LDS Dating Culture

Ever since various general authorities started drawing attention to the dating scene among Young Adults, I’ve taken an interest in the current status of dating, especially among LDS people, but also in general. I’ve polled my students about it occasionally and also my friends, single and not. As a borderline narcissistic introvert, you might be surprised to learn that I have friends, even friends from many different lands (states) and persuasions. But it’s true. Of course the rest of you won’t be surprised at all.

But to the point. Here, in no particular sequence of topics, are some observations from students, friends, and neighbors on dating culture among Mormons, and sometimes, others.

One friend observed that the experience of two relatives suggests that serious relationships among singles are drying up. Two siblings, practically in elderly status (~30) are single and neither has had a serious boyfriend/girlfriend. A close friend from his youth married a short time ago, his new wife was his first serious relationship in over a decade. He wonders if the lack of a serious significant other outside of an engagement is now relatively common. I quote him: “I’ve watched my siblings go through this and it’s really awful. If it’s broad enough to be a cultural phenomenon, there needs to be lots of somethings that need changing, starting at the top and extending downward. We’ve become expert in needless suffering.”

I’ve wondered the same thing as I’ve watched kids in my mostly LDS neighborhood and my own children. One friend observed that in her experience, such dry spells aren’t “uncommon in LDS circles, but *very* uncommon in secular/regular life [but see below]. The understood subtext to all dates adds an extra-weird pressure to LDS dating. All un-coupled people are constantly being assessed and assessing—it creates a strange highly-charged atmosphere where men and women can’t just organically get to know each other, which is the norm in non-LDS dating. It also increases the isolation of single people, and can exacerbate and further cripple the ability to relate to the opposite sex as anything other than a potential partner. I believe this dynamic is also carried over and amplified by our segregation of the sexes even after marriage, and our odd institutional fear of men and women being incapable of real, non-sexual friendship.”

This conversation took place between two married Mormon women friends: “I never dated anyone before ****** and only went on one or two dates before then. I think this has more to do with me than being Mormon, but I do think that being Mormon made me uncomfortable with dating non-Mormons. Honestly, I don’t really feel like I missed out–I tend to view casual dating as a waste of time and never met anyone before ****** who I wanted a serious relationship with.”

“Right, but that’s part of the problem, I think. In non-LDS worlds, dating isn’t serious business, and it’s not about only going out with people you want a serious relationship with. it’s about social skills, learning how to communicate with different people, and figuring out what you want and what you like. If you find someone with whom you click, you can then gradually (or rapidly) move towards exclusiveness, depending on your/their desire. We just don’t allow room for that in Mormon life. It’s ALL about marriage. Basically, a date in the regular world isn’t a job interview. It’s just a date. I ended up with some great male friends from my dating days. I can’t say that about the LDS world, and if it weren’t for my rather exceptional experience in other contexts, I doubt I would *have* any male LDS friends. There’s just nowhere for it to happen.”

I think some Church authorities have been fairly liberal in their concept of dating. Elder Ballard has promoted the idea of one on one dating, but not necessarily with the sole goal of marriage. I think his subtext was simply putting flint and steel in the same drawer. But some of those in the dating scene, especially those progressing into the fifth decade (and that fraction seems to be growing) may feel neglected to the point that dropping out feels inevitable.

A woman friend related this experience from her time in YW: “One of my old advisers gave the entire YW the following advice: Just remember when you start dating someone that you’re either going to get married or break up. Those are the only two options at the beginning of a new relationship. So if it’s not someone you want to marry, break up and move on as soon as possible.

Here is a sequence of comments from a recent conversation on the subject of dating with a group of friends:

I have several non-LDS friends who are my age and have either never had a boyfriend or have gone through decade-long dry spells. I think dating is more trouble than it’s worth for a lot of people, and it just gets to be more trouble as you get older. It seems to me that even just making friends is a challenge for people these days . . . There is definitely a generational shift on this, although I can’t say what the real norms are. It seems my son’s friends aren’t that into dating for the most part. At his age, I was pretty much making out whenever I got the chance. Now they play FIFA and study . . . I know lots of non-members who are non-daters as well. Agreed that lots of people think it’s not worth the effort. Take away the possibility of getting laid, and most introverts don’t want to bother. For myself, I was in relationships for a lot of my 20s and early 30s, not very seriously and usually breaking up amicably. And Mormons are by no means the only ones to date-to-marry. As with so much, Mormonism exaggerates things already there in the culture rather than making them from scratch.

A male colleague, in discussing dating culture among Mormons and the general scene in the U.S. told me that what he has seen among students at BYU and other universities leads him to believe that BYU and Mormonism in general put a particular spin on what has, by this point, developed into new cultural and generational (and class specific) norms. Those norms seem to be 1) social exclusivity (dating) is a big deal because it seems to imply a willingness to move in together and/or perhaps eventually marry, and is not to be embarked upon lightly. 2) sexual activity is not dependent upon social exclusivity.

Another man, back in the dating game after many years, kindly responded to questions about the current climate: “LDS people are more likely to avoid opposite sex friendships which won’t lead to marriage, and I think that hurts us. Doug Brinley (a BYU religion teacher) taught that you should evaluate any potential date with the question ‘Would she make a good mother of my children?’ If the answer is no, don’t date her. People who do that miss out on many meaningful friendships. Let’s face it, there aren’t that many women I want to make babies with, but lots of women are interesting, outstanding people, and I’m glad they’re my friends. I wish I had figured this out a long time ago.”

A woman friend deftly summarized that “dating would be a lot less painful if we thought of it as getting to know human beings instead of evaluating gametes.”

I asked another woman (a single established professional) her impressions about the Mormon singles scene outside the Mormon corridor. Here is her rather painful and somewhat disturbing reply. Beware.

I think there is something unique about the Mormon singles scene in regards to being consistently evaluated and found wanting. The type of rejection is consistent and demoralizing. It leads women, who are otherwise leading productive lives, to act like adolescents at church. I went to a friend’s singles “munch and mingle” thing a couple years ago before she moved. I was treated abominably by the men there–they were literally unresponsive to small talk, and almost physically trying to ace me out of a conversation with an attractive friend. It wasn’t until I was used to work functions/cocktail parties, that I was able to see the consistent cutting behavior. Innapropriate and unkind behavior. And my experience with friends is not introverts uninterested in dating. It is women who are active in singles wards, looking for men, competing on a ratio of 8 women to every man, and being overlooked every single time. Women who are 40 and have never kissed before. Women who have been attending a singles ward for 10 years and have never been asked out. They ask men out and are treated badly. It is systematically ruining their lives. They feel utterly worthless and see no way out. Many of them are seeking professional mental help. They are utterly committed to the church and the idea of eternal families and have had to categorize themselves as not good enough in an eternal and spiritual sense. The fact that many of them are hitting the age of infertility exacerbates it. There are few things in life that I find more hopeless and depressing and enraging, because I love these women. It is simply a horrible, horrible situation.

I think Tracy’s classic post, “Date Me, Not my Uterus” adds depth here.

Most of my students are males. I often ask them about dating, marriage and their futures. While I don’t have hard university-wide data to back up the reports I get, the trends I’ve observed seem pretty uniform. Twenty years ago, my male students were frequently engaged or already married by Junior year. Now it seems there are far fewer in that category. Their own reports suggest the reasons are more often economic than not, but I sense other processes at work. One man, a recently released BYU stake president, told me of the dilemma he observed. The women in his stake often entered school with a different set of goals than their predecessors. Career, and knowledge gain were goals, marriage belonged to a dim future.

He said the men in his stake caught on pretty quickly to those freshmen and sophomore women who were not interested in one on one dating, partly out of fear of being waylaid (his words), and those women acquired a label which they carried with them to some extent (I’m not really sure how that worked, but that’s what he said). When graduation loomed, a significant fraction of those women wanted into the dating pool, but the social tide now worked against them. He told me of the lines of women outside his office, wanting into the marriage matchup game, hoping he had some key bit of advice. On the other side of the gender divide, he observed that many men were, even over his relatively short tenure, more reluctant to take on marriage when graduate or professional schools were ahead, or a job market involved foreign assignments, travel, or was simply more challenging. The social puzzle pieces were really impossible for him to rearrange. In his words, it was painful to watch.

I haven’t really scratched the surface here. What are your thoughts on the subject? Is dating culture changing? Is there a better way? Feel free to share experiences and thoughts, anonymously as you wish. I’m particularly interested in hearing from men in the dating game, since I think the post needs a bit more male point of view.

Comments

  1. My teenage daughter has a lot of male friends on League of Legends, including a couple of young men from the ward. She has gone on one single date with a YM from church – to “Mormon Prom”. But she routinely hangs out with non-member male friends (lunch, a movie, going to the bookstore). She’d love to hang out with LDS youth, but they’ve been told not to date before their missions.

  2. (And for some reason, hanging out is perceived as dating. So she hangs out with them on LoL.)

  3. Bryce Spencer says:

    I think another thing to consider in addition to the high expectations of singles getting married (which you nailed on the head, by the way) is that many of the YSA these days haven’t developed sufficient social skills to interact to find out if somebody has potential to date. Technology and social media, while is a good thing, has really hampered the types of social interactions needed to begin and maintain courtship and it sadly encourages the type of behavior which was described in your article by the men in YSA wards, who should know better than that.

  4. High emphasis on making sure males don’t fornicate has put the fear of dating into the hearts of my sons. Plus the idea that you should have no serious relationship prior to serving your mission ensures that the boys just never learn how to have a relationship before a mission. Hence when they return they are socially infantile with regards to dating.

  5. John Mansfield says:

    I haven’t talked to as many people, and my attention has been more drawn to the youth, but the problems I’ve seen don’t quite match up with what WVS has. LDS youth around me don’t date much because among their peers (98% non-LDS) only people in a relationship date. Dating implies intimacy, and casually dating multiple people marks one as promiscuous. Relatives have told me this extends to BYU (minus the implications of intimacy); non-exclusive dating is unacceptable now instead of normal as it was thirty years ago.

  6. MJ’s and John M’s experiences match my own as a father of two teenage sons. None of their friends who aren’t LDS date in the traditional sense. And I contrast my own teen age years in the church where dating and boyfriend/girlfriend relationships were not only common but expected with the church culture my sons have grown up in which intensely and actively discourages exclusive dating before missions. By doing that we have contributed to an avoidance of all dating by our high school aged youth.

  7. My wife and I have taught our kids, and we’ve been lucky that our Mutual leaders have mostly reinforced this message, that broadly dating and learning how to make friends of the opposite sex was the best possible preparation for marriage. You want to marry your friend, right? The kids have done pretty well in this so far. I could rephrase that idiot comment from the YW leader as, ” You have two choices when you date someone, You marry them, or you become their friend.” That’s not so bad, now, is it?

    In addition, I wonder if our cultural focus on “marry or dump” increases the potential temptation of an extramarital affair. People raised with an intense focus on marriage often don’t have practice making non-romantic friendships. When they’re told that the only purpose of a date (and the only purpose of a member of the opposite sex) is to evalute a marriage prospect, then even after marriage, they can’t help but view all MOSes like that at some level; it’s ingrained. Then we reinforce that message by making silly rules that we can’t have men and women riding places in cars together without chaperones, etc. We’ve been taught that the only way for men to view women is as potential sex partners/wives (and really, same thing sometimes), and we’ve taught women that their job is to be “hot modest.” So when those people get to be adults, and they do end up in the same car together, they don’t know how to relate to one another as normal people, as friends. They’ve had very little practice dealing with the fact that men and women can co-exist and work together, even when some level of physical attraction is there, without going to one extreme or the other in response. That’s a pretty dangerous and counterproductive mindset.

    Plus, it leaves a lot of great people – men and women alike – not only unmarried, but also friendless and lonely. That’s just tragic.

  8. Kill two birds with one stone! Create a new priestessly order of matchmakers!

  9. Here is a troubling trend I have observed ever since the time I started dating (back in the late 90’s), and that hasn’t seemed to change (I was hoping it had, but my experience working in YW tells me it hasn’t, as do popular Mormon memes that run around the internet). Our Young Women are taught that they are supposed to be the shiniest, juiciest fruit to be picked off the tree. And there are a lot of variations on this: the brightest flower, the greatest gift… I’m not going to get into the analogies of licked cupcakes and chewed gum, which are probably related, but I think these disgusting “object lessons” are starting to die out. At least I hope that is the case.

    Anyway, I don’t know how this relates to what our young men are taught, but I do feel that there is a prevalent idea among women of “presenting yourself” to any potential future spouse, and this is a horribly damaging idea. We ask our girls to make a list of traits they want in a future husband, and then we turn that around on them. “How many of these traits will YOU bring into your eternal marriage?” Even our theology supports this. I have a family member who concluded, following her temple ordinances, that her whole purpose in life was to exist for her husband. I heard a temple sealer tell a cousin that she no longer existed as her own person because now she was part of him (therefore, he couldn’t be selfish). I’m sure he meant this to be a beautiful sentiment, but I left that ceremony very troubled.

    I believe we need to do a better job teaching our girls to go after what THEY want, not what they think some future man will want. We definitely need to stop teaching them to become objects to be “picked.” I think we need to teach our kids to be great people for the sake of being great people. And I think the hyper-focus on marriage among teenagers needs to end. I’m not surprised at all that dating has become what it has.

  10. New Iconoclast, I think that’s a great insight about the view of everyone as a potential marriage partner accidentally carrying over after marriage and making it difficult to relate to people of the opposite sex even then.

  11. I’m a late 20s professional female, and I’ve noticed two big problems with Mormon dating:

    1. Women don’t “marry down” – that is, as a professional with a 6-figure salary, I’m not really all that interested in marrying a guy who hasn’t finished college yet, or who is still finding himself, or is working a series of dead-end jobs. On the other hand, Mormon guys are perfectly fine with “marrying down” – late 20s Mormon professional guys can marry nannies, women who work at a series of dead-end jobs while waiting to get married, women with PhDs, etc. This means that the pool of “eligible” men is significantly smaller for women with careers (not that things are too rosy for women without careers – because if they don’t get married, they’re going to struggle to get by). The argument that we shouldn’t be so picky has been duly noted. It’s not really about money as it is about men with no plans for their futures. There aren’t tons of men like that, in my experience, but that’s because…

    2. There are not a lot of Mormon men to date. At BYU, my singles wards usually had approximately 80-90 women, with 40 men. Once you get out into the real world, the numbers are worse – one normal week in my singles ward in a large East Coast city there were 12 men, and 60 women. I’m living in a different city now, and we will have about 30-40 women there in any given week…and less than 10 men. This numbers game gives the men all the power – you can be pretty darn picky if there are literally 5 women for every 1 man. This also sets women into two categories: those who will do what it takes to land a man, and everyone else.

    Because of these two issues…it’s difficult to even get into the other Mormon dating problems (three dates = together forever???? is it okay for women to ask men out? can men and women truly be friends??????). I’ve definitely had friends go into crisis mode when they graduate single, with very helpful majors like “home and family living.” It’s rough out there, and only gets worse the older you get.

  12. Eve Speer says:

    Fear of having sex trumps fear of never marrying. We’re very good at not having sex. After all, it’s sin is second only to murder. (I am a single celibate woman in my 30s.) I avoid dating a guy who isn’t serious temple ready material because I’m trying to avoid sex before marriage. I’m on tinder because I’m in Utah, hoping I’ll meet a good guy. I advertise that I’m LDS so as to not confuse anyone about my standards. The last message I received was, “You interested in a hookup?” The invite left no room for conversation or getting to know you. He may have been a really cool guy. But dating is about sex. I don’t date because I don’t have sex. And men from church are looking for an odd sort of perfection because if they choose the wrong girl, they’ll become a bad guy by breaking up with her. So like my friend on tinder, they make all decisions about the future of the relationship before a conversation has happened. It’s a pretty awful game.

  13. LT, I would echo both your points. That’s been my experience as well. The women to men ratios are not good in the church in general. But in terms of wanting to be “equally yoked” (to borrow a phrase from Pres. Hinckley), there are even fewer options for a well educated woman with a good career. I’ve tried dating guys who were on different life paths, but we just never had anything to talk about and rarely had common interests.

    Even when I do meet a man who might be a good fit, he usually has 10 to 20 women to choose from. I lack the competitive spirit required to play that game, so I’ve taken myself out of the dating pool (and the mid-singles ward). But I am so much happier now that I have. I feel like I can finally be myself and not worry about all that other stuff. I can just be friends with guys. If something more ever develops more organically, great. But if not, I feel content with who I am.

  14. I have friends (across the US at various ages, though no older than 35) who are divorced and dating, but the only guys interested in them are guys who are trying to get into their pants. Seriously. It’s like the guy sees the word ‘divorce’ and ‘has a child (or children)’ and then thinks “she must be willing to sleep around since she’s had sex before.” And looking at Eve’s comment, it would seem that it’s not just the divorcees. Are there women out there making these propositions viable? It’s very sad for me to see. I don’t know if this is part of the changing dating culture, or if it has always been this way to a certain extent.

  15. “Fear of having sex trumps fear of never marrying.”

    I have never heard this before, and it’s scary/fascinating to hear.

  16. “a date in the regular world isn’t a job interview” That’s one thing that bothered me about dating LDS men. It seemed that many of them didn’t really have female friends and that going out with them was an audition for a role (wife and mother) that I was not ready to entertain without knowing them better. I also refused to participate in a dating system that devalued me in that way. Those types of guys only cared about plugging in a woman to their life. They didn’t care about my own hopes and dreams, just how I could support theirs.

    In my experience, about half the men at BYU felt that if they were worthy, they could have their pick of the LDS women, and they were entitled to choose from among us. That attitude was very different from the non-LDS men I dated who felt entitled to have sex with anyone after three dates, if not sooner. Basically, neither alternative was palatable, so I fully understand where these singles are coming from. Fortunately, I found that not all men were like that, including my husband. The older you get, the worse the odds are.

  17. “nannies, women who work at a series of dead-end jobs while waiting to get married, women with PhDs, etc.”

    What? Finding someone with a PhD is “marrying down”? I’m floored.

  18. “What? Finding someone with a PhD is “marrying down”? I’m floored.”

    It is if he has a PhD AND a medical degree AND a law degree :)

  19. My brothers in law are in their 30s and I’ve had a conversation with them and a number of young single adults. A lot of younger guys seem amazed that I went on dates with 40-something different girls during my dating years. (I added them up about the time I started dating my wife of 21 years, but I’ve forgotten a lot since then.) That was maybe 10 different girls a year on average, with a couple of girlfriends thrown into the mix. I don’t think that was unusual during the early 90s in Utah. (Not BYU)

    What seems to have changed is the notion that there is such a thing as a “casual date.” After a slow start, it became easy for me to ask girls out because I really wasn’t investing much ego into it. It was just dinner and an activity of some kind, not a declaration that I’d like her to audition as wife material. And since girls could read on my face that I truly was asking for a few hours of their time and nothing more, it wasn’t hard for them to say yes.

    I’m starting to gather that too many LDS singles seem to view dating as serious business that shouldn’t be engaged in with anyone who is less than marriage material. I saw dates as a step or two before that point — a time to find out whether we were interested in each other at all.

    How do we nudge the LDS dating culture toward taking the concept of dating seriously, but not being too serious about the dates themselves?

  20. The bleakness described above is not exaggerated, sez the 38-year-old never-married LDS singles’ ward old timer. I sometimes think of leaving for my family ward to have a real calling and have associations with people who aren’t just like me (hey! that sounds like Zion! what religion have I been living all these years?) but I lack the faith that, as a woman, I’ll have any chance of dating at all with a vastly smaller pool of options. Which is funny, because for all my flirting I rarely date people in my singles’ ward–there are just too many women for these men to choose from and I believe that one big piece of the puzzle is what Barry Schwartz describes–the men are paralyzed by having too many choices and realizing that in the current market conditions, they can get someone much better than they might otherwise get. Combine that with the heavy LDS marriage-is-forever emphasis noted by others, and choosing, even from a pool of wonderful women, becomes a recipe for future discontent. They know this from the discontent they’ve experienced walking into one of those mega sporting goods stores and always feeling they bought the wrong thing. Ending a relationship (especially a marriage) isn’t so easy as returning skis, particularly in Mormon culture, so they either don’t ask women out at all, or go on endless first dates, or even have a number of serious relationships that end when another more enticing option jumps into the enormous pool. I think it would largely be the same if there were vastly more women than men in the LDS dating pool, except of course that women have their biological clock forcing them to choose earlier than men do.

    Two of my female friends were living in Manhattan about 13 years ago when single women in their stake were told at stake conference that they should be open to the idea of dating and marrying good men who were not Mormons, if they felt prompted to do so. That it was wrong for faithful LDS women who wanted to date and were willing to be wives and mothers to go their whole lives without those important experiences just because there weren’t enough good/active LDS men. One of those friends many years later, after endless frustration dating immature LDS men, took that advice and is now happily married to a secular Jew who has a special fascination with Mormons (he’d done his doctoral studies in American religions), and they have a little boy. From all I’ve seen, they’re a terrific match. I’ve been wondering ever since hearing that counsel to the NYC singles if the general church counsel to singles–women especially, since they have fewer options–might slowly change in that direction. Given our beliefs about proxy ordinances and that good people will eventually accept the gospel, I’m not clear on whether our admonitions to marry in the temple should be the highest priority in a time when so many are struggling to even get a date–shouldn’t our highest priority be encouraging Mormons to be faithful themselves and have strong marriages and raise good families? Do we want a huge number of an entire generation of devout LDS women to not have the transformative experiences of marriage and children because there weren’t enough LDS men, and even fewer who dated? Not to say I’ve dated outside the faith–I’m a coward. I know it would make dating more awkward and marriage more difficult, because Mormonism is intense, but if the prophetic counsel changed, I’d be more open to that option. Devout non-LDS Christian men living in Utah have been heard to say that they wish the LDS women would date them–they like their beauty and maturity and values (and consequent lack of venereal diseases)–but they will only date Mormon men, however scarce. I think broadening women’s dating pool might put a fire under some of the LDS men who know they’ve got this market cornered, even if they’re phoning it in. Or maybe it would drive more of them into the virtual arms of virtual women. Hmmm.

    What a longwinded and cranky comment. Please note my age (see first sentence), and forgive. I know that single women have plenty of faults and many single LDS men have real and painful issues that trip them up, and I also know that I spend too much time trying to figure out what’s broken in the system. I’m going to lunch.

  21. The non-LDS dating pool is appealing for a number of reasons and would offer more options and better women-men ratios. The problem is the vast majority of non-LDS men are not interested once they know about the no-sex-before-marriage rule. They might be willing to wait a while, but not that long. So it just doesn’t really feel like a viable option to me.

  22. And, of course, the elephant in the sealing room: what if, as it becomes more acceptable to society, the Church re-adopted plural marriage, or at least didn’t forbid it to members when it becomes legal? Would single LDS women rather remain single than be “sister wives”? Would that attitude change as time passed, and they moved into that late-30s timeframe where a large family becomes, frankly, less likely?

    Of course, there’s not much reason to believe that LDS men would be any more broad-minded the second time around, but it’s possible that the experience of one decent marriage may help a man appreciate something about women besides their hotness quotient. I hold out hope.

  23. Keep the dating brisk and the engagement short, and they won’t have to wait that long. Mormons are good at the speed romance. Especially us desperate ones. :)

  24. I should say, Mormons are good at the speed romance once we have decided what we want–probably precisely because of the abstinence thing. I have three close friends who married non-LDS men who understood going into the dating relationship that that would be a factor, and were smitten enough to wait it out. Such anecdotes are not uncommon in my set. And according to an article my brother sent me, abstinence and virginity are becoming somewhat trendy in the broader culture (mainly among younger singles–not my cohort, alas). Just when you think you’ve got The World pegged….

  25. The whole church everywhere isn’t the same as described above. The midsingles ward I attend has a pretty even ratio of men to women. The women on average are less educated than the men in the ward and aren’t as high caliber as the men in other ways. I know that this micro-trend is pretty rare, but the broad brush doesn’t work here. I agree that men are not cultivating friendships with women they aren’t interested in marrying. If I call up a woman I like in the ward who I am not interested in dating, she probably will get the wrong idea about my motives and that stirs up drama.

    In my last ward, there were a lot of very high caliber women who were looking to be equally yoked. The problem was that out of the 20 or so women in that category there were maybe 2-3 guys who met their expectations and the rest of the men weren’t under serious consideration even if they had advanced degrees, etc. Eventually those 2-3 men got married off and new guys replaced them, but many of the women were in a perpetual cycle of aiming too high considering the market. There’s also the cliques and gossip circles to navigate, which makes dating in a finite pool a very dangerous endeavor. At the end of the day, the best odds to get married may be in Utah where a numbers game is feasible.

  26. Eve Speer says:

    This post and this discussion has sealed it for me. I will no longer place my future happiness in the hands of impotent men. I’ll marry who I want where I want when I want. I’ll maintain my own individual spirituality, but marriage is a matter of agency and no matter how much faith I have in God–He cannot force a man to choose to marry me. I feel like in waiting upon the Lord’s promises–I’ve really been waiting upon these men. And I won’t do it anymore.

  27. Or just adjust the numbers. Having more options often does not help us make or happily stick with choices, but unless we go with New Iconoclast’s polygyny option (or polyandry, in your case), a great disparity in the numbers of men and women is a problem regardless of whether individuals are dating and openminded. I say that if you live in an area with many more of one gender than the other, then the counsel could be to the minority group: prayerfully consider non-LDS options. Emphasis on the prayerfully.

  28. My last comment was a response to Nate.

  29. “Would single LDS women rather remain single than be “sister wives”?”

    YES.

    I want to add that if you’re an LDS woman undergoing any kind of faith transition or doubt, your chances of dating or marrying LDS men shrink to almost nothing in a heartbeat. With so many really devout women in the pews, those of us with different religious paradigms are undesirable indeed (in our own eyes as well as others’). I would be very interested in hearing from others, men and women, about what it’s like to be single, dating, LDS, and either in a faith transition or settled into a more nontraditional Mormon belief structure. My conversations with friends indicate a variety of attitudes and responses–some of us assume we’ll just never get married, some figure only a non-Mormon would take them, and others search in vain for a partner whose belief is on a par with their own. It really complicates an already complicated and painful situation.

  30. SilverRain says:

    “…aiming too high considering the market.”

    And this is why I don’t date. *L*

  31. I’m 36 and got divorced nearly 3 years ago. I have yet to go on a date with anyone, even though I would love to date and get re-married. One of the problems is that I really have no good way to meet and naturally make friends with single men. I have no idea of how I’m supposed to meet people. I have kids and attend a family ward, so I rarely hang out with other singles. I’ve tried going to a few mid-singles dances and activities but have often felt like everyone there already knew each other and wasn’t interested in other friends. One of the better options for me is online dating (I do have several friends who’ve had success that way), and I’ve been trying for 2 years on a few different sites to get at least a date or some kind of response. I think online dating exacerbates many of the problems already discussed–it’s easy to be picky and to make a lot of assumptions about people from their profiles. No one seems to want to just go on a casual date or have a chat to get to know anyone else, which is what I naively assumed the point of a dating site was. I’m not sure I want to try dating non-members–the ones online all seem interested in casual hook-ups more than anything else (I have gotten more than one explicit message asking me about various acts I’m willing to perform). I spent most of my marriage with an inactive husband and that was a major conflict for us, so dating a non-member or ex-Mormon is not an appealing prospect for me.

    From my limited experience with single men my age (mid-late 30s), I think a lot of them have very different views of marriage from me. I’m much more practical and have passed the point of wanting to try to impress other people or be something I’m not; I thought being married was fun in a lot of ways, but they weren’t the high romance or drama that I see some men expecting. As another single friend once put it–I’m ready to skip the dating stage and just go back to the comfortably married and hanging out on the couch stage.

  32. There’s no culturally legitimated “hero” storyline in being single for very long so no way to enter any church doors; chapel, single or family ward, cultural hall dances (for some, even those beautiful, welcoming temple doors) very confident of your value. I think this comes, in part, from the pressure in the church culture to marry or be incomplete, inconsequential, infantile or worse. Overall, and not intentionally, the single culture is a very subtle but hostile environment. Though most are warranted, defensive assumptions fly between genders and make the matching process near impossible and extremely painful. And leaders (who are always married) don’t begin to understand why singles don’t want to go to “those single activities”. It’s a very broken process and breaks the people caught in it. It’s not a confidence booster, it’s usually more painful than hopeful and it’s oh so hard. Nobody wants to be in this single’s club. It just ain’t cool.

  33. John Mansfield says:

    This surely doesn’t apply to all, but my impression is many singles don’t look beyond other singles enough, including when it comes to dating. I became acquainted with my future mother-in-law a few months before I had occasion to meet her daughter. Many married people know singles they care about and would like to line up with someone, and a connection through a married person is generally better than one through another single. Plus there are more possible connections. The single referrer has ruled out for herself one half of the pair she is introducing but thinks he might be OK for her friend. Better to to be referred by a married sister/mother/aunt/cousin/friend.

  34. What Tay said. Divorced = dirty in the minds of an awful lot of folks.

  35. 1. To all that’s been said about the effect of all this on forming normal friendships, add the factor of a single woman working in an overwhelmingly male profession, and THEN add working for the Church, where the institutional rules against fraternization are enforced by the fear of losing your job — it is so isolating that it’s nearly impossible even to find someone to have lunch with in a company cafeteria with hundreds of people around. No potential mates, no potential dates, very few friendships of even the most superficial kind.

    2. In my ward we have no children, but otherwise it’s a so-called family ward, with adults from students to ancients, married and single (except that YSA are funneled off to a YSA ward). There are perhaps 6 or 8 active single men, plus who knows how many 80+-year-old widowers, and maybe 50 or 60 single women, plus very elderly widows. We also have a number of 70s (GAs) who live in the ward for a year or two and then move on to new assignments. A month or so ago, a 70 who was leaving spoke in farewell. He’d come from California and his wife from Idaho (or vice versa), and he credited the Lord for bringing them together because otherwise they wouldn’t have met. That’s great for him — he found his extra-speshul wife from a distance because the Lord worked a miracle. But his message to singles in our ward was to “recalibrate our expectations” and marry somebody in the ward. He didn’t explain why we should settle for whoever was handy, when HE was worthy of the Lord’s intervention, nor did he address the difference in numbers. It was ghastly.

  36. Hehe, my mom wanted to “refer” me to a couple of prospects a few years ago… she would have liked that idea! But, unfortunately (even if I’d wanted that, eek!) it can be a little hard to “look beyond” and meet other people when you’re stuck in a single’s ward.

    It’s true — I’m 25, and my friends don’t date; they “hang out” until The. Last. Possible. Second. (Like, until they decide that’s the person they want to marry.) As an introvert, dating was annoying because it meant “hanging out” with lots of people in loud environments where — as if that weren’t bad enough — I knew I would have to compete with all the extraverted girls (see previous posts). Kind of okay, but generally I avoided it. In non-LDS circles, there’s an alternate route (friendship). In LDS circles…?

    “Casual dating” has long since gone the way of all the earth. Not a single person I know does it. Only people who have watched GC or read FTSOY even know what it is. My peers (in and outside the church) tend to see it like this: hanging out -> serious dating relationship -> moving in/engagement -> marriage.

  37. The YW in our ward were scandalized last year when my daughter asked out a non-member friend to the high school homecoming dance. It was as if she’d broken an actual rule or something.

  38. unendowed says:

    I’m 25 and single. Never been kissed; had one boyfriend for one month (who then told me we were never actually dating. Whee). I go on a couple dates a year, usually because I ask. When I lived in Arizona, there were lots of guys, but I hated all the activities, and yes, all dates were very interview-like. Now I live in Las Vegas, where there are very very very few single people, particularly men. Almost all the guys in my ward are still in college and living at home, and all of them get a deer-in-the-headlights look when I talk to them, even extremely casually. We all know it’s a meat market.

    The emphasis on marriage has been extremely damaging to my testimony and place in the church. In that regard, moving to Las Vegas was a relief–my bishop had a strict “no talks or special lessons about marriage or dating” rule. Then, of course, we got a new bishop, and now it’s the normal rigmarole. I don’t go to any special YSA firesides anymore because they’re all about marriage. My entire church experience is colored by my singleness.

    But, on the other hand, I don’t know how different my experience would be if I weren’t Mormon. I’m a major homebody; I rarely went out even with friends. And the emphasis on chaste romance and not kissing/dating/anything unless it’s true love/marriage is just as informed by Disney as by the Church.

    I dunno. Dating culture is pretty bad, but my life is pretty happy. I mostly wish that marriage weren’t so closely entwined with righteousness and blessings in our narrative about discipleship.

  39. John Mansfield says:

    Laura, get out of the singles’ ward. When I was 25 and single, I was called as a cub scout den leader. When I went to the scout roundtable, the woman training new cub scout leaders was my future mother-in-law, who lived eight miles away in another ward. Even if I hadn’t made that connection, I got to be a part of the lives of a dozen boys and their families and involved with other leaders in the ward and the community. I also found that scout outings can make good dates. “I’m taking the cubs out to Overlook Park to show them columnar and pillow basalts. Would you like to come?” I liked being in an elders’ quorum of mostly married men, and I liked inviting families from my ward over for dinner, and I had fun taking out a couple of their sisters-in-law. This advice has a heavy dose of “be like me,” which will not be applicable for many or most, but it could be worth considering for some.

  40. Ardis, I loved your comment. “Recalibrating your expectations” is just another variation of “you’re too picky”. I didn’t get married until I was 2 weeks from my 38th birthday and I heard a lot of that kind of advice from people, like that 70 in your ward, who apparently didn’t need to follow it themselves. When some wise and sage married person would tell me or my singles ward congregation or my Elders quorum that we were too picky I always wanted to look them in the eye and ask, “you mean you weren’t?” preferably when their spouse was sitting with them.

  41. As a 30 year old single man, it is hard on this side of the gender divide too. I live in Downtown Salt Lake, and my choices are either a singles ward with young immature students, a mid singles ward with too many people, or a family ward that is mainly old people, a smattering of GA’s in the ward and stake, and mo one else. I chose the family ward because I was tired of the single’s scene. I think I’m an ok catch, but women wont give me the time of day. I am short, and not “classically handsome” but I am slender, have my own home, a good career, 3 degrees, and am well established. I rarely get more than a 1st date. What everyone else has said is true, people on both sides go into dates as some kind of interview, and if you don’t meet that person’s standards, which are never expressed, you get nothing.,Add to that the castigation of single men, and we wonder why there is a demographic difference between single men and women.

  42. I have a cat. Sometimes when I flop on the couch after work he puts his ass in my face.

  43. Anon for this one says:

    I appreciate the candid comments. I am married, live in the suburbs of an eastern city, and have kids. I also have siblings who are single past 30, and I have teens growing up and I have a great deal of concern about the current climate of dating. I had mostly male non LDS but Christian friends in college. I had 2 different non ,LDS boyfriends; the first situation was impulsive and not good. The second was careful, calculated, and intentional. But here is where it gets very complicated. Both of them were very good friends of mine first. I got to know them. My experiences with regular dating were bad. One ysa dance was it. So I have told my daughters to be open to friendship. But also be ready to support themselves. I told them it is fine to take initiative and be the one asking out. I am bothered by some aspects of what is considered chivalry–my kids are growing up with equal partnership having been modeled. It is OK to be smart and academic. It is OK to have goals. I just hope someone out there is raising their sons to expect equal partnership.

  44. I like the idea that we can encourage faithful, single adults to date and marry outside of the faith. Until I met my husband I dated both mormon and non-mormons. The mormon men I dated generally did not stack up to the non-mormon men in terms of sociability, politeness, goals, and work ethic (my husband is mormon and the grand exception to this rule). I watched a dear friend give up on the kind, gentlemanly non-mormon man who adored her to cater to a mormon man who did not value her and was not her equal in terms of education or motivation. Eventually she married her non-mormon friend and as far as I know is very happy as a result. We should be encouraging every route to a happy, healthy, functional marriage, even if it is not in the temple in this lifetime.

  45. Why is the scene unbalanced? I don’t know. Are men less culturally or genetically predisposed toward mormonism than women?

    My own story: After transitioning to unorthodox mormon beliefs I no longer desired to date or marry a TBM woman. Lacking social ties in my current ward, I simply stopped going to church altogether.

  46. “Fear of having sex trumps fear of never marrying.”

    Good one. Another consequence of the “fear of having sex” might be misread signals. Physical affection is usually a clear sign that someone is interested, one that even the most socially awkward among us can read. After four dates with a woman I really liked, I gave up because she pulled away every time I held her hand and practically sprinted to the door at the end of the night. One of her friends later told me that she was very disappointed that I didn’t ask her out again. On the other hand, I’ve been accused of leading someone on after hanging out and showing no physical affection.

  47. As a 35 year old single woman I can relate to just about everything here. I attended YSA wards for over six years without any dates, or anything similar in nature. I changed to a family ward when I moved into my own house and really enjoyed the time there. I felt included and valued. I’ve just changed back to a mid-singles ward though because I couldn’t keep up normal ward involvement and for-real-this-time trying to attend classes & activities for singles.

    At 32 I dived into online dating and found myself a nice non-Mormon boyfriend. It didn’t work out for various reasons after almost a year, but I was grateful finally for relationship experience beyond a first date. You know, things like communication and thinking of another’s needs. One thing that has really helped was the now-defunct eHarmony advice forums. I never heard this kind of useful dating talk from friends, family or other acquaintances.

    One of the hardest things for me to face personally is that as an only child, if I don’t create my own family I’ll be left virtually alone when my parents are gone. I have great friends and a wonderful extended family, but it just doesn’t substitute having people at home waiting to hear about your day.

  48. Anonymous for this one says:

    I’m someone in the trenches of inactive-Mormon dating. It uniformly sucks. I work and live in lily white, bourgeois Draper. I’ve gone out with TBM professional guys who swiftly became clingy and possessive and made me feel like meat with their unilateral “rules” about physical affection. I’ve gone out with non-LDS guys who don’t even live here who are charming and fun but already have alcohol problems and narcissism problems and don’t want to “settle down.” If I wanted a booty call, I don’t think I would invest that much effort into the friendship, you know?

    I’m most attracted to my fellow lapsed Mormons but they simple refuse to grow up. I’d like to think that I could find partnership, happiness, and stability. I’m relatively young (26) and I don’t want more than one kid. There’s no objective reason to panic — except for the unrelenting tsunami of loneliness and not-feeling-good-enough. I’m sexy, I’m independent, I’m ready for commitment — I think! — but why the hell would I sideline my life-life for a bunch of dudes who act the same way they did at age 21?

  49. JustAnotherExMo says:

    Interesting post and comments. I joke that 12 years of singles wards is what drove me out of the Church. Honestly, though, although there were a myriad of factors that contributed to my deconversion and my eventual leaving, being single was a huge one. I echo some of the comments above: the singles ward nightmare involved 8 girls to every guy — which led to a lot of extraordinarily privileged males and angry, bitter females. For myself, the older I got, the more I fell into absolute despair. So I left. I’m not so naive as to think there isn’t heartbreak in the non-Mormon dating world. But I am looking forward to having options again and to being able to relate to men as friends as well as lovers. And, also, to not being indentified as a spinster at 32. My life no longer feels like a sad Victorian novel.

  50. Post-BYU Guy says:

    Most of my dating was at BYU, and most of my male friends encountered the same problems dating there as I did. The most common problem we encountered was that women acted like a date was a marriage proposal and would freak out, especially if you asked her out on a second date. I was lucky to have a lot of female friends throughout my college career, many of whom I had no interest in dating. Unfortunately, I’m still single and most of the friends I see the most often are part of the above group. Friends elsewhere (outside of Utah) found that if you tried casual dating within your singles ward, you became known as a player.

    The date-only-to-marry thing is strong at BYU, from my experience, and seems to be elsewhere in the Mormon world as well. I find that dates with non-Mormons are usually far more entertaining these days and I can build far more normal relationships since Mormon women seem to view me only in terms of a prospective husband (or dismissed as a non-prospect). I often hear of women making the same type of complaint, so it really applies to both sides of the dating game.

  51. JustAnotherExMo, I fear what you say. We have single men and women, sprinting into their 40s who feel like the church essentially wishes they would disappear. I don’t believe that’s true, but I can see how they might feel that.

  52. “unilateral “rules” about physical affection.”
    Just curious about what this entailed. Was it extremely hands off? Too hands on? Or just too defined and bright-line?

  53. Renverseur says:

    Has anyone still following this thread had (or heard of) any results from “fix-ups”? I guess someone up the line mentioned marrying the daughter of a sister he worked with in Cub Scouts when he left the YSA ward, but anyone else? I am curious because, of course, there are many cultures where that is the primary way women and men meet each other. Given the supposed importance of marriage in LDS belief, I am continually surprised that there is so little match-making in American LDS society. Is it just too outre in our larger American culture? Do the problems described here overwhelm any relationships which occur through personal introductions? (I suppose one explanation is that the segregation of singles in singles’ wards cuts off the connections between singles and marrieds which are needed for such introductions.)

    A few commentators have mentioned cases of finding non-LDS spouses. While I congratulate them on their good fortune, my observation is that the overwhelming and universal expectation for, and practice of, pre-marital sex in our current society is a major impediment to that solution for anyone who wants to adhere to LDS teachings on that subject.

  54. As an 18 year old who has been struggling with all aspects of Mormon culture, this terrifies me. I hoped it was only my stake, and then when I started college, I hoped it was just Utah and Arizona that were this bad. I never even considered BYU because I knew that I would either have to be a perfect Molly Mormon or melt under the judgmental stares of all my classmates and become a complete social outcast. I’ve never been one to fit in, but at least the rest of the world is okay with that.
    I’ve always hated the idea of “interview dating”, but I didn’t realize the effects spread so far into adulthood. For some reason, I kind of thought it was just a guideline to help horny teenagers keep it in their pants, to be discarded once we were old enough to control ourselves and think rationally again.
    I’ve only ever been on one date with a Mormon boy, a few months after I turned 16, but I asked him because he was a friend and I thought it would be fun. I could tell he didn’t really enjoy the experience because he liked this other girl and I’ve never been on a date since. I think boys overlooked me because there were other girls trying very hard to model themselves into perfect Molly Mormons, meanwhile I was (heaven forbid) asking questions in class and using sarcasm on a regular basis.
    I just find the majority of Mormon culture very judgmental (which, isn’t God supposed to judge, not us?), fear-based, and focused more on other people’s life advice than the actual gospel. It makes me really sad and concerned for my future, because I don’t and can’t feel good about myself in that sort of environment. And doesn’t God want us to feel good about ourselves? I don’t want to hate this church, because I do believe that it holds all the truth of life. But I’ve had such awful experiences in it, and the truth has become so buried under customs and paranoid advice and wives’ tales that digging through it seems to be an impossible task. I want to try to change things, but it’s kind of hard to do that when I can’t sit through a meeting without running out in tears. It’s hard to feel like I can make a difference when I know that I am up against a group that obsesses over perfection and believes it is their duty to force other people to be exactly like them. A hive-mind that is quick to condemn. People that fear an all-powerful God. And the key word in that sentence is fear. History class has taught me that actions done out of fear are never good. I just wish Mormons would practice what they preach and “love one another”.

  55. Left Field says:

    I agree that pressure to pass an “interview” is a bad thing. But I think it’s also problematic to take the possibility of a romantic relationship completely off the table. If the relationship can’t go that direction, what distinguishes a “date” from a business lunch or friends going golfing? Can’t it be a date and still leave all possible outcomes on the table? Shouldn’t a date leave all possible outcomes on the table?

  56. I wonder how much of a role high speed Internet porn plays.

  57. DeepThink says:

    Lest we glorify how committed or open the non-LDS community is to establishing platonic relationships with the opposite sex, I think it needs to be said that this is not my experience at all, as a middle aged single. Where LDS folks are single minded toward marriage, my experience of middle aged single men is that they are single minded toward casual sexual relationships. Not interested in friendship. Not. at. all. I have even been told I must be suffering from a mental illness for wanting a celibate dating relationship. Mental illness. I even changed my pitch from “abstinent before marriage” to “no sexual intimacy until I am in a committed relationship.” I didn’t really change my standards, but I decided to test the willingness of those men to try a relationship without casual sex. I figured I wouldn’t have my bluff called because no one would move toward a committed relationship while celibate. Unfortunately, I was right. And so when that experiment failed, I would suggest friendship only and there was usually polite consent and then complete disappearance.

    On the other hand, it is true that the singles scene in the LDS community is marriage-or-bust, particularly among the middle aged. It would make your hair curl if I told you the stories of the men I have gone on 1-3 dates with who immediately wanted to get married. When I demurred (and in one case said I thought there was a potential but not yet), they dropped me. 100%. It’s quite painful, actually. I came to see that it really wasn’t me they were in love with, but finding someone to marry. I had one man say to me, after 2 dates, “There is a woman who wants to be serious with me. She is asking for a committed relationship. I’d rather be with you, but I need to know now if there is a future here.” When I told him I couldn’t possibly know that after 2 dates but if he would give it more time I could see a potential emerge, he tried to talk me into it. After failing to do so, he shrugged and said he would have to go to the other woman, then. And so he did. They were engaged within a few days. This did not stop him from calling me up later and making sure I hadn’t changed my mind. The story I just told, with only a few details changed, has happened at least 7 times in my life. Ick, right?

    So count me among those that have given up on it. On love, dating, marriage, and, sadly, friendships with single men. I figure that maybe someday there will be a man show up on my doorstop with a bow around his neck. As long as he’s not carrying a ring, maybe I’ll go on a date with him.

  58. Anonymous for this one says:

    Ben S, it was a strange combination of all three. He pushed boundaries that even as an unobservant nonbeliever, seemed to be going too fast. (Like going to make out in the bedroom on the first date.) I was very upfront about not being a virgin, and at a psychological and physiological level, engaging in extended foreplay with someone you barely know signals “sex.” I also felt that he oversexualized me. (I was wearing a conservative sundress with a jacket and then he wanted me to take it off, which then made me feel like I had the proverbial “porn shoulders.”) Yeah, I need better personal boundaries, and his was an extreme case, but I do think that he had some very disrespectful views on women, despite being handsome, successful, etc. I’m generally considered very attractive – hourglass figure, even features – but I don’t think that should give men license to ignore what I feel comfortable with.

  59. Kevin Barney says:

    One problem with Mormon “fix ups” is that there is a tendency for older, married Mormons who are in a position to do such fixing up to assume that mutual Mormonness is a sufficient ground for such suggestions. So they’ll suggest that Mormon girl X go out with Mormon boy Y when they may have virtually nothing in common beyond their shared religious tradition. And simply both being Mormon isn’t usually enough of a commonality to base a romantic relationship on.

  60. My law partner met his second wife on a fix-up when his neighbors suggested he take their daughter out on a date. They eventually got married though the relationship with her parents, who has arranged for them to date in the first place, soured to the point that the one couple doesn’t talk to the other. If finding someone you love and are compatible with is the metric for success, then this one counts as a winner.

  61. Kevin Barney, you nailed it. Your description of the typical fix-up describes almost every fix-up I’ve ever been on. I no longer do fix-ups for that reason.

  62. I wonder how hard it is for non Caucasians within lds dating culture?

  63. Anonymous today says:

    I agree with Kim’s conclusion that many LDS singles feel like they have to work really hard to be a good catch, even if it means trying to be something they aren’t. If I could go back in time, I would worry less about trying to impress my dates and boyfriends by being interested in all of their interests and not demanding much from them. Because it turns out that I have needs and interests of my own. I probably would have been better off if I’d spent more time figuring out what I liked in men (or people in general) rather than trying to figure out what men liked in women.

  64. The combination of the law of chastity, incredibly unrealistic expectations and kind of (IMO) harmful pursuit of perfection both in ourselves and in our potential partner makes things very tough. I have been single and LDS twice; once in my 20s and once in my 40s and I have to say, at both ages, I ran into the same problems. The abject fear of having sex really can negatively impact a relationship. So can the sort of strange, almost sacred (or cultish) idealism that we seem to have regarding marital partners. I was shocked to find, in my 40s, how many women I was interested in (also in their 40s) still wanted a returned missionary, still wanted a husband with a 6-figure income (I’m a teacher, so no way in hell that was going to happen) and still talked about how they wanted an ideal husband/priesthood holder/step-father to their kids. Of course, the men I ran into at singles activities also had this kind of idealism, so it’s not like it was just one gender, but you’d like to think that, having gone through the wringer of a bad marriage/sometimes multiple divorces, people would be a little more realistic and a little tempered by their experiences to have the wisdom to realize that they’re not perfect, either. It’s a nightmare out there and I’d suggest to any single mormon that they look outside the church for a suitable partner.

  65. I have been divorced for 43 years, so am likely the oldest person commenting here. I went to singles wards in my 30s and early 40s and met a lot of guys, dated some and made friends with others–yes, I had male friends with whom I was not the east bit romantically interested. And they were good friendships. But I never met “Mr. Right.” I tried the online thing, but never even got one date out of it, although two very good friends met their current mates there (one friend had been widowed, the other divorced). I am happily single. I would rather wait until the next life to find my eternal companion than lower my standards just to be married.

    I do agree with a lot of the comments about people not wanting to date casually. A male friend of mine from a singles ward way back when–this was maybe 35 years ago) asked a girl out that he found interesting and thought he’d like to know better. She turned him down, saying she wasn’t interested in a serious relationship at the time. “I wasn’t proposing marriage,” he sad to me in frustration. “I was just asking for a date.” And I have had men hint at marriage on a first date (I declined second dates with those men).

    I don’t know what the solution is, but I think it is wrong to discourage male/female friendships. Men and women can like each other and enjoy each other’s company without sex even being in the back of their minds.

  66. So I guess the decriminalization of polygamy couldn’t have come any sooner!

  67. Har: no.

  68. Ah yes, the old polygamy “solution” for the crime of singleness.

    NO.

  69. “I’ve always hated the idea of “interview dating”, but I didn’t realize the effects spread so far into adulthood. For some reason, I kind of thought it was just a guideline to help horny teenagers keep it in their pants, to be discarded once we were old enough to control ourselves and think rationally again.”

    Aubrey, I think this is a symptom of YSA culture, actually. In a way, we’re stuck as teenagers well into our 20s. Because we’re all relatively the same age, teaching each other without input from other age groups (except for frequently panicky bishops who got married young and can’t understand why we’re all not married already), we tend to default to speaking and teaching in the way we were spoken to and taught in the family wards–which, since most of us entered YSA wards at 18, was when we were teens. The nitpicky rules that were invaluable to me as a teen are now hanging over into a time where, really, the training wheels can come off.

    This is a problem both with dating and with our general approach to the Gospel. There’s little room for nuance (and grace) when we’re trying to get everything right rather than having access to a wider range of examples of good and varied approaches to gospel living.

    The good news is, even one person CAN make a difference to the culture of a ward. I’ve found that a sincere comment can alter the tone of a Sunday School lesson, and usually people appreciate any shift away from the trite. Don’t despair.

  70. I think there are several forces at play that intersect and compound to differing degrees depending on the age group. (This all from a single mid-20’s male perspective)

    1. Less men staying active in the church as they age
    2. Virtual distractions (including immoral ones) reduce incentives to be social
    3. Culture shift the last few decades where women no longer need men and men feel less responsibility to take the initiative (and be “the man” in general)
    4. Society as a whole focusing on careers first and marriage later
    5. High or maybe unrealistic expectations men have of women (probably perpetuated by the media). Fair or not, many of the single men aren’t attracted to many of the single women
    6. Indoctrination (for better or worse) that marriage is the ultimate goal and that you should only date who you would marry. Which make dates high pressure affairs

    On a personal note: I avoid becoming friends with member girls because they invariably end up being interested in me (though I should mention I am devilishly handsome haha). Interestingly all my best friends are member guys and non-member girls.

    Also, in my observation most of the recently graduated non-member guys I know are more social than member guys. But they are being social and pursuing girls for sex (which they can expect to get after a few (or even zero) dates, not an incentive my fellow brethren and I have). For these non-member guys, relationships are more of a potential side effect, while marriage is the furthest thing from their minds.

  71. I'm trying says:

    Thank you for all your comments. Mine is coming a bit late, I’m afraid.

    I am a young 50’s man and have recently become single after 30+ years of marriage and several children. I want to find a new companion. In contrast to some commenters, I find that, in my case at least, my acceptance of what other people do, believe, or have done or believed, has considerably broadened since my self-righteous, narrow-minded RM days. For me, then, I find I am attracted to a much broader variety of personality types and figures. The days of looking for the “perfect” woman have gone the way of 8 track tapes. Where can I find like minded women with rich life experiences that don’t mind my ever increasing, left leaning tolerance of my fellow travelers on this earthy sojourn?

  72. What traumatised me as I first transitioned to SA from YSA was getting hit on by never-married, unemployed men older than my father. It made me pretty cynical about my dating options within the first 5 minutes of my first SA activity. Now that I’m within months of 40, it has taken me a stake calling to even consider going back. So my advice to “I’m Trying” (since it seems that you probably have your act together elsewhere) is to seek friendships in an age bracket that makes sense. I won’t recommend the various LDS singles Facebook groups out there because they are a whole other kind of disaster, except for one small one called “Feminist Mormon Singletons.”

  73. I'm trying says:

    Thank you Lisa. :-)

    I wish you’d elaborate.

  74. I am 26 year old male who recently became a convert. After reading some of what everybody has to say here. Are there particular rules to dating a young lds woman? I am hanging out with some from my church, but we just hang out and not use the word date.

  75. “Are there particular rules to dating a young lds woman?”

    Oh boy, are there!

  76. Well other than the obvious like following the word of wisdom. Why would it rather be refereed to as hang out than date?

  77. Well if you’re in an amorphous mass, that’s definitely not a date. Unless Tim wants to bring back plural marriage …

  78. If its a one on one with a man and a woman ‘hanging out’ wouldn’t it be considered a date?

  79. Speaking sociologically, as a happily-married person who is coming up on the 21st anniversary of his 29th birthday, there are a couple of trends that are emerging from the comments that bear calling out. (Make of them what you will, I guess.)

    First, the men seem less concerned about age differences than women. Mostly this means guys will date and marry younger women, of course. Women seem somewhat creeped out by this especially when the age gap is significant, say 10+ years. This does somewhat limit options. It is understandable, although we all probably know exceptions to the norm which have resulted in happy marriages which are not skeevy.

    Second, men seem more open to the return of plural marriage – not, as Lisa said on Sept 1, as a “solution” for the “crime of singleness,” but as an option for the pain of loneliness and solitude. Women seem almost uniformly adamantly opposed to this, which leads me to believe that its adoption in (US/North American/European) LDS circles will be rare when it becomes legal, even if the Church doesn’t forbid it. This opposition is so visceral that few men will make the effort to even propose it as a voluntary option for those so inclined, for fear of being jumped on.

    (Parenthetically, I would add that our evangelical friends who use “the inevitable return of Mormon polygamy” as an argument against same-sex marriage clearly have not bothered to ask many Mormon women! :) )

    I stick this out here not because I have a dog in the hunt, nor because I think either of the above would be a viable solution to the issues our singles (of all ages!) face, but because they’re the things that have popped out to me as I’ve gone over the comments. I think they’re interesting. As a people, of course, plural marriage is a huge part of our history and heritage and in many ways has made us what we are culturally. We’ve also historically been more tolerant of larger age gaps between spouses (in general) than the surrounding culture, at least in the US. These things have to some extent reflected our position as a small and coherent “in-group” – you find similar behavior among Jews, for example. Well, maybe not polygamy. :) But it would seem that we, or at least the BCC community, are no longer willing to transgress societal norms to conform to Mormon ones.

    Which shouldn’t be too surprising, here, after all. :)

  80. La Jolla Surfer says:

    The comments here are so anti-men, no wonder LDS men don’t want to date you. Has everyone ever thought why LDS guys don’t date? Has anyone taken the time to be empathetic and understanding in the trials that singles guys through in the Church these days?? Do any of these women take the time to invite and include guys to singles activities to feel left out and not included? Of course not.. it’s all about me, me, me…

    These comments here just prove as a never been married single guy in my early 40s who has kept covenants my entire life, went to BYU, served a mission, serves endlessly in callings and in the community, have a good paying job, tall, dark, handsome, etc, etc. — and yet still not “good enough” for LDS women — that is really time to date and marry non-LDS women who appreciate LDS men so much more than the male hating I have to endure every week at church in my singles ward and in these blogs…

  81. It’s not hard to hate a dude who sounds like [insult].

  82. N. W. Clerk says:

    Proving once again that this blog ought to be renamed “By Steve’s Consent”.

  83. Don’t be a hater, clerk!

    I apologize for the quick put-down. To my tin ears, the surfer sounded conceited. And hearing LDS guys complain about the dating scene is, well, lame since the entire dating scene is basically engineered to favor LDS men. I get that it sucks to be in the dating scene as a rule, but when you’re at the top of the food chain I don’t think you should complain too much about it.

  84. Hey, I think the patriarchal system probably hurts both men and women. A lot of emphasis on being a “provider” (read: pre-MBA).

  85. it's a series of tubes says:

    when you’re at the top of the food chain I don’t think you should complain too much about it

    Exactly.

  86. John Mansfield says:

    There’s an LDS dating food chain? That sounds repulsively fascinating. Tell me more.

  87. What do LDS young ladies look for in an LDS young man?

  88. it's a series of tubes says:

    Good looks, fast cars (or big trucks), pockets full of cash, and leadership prospects.

    Hey, two out of four was enought for me.

  89. You got a fast car? Maybe we can make a deal. Maybe together we can get somewhere.

  90. Should I walk around with Benjamins?Why can’t i pretend to be a poor sap in order to find a worthy women who wants me for me?

  91. Because women without Phd’s need someone rich to support them. Women with Phd’s either consider you below them or don’t want to support you. Or both.

  92. Not so young, here, but I’d just take a man who is a grown-up. Most of us women don’t like raising supposedly grown men. I’d take less than average looks, less than average pay, drives a bit of a clunker and few leadership abilities: so long as he can lead himself, I’d be good.

    But that’s probably “man-hating.” Which is why I don’t date. I don’t want to hurt anyone else’s feelings by my overblown expectations.

  93. I thought women liked men who act like boys so they can make them into the man they want? Take a guy with good looks and a job, but plays video games and acts like a jerk. But maybe I come from a different world. Don’t we need to come to the realization that we are not all perfect, and that by taking a step back and looking at our lives from a different perspective? By living by ourselves in an over priced apartment to prove the point that we can take care of ourselves instead of staying with our families and saving money and taking care of the home? Wouldn’t a strong man do that? A man with leadership abilities, stay at home until they meet the right women and get married and then move out with their new wife, a well trained honorable man? But maybe I live in a different world where spending money just to prove a point, to say that I am a grown man, that I am a human being and I value life and virtues?

  94. Silver, I think someone already took him. ;)

  95. I’m an active LDS man in my early 30’s. I quit a management position in a Fortune 100 company on the east coast to move “to the Mormon belt” to find a spouse. (The dating pool is just TINY where I’m from).

    Here are my impressions since moving out here:
    1) LDS women and LDS men are both ridiculously picky. Outside the church, men and women are more honest as to “what they bring” to the table and date within their league.
    2) The majority of the 30+ women are divorced women with kids. An ex-spouse and on-going custody battles create an entirely new layer of dating complexity.
    3) Sure, there are 4 women to every 1 man. But that doesn’t paint the full picture. A better question is:

    “What’s the ratio of marriage material men to marriage material women?”

    There are hands down more men who are marriage material (secure employment, physically fit, worthy, honest) than their are women who meet the same criteria. The competition between men for the handful of marriage material women is brutal. These women know they are in high demand and LOVE it.
    4) Why don’t more women (here) take care of themselves physically? Speaking of the 30+ scene, the LDS women here are generally less physically attractive than the non-LDS women out east. It’s a taboo subject, but they need to lose weight. My best guess is the most attractive ones married off young and the least attractive ones are left
    5) Why haven’t the men gotten serious about pursuing a real career? I understand why the women aren’t interested in them.

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