Things to know

Regularly read by 50,000+ readers in over 140 countries around the world, "Dear Bro Jo" is published several times a month.

This is column is just one guy's opinion, and while he does his best to keep what he thinks, says and writes in-line with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, "Dear Bro Jo" is not an LDS Church website. (And Sister Jo thinks you should know that he's sometimes wrong, and often way too opinionated for his own good.)

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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Little Too Together

Dear Bro Jo,

Recently I came to visit some of my good LDS friends and found that two were a little too close together. The guy is just over 15 years old and the girl is almost 15. They are all over each other every time at the church dances, and seem to be dating even though they don't technically go out on single dates. But otherwise they seem to do every other thing boyfriend and girlfriend would do to each other, except for kissing.

They have been "pre-dating" for at least 7 months, and in my opinion really don't think they should get that close together before 16. Everybody knows about their relationship but nobody has seemed to care that much.

Ok, maybe I like the girl a little but I don't think that’s all of the issue. Is there any way to let the couple know that they are pretty much breaking church standards (I think) and that they should cool it a bit without seeming like a total jerk?


Confused Peace-Keeper

Dear Peace,

You’re right: they shouldn’t be “together”. It’s a HUGE mistake to be exclusive before you’re old enough to propose for O-So-Many Reasons. Here are just a few:

1) The longer they’re together the more “familiar” they’ll become. You say they’re all over each other, well that’s not something that you do if you’re uncomfortable. You don’t think they’ve kissed, but I bet they have. 7 months? That’s a long time and a lot of familiar for smooching to NEVER have happened. Sorry, bud.

2) Exclusivity means not dating anyone else. Obvious to you, right? But maybe not to them. They may not care, because they’re so “happy” now, but I submit that it’s difficult to find that person you want to spend eternity with if you’ve only ever dated one person (or even fewer than 10 people). Yeah, it can be done, but the degree of difficulty makes it very unlikely.

3) When you’re intentionally flouting your standards, your credibility in the Gospel goes way down. Now none of us is perfect, but as a Convert I can tell you that one of the things that slowed down my conversion was the overtly hypocritical Mormons I went to school with. I know it’s not fair, or right, but I honestly struggled with the “truthfulness” of the Church because I knew an awful lot of Bad Mormons.

4) By Divine Design, when you Couple Up you reduce your circle of Friends. When you’re married that’s a VERY GOOD THING (Sister Jo is now, and will forever be, my best friend); but at 15 you need all the righteous friends you can get, and that won’t happen if you’re clinging to and smooching someone all the time. The only time it’s fun to be around two people doing that is when you’re one of the people!

Trust me: People Care. There are some people this relationship keeps up at night.

As a parent, you can tell your kid that you think being in a Boyfriend-Girlfriend relationship at a young age is a bad idea, but once they’re in one, there’s not too much you can do. You can limit contact, chaperone like crazy, establish a communicative relationship with the other child’s parents (and hope to Heaven that they also discourage early pairings – too many parents don’t, which in my humble opinion, is dumb), but you certainly NEVER want to say anything GLARINGLY BAD about the other child, lest you drive Romeo and Juliet closer together.

As a friend sometimes you have more power, sometimes less.

I respect that you’ve confessed a little jealousy. Whether you like Her or envy the Relationship (or both) doesn’t really matter; the feelings you have are real and legitimate.

So what should you do?

Number One is to learn from what you observe. How will you act differently?

Number Two is to still be a friend. We may not like what people do, but we can still love them.

Number Three requires you to draw a line. For the most part this relationship is none of your business, which is also a big part of why you can’t say anything; but you are still your “brother’s keeper”; if things get to the point where Worthiness is an issue, if you truly care for them, then that’s the point to speak up. If they won’t listen to your advice to see the Bishop, you’ll have to tell them that you’ll be forced to go to the Bishop on their behalf, and then follow through with that promise. They’ll hate you for a season, but be grateful later.

Number Four is what you CAN say. You’ll get nowhere, unless you can be really tactful. Something to the effect of:

“Hey, you guys, can I talk to for a minute? Look, I like you both, and it’s great that you make each other happy, but the Touching aspect of you relationship makes me uncomfortable. I know that’s more my problem than it is yours, and maybe I’m a little jealous, but I also am uncomfortable with two people I like so much breaking away from Church standards.”

Bold, but honest. Don’t expect an answer or a change. Just float the feelings out there and let what happens happen. Don’t get defensive if they try to turn things around on you. Just stick to your statement and be grateful that they gave you an opportunity to express how you feel.

At some point, in every relationship (even the non-romantic ones), The Conversation needs to be had.

I can’t promise you that they’ll cool things off, but you’ll feel better for having stood for what’s right.

And set the example by following the Dating Rules yourself.

- Bro Jo

Monday, June 29, 2009

Facing the Fear

Dear Bro Jo,

Hey Brother Johnston!

I've really enjoyed your column and get a kick out of some of your advice.

Some events in my personal life (a breakup in particular) have got me thinking of late, and I was curious for your take.

In talking to my brother, I realized that a number of our friends were in relationships, some even engaged (!), but what was keeping them there was fear - fear that if they let this one go they'll never find love again. I know I've been guilty of thinking that on occasion, so how does one develop enough faith and strength of character to walk away from a relationship when the only thing holding you there is fear?

In that same vein, when you're married to someone, the two of you need to put a lot of effort in working through any struggles that come up in your relationship, but when you're dating, you're not bound to the same commitment, so how do you figure out which issues are worth working through in a dating relationship, and which ones are show stoppers (i.e. time to break up and move on)?

My third question is for your advice on how to handle a breakup without going to pieces - when you start dating looking for an eternal keeper, the landing, when it comes apart, can be hard.

What's helped me through this last bit having a brother I can call, lots of prayer and scripture study, and a quote by President Benson - "When we put God first in our lives, all things will fall into their proper place in our lives, or out of it." - easy words to live by when life is going your way, but more trying when the Lord has another plan, so I've discovered.

Thanks in advance,

- Single and Looking Again

Dear Again,

I think a little Fear of Loneliness is a Very Good Thing. Too many men and women in this Day and Age think that it’s “easier” to abandon spouse and family than to work through the problems inherit in any marriage. They have no fear of the consequences of their actions, their self-absorption blocking out the appropriate fear.

Too many LDS Singles sit around forever, not dating at all, waiting for Mr. or Miss Perfect to knock unsolicited on their door. They envision throwing the door open to find a light shining down upon this Adonis or Aphrodite, who magically will be blessed with both beautiful eyes and the ability to overlook their slovenly, unproductive, non-goal lifestyle. A voice will speak to them from above and declare:

“This is the Spouse that I have sent unto you. Get thee nigh unto the Temple!”

Until then they’ll sit blissfully un-afraid enjoying their Virtual Lives, clinging to their cell phone umbilical cords, waiting for the next all-important, non-substantive Text Message.

But I digress . . .

It is possible, you know, that what you and your brother are observing is more than just a little tainted by your own perspective. What you ascertain to be fear of loneliness may in fact be an expression of love and gratitude. Sister Jo and I were Sealed for Time and All Eternity in the Salt Lake Temple; should she pass from this existence to the net before me I will take comfort in the knowledge that our separation will only be temporary, and in the grand scheme of the eternities be but the blink of an eye. Still, I will miss her greatly, and I fear the loneliness of those moments. It’s partially out of that love and fear that I work so hard to honor and protect her.

(OK, I know that’s not the lecture you were looking for, but it needed to be done.)

I don’t think I’d describe walking away from a relationship as an act of faith or strength of character; typically it’s quite the opposite: it takes faith and strength of character to stick around when times are tough, when everything isn’t Dancing Trees and Singing Flowers.

Frankly, I don’t think either of you has the slightest concept or understanding of “fear”. Heroes aren’t unafraid, they charge in despite their fears. It’s the wise man that understands fear and the brave man that proceeds anyway.

When you’re dating, Serious Dating as a YSA, you DO have a responsibility to work through the difficulties. If you just can’t get along, if there’s no spark there at all, then yeah, I agree, move on.

Let me reprint here a list that I wrote previously.

(This is the link to it on the Dear Bro Jo Facebook Notes Page)


Abuse. We don't recite the Traditional Vows in the LDS Church, but in most wedding ceremonies the bride and groom vow to Cherish each other. Some abusers mask this tendency until after marriage, but most will give you the signs early on. Are they physically aggressive? Do they use insulting language and think putting-down their friends is fun? Are they bossy and demanding all (or even "most") of the time? Do they flip out when confronted? And, perhaps most importantly, do they scare you?

Absolutism. Are they NEVER wrong? Confidence is attractive; we seek out those that are self-assured, and if a self-assured person tells us we're handsome or beautiful, we love them even more! But there's a line here of dangerous extremism. Both people in a marriage are going to make mistakes; you may not want someone who's wishy-washy Charlie Brown, but marriage is an act of compromise; you don't want to spend the next 50 years (not to mention Eternity) with someone who sees themselves as above reproach and apology. Marriage means saying you're sorry, even if you're not, or not sure why, if simply for no other reason than the fact that you love your spouse and want them to be happy. Smooching is good, but stay away from someone who lectures you all the time because their opinion is so much more valuable then yours because it's the talking, not the smooching, that will get you through some of life's biggest turmoils.

Addiction. Chemical, emotional, genetic or psychological, Addiction is a character flaw. It doesn't matter if it's pornography or alcohol or drugs or gambling or adrenaline, whatever the addiction, at some point the addict is going to place it ahead of you. Now, people can recover from and overcome addictions and make fabulous spouses, but that needs to happen BEFORE you get married. If you're willing to wait for the addict to conquer their demons, good for you, but if you're not seeing serious commitment and progress it's time to date someone else. You need to know that addictions never go entirely away; that's why we say addicts are "recovering" not "recovered" - it's an on-going process - but if a decent amount of time (and by that I mean months, plural, not days) has gone by without the behavior, and true repentance has been a part of that process, then you can move forward.

Anger. One of my good friends says that he proposed because the girl he was dating always seemed happy and he wanted someone with that kind of positive outlook in his life every day. I'm grateful my wife wasn't looking for someone that was Anger-free, but that's not the same as Angry-all-the-time. Watch out for that. And watch how they deal with things that are stressful and upsetting. Do they shut down? Do they totally explode? Does the anger hit the atmosphere and then calmly dissipate or does it fester and stir for days waiting for the moment of retribution? We all get upset (beware the person who seems NEVER angry), how we deal with that needs to be evaluated by a potential spouse. If you can't deal with their anger (and especially if they can't either), move on.

Apathy. I think this one, while it sounds benign, is just as bad as everything else on the list. Won't get a job, won't do their homework, won't work hard at anything . . . it's a recipe for disaster. One of the most valuable things spouses can do for each other is to encourage them in good things. Where would I be if my wife didn't support and sustain my efforts to work and to coach and to write? Even the most motivating person will accomplish nothing with someone who's totally lacking in self-motivation. Depression is real, and during the course of any marriage bad stuff is going to happen. It's OK to be sad, and miserable and depressed once in a while, but the person that's Apathetic is already pretty close to Pathetic, and this is one of those things that has to change from inside.

All of those of course apply as valid reasons why you should Break Up and Move On as well.

And, for the purposes of your letter, let me add a new list:


Non-Attraction. It’s just not there. You have no desire to kiss this person, ever. Or . . . ever again.

No Common Interests. Or at least, not enough. You don’t like doing things with this person, you don’t want to talk about what they want to talk about, you’re just not excited to see them.

Family Conflict. You just can’t picture yourself hanging out with these people for an entire holiday. They drive you crazy. You can’t find anything of value there (which, by the way, is more your fault than theirs).

No Shared Goals. He wants to live in the desert, she hates the heat. She wants eight kids, he refuses to have more than one. The problem with Two Ships that Pass in the Night is that they’re headed in opposite directions. You need someone who sees themselves on the same path you are.

Different Lifestyles. She likes it quiet at home, he plays loud music all the time. He likes home cooking, she only eats at restaurants. If you can’t see yourself cohabitating, don’t head towards living in the same home.

Dreams of Change. If you’re in this relationship thinking it would be perfect if they changed a few things about themselves, shed the delusions and get out.

All Physical. He’s Ruggedly Handsome. She’s got a Smokin’ Body. It ain’t enough. That stuff goes away, kids. If that’s all you can see in them, you’re done. He’s not going to be that Rugged when he sits behind a desk 50 hours a week, and that smoke will dissipate once she bares a couple of children. If you can’t get over that, you don’t deserve each other.

(I’ll add this list to the Notes Page as well.)

Regarding handling bad breakups: there IS no cure all. You’re wise to be talking to your brother (even though I gave you both a tough time about “fear”) and to be turning to the Lord in all things, especially times of trouble. If we work on building our Testimonies when times are good, we’ll be stronger to endure the difficult times.

No one’s gone through tougher Girlfriend breakups than I have.

(Most of us feel that way, right?)

I had one girl dump me twice in 12 hours.

One broke up by bringing her little brother on our anniversary date.

Another ended it because I was “too nice”.

Here’s one: I had a break up because when I told her I loved her she called me a liar.

There’s more, but you get the idea.

The joy is worth the ache.

It may not feel like it now, but it will when you finally get the right girl.

Let me share with you something that a fellow reader sent to me:

“Girls are like apples on trees. The best ones are at the top of the tree. The boys don't want to reach for the good ones because they are afraid of falling and getting hurt. Instead, they just get the rotten apples from the ground that aren't as good, but easy. So the apples at the top think something is wrong with them, when in reality, they're amazing. They just have to wait for the right boy to come along, the one who's brave enough to climb all the way to the top of the tree.”

- Bro Jo

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Road Not Taken

Dear Bro Jo,

I recently discovered your blog and I think it’s a wonderful idea - so I want to address you with a question that has been on my mind.

I am a 25 year old Australian female and I have a lovely life. I have a job that I love, live in a nice apartment with a great flatmate who is also a member. I have a great calling in YW - life is good.

I'm not married and herein lies the potential problem. I am very OK with that. So OK that I verge on the edge of not wanting to be married and spoil my lovely life. I am not anti-marriage - I can see the blessings and the benefits and I feel true happiness for those that have those blessings, but I am also not feeling the need to seek those blessings out for myself and worry that I close my heart to the possibilities. There are not a large number of dating possibilities where I live and I find myself relieved sometimes that this is the case.

For the longest time I considered that I had a good attitude. I have known far too many friends be "desperate" to be married and have seen many hastily marry for the heck of it - motivated by sheer obsession with a ring and a white dress. I am happy that I am not one of those women. However I am starting to worry that my attitude is also not good, albeit in a different way.

My question Bro Jo: How do I remain balanced and happy, without tipping over one way or the other. How do I keep myself open to any blessings the Lord may want for me regarding marriage, whilst not letting myself become obsessed with the topic, or closing my self off from topic?

Thank you,

Happy but confused.

(Please withhold my name and email).

Dear Happy,

A couple clarifying questions if I may:

1) When guys ask you out, do you go?

2) While you're not looking, do you put yourself in situations where you can meet eligible, worthy LDS men?

3) Is there something (or multiple things) that scare you about marriage?

- Bro Jo

Dear Bro Jo,

1) Yes I go

2) I attend church and fulfill my callings, but in terms of "extra-curricula" church activities. I don't think that I put myself in enough situations - Being generally happy with my situation I lack the motivation to push myself onto the singles scene - It is this bit where I wonder if I am not being open.

3) Marriage is so final, so... forever. I do worry about waking up one day and wondering why I gave up my nice single life. On the other hand I have great examples of marriage around me, parents, some friends. But I can't imagine being married I guess.

I don't know if it makes a difference to your second question but I used to make quite and effort. I was the Institute VP for 3 years and was at every activity - organizing them half the time. When I was released I found it exhausting to keep up the effort - I was lacking the motivation.

- Happy

Dear Happy,

Do you fear having children?

- Bro Jo

Dear Bro Jo,


Sorry about the delay, life gets busy.

In response to your question: Nope. Kids are great. I'm a teacher so they're already my world.

I guess I want to make sure that if I do never marry (a thought I'm growing comfortable with) that its through no fault of my own. Or perhaps I need a major attitude adjustment. Either way feel free to call it as you see it - I'm made of tough stuff.

- Happy

Dear Happy,

I think you “can’t imagine being married” because you haven’t met the right guy . . . yet.

And that’s totally normal.

I think you also have some fears that haven’t quite come to the surface yet. For some who feel as you do it’s the fear of parenthood (which is why I asked); for many it’s the fear of rejection. Sisters often feel that they have no control over who will ask them out, let alone who will propose, so they decide that they don’t care because THAT they have control over.

Some Sisters even go so far as to ensure that they’re undesirable by their dress, speech, attitude, inactivity, etc; again, things they can control. You’ll hear them say “if he doesn’t like me for who I am then I don’t want him”. Now on many levels I agree with that sentiment, but it can also be pretty juvenile. And inaccurate. You think you have control by choosing to, oh say, dress like a “rebel”, but you’re still allowing the opinions of others (real or perceived) to control your life. Be yourself, yes, but be the “Best You” you can be.

And, for the record, guys do it too. Many “University” wards are filled with guys whose irrational fears of Dating and Marriage manifest themselves as un-desirable, un-marry-able traits.

The truth is that the Gift of Being a Woman gives you Great Power over men; a girl need not be Super-model pretty to get guys to do what she wants. She simply needs to learn how to speak to guys.

(Side note - In his younger years, long, long ago, Bro Jo dated a few models – true story – and he wants you readers to know two things: 1) what you see in magazines and on screen is NOT REAL, and 2) Pretty is Great, but it ain’t enough)

Give it time. Keep dating. Stay active but also start attending singles functions. Go just to meet like-standard individuals. Be open to the possibilities of new relationships. While you may not be able to picture yourself married, I doubt you want to picture a life alone or a life without children. If that’s God’s will for you, then that’s God’s will; but if Heavenly Father gives you opportunities for a good marriage and mother hood, take ‘em.

You can take the road less traveled, but you don’t want to look back 20 years from now and regret never having taken any steps down any road at all.

When you meet the right person, you wont' feel like you're giving up Anything. There's no way I'd want to go back and be single. I'm grateful that my marriage is Eternal.

- Bro Jo

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Missionaries are Still Guys

Dear Bro Jo,

(Yeah it's my "I was 12 when I got this email address"-address because I really don't want it to be too obvious who I am, although I'm fairly sure you'll be able to figure it out if you wanted to.)

I love your column and I value your opinion, that’s the reason I write this letter. I understand that by the time you finish reading my letter you’ll probably be mad at me…seriously…but that’s fine, because I honestly want your opinion. I’m not looking for you to agree or disagree because it fits my own purposes but just, bring me your honest opinion. I have read several letter where you have disagreed with the person writing the letter and you have always been very respectful, that’s why I dare writing you about this issue of mine.

I’m a convert (early fall -08) and non-American and I just don’t get why you keep saying that boys and girl can’t be friends, let alone best friends. Here’s my story. I love helping out the missionaries that come to my area. I’m a girl and so far all the missionaries have been boys. I’m in my mid 20s. One missionary was here for 6 months and became my best friend. We can call him 1. We talk about everything, share everything, hopes, dreams, fears you name it. We can laugh until we cry and often we know what the other one’s thinking without having to say it or we make the same comments or on occasions finish each others sentences. We’ve even discussed doing a trip together in the States when he gets off his mission. (He’s American)

I’ve made place is sort of a resting place for the missionaries when they’re done with their missionary duties and need a friendly face or have had a bad day and need to vent. (I’m the milk and cookies kind of a girl). If they come over, they bring a spiritual message. I make the occasional dinner, fix hems on their pants stuff like that. DON’T get me wrong! My only aim is to keep the missionaries ON the right track, not take them off it! I help building up their self esteem when they’re feeling down.

I help them with ideas for teachings and such. I do not make “indecent proposals”. I love this guy, but as my very best friend! He loves me too, as his very best friend. He always introduces me as "This is ____, my bestest friend in the entire world"!

We’ve been over this on numerous occasions, we are FRIENDS. We each have someone we have romantic feelings for. He’s got his girl back in the states and I totally support him and wants him to be able to date her when he goes back home.

I’ve got another missionary who I really like and want to date. We can call him 2. Missionary 1 really supports me and wants me to date missionary 2 after his mission is over. I know that missionary 2 likes me too and we have decided to talk about things after his mission because we both want him to focus on his mission and I support him and encourage him in that. (He’s on his last transfer.)

I really feel like that’s the right thing to do because I really would like to at least get a chance to date him when his mission is over. He knows that I and 1 are best friends and he’s also good friends with 1 so that is no problem. WHY is that an issue for others? (I’m guessing you belong in the “others” category). It’s been brought up on a couple of occasions that his dad (dad of missionary 1) does NOT like us being friends or rather does not like us being best friends. 1 defends our friendship.

I have asked myself on several occasions if I have romantic feeling for 1 (because my friends tell me I do) but I keep coming back to the fact that when 2 enters the room everything else (including 1) disappears. I’ve noticed this because we all met for general conference. I guess you could say that I’m continuously falling “head-over-heels-madly-in-like” with 2 (to use a Bro Jo phrase). (I’ve known him for like 10 months.) I really don’t see the problem, but acknowledge that others do and so if I were to find an eternal companion that didn’t like our friendship; I’d respect that and back off a bit.

I just want your opinion on WHY I can’t continue to be best friends with 1? And if you’d like to make a comment about anything else you’re welcome to do so.

Please don’t-hate-me!

PS. If you wish to shorten my letter you may do so.

Dear Friend,

It's a good letter, and one I look forward to answering! But in the interest of time, let me point out one thing that I think may help to put this into perspective:

When a Guy and Girl are "Friends", the length of the Friendship is finite. Either the Friendship will blossom into something more, as one hopes happens with a marriage (Sister Jo and I are undoubtedly Best Friends), or one or both of the friends will find someone else rendering the "Friendship" obsolete and inappropriate.

Think of it this way: if you were married and having young single men (Missionary or otherwise) over to your home while your husband was at work, entertaining them, talking to them, especially one-on-one, how would your husband feel?

How would you feel if your husband was constantly going to lunch with his Beautiful Young Assistant? If they had long intimate talks together the way that friends do? Would you like to hear about how great she is, and how much he cares about her (just as "friends", of course!)?

- Bro Jo

PS - I don't "hate" you (or anybody), but I do think your relationships with these young missionaries is VERY inappropriate. Can you see why people might think that?

Dear Bro Jo,

Hmmm (can you actually see the light turning on here?)

I'd love to answer that I would trust him enough to know nothing would happen that shouldn't happen...but in all honesty...would I like it? No, deep down I wouldn't.

But I thought it had to do with my own insecurities and that I was suppose to be able to "deal with it" anyway.

I never thought of it as hurting someone but I guess I see that now. Thank you.

And if you're anything like my dad, you'll love what I really like to say right now..."I get it....buuuut, It's so unfair!" But yeah, I see it differently now.

Dear Friend,

Eureka! We’ve Struck GOLD!

The other issue we need to address is the notion of “the appearance of evil”. As Latter-day Saints, like it or not, those around us will make judgments about the Truthfulness of the Gospel by the things we do and say.

That’s unfair, too, but it IS reality.

It’s also an honor! We should be grateful to be Standard Bearers for Christ.

But that does mean that we will often be judged more harshly than others. So . . . what must the neighbors think if a young Missionary is seen coming and going often from a Young Single Woman’s home? He’s good looking, she’s very nice (which can be misconstrued as “flirty”) . . .

Are you undermining the effectiveness of these Missionaries because:

A) they’re at your home more time than they should be?

B) Your neighbors question their honor because of assumptions they’re making regarding what’s going on at your house?

Friend, I DO wish you the Blessings of a Strong Marriage in the Lords Temple to a Good and Righteous Man. When this Young Missionary has been released by his Stake President (or authorized individual), should he return to your area and Date you, I say “give it a shot”; Love is found in strange ways and at strange times, often when we’re not looking.

In general, I’m NOT a big fan of Missionaries going back to an area where they were assigned to date a girl (or the girls) that were met there; it gives me the impression that the boy was focused more on the Young Women than The Work. I also think that because of the nature of a Mission, we often aren’t meeting exactly who we think we are.

(I let everyone ponder that a while)

Not all of us (sadly) are the same person at home or school that we are at Church, but what I mean regarding Missionaries is that when you’re in Missionary-mode, one of the blessings is the lack of worry and stress that comes from dealing with regular, everyday life. How we deal with those things says a lot about who we are. Plus, you have to wonder, what is this person like when they’re not steeped in the Gospel 24-7? Are they the same, kind of the same, or totally different?

One last thing: A Missionary is still A Guy. Just because things are "off limits" doesn't mean temptations and feelings go away. You may not think you're a temptation, but if the boys are over at your house a lot, you are. Even if nothing ever happens (and it Better NOT!), it's difficult to control our thoughts; better to never put ourselves in tempting situations.

- Bro Jo

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Changing the "Boyfriend-Girlfriend" Culture

Dear Bro Jo,

I live in the sunny UK (It's not sunny at all ¬¬) and I have to say we do things a bit differently over here in regards to dating.

I was at a Stake Conference where one of the speakers urged us to date, as in ask a different person each time. The problem is, that in the culture over here we don't date, we go out. We do the whole Boyfriend-Girlfriend Thing from a young age. I so far have managed to not date at all until I am 16, but the problem I have yet to figure out how to overcome is Going Out.

If you Go Out with someone you don't date anyone else right?

If you do, you're considered to be cheating on that person, at least over here.

So, if you date (even just once) a person, then date another, you are considered to be cheating.

Therein lays the problem. Guys will not consider dating me if I "cheat".

What do I do?

- Forced to "Go Out"

Dear Forced,

The UK culture, as far as dating, isn't much different than in the US (or anywhere, really) - I've been hoping someone would write and give me the opportunity to address the Boyfriend-Girlfriend Thing more clearly - Great Letter!

Hope you're doing well,

- Bro Jo

Bro Jo,

It actually is. I moved from southern Utah, and the difference is huge. I mean this in a nice way of course.

- Forced

Dear Forced,

I think the pull for the "Boyfriend-Girlfriend Thing" is Universal (and I hate when parents think it's "cute" that their Toddlers are a "Couple" - careful parents, pairing up your children at a young age may come back to bite you). There are kids here, even LDS kids, that find themselves pairing up young, just like you said they do there . . .

Am I wrong?

- Bro Jo

Dear Bro Jo,

Ok, maybe not; but what I'm trying to say is that in the area I live in, I could get hurt if I don't "Go Out"

- Forced

Dear Forced,

You mean "have a boyfriend", right?

What kind of "hurt"?

- Bro Jo

Dear Bro Jo,

Ya, i mean have a boyfriend.

And hurt as in “beat up for being a two-timer” and a few other choice names I'm not gonna say, but that they would ¬¬

- Forced

Dear Forced,

OK. Thanks; the clarification helps. It’s important that we establish a “common vocabulary” so we can discuss the issues.

It’s actually one of my big frustrations in life, the confusion that our society (World Wide) has created by mixing up the terms “Going Out” and “Dating”. It’s a sad bit of Irony, I think that people say they’re “Going Out” when often it means that they’re not Going Anywhere . . .

Let’s take a moment here, Forced: you, me, and the other readers, to establish a Common Vocabulary. I’ll post this on the FaceBook Fan Page, and we can all consider it a Work in Progress, revising as we go.


Dating – If a Couple says that they are “Dating” it means they are dating each other, and may or may not be Exclusive. If an Individual says that he or she is “Dating”, it just means that they like to go out on dates. For example, in the first one, if a girl said “Bob and I are Dating”, she’d mean that she and Bob go on Regular Dates. If she says “Now that I’m 16 I’m Dating” what she means is that she’s old enough to Go on Dates.

Date – That’s any Social Event where people have paired off. A Good Date requires, in my mind, that the Boy “Plan, Pick up and Pay”, because then both people are clear what’s going on. If 7 people all go to the same movie, and 4 of the kids pair off as couples, then for them at least, it’s a date, even if they’re 10 years old (parents, take note). Holding Hands, Hugging, Kissing, etc. does not have to happen for the time together to be considered a date.

Going Out / Going Steady / Going Together – Across Cultures and Generations these seem to be the phrases that Teens use to identify a Committed Relationship. I understand that Teens Pair Off, but I don’t recommend it, even if (and usually ESPECIALLY IF) the two kids seem to be Soul Mates. Neither the Break Up nor the Increasing Intimacy that are the inevitable result of the Committed Relationship are things, in my never humble opinion, that Teens should be dealing with. Because “Going Out” seems so universally to imply The Boyfriend-Girlfriend thing, if a Boy and Girl have plans for a Friday Evening and are NOT in a Committed (or Exclusive) Relationship, I think that they should say “So-and-so and I are GOING ON A DATE this Friday”, instead of using the phrase “Going Out this Friday”.

Boyfriend / Girlfriend – These terms should be used IF AND ONLY IF the couple has AGREED that they are Boyfriend and Girlfriend; that requires a conversation. Simply because he asked you on a Date does not make him your Boyfriend, nor does her holding your hand and kissing you goodnight at the door make her your Exclusive Girl Friend. She needs to realize he still has the option of asking out other girls, and he needs to realize that a girl who smooches him with no commitment may just as well smooch someone else tomorrow. And, YES, both of those scenarios are true both ways.

Cheating – You can’t cheat if there’s no commitment, but Teens (and YSAs) should realize that many people World Wide view things like Kissing as a Commitment, so be careful that you’re not doing things that will give the person you’re with the wrong impression. Also, and this is Very Important, Physical Intimacy (and I mean ALL OF IT, Kissing, Hugging, Holding Hands, Rubbing Noses, Sex, Whatever) is NOT what makes a Relationship a Commitment. You should never Require (or Be Required to participate in) Physical Intimacy as a form of solidifying a relationship. A Committed Relationship is in the Head and in the Heart; it’s a Specifically Communicated Thing. Get it?

(Readers: I'd love your comments on the Vocabulary. I'll post it on the FaceBook Fan Page in a couple days. I invite you to be part of the Discussion there as well)

As for your specific situation, Forced, if you REALLY live in an area where someone is going to cause you physical harm because you go out with a different boy once a month, then it’s best to hold off on going on Dates until you’re older or living in a safer area. No one, girl or guy, should go on a Date that will cause them fear of physical harm.

However, I suspect that the better solution to your problem is Communication.

Communicate your Beliefs and Standards to your friends, classmates and potential dates. Let them know why you want to wait until you’re older to have a serious Boyfriend. Explain to them that you believe that Going on a Date is a Fun, Casual, Get to Know You Better Activity and does not necessarily imply a commitment of any kind.

You’re not going to get physically intimate with your dates, right? Well your friends, classmates and potential dates should know that.

It’s not “Cheating”, dear Forced (and Other Readers) if there’s no commitment; implied, verbalized or otherwise.

Hopefully you’ll be able to discern who your real friends are, and those that respect you and your beliefs will be true friends indeed.

Start by talking to one or two good friends, even if they’re supportive of the Boyfriend-Girlfriend culture, telling them that while you’re not judging them, you don’t want to be judged either. You may find that they LIKE your Standards and Perspective.

- Bro Jo

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Good Dates

Dear Bro Jo,

I have been 16 for almost a month now. I have a good social network, and know many great guys, have good gal friends, and love to hang out with all of them. However, the whole dating thing is confusing and unknown to me!


I have sort of set my dating standards, etc. My problem is: I am friends with all age groups, including those who are 19. I really want to start off dating members in my age group. I have had a crush on a guy from my ward for over a year (and... The whole ward knows it haha), amazing guy, kind, sweet, strong priesthood holder, talented, etc. Problem is, he is too shy and quiet and is not too into girls yet.

And now I also like another 16-year old from my ward (only this guys sister who is one of my friends knows and she approves) who is an athletic, outgoing, social, good priesthood holder and he has much more... Experience (he has already had 2 exclusive girlfriends and is a puppy love kind of guy, but I danced with him at the last tri-stake dance and he said- after he broke up with his 2nd nonmember girlfriend- that he has decided exclusive dating/ HS relationships are over rated, so he is now back to the church suggestions for 16 yr old dating).

BUT THEY WONT ASK ME (and I have hinted... Would it be tacky to ask

Here are my dilemmas:

#1: What is your opinion on dating within a ward? I mean, you spend
SOO much time with these guys because of seminary, church, mutual, etc. I
would love to date those I know well, makes a date more comfortable.

#2: The people who have asked me out are not the ones I want to date... Yet. Don't get me wrong, they are not bad kids, but they are just not, well I don't know. For example, a 19 year old who is a friend of mine from my old HS just asked me out. I politely said no thanks and explained how I was not comfortable with dating some one that much older than me. Do you think it would be best to date those who are members? (I kind of feel that way - but that's hard due to a low member concentration, my parents are fine either way)

#3: I actually really like the idea of not exclusively dating. At
MINIMUM 1 or 2 guys in between before going out with the same guy again.
However, it is EXTREAMLY difficult in an area where the Mormon concentration
is LOW. Non members have a hard time understanding our dating standards. They tend to label people who go out with a different person every other week as shallow. Now,
I could care less what people with low moral standards who don't know me well think, but still, it is not a good label to have in HS no matter how good a person one may actually be.

#4: I love your basic guideline for teen dating. GREATLY appreciated! As a teenager, we are always trying to come up with fun, inexpensive dates. I think you should make a list of great teen dates. (oh hey, what is your opinion on Movie theater dates? I think they kind of defeat the purpose of a date because you can’t talk, but I think they could be fun once and a while) Oh and also, some good suggestions on what to talk about to keep the date conversations alive and interesting.

PS: at church, in Young women's one day, the bishops 2nd councilor spoke to
us on dating. He told us the rule he set fro his daughters. It was called PAD. Personal Space, Alone, Dark. Never have two of them together, and you will be at less of a risk! :D

a Daughter of God

Dear Little Sister,

I love the PAD concept! So what you’re saying is that a girl can have someone invade their Personal Space, as long as she’s not Alone with him or in the Dark; or She can be in the Dark so long as she’s neither Alone with a Guy or Having her Personal space invaded; or that she can be Alone with a Guy if they’re not in the Dark or Invading each other’s Personal Space; is that right?

(I’m tempted to change the word “Alone” to “Affection” . . . but I digress)

It’s good that you’re hinting, but I’ve got to tell you that many of us guys (Bro Jo included) are quite . . . slow.

A “hint” may just not be direct enough. I’ve written a few columns on how a Girl Can Get a Boy to Ask her Out, and posted some suggestions on the “Dear Bro Jo” Facebook Fan Page. (It’s free, and you can jump right to the now by clicking on this paragraph).

One item from that note that may help you the most is to just Say It: “So, when are you going to ask me out?”

You need to remember that we guys can be terrified that you’ll reject us. A straight-forward invitation will go a long way towards building our confidence.

But don’t get in the habit of asking guys out unless it’s a special event, like a Girl-Ask-Guy Dance. (In my school we still called it “Sadie Hawkins”, after a character in an old Comic Strip. At the High School here in Bozeman they call it TWIRP, which stands for The Woman Is Required to Pay. I think having one or two of these type of events a year is healthy for Young Men and Young Women, but I think the Dating Rules still need to apply).

To address you dilemmas:

#1) I agree: the first place for guys and girls to look for Dates (both the casual ones when you’re 16 and the Serious ones when you’re 22) is within your own ward. Those are the people you know best, and you’re right: a little familiarity can help. I’ve had some teens express concern about the gossip that may happen (or potential hurt feelings) when dates happen within your circle of friends. I think those are legitimate concerns, but easily overcome when dates are frequent, Casual, in Groups, and the we adhere to the concepts of “everyone deserves to go out” and “don’t date the same person until you’ve gone out with 2+ other people”.

#2) Your parents are right: I see no problem dating non-members when you’re Casual Dating Age so long as you stick to the rules, stick to your standards, and don’t go out with guys that scare you or make you uncomfortable. In general I agree with the standard that a girl should go out with any boy that asks, but I do make exceptions. No girl should put herself in a situation where she feels unsafe.

#3) I understand. Where I live High School Guys that go out with a different girl every weekend (or every time they go out) are called “Players”, implying that they’re not good guys, and only after one thing; which, in the case of LDS Guys that are trying to follow the rules and be good guys, is not the case. As Latter-day Saints we should be used to people talking about us in ways that aren’t true. I know that doesn’t make High School Life easier, but we’ll be much happier if we stop allowing the opinions of others to dictate our happiness. Let’s be candid: anyone, LDS or not, who takes the time out of their life to put down another person is really acting out of jealousy. The Best Thing we can do in those situations, I think, is to talk to the rumor spreaders One-on-one; tell them why we date the way we do, testify that it’s Good and Fun, and invite them to join you on your next group date.

#4) I love movies, and I think they can be a fine date if they’re followed by Conversation Time afterwards. Going to a movie together can give us Something-in-common to talk about, which can be a great catalyst towards finding out the thoughts, feelings and opinions of the person we’re with. You make a very good point about movies defeating the purpose of getting to know each other, so I say after the film go get an ice cream and have a chat.

You’ve asked for two lists, both of which have been somewhat addressed in previous letters, but let’s see if I come up with the same stuff as before. Here you go!


• Anything Outdoors
o Hiking
o Strolling
o Skating (Ice and Roller)
o Biking
o Frisbee
o Croquet (I like this if you add the X-game factor by changing the location from your house to somewhere exotic, like the Beach or Mountains)
o Photography Scavenger Hunt
o Play a Game like Tag, Basketball, Kickball or whatever (great for groups of 4+ couples – just don’t flirt with someone else’s date – that’s pretty low)

• Food
o Picnic (maybe you include shopping for the picnic items)
o Cooking together at someone’s home*
o BBQ (again, perhaps at a random location, like

• Service
o Any well-organized Service Activity can be up-lifting and rewarding

• Affordable Events
o Sports (instead of Professionals, go watch Little League or Middle School)
o Concerts and Plays in the Park
o Festivals

• Take a Class, like a Dance Class or something offered by the local rec. center

* On these Dates you should combine them with something that takes you Out of the Home, or it won’t feel much like a Date, it will feel too much like Hanging Out – NOT ADVISED!


• School. Classes, Teachers, Triumphs and Tragedies.

• Family - The One You’ve Got Now and the One You’d Like Later

• Church – Talks, Conferences, Activities

• Friends - Not individuals as much as “what makes a good friend” and “what do you like to do with your friends

• Music - what do they like, dislike.

• Any other personal interests – sports, movies, books,

The Key to keeping the Conversation Going is to Ask Questions about the Other Person, and Listen to what you’re asked and answer thoughtfully. Be careful not to Gossip; it’s tempting, and right or wrong we feel better about ourselves when we talk about others, but it really is unattractive.

This list is really very similar to Bro Jo’s “LIST OF STUFF YOUNG GUYS CAN ASK GIRLS WHILE DANCING”

I wouldn’t worry about not having too many dates in the first couple months after you turn 16; it can take a while, especially if the boys in your area need some “How to Date” Training.

Hang in there and have fun!

- Bro Jo

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Best Opening Line

Hey Bro Jo,

First of all I would like to thank you for all the help you are giving us all. I have read many of your posts and they are very helpful.

Intro: I am 15 years old, turning 16 this summer. My family and I recently (last summer) moved to Montreal, Quebec - Canada. This is the French part of Canada. I’ve been English educated my whole life and I’ve recently started learning French. As you may know, French girls are usually very attractive.

Anyways that was just a little brief.

My problem: I have a tendency of being very shy when it comes to confronting a girl I do not know. I’ve been having this problem ever since I moved here. I usually go out with like my classmates or my friends from school because they’re easier to get to know.

A couple of weeks ago, I was returning from a party and I was in a city bus returning to downtown Montreal (that’s where I live). At first, I was alone in the bus then 2 guys entered at one of the stops, one sat in the far end of the bus and the other sat a couple of rows in front of me. The seating layout is: 2 main columns facing the front of the bus (that’s where I was sitting) and the first row has a single seat facing the side of the bus (usually it’s a restricted seat of seniors, pregnant ladies or injured people but at night it doesn’t apply).

Then after 2 stops, we reached an area with a lot of clubs and a hot girl enters alone and sits in the single seat facing the side of the bus. I usually don’t like rating girls but she was like a 9 out of 10. She looks older than me but not by much; Blond hair and blue eyes.

So throughout the ride, I noticed her looking at me. She would turn to look at me many times. She would look at me in a way that she was checking me out. So I keep telling myself to go up to her and talk to her, but being a shy guy, I didn’t.

So I was a few stops away from my stop, so I got up and stood by the bus door (which is also in front of her) to get ready to go out and I noticed she was looking at me again. I really didn’t know what to do, or what to say. So I end up leaving, until this day, I regret it and I feel sooo bad!

I had a few similar encounters like this.

I worry that if she turns out being French and I won’t be able to talk to her and that would embarrass me in front of her and in front of the others around.

What are the best ways to go up to a girl and what are the best openers/intros. How can I end up switching numbers? Wow . . .I just realized that I really need some help!

I hope you can get back to me as soon as possible so i can overcome my problems.

Thanks in advance!

Anthony K.

Dear Anthony,

Wow, bro, that’s a lot of teen angst in just one letter!

Stop worrying about talking to someone and not being able to speak the language; consider it Missionary Practice. The problem is that you’re hanging WAY TOO MUCH importance on this one conversation. Montreal is approaching 2 Million people, if you blow it with one girl there are sure to be other opportunities.

That said, you need to cool your jets a little there, Casanova. Take a run; take a cold shower; take a break. If you were a 24-year old Return Missionary I might chide you for not dating more, but you just turned 16! - (or will soon) – you don’t have to hit on every girl you see.

Yes, it’s a good idea to develop those social skills, including introducing yourself to new people, and Yes, once you’re 16 you should start Casual-Group Dating, but worry less about befriending every “hot” girl in Quebec.

The best opening line, in ANY situation, at any age is “Hi, my name is . . . “

That’s it, bud. It’s no more complicated than that. You don’t have to come up with anything suave or dazzling or clever. Just introduce yourself.

For you it may be “Bonjour, je m’apelle Anthony”.

If that’s all the French you’ve got, then have a good laugh about your ignorance and see if the sweet little sister can teach you a few words and phrases.

At the very least, perhaps you’ll be motivated to learn the language.

I’ll give you one more, though I better not get complaint letters from every belle in Canada because of you.

“Quel est son numéro de téléphone?”

(and, by all means, by French Speaking friends, feel free to correct my vocabulary and grammar)

Oh, and Anthony, "De rien!".

Dear Bro Jo,

You're right, I should relax a bit. Thanks for the advice.

BTW, where did you learn French from?

And i have one more question if you don't mind, how can I approach a girl if shes with a group of friends (group having boys and girls, or just girls)?

Dear Anthony,

Sister Jo took some French in High School and College, the rest is either self-taught or via the internet.

If you're interested in a girl who you spy socializing as part of a group you do know, then you go up and say "hi" and ask to be introduced.

If she's part of a group and you don't know anyone else in the group, but you're at a dance, you go up and ask her to dance.

If she's part of a group you don't know, and there's no "dance-like" excuse to cull her from the herd, then you either need to

a) catch her alone

b) go up to the group with several buddies and make it One Big Group, thus allowing you to meet her, then you can try to talk to just her

or c) come up with a great line that will get her to leave the group and come talk to you.

"C" is NOT a beginner's move; very difficult to do with out coming across like a jerk or obnoxious. It takes a lot of confidence, and a lot of practice (which means that you should expect it to NOT WORK . . . a lot!) You could be bold and walk right up to the entire group, ignoring them and looking only at her and say "excuse me, but I have an important message for you; can I speak to you privately for a moment" (which I HAVE pulled off), but, as I said, the potential for burning in flames is very high.

For now, I'd stick to A or B.

- Bro Jo

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Clearing Up the "Men and Women Can't Be Friends" Concept

Dear Readers,

The following was left as a comment on one of my columns where I mentioned (yet again) my belief that, other than Husbands and Wives, Men and Women "Can't Be Friends".

I know this is a concept that drives some of you, particularly Young and Young Single Adult Women, into furious frustration . . .

But I'm not wrong.

At least not on this one.

For the Original Letter, Clik Here.

The Comment, then my response, follows.

Dear Bro Jo,

Sorry to say this Bro Jo, but how do you get off telling all your readers that guys and girls cannot be friends? This is completely untrue and is very unhelpful advice. I personally have many friends of the opposite sex and I am most certainly not dating them. And all of my friends are the same. What on earth is your motivation here? Would you have girls only be friends with girls and boys with boys, only spending time with the opposite gender when romatically involved? Because that is utterly absurd!

- Anonymous

Dear Anonymous,

It’s too bad you’ve written your comment anonymously, because we clearly need to chat.

First and foremost, let me say that my “motivation” is to help people, particularly LDS Teens and YSAs, by giving them my opinions on relationships and how people behave. I’m not always right, but I don’t lie. I do my best to stay true to the teachings of the LDS Church and her Prophets with out being too “Churchy”. I rarely quote Scriptures, Church Leaders and Conference Talks in this column because there’s a wealth of that already available. I tell it to you straight, as I see it, and hold nothing back, although I do try to inject a little humor because I believe that laughter is very healing. You may not like what I say, or how I say it, but I have to stay true to who I am.

I understand why you’re confused. In this Day and Age we toss around the word “Friend” and use it as a blanket statement to cover many different kinds of relationships. But that’s not how I’m using the word in this context.

I tell my readers that Guys and Girls can’t “just be friends” because, well . . . It IS True, whether you want to hear it or not, whether you agree or not. If you would take the time to READ what I’m saying instead of being so quick to get defensive, you might learn something and, frankly, this is a lesson you seem to NEED to Learn.

Let me walk you backwards through the concept.

As I define it, and as I have defined it here so often, a Friend is someone you can have lunch One-on-One with, that you can Buddy-up and Go to a Movie, that you can hang out with, that you can tell personal things to.

Can a man who is married have that kind of friendship with a woman who is not his wife? Should he?

How would my wife feel if I was going to dinner with some other woman, especially if she was very beautiful? If this other woman and I “hung out” and talked all the time?

Even if nothing physical ever happened between the other woman and I, even if I claimed to “just be friends”, at the Very Least I would be hurting my wife’s feelings. My wife would have to be thinking “what is he getting from this other relationship that he’s not getting from me? Anything a husband does that makes his wife feel that way is unkind, at the very least.

And that principle works both ways.

So then people say “Yes, but that’s only true for married people!”

Not so.

Even if neither person is in an alternate relationship, quality time spent between a man and a woman invariably must end in one of two ways. Either they will end up together, or the friendship will dissolve (or at least be put on hold) when one of them ends up in a relationship with someone else.

Surely you’ve seen this: Guy meets Girl; Guy is excited about Girl; Guy spends much less time with his friends. If Guy and Girl break up then Guy tries to get his friends back, at least until he meets another Girl.

And, again, it works both ways.

There’s one more thing that you, and ALL GIRLS need to understand. No Man would spend Massive Quantities of Time with a Woman he wasn’t attracted to. Now maybe that’s because we’re wired to . . . well, wired as Men; and maybe it’s because we’re shallow; or maybe it’s because of some other reason, but you need to know that even if we tell you we have no interest in you, that’s probably just a lie to get you to drop your guard and spend more time with us.

Let me be clear: You have NO GUY “FRIENDS”. What you have are several guys in your life who are either interested in someday having a relationship with you or using you until a Better Girl comes along. You’re their safety net, and may continue to be nothing more than that so long as you continue to allow them to label you in that way.

Is that why my opinion bothers you so much?

Is your head spinning trying to analyze your “friendships”?

Are you refusing to admit that you’ve misjudged Men and how they think of Women, in particularly You?

Now, I will capitulate that Boys and Girls can be friends, at least until either of them grows enough hormones to be Sexually Attracted to the Opposite Sex.

So maybe that’s your case. Maybe you and your friends have not yet reached puberty.

But I doubt it.

I should tell you that post-pubescent girls who get indignant about my opinion on this ALL suffer from the same malady: they’re not ready to accept their own attractiveness. They have this (in my opinion) misguided belief that if a Man finds them Exciting that he won’t also value their other fine qualities; now THAT’S Absurd (although sometimes true).

You can be friendly with whomever you want, I don’t really care. But you’d be wise to listen when I tell you that any guy that purports to be a Close Friend and spends Tons of Time with You is Interested in You on Some Level, even if he doesn’t know it or won’t admit it.

Beyond that you can be:

Fellow Parishioners

and you can even be Friendly.

But that’s not the same.

I have may Facebook “Friends”, most of whom are probably women, and we occasionally “chat”, but tonight I’m going on a Date with my Wife. We’ll go to Dinner, Hold Hands, she’ll take me by the arm, and we’ll talk a lot. And she’s the only woman in my life that will be treated that way.

She’s my Best Friend.

And I hope that some day a Good Man will become your Husband for Time and All Eternity. When that happens he will be your Best Friend, and you’ll be his, and no other friendship will even come close.

- Bro Jo

Friday, June 19, 2009

Should He Marry Girl #1 or Girl #2?

Dear Bro Jo,

I don’t want my Name to be shown or my e-mail ether.

I am 31 years old; I am an African who came to study in Canada but presently in France on exchange.

I came from a Christian home. Before I left my Country for my Post graduate study, I was in a relationship with a Girl who really loved me, and I loved her too. We both planned to get married. Along the line she disappointed me by sleeping with someone.

I kept her for 4 years after this whole stuff. I forgave her just because I love her.

So I left for Canada and while I was there she misbehaved again and we stopped communication and we ended it all.

After which I gave another girl a chance just because I know this girl appreciates me. She love me, and she wanna be with me but I never loved her. Just because I was with someone immediately, myself and my ex broke up.

I gave this (new) girl a chance. She is too Good; too Nice, too caring and she wanted to live with me all her life. She calls me from Africa everyday. I introduced her to my Family already but . . . I don’t LOVE her.

So I have 3 questions (because my ex is calling me and begging me again)

(1) I was thinking, if I marry the girl that loves me I may not find fulfillment / happiness in my marriage (or I might love her later) because I have tried for one year. The love is not coming as a woman I want to marry but she has really, really, really helped me.

(2) I was thinking if I get marry to my ex that keeps hurting me she might continue to hurt my marriage life because she feels I will continue to forgive her.

(3)Should I just look for a Neutral person I will love and forget 2 of them?

Please advice me.

What should I do?

- Your Brother

Dear Broer,

(Readers, that’s Afrikaans for “Brother”)

If I publish your letter, I promise to not show your name or email.

1) My question is: why don't you love the New Girl?

2) DO NOT Marry your Ex! I promise she'll cheat on you again. Even if she doesn't, you'll never fully trust her again, and you can't build a relationship without trust.

3) Yeah, my gut instinct is that you should find someone else.

- Bro Jo

Dear Sir,

I really appreciate your respond and I feel very happy to receive from you;

More-so I sent the mail before I get to know that you are my church Member because I got baptized in the church in France in the year 2007, Dec 16th, So I am a full time member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Later-day Saints.

More-so, I don’t know why I don’t love the Girl. She is just too nice I don’t know what to do but maybe socially since not too okay for me, and she s not as beautiful as I want.

Academically she is not too sound and I feel Bad about all of this and other stuffs too but she is too Good to me.

- Vriend

My Friend,

Congratulations on your Baptism!

I went through something similar. I dated a girl that was smart, beautiful, fun, and a very good person. She treated me well, but I just wasn't "In Love". I never came up with a great reason why, although while I do believe that there’s more than one person out there for each of us, not Everyone can marry Anyone . . .

The next girl I seriously dated is the woman we now call "Sister Jo", so it all worked out!

If you don't Love her you owe it to her, and to you, to move on. You'll find someone, I promise! Just keep looking and keep dating!

But let me tell you that finding a woman that treats you well is WAY MORE IMPORTANT in my book than Beauty or Test Scores.

The "not as beautiful as I want" line is pretty superficial, Broer. Yes, it's important to be attracted to the person you marry, if you're going to fall In Love you're going to have to look a lot deeper than that. Temporal Beauty fades, but Spiritual Beauty lasts for Eternity.

That's a fact.

- Bro Jo

Thursday, June 18, 2009

"Do's and Don'ts for YSAs", "What YSAs Can Do on Dates" and "The Levels of a Relationship"

Dear Bro Jo,

First I want to thank you for the wonderful advice I have found here.

I have been home off my mission for almost two years now, I have got a degree and purchased a home, and now I am now ready to find the special one.

However, I have found that everything about dating has changed. It seems I am stuck in this "high school dating for fun" routine and I do not know how to progress it any further.

I was hopping you would give some "Do's and Don'ts" and "What to do on a date" suggestion similar to the ones for pre-mission/high school articles you have already written, expect geared toward young single adults.

I have a few particular questions as well:

When do you get serious about a relationship?

What does getting serious even mean?

What are the different levels of a relationship as it progress toward marriage?


-Little Baffled

Dear Baffled,

Happy to! (I’ll give it my best shot)


DO – Date One-on-One. You asked for it, now you’re old enough that it’s OK.

DON’T - Group Date. We have you do that when you’re kids for safety and morality reasons. You’re old enough to do the right thing; you need to get to know Her, not Her Friends.

DO – Go out Every Weekend. It’s like a Job, Bubba, you need to put in the hours if you expect to succeed. You don’t have to spend a lot of money, but you need to be out of the apartment.

(Seriously, if you’re reading this and you don’t have a date lined up for the next three weekends, stop right now and pick up the phone and make some dates. Don’t read another word until you’ve got something lined up. I mean it. Stop reading. I’ll still be here. Go. Go now.)

DON’T – “Hang Out”. Hanging out is for Losers. (OK, all you über sensitive readers can RELAX – I’m not saying you’re losers, just that “Hanging Out” is.) Sisters, if guys are hanging out at your place, tell them to take you to dinner or GO THE HECK HOME!

DO – Get over your Fears and Meet New People. Names, phone numbers, email addresses, and a little bit about them.

DON’T - ever go to a YSA (or SA) Conference without meeting some potential new dates (unless you’re there with a date). If you do, you’ve wasted your time (OK, again, RELAX – yes, you’ll be Spiritually Fed by the Experience, but if you don’t work towards finding someone you’ll be very full and alone).

DO – go to every Church function you can. Conferences, Sacrament Meetings (no rule that says you can only go to one service per Sunday), Dances, Mixers, Meetings, Institute Classes . . . all of it.

DON’T – sit at home thinking Mr. or Miss Right is going to come to you. You’ve got to get out there.

DO – Still stick to the rules of “Plan, Pickup and Pay” and Not Going Parking.

DON’T – answer your cell phone or text anyone while on the date. You shouldn’t even take your technology with you. Seriously, what could you possibly need this stuff for? It’s rude and distracting. You’re out on a Date with a Person, not a machine.

DO – everything you can to be the type of person the Opposite Sex is going to like. Study Hard, Pray Fervently, Read Religiously, Eat Right and Work Out. Be Happy and Be Fun,

DON’T - be Insulting, Holier than Thou or Too Judgmental. People want to spend eternity with someone that will make them feel better, not bum them out.

DO – go to the Temple, if you can. You’ll need all the inspiration you can get.

DON’T – use the Temple as a Date, until after you’re married. Then Dates to the Temple are AWESOME!

DO – Continue to Better Yourself. Education, Job Training, something to improve your station in life.

DON’T – be involved with Pornography. It will mess up your mind and distort your perceptions of Love and Sex. If you’re addicted now, and statistically many of you are, get to the Bishop right away.

DO – be clean. In Mind, in Body, and in Spirit.

And . . . .

Especially if you’re in college, your funds can be pretty limited. Here’s a short list of:


(Dates That are Cheap to Free, without being a Cheapskate)

· Outdoor Video Party – Rent a Movie, bring the Laptop, run an Extension Chord - remember that Old Movies rent for less and many can be found for free at Libraries (or borrowed from friends)

· Walks, Hikes, and Bike Rides

· Go to an Event – I like Movies, but you can also go to Sporting Events (college students get in to their school sports events CHEAP), concerts (many are Free in the Park in the Summer), and Community Festivals (don’t think every date has to be after dark)

· Food – always a Top Choice. Picnics are great!

· Play a game. Board Games (Sister Jo and I used to play Chess, a lot), Catch, Tennis, Handball – the key is to Get Out – so change the location. Try Monopoly in the Library!

· Go to a place. Take a drive, roller blade, etc. (Sister Jo and I went on LOT'S of Drives)

· Museums, Art Galleries, Home Shows, Boat Shows, County Fairs, Gun Shows (No, not flexing your muscles Dwight.)

· Check out a Kids’ Event. One of the Best Dates Sister Jo and I had was when we went to a Pee-wee Hockey Game. It was free to get in and it got us talking about kids and parenting . . . Middle School kids sports and plays and concerts are often free to attend, and tons of fun. Plus, when you get married and have lots of kids, trust me, you’re going to be going to a lot of that stuff.

· Fly a kite.

· Do some Service. You may not think asking a girl to help you mow an elderly neighbor’s yard is romantic, but there’s something that can happen when we work together to help others. Go for Ice-cream or a Slushy afterwards. Want to find out what this person will be like with kids? Babysit for a Young Couple that has little children. Do it for free and learn a ton.

There’s more, but you get the basic idea.

As to your questions . . .

The time to start getting serious about dating is when your ready for marriage. For girls that should be sometime shortly after graduating High School, and for boys it should be a couple days after the Stake President Releases you as a Missionary. Now I realize that formula doesn’t work for everyone, but that’s my general guideline.

If your question is more an issue of “at what point does a relationship BECOME serious”, that’s a touch different. To answer that, let’s tackle the 2nd at the same time.

“Serious” to my mind means “Exclusive and Progressing forward towards Marriage”.

Does that explain why I don’t advocate “Serious Dating” in High School?

So many of you Young People think that you can be “Exclusive” without “Progressing Towards Marriage”, hoping to “take it slow”, or somehow “put the breaks on” or Put a Bookmark in the relationship.

Once a couple is “exclusive”, by definition the relationship moves, even if very slowly. The couple either moves closer together, or moves further apart – sometimes back and forth, closer, then farther, then closer, then farther – no relationship plateaus for very long. That’s also a reflection of what marriage is like. Sister Jo and I are Best Friends, but that doesn’t mean that we always agree or get a long. We support each other and present a United Front to the Jo Kids, but sometimes much debate is involved; and sometimes either (or both) if us needs a little space.

“Serious” means that you’re Boyfriend and Girlfriend. It means you’re not going out with anyone else and neither is she.

Some people elevate a relationship to Serious Status with a conversation. You both discuss that neither of you has any interest in dating anyone else, or at the very least confess that neither of you IS dating anyone else. In a lot of places a guy actually asks a girl to be the Girlfriend (and, yes, I’ve heard that this goes both ways). Mostly the Boyfriend-Girlfriend conversation happens with kids under 18.

(I only ever actually asked 2 girls to commit to a serious relationship: Maria my 5th grade girlfriend – for about a week – who I asked to “Go with Me” – that’s what we called it, which was very lame because we weren’t actually “going” anywhere; and the Future Sister Jo – that was a Marriage Proposal)

For many the “Serious” status is just implied. You’re together so gosh darn much they couldn’t possibly be seeing anyone else (or so you think – been burned by that assumption once or twice myself).

I don’t think you have to say “will you be my Girlfriend”, but I don’t think you should assume, either. Be a Man: have the discussion. “Hey, I really like spending time with you. I want you to know that I’m not seeing anyone else”.

And you don’t. It’s just her until either you break it off, she breaks it off (which requires another discussion) or you’re in the Temple and making some Serious Covenants. You break those and, well buddy . . . you’re on your own. I award you no points, and may God have Mercy on Your Soul.

I don’t know that I’ve ever tackled your last question, so what you’re about to read may have to be considered a Work in Progress.


1) The Introduction – Boy Meets Girl

2) The Get to Know You Better Conversation(s) – Chatting and Flirting to gage interest

3) The 1st Date – And so it begins – Good Luck, Chuck!

4) The 2nd Date – Confirmation that the 1st Date was not a Total Disaster, and there must be something there

5) The 3rd Date – you both either have nothing better to do, or things are beginning to develop

6) Continued Dating – we call this the “Falling in Love” stage

7) The “Serious” Conversation – now you both confess it’s just the two of you

8) More Dating – this is where you had better be talking about actually Hopes, Goals and Dreams: How many kids? Where do you want to raise them? How would you like to spend your Retirement Years and How are you going to get there?

9) Marriage becomes a Topic of Conversation – not just in general, but to each other

10) Meeting Each Others Families (if you haven’t already) – Formally (this might be the time to ask for the Blessing of Her Parents)

11) The Proposal

12) The Engagement

13) The Sealing

14) The Honeymoon

15) More Dating (never stop Courting and Dating your spouse – it’s essential)

The time from 1-13 is going to vary greatly, but my personal recommendation is that from 11-13 take 3 months or less.

Readers, what do you think?

- Bro Jo

PS : Readers don’t get caught thinking that you have to complete your degree, get the career going and buy a home before you go looking for a spouse. You may miss out on a lot of great potential spouses if you put off marriage for worldly pursuits. That's not just Bro Jo, that's the Prophets talking.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

All Hands on Deck

Hey Bro Jo,

I’m sending this question as it’s been bugging for me awhile: what is classed appreciable for friends (e.g. young men and young women)?

I’m confused about this as apparently some people (our ward’s Bishopric) have said hugging is wrong, or at least something YM and YW shouldn’t do till they are at the dating age apparently, which I find almost laughable as it is a greeting in my ward and the said Bishopric haven’t given any real reasons for us not to hug other than, its wrong and inappropriate.

If you could expand their lack it would be great!

-Annoyed and confused-

Dear Annoyed,

First of all I think you should lighten up on that Bishopric a little. In addition to having families and jobs (and lives), most Bishoprics put 20+ hours a week into their callings – each – with the Bishop often putting in much more time than that. While you’re sleeping in on Sunday morning these guys are up and at Church meetings. If you sustain them in their callings, which you should, you need to recognize the Bishop’s ability to receive revelation on behalf of his Ward – it’s not his responsibility to explain everything to you; it’s your responsibility to follow a man called of God.

By your explanation, it sounds like your Bishopric is OK with all teens over 16 hugging to their heart’s content. If that’s true (which I doubt) then the only reason you’d have a problem with that council is if you’re either under 16 and would like a little more hugging, or over 16 and desperately want to hug some Beehives and Mia Maids. Either way I say “slow down, Mr. Octopus!” - there’s plenty of time for hugging later.

You may want to consider that your Bishopric sees more hugging going on than is appropriate for you pre-dating aged kids, and if you and your friends view Full-body Physical Contact (as some hugs are) as “no big deal” and a “typical greeting” in your ward, you’re well advised to knock it off!


Because if you guys are that touchy-feely when you’re just seeing each other at Church, what will be happening when you’re older and going on Dates?

Here’s another possibility – maybe your Bishopric is telling you Young Men to do less Hugging because you’re Bothering the Young Women, and if they don’t get you to stop one of you (probably You Specifically) is going to get punched by a girl who feels the need to defend her personal space.

Don’t get me wrong. I like hugging - When and Where it’s appropriate.

Now, “Dear Bro Jo” is read around the globe, so I recognize that not all cultures view all contact the same way, but everywhere I’ve been, and every culture I’ve talked to, has a line that needs to be drawn when it comes to appropriate physical contact. (And I think all of You Readers know where that line is)

My Brother, let me suggest to you that girls will find you MORE attractive if you become a little more Exclusive in your physical contact. Just like Kissing and Holding Hands (and everything else physical), Hugging is more special if it’s limited.

I know that when a guy hits a certain age (not the same age for every guy, mind you) that the hormonal desire to Touch Girls can be, well . . . Quite Powerful! Not all of us deal with this in the same way, but if you’ve become one of those guys that can’t seem to keep his hands and arms to himself, hugging and touching every girl in sight, you need to know that MANY girls find that to be REALLY OBNOXIOUS. (You may not be as "annoyed" as you are "annoying")

My advice?

Play it cool.

Save the affection for later.

- Bro Jo

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

When a Good Guy Goes Bad

Dear Brother Jo,

I know a boy that I've liked since last school year, but he has changed a whole lot because of some new friends he has made. He's not the same person I became friends with and has definitely lowered some of his standards. It hurts to see him do that, and I just want to get it into his head that what he's doing is dumb; but then, I understand you can't make a person listen to you by yelling at them.

I've tried to become better friends with him by sharing what common interests we still have and getting to know him more, but doing so gives me reasons not to like him. My problem is: I'm still attracted to him! Maybe it's because I still see what he once was, and my eyes are blinded by infatuation. I don't want to make it all sound like he's a total bad person--'cus he's not!

In ways, he has changed for the better. His priorities and focus are just blurred. When he talks to me sometimes, when all the tension of school/friends is gone, the person I love as a friend is still in there. I just want him to make better decisions for himself and remember that he holds the Priesthood--not owns it.

I don't know what to do--as a friend and girl who is attracted to a boy--to make him realize this. These things are mostly 'unsaid', but are still there. There are also a lot of things that I can do better, I have to admit. There is mutual attraction between us, and I sometimes get myself emotionally involved (to my frustration and annoyance). Although this is evident, some of his actions bring me to reality that we don't have any "ties''. From my point of view, he flirts a lot and can be fickle. But then I have to remember that he's just a 14 year old boy and we're not even 16 yet.

My mind is really just confused by his actions and what he says--and they say girls are confusing! I don't know why I still like him when he's making bad judgments and decisions; I know it is wrong to like someone like this (well, to me it is). As the saying goes:
“You marry who you date!" Of course I'm not dating him, but attraction leads to that and I don't want to be caught in the wrong. Usually when I meet someone I like that later does something to sour my views of them, my liking vanishes immediately; but for some reason I find myself holding on way too long this time, which is so unlike me.

Do you have any advice??

--A caring friend and infatuated GIRL

Dear Infatuated,

Hurts you? How do you think Heavenly Father feels when we lower our standards???

I think one

However, my bigger concern here is not the Boy that’s not Living up to Standards, its YOU. You’re only 14! WAY TOO YOUNG to be this hung up on anybody. You’re absolutely correct when you call yourself “infatuated”, but Vizzini, that word you keep using, I do not think it means what you think it means.

Let me help you put this together. This boy:

1) has made some bad friends
2) when you try to share common interests with him you like him less
3) he flirts a lot and is fickle
4) he makes bad judgments and decisions

Argue all you want, the only thing you seem to have left is Raw Physical Attraction, which, frankly, just ain’t enough in my book. So, as potential future dates and boyfriends go (which both you and I realize is a few years away, anyway) he’s just not qualified to be on the top of your list.

Don’t you see? It’s not just him that’s lowering standards, you are too.

Before you become of Dating Age, you need to address this compulsion you have to be attracted to guys that aren’t good for you, guys that you see as “projects”.

You’re not alone. It’s a compulsion that many women have. They date, even marry, guys thinking that they can “Change” them.

Maybe we are who we date. Maybe not. I don’t like the idea of defining yourself (or others) based entirely on whom you (or they) spend time with. Sister Jo and I spend LOTS of time together, but she’s very much her own woman.

I prefer the axiom that “You are who you are when you think no one is watching”. You’ve noticed that this boy acts differently when his “bad” friends aren’t around; I can’t help but wonder who he is when he’s alone?

Anyway, try this one on for size:

“Women marry Men hoping to change them; Men marry Women hoping they won’t change. Both are phenomenally wrong”

The best thing is that you’re realizing at an early age the warning signs and dangers of being attracted guys that are bad for you. So, Infatuated, the real questions are: “Why?” and “How do we prevent it?”

Sister Jo says that some girls date “bad guys” because they’re trying to rebel, to make some statement to their parents. She also says that some girls pick bad guys because they find the “danger” element exciting and attractive. Whatever your reason, I think it’s important that you a) identify it, and b) realize that those relationships just don’t ever seem to work out.

I think you prevent it by raising your own value in your own eyes, and take control of your own destiny. I think many girls date “bad guys” because they convince themselves that they can’t get dates with Good Guys. Realize that you’re a Daughter of God, and as such you deserve to be treated like a Princess and Placed upon a pedestal.

- Bro Jo

Monday, June 15, 2009

Dating While Waiting

Dear Bro Jo,

I finally asked out this girl and she said yes, when we started to plan when we would go on the date it turned out that her schedule was full for the next few months and we couldn't go out for a while. During this time I met another girl that I had thought of asking out. Would it be right of me to ask out the new girl while I wait for the first girl's schedule to clear?

Brother confused.

Dear Brother,

Yeah, you can take out the other girl! You can take out any girl you want, and you should.

However, if you don’t want to hurt the feelings of the First Girl, you should talk to her first. I can’t promise that she won’t Be Hurt, but the Good Guy thing to do is to at least have the conversation.

Just say “Hey, I still want to take you out, but since we’re not seeing each other exclusively (and if you’re pre-RM, you shouldn’t be seeing Anyone Exclusively) I wanted to be upfront and let you know that I am going to go on other dates. Once your schedule clears, let me know, I’d love to set something up”.

The result may be that now she never wants to go out with you, and you may find that she changed her mind and never Really wanted to go out with you in the first place; if either of those is the case, you’re better off moving on.

If she understands, then you’ve picked a good potential date indeed.

It’s true that “Love is Worth Waiting for”, but it’s also true that you shouldn’t sit around doing nothing waiting for something that may or may not ever happen.

- Bro Jo

Friday, June 12, 2009

Love and Respect

Dear Bro Jo,

I've read your answers to so many predicaments and I'd be really grateful if you could take the time to help with mine.

I'm 19 and currently attend university. I have been dating a non-member for about a year and a half. He is the most amazing person. He is 25, he very rarely consumes alcohol (and if he does, only ever in moderation), he has given up smoking, and attends institute and YSA activities more regularly than "active" YSA and has been to church twice (very recently). I have invited him to have the discussions but he is very shy and hates awkward situations and has said "eventually".

We love each other very deeply - we hope to marrry and have a family one day. We hate even being separated from each other. Everyone around us (including my family) can see how we feel about each other and, although they also strongly believe in temple marriage aswell, they think we will get married. We would marry right now except I just hate the thought of not being with him for time and all eternity, not having the priesthood in my home for myself and my children and all of the other complications marrying a non-member would bring! I remember all the lessons and firesides based on temple marriage and I want that so badly!

However, it has come to the point that keeping the Law of Chasity has become a constant issue and even though he is supportive of my beliefs I am ashamed to say I am not strong enough. He would respect my decision if I said no, but the problem is I don't feel bad enough about it because I love him so much.

I hate that I am such a horrible example to him and to others of the Church, that I have ceased to have the spirit with me and have those blessings in my life. I continue to attend all my church meetings - but only physically. I feel spiritually dead and I hate it - but I hate the thought of not being with him. I cannot seem to balance the Lord and the one I love.

I miss the spirit, being worthy to enter the temple, and being at peace with myself. I just don't know how to change our relationship to make everything possible. Is it really true that you cannot have your cake and eat it too?

Please help me - I am torn between my love for this man and my love of my Heavenly Father and his plan for my life, and eternal happiness. I know that the gospel and its teachings will offer me this but I just can't see how without this man in my life. I know there are probably many young men that I could be happy with, but I fear that it would emotionally destroy us both to be parted.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my letter, and I hope that you can offer some inspired words of advice and counsel.

May the Lord always take care of you and your loved ones for looking out for the well-being of his precious sons and daughters.

Dear Young Friend,

Thank you for the kind words! You seem like such a nice person, I hope you won’t chose to be offended when I give it to you straight . . .

Sex is not Love.

It’s great to have sex with someone you love, but there are a multitude of reasons why the Lord has suggested we save that experience until we’re married.

The number one reason that applies here is that it clouds your judgment. The excitement and feelings of Sex keep us from clearly seeing what else is going on.

In your case you’ve got a Boyfriend who’s talked about becoming a member and the Temple and marriage and other things that are clearly VERY important to you, but let me tell you, until they happen, it’s just talk.

Look at how you feel! You’re torn between Heavenly Father’s Plan and a Guy!

Let me give you two pieces of advice.

  1) If you haven’t already, Get Thee to Thy Bishop. He needs to be in the loop and know your struggles, he’s the best equipped to counsel you on what to do.

  2) Test Your Love. You and Your Boyfriend need to Commit to Each other to Stop Having Sex until after you’re married. You can’t Love somebody you Don’t Respect, and You Can’t Respect Someone who’s Doesn’t Respect Themselves, and Anyone who Puts Gratification Before God has no Self Respect. If the two of you can’t master your Sexual Impulses from here until a wedding, then you’re not in Love; you’re in Lust.

If you can do this, second thing one of two things is going to happen. You’ll either discover that he loves you enough to marry you, hopefully joining the Church first and marrying you in the Temple (and You are absolutely right: while part member situations can work, they’re ill advised because of the many blessings that will go missing), or you’ll break up because you’ll discover that the Sex was the only thing keeping you together.

Satan will work very hard on keeping the two of you from being worthy enough to get to the Temple; we’re about to find out how strong you are. 

And ponder this: if you don’t get sealed to this man, if he never holds the Priesthood nor goes to the Temple, your time together will be finite. No Sealing = No Eternity Together. That’s a Spiritual Fact. The moments you have together now will seem like nothing in the grand eternal scheme of things if you’re not Together Forever, not just with each other, but with your children.

Remember that the Lord did not promise that it would be easy, only that it will be worth it.

May the Lord bless you with what you need,

- Bro Jo