12 matches – NV, NC, AZ, GA, AR, WA, AK, CA, CA, (UT: Provo, SLC, Price)

    For a bundle deal $25 mo for 12 mo / $35 mo for 6 mo / $45 mo for 3 mo, It looks like the men are willing to pay up for being outside of the range (mt range) and women inside the range are willing to pony up a bit. I don’t know what other dating services cost but I know it’s not near this much.

    *Jack – my profiles didn’t cover those who didn’t insist on lds match. I’m sure that would open it up exponentially. This just showed me something I thought interesting using a smaller scale.

  45. 45.

    No. 43, I agree that there would need to be premarital counseling on these issues so both parties would fully understand what they were getting into.

    Another key point is that if you’re going to enter into an inter-faith marriage, I think you should leave overt attempts at conversion at the door. It may be natural to hope that your spouse converts eventually, but each partner needs to respect the faith of the other.

    One of the best things I ever saw was a woman who was new in our ward, who stood up in GD and announced that her husband was not LDS and when he came to Church or otherwise the members of the ward were not to try to proselyte him. If that is really your wish, you’ve got to beat the members over the head with it. And her little speech worked great, everyone honored her request and her husband was spared a lot of unnecessary and awkward attempts at conversion. I was really impressed by her little speech.

  46. 46.

    #42 Keep ‘em coming. Great suggestions for collecting people to do something here.

    #45 63 yr old woman in the ward for yrs, 100% er on VT award- goes with someone to visit, runs people around, nursery assistant, choir member, volunteers at the cannery, storehouse, helps with YW camp organizing food etc/ family history library “calling/assignment”, attends all activities for longer than I’ve been a member.
    She’s not a member.
    Didn’t know that until the issue of callings came up in my sphere. She’s probably had ever church assignment they can possibly give her over the years. She says, frankly, that she doesn’t want to offend her family of the methodist tradition so she’s not joining. But she’s not leaving. Talk about dealing in the fringes of the culture. She does it with such grace.
    So interesting. totally love her.
    You’ve heard of proxy baptism’s. She should have an honorary baptism and made a full member-like famous people at a commencement ceremony. She needs to teach in RS. We need her, that is.

  47. 47.

    In re my #43, K. Barney’s post was at BCC where such subject matter belongs, not T&S.

    This may be getting a bit beyond the topic, but I wonder if we should encourage, or at least better accept, people who the French members called “friends of the Church” (in a running battle with the missionairies because the term ‘investigateur’ in French had even more purely harsh ‘detective’ connotations than it does in English). If we gave more space to ‘dry’ Mormons in general non-LDS spouses would feel more comfortable in particular. Also, many such eventually do get wet, and stick with it far better than the standard ‘golden’ quickie converts the missionairies love so much because the former know exactly what they are committing to.

    One opening for such space for non-LDS friends may come from the new fourth purpose or mission or whatever it is. If it means that projects to help the poor and needy are going to be worked into the structure of the wards and branches, it could open up a large new category of Church ‘callings’ which could be filled by non-LDS participants.

    Getting back to topic, if there were more space for such unconventional participants in the Church, maybe it would bleed over into making more space for single members as well

  48. 48.

    JWL, you’re right that an interfaith marriage guidebook would probably be more useful than an interfaith dating guidebook.

    I think what we need more generally is a guidebook on older singlehood in the Mormon church. There could be sections on both intrafaith dating and interfaith dating. There could also be sections on things like surviving church, what to do when people try to give you dating advice, living the law of chastity, finding fulfillment outside of relationships, etc.

    And Sterling–yes, temple marriage is only required for the highest degree of the CK, but no one talks in the church about the lower degrees of the CK as the places that you really want to be–you must strive for the “highest.”

    lj, you’re right that the church doesn’t talk about long-term singlehood (except in the “you’ll get married in the next life if you don’t get married in this one” speeches)–marriage is always talked about as something that may be just around the corner.

    Kevin, that’s a great story.

  49. 49.

    JWL, that’s an intriguing idea. I am pessimistic about it’s workability in current church culture, but I’m a fan!

  50. 50.

    lj: I’m glad this guidebook idea is catching on. I think eHarmony doesn’t do nearby matches. Apparently it is their way of promoting abstinence before marriage. So I think it is perfectly normal that you didn’t match with yourself.

    JWL: I am hoping for something similar with the fourth purpose. Hopefully the new edition of the CHI will be out soon with details and instructions. But in the meantime I hope members will take some initiative.

    Seraphine: I like you how you described the subject matter for the book. Making it fairly comprehensive will help with reaching a diverse readership. Still, figuring out the audience and authorial voice will present some challenge. I imagine this book would not really follow the recent pattern set by Liz Tuccillo and Drew Barrymore.

  51. 51.

    I love the idea of a book, even as a married person. Hopefully it would help me figure out how to be a better friend to the singles in my ward and in my life. Also, what they may need in terms of activities, or adjustment to activities/family holidays to feel more involved. Reading this and Kevin’s thread at BCC has been interesting.

    I am surprised that so many singles writing here are just now thinking of eHarmony or other sites. The single non-members I know are all about internet dating, especially as they also hit their late twenties and thirties because it is harder to meet new people with work hours, varied moves away from colleges, etc. What is the reasoning behind not using internet dating sites, besides cost, which is high? If I sound like an idiot I am sorry. I don’t talk about dating with people, only friends who have brought it up first or who I have talked about relationships with before. Also, my mom was a convert who married my non-member dad with the encouragement of her bishop. He converted later, so that has got to color my impression of stuff.

  52. 52.

    #50 Sterling – eharmony makes you specify a distance from 20 mile radius to world-wide option – so it’s not a distance issue – oh wait – is that a joke about enforcing abstinence? hahahaha – funny

    Identical profiles may not “match” bc they may correlate gender bias issues into self-descriptions. My female probably registers as overly independent – male profile a little on the girly man side. They may have that programed to correlate a non-match. I don’t know that, just guessing.

    #48 Seraphine
    love that outline too – broad enough to interest people. Lots of people could write the chapters and it could be edited/compiled by a few. I like the idea.
    I vote – yes we can.

    with the other strands of posts you plan to write, more will gather and suggest topics and contributing writers, organizers. A long term project but certainly do-able and probably fun.

    Miles – love that you are interested. makes my day.

    It’s really an interesting juxtaposition to explore if I can do it without a kleenex. I’m stunned by what I see single’s around me do all the time, quietly, quietly do. Invisibly serve all the time. It often shows a faithful side that one wouldn’t see in the more common conversations about a mother’s love and sacrifice or the father’s devotion. It’s another side (not better or worse) of faith and heavenly expectations of those who are a little “different”, yet not. Some travel in wagons, some in handcarts, some on trains but we all are making the journey to Zion, so we need to welcome each other along the way, whatever way that is.

    If a wagon master had come to my handcart company and given a lecture on how much faster we’d get there if we had wagon’s and a wagon team like he did, can you even imagine it, yet it happens all the time. While I’m walking alongside a wagon. ugggghhhh.

  53. 53.

    #48 Seraphine
    you’re right that the church doesn’t talk about long-term singlehood (except in the “you’ll get married in the next life if you don’t get married in this one” speeches)–marriage is always talked about as something that may be just around the corner”

    I finally figured out (i’m slow) that it’s code for “let’s talk about something else like my child stroller.

    I’ve noticed it’s never followed up with, so what do you think you will do until that day comes or how do you handle that responsibility to wait or anything that would help me think through this.

    When “You’ll get married in the next life” is said, topic change is next up. It’s s simple social cue. A segway of sorts.

    I’ve wanted to ask if their family was suddenly, except for them, whisked away to a resort country, well cared for, with money and privilege no issue, the only stipulation being that they could not be in contact with the fam again until after death, how would they take that as a consolation. Don’t worry, be happy, you will see them again, just not in this life. It’s ok. Now about my infant stroller…
    What would you even deal with that imaginary scenario?
    How should I?

    * yeah, metaphor breaks down pretty quick but it’s all I got for now.

    But meanwhile, I know all kinds of things about strollers and if I ever need one, have it totally scoped out. And I share the stroller info with other’s who need it. {sigh}

  54. 54.

    –Ken, I see the error of my ways. I need to dress in clothes that are more flattering and lose my “attitude.” Then I will be more attractive, and that will solve all my dilemmas. Whatever would I do without your help?-Seraphin, post #12

    Two things: First, the example I gave was simply a particular case, and was not meant to apply to each of us; rather, it was to illustrate that perhaps we can do more than we have been doing; and absolutely that also applies to me, and I have been endeavoring to do so.

    Second, I appreciate the sarcasm, Seraphin. Indeed if it were only that easy; believe me, I know it’s not.

    I would share my story and thoughts with you – or anyone here who chooses – I can be reached at alifetogether@msn.com if this site doesn’t block out the particular address. As long as that email doesn’t get abused, it will be functional. (smile)

  55. 55.

    I don’t have much to add, but just wanted to thank you all for some great discussion that has gotten me thinking in ways I hadn’t thought before.

    lj #39:

    Problem here is, I’m not supposed to be making long haul plans for dealing with single/hood/ness/ship. I’m supposed to pretend that it will only last for three more months and then taa-daa – it’ll be resolved. So we don’t talk about it as a long term issue.

    Great point! I’m sure you’re right that that’s at least one major problem with how we in the Church discuss being single. The assumption is always that it’s a brief transition between being a teen and being married.

    JWL #47:

    If we gave more space to ‘dry’ Mormons in general non-LDS spouses would feel more comfortable in particular.

    Yes, well said! I wonder if our difficulty with dry Mormons kind of parallels our difficulty with what might be called “wet non-Mormons” or more precisely, members with doubts. In general when we try to draw our lines too brightly around who’s in to make sure who’s out is out, we exclude lots of interesting people.

  56. 56.

    I think Ken’s example highlights a misconception in the church that I wish would die a fiery death: that if you’re not married yet (at 22, 30, or 38), you’re “not ready yet”–that there’s something you’re doing wrong that you should fix. You’re too fat, too independent, too shy, too bookish, too … anything, and that to attract a mate you must “prepare yourself,” as if you’re still 15 and in YW.

    I’m SICK of hearing people tell me this. It’s actually, lately, been a way to weed out the idiots in my life, honestly. Thanks, I think I was ready when I was 25. I was ready when I was 28. I was “ready” still when I was 32, etc etc.

    This relates to my experience in my singles ward: http://www.feministmormonhousewives.org/?p=2549. I honestly don’t think a ward full of single people whose average age is 35 should have as one of its major goals “to teach young people responsibility.” Thanks, I’ve got that one covered. Now can I have some spiritual sustenance and community, rather than condescension and false smiles?

  57. 57.

    Somehow the society we live in thinks men are incapable of change and growth. According to this theory, women are the ones who must change themselves, primarily their appearance and personality, if they are to attract men. Certain men decide they are good at telling women how they must remake themselves in order to snag a man. Some women believe this theory and try to become what men supposedly want. I think people sometimes underestimate the costs and consequences of this approach. Love can motivate us to change, but the challenge is probably a balancing act: becoming something new while remaining true to ourselves.

  58. 58.

    I believe there are several factors at play when exploring the issues of post-30 dating in th church. Let me start by saying that I was single until almost forty, attending twelve singles wards and branches and four regular wards in six stats across the US between 1986-2007. I nowam a married former Mormon.

    1. Dating is often considered a “priesthood duty,” and spoken of as such to increasingly embittered older single men who rightfully wonder why a late- adolescent new-RM is able to get this “duty” out of the way just because of luck, boldness, impetuousnrss, or circumstance. Often, older singles receive mixed messages from the pulpit about carefully choosing a partner and being sufficiently discriminating. Speedy, hasty marriages are often held up as feats of faith, yet older, wiser, smarter unmarried people realize that it’s better to be alone than toy with their and others’ futures so cavalierly. A duty to date? There’s a differnce between shoveling simeone’s walk and going out to a nice concert and dessert.

    2. The “you’ll date and marry in the afterlife” meme is damaging and a contributing factor to why some singles give up or don’t feel like they have to try hard enough while alive. From my present vantage point, I question the ethics of leaders who have been married and having sex fir 50 years telling lonely single women and men that if they don’t find other Mormons to marry, all they have to do is be really, really good, and after deah a rich dating life will materialize, followed by a sealing, receptions, and kids fir days…er, eternities. What I would love to hear leaders say is, “We don’t know exactly what happens after death, and we cannot promise you marriage in the next life, so make temporal marriage work for you with a member or non-member; God knows your heart, and it’s better to marry than to burn.”

    3. The church’s attitude towards singles is often patronizing, dmoralizing, and infantilizing. From bishops and their wives’ calling ward members their “kids”–no matter that the singles ward members are nearly the same age!- to the scolding and excoriating of those who dare to behave like mindful, wilful adults, there is an institutionalized stigma against never-marrieds that persists. It’s always a “problem” that “you’re not married,” and there’s always fault or blame to be had. This ground is not fertile for honest, healthy relationships and dating behaviors. It doesn’t help that rewards of increased church leadership and temple service are denied to singles, ostensibly as a way to punish them for still being single. I watched a aingle friend burst into tears as he was told that as a 30 year old single, his service as a temple worker was no longer needed. Just because he was single.

  59. 59.

    Forgive the typos, please. Getting used to a tiny keyboard.

  60. 60.

    Wow, this is a great discussion. I look forward to all your posts. It takes some of the pressure off the feeling that I should write one of my own.

    At this point, I don’t have much to add. However, some may appreciate some relevant comments on a post at the Exponent (unknowingly posted by D’Arcy at the same time).

    http://the-exponent.com/2009/12/31/the-houri/#comment-20713

  61. 61.

    Well, you all wanted an eHarmony update, so here it is. I have a real, live, honest-to-goodness almost date on Wednesday as a result. The guy is an accountant, and we’re meeting at a local Starbucks after work to get acquainted. (We’ve been e-mailing for a week.) I haven’t been on a date in over a year, so I hope I remember how to do it. :-)

  62. 62.

    miles, I’ve used on-line LDS dating sites before (this is actually how I met my ex), but I haven’t ever used sites like e-Harmony because I was uncertain about the whole dating non-members thing.

    lj (53), I don’t read the “you’ll get married in the next life” comments quite as cynically as you do, but I do think people often make that remark when they don’t really know what to say. Actually (and luckily), I tend to hear this kind of remark much more often over the pulpit than I do in my one-on-one interactions.

    Ken, most people, married and single, could be doing better in multiple areas in their lives. I was sarcastic because it really felt like you were giving me advice without knowing what my life is really like. However, I’m glad that you include yourself in your advice-giving–that wasn’t apparent in your original comment.

    stacer–yes! this is one of the ideas that drives me the most crazy. That somehow I’m less mature than the 19-year-old who just got married (because her maturity got her married and my immaturity is keeping me from being married). Look, I’m not saying I’m the epitome of maturity (everyone is human and imperfect), but I’ve managed to pick up quite a few life skills in the past 15 years, and there is not something fundamentally wrong with me that is preventing me from being married.

  63. 63.

    Sterling, that’s definitely a cultural meme that’s out there, and when you’re in a situation where there are more women and fewer men (which is often the case when you’re an older single in the church), it makes it easier for both men and women to buy into those messages.

    Wendy J, you do a great job summarizing a lot of problematic issues with Mormon culture when it comes to what it’s like to be a single in the church. I especially like the point you make about how we get conflicting messages over the pulpit, though I honestly think that most of the engagement/marriage stories that people tell are the “see how quickly we got married and it all worked out” stories. I remember having to fend off a lot of inquiries (and a certain amount of judgment) when my ex and I took a long time to get to know one another, move forward with our relationship, etc.

  64. 64.

    Kelly Ann, I noticed D’Arcy’s coincidentally relevant post, but thanks for the heads up!

    Keri, thanks for the update! I hope things go well–since I also decided to try the eHarmony thing (I’m still in the early stages), I may e-mail you at some point to talk about our respective experiences if that’s okay.

  65. 65.

    Keri, good luck on your date!

    I guess I’ll add that I signed up for Match a couple months ago (having used the LDS sites but not the standard) and went on my first post-ex awkward date. He was friendly enough but there was no chemistry. However, it was good just to get my nerves out (I managed to knock all the silverware in the restaurant on the floor). But I wasn’t bothered because there was a huge sense of accomplishment for me to say that I went out and had a good time and for the very least he had a sense of humor.

    So I hope if nothing else you come back with a good story.

  66. 66.

    No problem, Seraphine. E-mail away! It’s probably going to be the blind leading the blind, though. I only signed up a week and a half ago. (It was on a whim, just a few days before the Bloggernacle exploded with dating/marriage/sex posts. I’m not sure what to make of the timing…)

  67. 67.

    #61 Yayyy Keri – double yaayyyy!

    #62 Sorry for cynical – I too have often heard in sincerely and by someone who is genuinely reaching for whatever comfort they can for me. I always appreciate those moments and should have included them as well for balance. To be reminded of a gospel principal is a blessing.

  68. 68.

    Kelly Ann, that is definitely something to feel a sense of accomplishment about. And who cares about the silverware? I can be quite clumsy even when I’m not nervous.

    Keri, I’m not sure that I necessarily need advice–I just want someone with whom to compare experiences (especially if I have any experiences that seem out of the norm).

    lj, I didn’t mean to criticize your cynicism. If you’ve had experiences where people were trying to shut down the conversation by offering false comfort, it’s a problem, and you can certainly express that. What I was trying to say is that my own personal experiences have been dominated by hearing it said by church leaders (often as an attempt at comfort because they don’t know what else to say that would be more helpful).

  69. 69.

    Good luck, Keri! I hope it goes well.

  70. 70.

    I know I don’t fit the profile you are addressing because I got married before age 30, but I can relate to much of what has been discussed, particularly the self-doubt, wondering where/if/what I had missed/done wrong/etc.

    I can also relate to this: “Many, many times a shoulder to cry on with men who lost their relationships with the other girls.”

    I was sooo many guys’ best friend. But the guys I liked always seemed to go for MY best friend. Ugh.

    I struggled to figure out the balance of “doing all I could do” to be available and put myself in situations where I might meet people, and not letting myself be consumed by fear that if I didn’t do or go to one thing, I might miss my opportunity.

    I hope this can be taken in the right spirit, but with the hindsight I have now, I wish I could go back and do one thing — worry less. I KNOW that is easier said than done, and I’m actually not saying that to say, “Don’t worry, you’ll get married someday, and when you do, then it will all make sense” because I know that may not always be true, and THAT is a part that is SO hard.

    But what I do mean is that I feel that I can look back and see that the wracking my brain and heart and spirit over and over and over again was really inflicting unnecessary pain and stress. I couldn’t see it, but God did have a plan for me, and it included being single for a while. I learned a lot and experienced a lot that really enriched my life and growth. Of course, it had some downsides (I would have liked more children, and getting a later start made that harder). But I hold onto that experience now as I wade through other unknowns and experiences where I will tend to go back to that place of self-doubt and mental/spiritual/emotional anguish of woulda/coulda/shoulda analysis. I am coming to believe that minus those situations where true repentance is necessary, the angsty, heart-numbing, going around in mental circles analysis is really not where I feel God wants us to dwell.

    My heart goes out to all of you. I know from my own limited experience that singleness and the accompanying loneliness (and the unknown! — that to me was sometimes the worst…and the aforementioned self-doubt) can be very, very hard. Add to that the doctrine of what is “most important,” and it can be all the more lonely.

  71. 71.

    p.s.
    I would love thoughts on ways that people like me can be encouraging without being patronizing. For example, I look back and realize that I really could serve in ways that I cannot now — my time and energy is so much more limited. I relished the time I had to serve and be busy, and sometimes even miss that, to be honest. (I’m better being busy in more tangible, “out there” ways than in the mundane that has come with motherhood, if that makes sense.) But I know that saying something like that can come out sounding condescending, or unappreciative of the downsides of being single.

    Another example…. I know that some people like to be invited along w/ families, and others don’t. I’d be interested in different thoughts on these kinds of things — on how to reach out in ways that mean something to you — if for no other reason than to underscore how different some of these feelings and responses can be…which imo can underscore how important it is to get to know singles (I hate labels like that, even, but for the sake of discussion, of course, here we are) as individuals, rather than clumping everyone together.

  72. 72.

    One thing I’d like for married people to recognize about singles, especially those in their 30s, is that we all have time constraints whether we’re single or married with children. While I had quite a bit of time for service in my 20s, I find that my 30s are just as busy as any working parent–I’m just as tired at the end of the workday. I don’t have the energy I once had in my 20s, especially with the health issues I’ve been dealing with in the last few years.

    So I think that’s what you’re running into, m&m–singles find the “extra time for service” line condescending because people aren’t taking into account singles’ *actual time*, and instead remembering what it was like to be in their own singleness.

    Bottom line: get to know us as individuals. In return, I promise to not assume that all married people are alike, either.

    This goes back to what someone was saying about stereotyping. I once heard Elder Maxwell speak at BYU. The talk was during his discipleship phase, and he was talking about the tuition of discipleship. Jesus doesn’t stereotype, he said–the Savior looks upon each of us as individuals, with different fears and desires and capabilities. The trouble with us mortals is that we stereotype left and right. True charity, Elder Maxwell said, is to see others as the Savior sees us: individually.

    So don’t reach out to a “single.” Reach out to a person, who among other things happens to not have a spouse.

  73. 73.

    I wasn’t directing that to you as criticism, m&m, just extending what you said. Hope that’s clear. :) Just re-read and realized it could come off as the opposite.

  74. 74.

    I hope I don’t upset anyone with the contents of this brief comment.

    Truly I appreciate the feelings of many of you here; most of you know me not, as I do not know most of you, but please don’t think I cannot understand; truly I can understand the loneliness and frustration and desire; the self-perceived and sometimes real stigma, awkwardness, and discontent. I encourage you to continue to persevere!

    I would caution those sisters contemplating marrying non-members because they have yet to find a suitable man who desires to take them to the House of the Lord. Be exceedingly careful with any decisions in this regard.

    Please remember as it was said of King David concerning his wives: “…therefore he hath fallen from his exaltation, and received his portion; and he shall not inherit them out of the world, for I gave them unto another, saith the Lord”. (D&C 132: 39)

    I fear that many women and men in the church are willing to ‘receive their portion’ now by marrying outside of the church (and temple) instead of continuing in seeking the Lord’s ‘portion’. The scripture above plainly teaches that there will be women who through no fault of their own are deserving of exaltation, and they will be given it.

    Oh be wise, and be very careful, for upon this choice will rest one’s happiness not only for this life which lasts but a blink of an eye, but for all eternity as well.

  75. 75.

    Ken, it’s not the content of what you say but how you say it that can irritate people. Saying “oh be wise,” as if you were a prophet, makes me say, “why do you think you have any insight into my personal revelation, and even if you did, what’s your stewardship?”

    The Lord also said that the unbelieving spouse is sanctified through the believing spouse, so I’m thinking there’s a lot more room for personal revelation on the subject than you’re implying here.

  76. 76.

    Good points, Stacer. I don’;t have any insight into anyone’s personal revelation but what pertains to me of course. You are right too in that I am not very gifted in how to present some of my thoughts. Perhaps my language is a bit odd also! But if you knew me you might better understand why I said things the way I did! Please don’t take offense. ;)

  77. 77.

    As far as what Paul taught in Corinthians, I am pretty sure those instructions were for missionaries and what missionaries would encounter: that some would join the gospel while their spouse did not. And instructions and advice for those who would then find that as their situation. I don’t think it was meant as an instruction for the rest of us who already have embraced the gospel. Could I be wrong? Of course.

  78. 78.

    The Lord made the same statement to members in our own dispensation. See D&C 74:1.

  79. 79.

    Just a hypothetical here. But what is the difference between someone who stays single all their lives because they were unable to find a suitable LDS mate – and someone who marries a non member? Either way (i.e., if the non member doesn’t join), when the faithful member dies, they’re still in the same place, waiting to be sealed to someone in heaven. (Or something like that.)

  80. 80.

    Regarding the passage in Paul and D&C 74, Jack has a good summary here.

  81. 81.

    I had some similar questions in the similar thread up over at The Exponent.

  82. 82.

    Re: #79

    Glad you brought it up, that1girl. I’ve wondered the same thing. Although I imagine one of the answers being that any children born won’t be sealed to the parents. I’d be interested to hear any other ideas.

  83. 83.

    #52 lj,

    I’m coming late to this conversation (although as a 30-something single, I should probably share something of my own experiences), but I wanted to contribute that part of eHarmony’s profile matching is based on a Myers-Briggs-ish personality test, which presupposes that “opposites attract” where personality is concerned. So if your male and female personas don’t match each other, I’d guess it’s because your personality types are coming up as similar enough that you’d drive each other nuts. ;)

  84. 84.

    Actually, Dr. Warren, eHarmony founder, writes that matching opposites is counterproductive. His books stress compatibility.

  85. 85.

    Opposites in personality or opposites in other respects? (The MBTI folks theorize that personality types should be dissimilar but background and interests should be similar.) And how does Dr. Warren define “compatibility”?

  86. 86.

    #66 – One more interesting factor with the recent explosion of dating/marriage/sex posts: Liz Gilbert, author of _Eat, Pray, Love_ just released her new book over the weekend titled _Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace With Marriage_. Sometimes irony is so delicious.

    #85 – Dr. Warren talks occasionally about aspects of personality that ideally should complement, but his overwhelming message is compatibility. Over the last decade his company has refined their list of 29 dimensions. Their studies provide evidence that compatibility in the 29 dimensions is correlated with marital satisfaction. The real test will come when they conclude their double-blind peer-reviewed longitudinal study of couples that did and did not meet through eHarmony.

  87. 87.

    -Sterling, you mislead. The Lord did not make that statement to us in our own dispensation. Rather, true would be to say as part of explaining Paul’s teaching on the matter, in D&C 74 that statement was quoted and an explanation of what it meant given in the context of Paul’s specific teaching in his time. Read the preface to the revelation; the entire section was an explanation of the biblical translation effort J. Smith was doing in 1832. We could also reference the passage in 2nd Corinthians, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers” that Paul later taught the Corinthians.

    -That1girl, I believe that Jack is correct in her final conclusion, but one thing bothers me about what is said earlier by Jack. Jack is saying that Joseph Smith’s revelation on the subject is wrong.
    D&C 74 clarifies the passage; and the explanation given in the student manual is in harmony with D&C 74. Jack says the student manual says the opposite of what is said by Paul; or, in other words, Jack is saying Paul did not say what Joseph Smith explained Paul meant. (see D&C: 4-5 to see what was happening in interfaith families in Paul’s time in some situations). Jack either overlooks this or has consciously decided otherwise. Jack even admits later in the conclusion that two godly parents is indeed superior to one when it comes to the children’s spiritual well-being. The only quibble I would agree with is the phrase, “will be severely limited” used in the student manual; limited to some extent yes, but the extent of the severity depends totally upon the state of that household.
    In addition, read carefully all Paul says; he is not promoting or justifying interfaith marriage as in two of different faiths deciding to marry; he is discussing what should be done when one person becomes converted to the gospel while the spouse does not.
    In that light, Paul in no way condones interfaith marriage; and in fact as mentioned above later specifically states to not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. To see this in it’s context, read verses 12, 13, and 14, not just 14. He is referring to those already with spouses, and they believe but the spouses choose not to.

  88. 88.

    ack, I meant D&C74: 4-5 in my above response, sorry.

  89. 89.

    m&m, thanks for the inquiry about how you (and others can be more helpful). I think there have been a few good thoughts on this thread. I don’t have time right now to type up a whole list, but I have some upcoming posts on this topic–one is on family wards and how these wards and the married people in them can best be supportive of the singles in their midst .

    To answer your more specific question, I’m personally a single who likes to hang out with families (and most singles I know are this way)–I think the key is to do it out of real friendship (i.e. I’m inviting you over because you seem like a cool person that I want to get to know) rather than pity (I’m inviting you over because I feel sorry for you and want you to be able to fully experience the blessings of *my* family). Honestly, if in doubt, ask. Say something like “I would love to invite you over some time and get to know you a bit better–I’m really fascinated about the type of law you practice, or I’m interested in getting gardening ideas from you (etc.–obviously adjust this based on the person and your shared interests). Would you be interested, even if my kids are running around?” You’ve given them a sense of the environment, you’ve expressed genuine interest in their life, and you’ve given them an out (and they can say no if they genuinely are uncomfortable).

  90. 90.

    Ken, your comment (#74) is not really helpful because while “you shouldn’t marry non-members” may be the general advice given by leaders, as stacer points out, each individual is entitled to their own inspiration about their own life. I’m glad you are posting follow-up comments that acknowledge things can be more complex, but I would appreciate it if you didn’t make any more blanket comments along the lines of “don’t marry non-members. You will suffer eternal unhappiness” on this thread.

    that1girl, #79, those are good questions–I don’t see a whole lot of difference (except for the issue of children, which Martine points out), but I’m interested to see if there are any other thoughts/responses.

    And we obviously need Jack to come and revisit this thread…

  91. 91.

    Given current social mores, I would suggest that any non-LDS person who respects their LDS boy/girlfriend’s desire to follow the law of chastity should be regarded with respect themselves, and not as an ill influence irretrievably damning their partners for eternity. People do convert, in this life or the next. They are more likely to do so if they are treated with respect and friendship, rather than as someone who has fouled their loved one’s lives for eternity.

  92. 92.

    JWL, I think that’s a great way to think about respectful non-Mormon partners!

  93. 93.

    This comment is just for fun.

    I married six years after a divorce, in my late 30′s. My husband hates dating. Despises it. Detests it. He’s an introvert by nature, and he described dating as “smoke and mirrors.” He’s a really great guy; I’m confident that if he’d liked dating he would have married much sooner (and to someone else). Here’s how to put the “I hate dating” process to work for you!

    1. Meet the person online, and don’t rush into meeting in Real Life. The easiest way to do this is to meet someone online about 200 miles away.

    2. E-mail a lot. Pick a good writer. It can be very time consuming to craft entertaining and interesting e-mails, but it’s a great investment. We had exchanged over a hundred e-mails, I think, and knew each other really really well and were quite predisposed to falling in love before we ever met.

    3. Make your first meeting count. We met at the temple. I knew he couldn’t bring his hatchet in, and if he could get in I knew he wasn’t snowing me about being able to go to the temple.

    4. As I sit here writing this I am reminded about how incredibly lucky I was. Dude could have been a pathological liar and I never would have known until it was too late. I had a pretty solid confirmation that marrying him would be a Good Thing, but sometimes those confirmations aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

    5. In light of number 4, I will go ahead and say this, but take with a grain of salt – if you’ve conducted the majority of your “getting to know you” by e-mail, and the person is honest, you can learn all you need to know pretty quickly. Don’t drag your feet about getting married. Start to finish for us, from First E-mail to Wedding, was about nine months. At some point we just had to decide, are we getting married or not? And if so, what were we waiting for? We weren’t kids. And if you aren’t going to get married, end the relationship and move on.

  94. 94.

    Seraphine, thanks for your 89. Great thoughts. That is along the line of what I have thought and tried to do, but you give me even more specifics that really click with me. Awesome.

    I’ll keep an eye out for the family wards post, because I have some ideas about that, too. My family ward was THE BEST. I got so tired of singles wards and the ward I was in was just awesome (except the singles were sometimes cliqueish and petty — go figure).

    Stacer, you said, “I don’t have the energy I once had in my 20s, especially with the health issues I’ve been dealing with in the last few years.”

    I can relate, and you are right, I need to remember that nothing is quite the same as what it’s like to be in your 20s. And how. (I remember being beat after working all day, but I had more stamina so I could fake it longer and get by with less sleep. And I have health problems, too, so I can relate there as well. You have my empathy. Hard stuff.)

    And I hope it’s clear in my comments that I really feel strongly about the “get to know people as individuals” thing. I don’t like stereotypes. (Speaking of which, I appreciate the fact that you talk about how not all married people are the same either. ;) )

  95. 95.

    I’m late to jump in here, but just want to say I really liked this post and identified with a lot in it. As a former member of a Manhattan singles ward, I think I really need to get my hands on Elna Baker’s book.

    Your paragraph above that resonated most strongly with me was the one about realizing there was nothing inherently wrong with you. It wasn’t until I dated a few non-members did I truly understand how I should expect to be treated in a romantic relationship.

    I ended up finding a guy who was perfect for me and who happened to be Mormon, but unfortunately there are only so many Mormon sons of gay fathers and PhD mothers to go around. :)

  96. 96.

    [...] age bracket, etc., where there are no or few people for them to date in in church circles (see my post on dating). If they actually want to be dating, and don’t want to try and find someone long-distance [...]

  97. 97.

    [...] over a group of people for something beyond their control.The plight of older singles has been discussedmany times around the bloggernacle; stories of infantilization, condescension, invisibility. Again, [...]

  98. 98.

    [...] Fox 40 Kid’s Backpack: These cute baby gifts are built in the same style like the Fox 30. They boast of having a style similar [...]

  99. 99.

    As a 35-year old single Catholic guy in the History museum/academic field, I can sympathize — our faiths might have differences in doctrine but my interaction with LDS friends has shown how our church culture can be surprisingly similar (especially with one of my best friends being a single thirty-something Mormon guy). I’ll need to read more of what you’ve written elsewhere, but I hope that you’ve found a way of preserving faith without letting expectations of the “married at 21″ crowd (we have those too, and I fight them as well) get to you too badly!

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