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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

After the Breakup

Bro Jo,

I just got home from my second semester up at the Y. I started dating a super nice RM at the beginning of January, and I can honestly say I fell in love with him.

I messed up. We went into the relationship with him informing me that he wasn't ready for a serious commitment. I told him I'd be okay with that, and we continued dating anyway. We grew super close, and we'd make an effort to spend time together every single day. Towards the end, I think he realized how seriously committed we had become, and he freaked out and kind of abruptly ended it. Two weeks later, he was seen around campus holding hands with another girl.

I get that it's my fault. He told me he wasn't ready for a serious commitment and I insisted it would be okay. That was dumb. But I'm really struggling with the aftermath of this entire situation. I miss him so much it hurts. I've lost my appetite, I've become very ill, and I've lost the desire to do anything but stay at home and cry.

I guess part of me is just super confused. I don't really understand how he could have meant all the things that he said to me, but be able to move on as quickly as he did. At the same time, I'm not convinced he is entirely over me, either. He'll still text me quite often, and I've heard he's been jealous when I've been around other guys. I'm not sure what to do? I feel very used, and as this was my first relationship, I'm not exactly sure what's supposed to happen now. What are you supposed to do once you get out of a relationship? It's been a month now since we broke up, and I'm still distraught. How can I get over him?

Any advice you can give me would be much appreciated. I need help.


- Hopelessly Devoted

Dear Hope,

I'm sorry, but I just don't see how this is your fault.

Sure, you lied when you said you were okay with things staying casual.  But I think it was reasonable to expect that, despite what he said in the beginning, with all of the time you spent together and everything else that he had changed his mind.

Now clearly you and I are different people, because if someone I really liked had strung me along, bolted when AFTER SEVERAL MONTHS it occurred to them that things were getting serious, and a short time after dumping me was making out with someone else . . . I'd have No Desire to ever get back together with that person.

But then it DID happen to me.  More than once.

And, I'm sorry to be the one to tell you this, but yes, he IS over you.  That may make him a jerk and an idiot, but it's also the truth.

You need to date other people.  That's the best way to get over him.  That, and as Sister Jo always says, Service.

I also feel extremely strongly that you need to cut this jerk out of your life.  Every time you text him back you're telling him that what he did to you is okay, that he need not feel bad about himself, and that he can continue to keep you as a back up because no matter how many other girls he swaps spit with or holds hands with in public you'll always be there . . . pathetically hoping he'll some day come back to you.

Believe me, once you cut this guy out of your life you'll finally be able to move on.

Now pick yourself up, put on your favorite outfit (the one that everyone says you look great in), and go get a sandwich.  Flirt with other guys, let the world know you're available for dates with Good Guys and block what's-his-name's phone number.

- Bro Jo

Monday, November 20, 2017

One Guy's Story - Part 1 of 3 - Love VS Loyalty and Shotgun Dating VS Rifle Dating

[Dear Readers,

The post below is part 1 of 2, first posted November 20th, 2017.  Part 2 of 2 will be posted in one week, on November 27th, 2017.

- Bro Jo]

Dear Bro Jo,

I hope you'll forgive the long email; I wanted to give you as much information as possible to get the best possible answer. Still, don't feel obligated to answer.

First of all, I entered the (name of specific military college withheld) straight out of high school. I was targeted from the start, for various reasons. Because of pre-existing depression, that negative attention did me no good, and within six months, I had to leave for my own safety. But I didn't leave unscathed; I had acquired habits and mannerisms that made me seem pretty callous.

About six months after leaving the Academy, I managed to get on my mission. But again, because of depression, I had to leave early.

I finished an Associate's degree at BYU-Idaho and transferred to BYU, where I currently am. In that time, I have managed to conquer depression (with the help of many family and friends). I have also managed to tone down my military habits significantly.

When I was at BYU-Idaho, I was blessed to work two shifts every week at the Rexburg Temple, and my baptistery shift had some very wise and experienced brothers and sisters. It was at that time that I truly fell in love for the first time. Suspicious of my feelings, I asked my Temple coworkers some very pointed questions about love. With their help, I eventually came to understand how to recognize it, and I recognized that I was feeling it. Unfortunately, that young lady was a BYU student; she was only in Rexburg for the summer, so she turned down a relationship with me. I understood, and I didn't question it.

When I arrived at BYU, I tested the waters and got enormous push-back from her dad. I was pretty devastated, but with the help of the Lord, I moved on.

I spent my first summer at BYU going on date after date, asking nearly all of those young women on second dates and getting turned down. I didn't really blame them; I was still fighting depression at the time.

I continued that practice for a while until my second summer when I got permission from my bishop to stop dating in order to focus on removing some of my unattractive attributes, like depression. It worked; when Fall semester started, one young lady showed up, and well, convinced me that she was worth my time. And she was. By the time she broke up with me, I had (nearly) finished conquering depression.

(We are still good friends, and recently, I enjoyed telling her father about how good she was to me.)

When the next semester started, I met someone else. Our relationship followed your Levels of a Relationship pretty well, and things were going really great. We got engaged.

On our wedding day, I made a couple mistakes when I picked her up to go to the Temple. Nothing huge, nothing she hadn't seen before (I try very hard to be myself wherever I am). I realized my mistakes and did my best to apologize.

It didn't matter.

By the time we got to the Temple, the stress of the day caused her to melt down, and she called her parents. They had never liked me, and well, let's just say that the wedding didn't happen.

I talked to my YSA bishop and my father about it (at the same time, actually), and they gave me a blessing. I was assured that, though I made mistakes, I had done my best. I was blessed with peace.

For the most part. I do want to be married, so I do feel pretty lonely a lot of the time.

One day, when the loneliness was particularly bad and I was feeling particularly frustrated, I poured out my feelings in a blog post and bluntly asked why I was not a good prospect.

Surprisingly, I got some answers from women that I know. And they were mostly along the lines of "our friendship is too valuable to risk ruining it through a romantic relationship."

Since my failed wedding, I've also been on some dates. Some of those young ladies want nothing to do with me, but surprisingly, some do. Just not romantically. It seems that, like the friends who think friendship is too valuable to risk, they want me around, but only as a friend, or perhaps more accurately, a surrogate older brother.

Let me explain. I am loyal, fiercely loyal, to my friends. They know that if they need me, I will drop everything in a heartbeat to help them, and I won't stop until the problem is solved.

On top of that, all of the experiences that I wrote above (and more) have helped me break what a friend calls "social programming." I don't care what people think about me. I will do what is right as much as I can, even if it's not social protocol. When I seemed callous before, it was often because I would do things outside of social protocol. I am also very genuine about who I am, as I said above.

As a result, not only am I too valuable as a loyal friend, I am...different. Thanks to my ex-girlfriend and ex-fiancée, I am much better now, and as a rule, I will follow social protocol unless it interferes with doing what's right. But I am still fundamentally different. And I guess that is not very attractive.

Before, when I actually had some really unattractive traits, especially depression, it was fairly easy to keep moving forward by telling myself that I would be wanted when I got better. Now, it's a lot harder.

I am happy to be of service to my friends; I wouldn't change my loyalty. I would never change my genuineness either. I consider them to be good traits. But they seem to be chasing girls away, or at least, convincing them to keep me at arm's length.

I am still doing my best to go on dates, to put myself out there, but I'm becoming discouraged.

I guess I have two questions:

First, how do I make myself seem like a good prospect, rather than just a friend? How do I make it seem more valuable to women to give me a chance instead of making them scared to risk losing friendship? 
Second, what is the best way to prevent myself from getting discouraged in this situation?
And maybe a third question. I have been told by several people to be happy just being single, so what's a good way to do that without becoming too happy being single?

- Loyal

Dear Loyal,

I've been thinking about . . . pondering . . . your email  a lot.

I wonder if your "fierce loyalty" has you putting your friendships above your romantic relationships?

While it's important and respectable to be loyal, a guy who blows off his wife to help his buddies would be a poor choice in a husband.

I also wonder if your loyalty is coupled with joy.  Do you go into "beast mode" when a friend needs help, ready to fight for them, do you feel valuable because this friend needs you, or do you feel joy at the opportunity to be of service?

Ultimately none of that may matter . . . but I have been thinking about it.

When you say that you are "genuine", does that mean that you are quick to share critique and criticism even when it's not asked for?  Because that's not honest, it's cruel.

I guess what I'm saying is, while Loyalty and Genuineness ARE good qualities, if you're expressing them in a negative way that could certainly be what is making it difficult for you to find someone who wants to live with you and be with you for time and all eternity.

As the Jo Girl (who happens to be a varsity cheerleader) often says "Be a Polly Positive, not a Debbie Downer"!

People want to be around others who lift them up, who help them feel better about themselves, who look on the bright side.

I don't know you, but I wonder if the struggle isn't with who you are, but how you're expressing yourself . . . might be something for you to consider.

To your questions, your description of your dating style seems to fall into what I call "Shotgun Dating".  That's where guys go on lots of dates with lots of different girls, often lining up the next several dates with a variety of women before they go on the date with the last woman they asked out.  It's very common among return missionaries.  It's an entirely bad thing, but carried on for too long and it can quickly give a guy the reputation of being "a player" or not very serious about dating . . . or life.

And women find that very unattractive.

People like to feel special, and it's very important for a guy to make a woman feel special when he goes out with her.

Instead I recommend what I call "Rifle Dating".

(There's a third kind, "archery dating", where guys stand around . . . FOREVER . . . waiting for that perfect specimen to come along, often missing great opportunities - read "women" - only to find that when they finally take a shot they miss entirely.  You don't want to use that style, either.)

Rifle Dating is when a guy pauses.  (I actually recommend that you guys date no one the first two Sundays you're in a new ward, UNLESS there's someone you are just so Connected with - I use the word "connected" very purposefully - that you can't help dating right away.  But that's the exception.)  He looks around, but not forever, figures out which girl in his world he is most Interested in ("interested in" is also chosen with purpose; note that I didn't say "attracted to") and he dates her.  And only her.

The first date should be casual in tone, designed to facilitate talking, and only after a one or two in-person conversations.  Hikes, walks, going for desert or lunch, things like that are all great choices.

Make sure she knows it's a date, but do not put undue pressure on her or the situation.

His focus is to have fun, ask her about her, and LISTEN to WHAT SHE IS SAYING so he can respond intelligently and with sincere interest.

Be Positive.

Plan.  Pickup.  Pay.

You may think you're falling for her, but your tone should be "I'd like to make a new friend today".

Unless on the date he finds her to be repugnant (making allowances for her nervousness and the newness of the relationship is strongly encouraged) then he asks her out again.  Usually for later that same week.  (Don't wait until the next weekend if at all possible.)

And he keeps his sights on her until she no longer wants to date him (note:  being unavailable or busy is not necessarily a rejection) or until he's honestly ready to move on (once you do, don't plan on going back to her - that rarely works), or until he finds that he is Much More Interested in someone else.  If he is the one initiating the end of this courtship it is his responsibility to Talk To Her In Person.  Don't burn a bridge, don't belittle, and NEVER NEVER tell her it's because you want to date someone else.

A simple "I don't feel that this moving in a more romantic or committed relationship is right for me" is all you need to say.  Then stand there and take whatever she feels she needs to throw at you.

That's what a man does.

That's Rifle Dating.

And that, my friend, is what I believe is the best pattern to follow when it comes to finding a spouse.

If you want to stay out of the Friend Zone, you'll need to accept that the only close female friend you can have will be your spouse.  All women, while you should be polite and kind and "friendly", are romantic prospects.  Treat them as such and they'll realize they're such.  (That's why you don't become "pals" with married women or any woman when you're married.)

We don't "hang out".  We date.

Should you Be Happy being single?

Well . . . yeah.  But remember that there's a difference between recognizing the blessings that are in your life at this time, and being satisfied . . . or complacent.

You can be happy that you've done well in class, on a paper or test, but if you think you have nothing else to do, nothing else to learn about that subject . . . that's complacent, and never a good idea.

Hope that helps.

Feel free to email anytime.


- Bro Jo

Friday, November 17, 2017

Setting Each Other Free

Dear Bro. Jo,

I'm 18 and so is my boyfriend.  We've been dating for a few months now and he's due to get his mission call in about two weeks or so.  We've gotten really close and I want the best for him. We already agreed to suspend our romantic ties from right before he leaves until after his mission so he could focus on his mission.  Also, we have done scripture study together and have a plan to read the Book of Mormon together before he leaves. He's truly a great guy and will be a fantastic missionary. But, what I could do to better support him in his mission?


- Miss Dot

Dear Miss Dot,

I think the best thing you could do is as you've suggested:  break up with him before he leaves.  (As soon as he gets his call is best.  Heck, you should probably break up now since his papers are already in.) 

I don't think you should be acting like married people and doing scripture study together.

And while I think it would be nice to write him every 2-3 months to ask how the mission is going, I think you should be open to dating other guys.

Yes, sometimes we end up eternally happy with the person we dated before they left for two years, but most of the time it doesn't work out.  So the best thing you can both do for each other is to set each other free.

- Bro Jo