Things to know

Regularly read by 50,000+ readers in over 140 countries around the world, "Dear Bro Jo" is published every Monday, Wednesday and Friday (with occasional additional posts, too).

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, Bro Jo is not a spokesman or authority for the LDS Church. (And Sister Jo thinks you should know that he's sometimes wrong, and often way too opinionated for his own good.)

Nothing here is meant to take the place of talking with parents, leaders, or Church authorities. Please, if you need serious help, talk to a trusted adult, leader, and / or professional counselor.

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Monday, August 31, 2009

When He Comes Home and Won't Date You

Dear Bro Jo,

Let me start off by saying that it's so nice that the youth of the Church finally have a place where they can get straightforward, good counsel without feeling like they're being lectured! You give a lot of great advice, some of which I have put to good use already, but I'm still struggling with one thing:

A couple of years ago, I met a missionary who was serving in my area. Short version: he made it very clear he was interested in me, and I eventually began to feel the same way about him. We got to be great friends (while my parents and his companion were in the room, don't worry!), but I made sure he knew I would have nothing to do with him until he was finished with his mission. When he was getting ready to go home, he told me that he wanted to date me when he was finished. I know I probably should have been a better example, but what's done is done, right?

Anyway, he went home, we exchanged e-mail addresses, added each other on Facebook, he even invited me to take a trip to meet his parents! In our e-mails, I would tell him how my day was, what happened at work, ask him how it was to be home and other questions, but when he wrote back, he said almost nothing. It was really frustrating, so I asked him why his e-mails were so short, and he said he was just better at having a conversation if it was on messenger or over the phone. So I tried to get online at the same time he would so we could talk. But even then, it was so difficult to try to converse with him!

So I told him to call me instead. There was a period of about a week when he would tell me "I'm going to call you tonight." He told me this every day, and each day, no call. I tried a few of your "ways to get a guy to call" or whatever, but to no avail. I finally just asked him if I was supposed to call him, and he said no, that he just forgets really easily.

Should I be worried that he is so forgetful? That he can't even set aside time for me for a simple phone call? The way he used to act toward me made me feel so good, and I thought I was in love with him, but now I feel like he can't even give me the time of day.

I understand that life after a mission can be a difficult transition, but he's been home for months now, and he's told me he hangs out with his friends a lot, so I think he's had plenty of time to get used to it.

Am I being too harsh on him? I've tried to talk with him and settle things like an adult, but we've already established that he can't really communicate. I've waited for him for so long, and it gets harder each day to wait anymore, but I don't want it all to be for nothing!

I guess the real question I'm trying to ask is, should I just move on?

Sincerely,
Perplexed


Dear Perplexed,

Yes.

(I could end the response right there, but I suspect you’ll need a little more convincing)


Move on.

And don't look back.

Look, I hate to break it to you, because you seem really nice (a bit obsessed, but nice none-the-less), but this guy has no intention of calling you.

He may have at one time, and he may someday again, but not now.

If anything you’ve now downgraded yourself from “possible date” to “irritating pest”.

The reality is, if you were important to him, he wouldn’t “forget to call”.

Don’t worry about it; just accept it.

If you continue to wait, you’ll be doing exactly what you said: “waiting for nothing”.

Maybe he likes you, maybe he’s just scared or shy, but truthfully, if that’s the case (and I say it’s a Big IF) then the best way to wake him up to your value is to date other guys.

And when you do, do them and yourself a favor: don’t bring this ghost of a non-relationship on the dates with you. Go out. Have a good time. Chances are you’ll meet an Even Better Guy who actually appreciates you and the manhood to act upon it.

- Bro Jo

PS: Thanks for the kind words; I hope you didn't mind the lecture.

PSS: Some Missionaries latch onto girls, either at home or in the field as a Security Blanket. They ask tons of girls to write them while they're gone, or hit on girls in the area which they serve. The former is not nearly as bad as the latter, but neither is the sign of a strong, focused and confident man. I know that occasionally it works out, but I've always thought it a bit, well . . . weird and unsettling when a missionary returns after his release to date a girl he met while serving. In general I advise girls to avoid those guys like the plague.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What Happened???

Dear Bro Jo,

Hello. I was wondering if you might be able to explain something to me.

There is a girl that I was really interested in and we were e-mailing lots, nothing bad, just for fun and we had both confessed that we liked each other. We were 15 at the time and we both agreed to wait until we were 16 until we dated or did anything of the sort.

Come April, we both turned 16 and we went on a double date. It was a great night of bowling and games. About a week later, we were discussing another date and we were both excited about it. She had to go (as we were talking on Facebook chat) so I said bye.

She came back on about half an hour later and when we began talking again, she was only giving 1 word answers.

I asked if anything was bothering her and she said "Nothing". We continued talking and she was concerning me so I asked again if she was alright. She proceeded to log off Facebook and we didn't really talk at all after that for about 2 weeks.

Me, wanting to follow "all the rules", and do as my dad told me to, Play the Field without "Playing" the field, I went on a date with a different girl. We had fun, but decided that we could just stay friends. Not a big deal. These girls go to a different school than I do, but they go to school together.

Word spread fast and everybody was surprised when they heard that I had gone on a date with the second girl because they thought I was "dating" the first one. Naturally, everything got messed up and I just can't seem to come by any luck in the field of girls, and I still haven't really talked with the first girl.

Hopefully that made sense. Can you identify what possibly went on?

A Frustrated 16 Year Old


Dear Sixteen,

Oh, yeah, you bet I can identify it!

From her perspective, and from what she likely heard from her friends at school, you “Cheated” on her. (See “Bro Jo’s RELATIONSHIP VOCABULARY” - a work in progress, and I encourage submissions and ideas)

You treated her like a Girlfriend, at least from her perspective. You don’t even know if the second Facebook chat was really her or a sibling messing with you (Have I not warned multiple times about the dangers of the anonymity and superficiality and loss of tone that happens when our conversations are electronic???).

You never really followed up with her in person (which is probably what she wanted, which for her would probably have validated that you “really care”) or seemed to put much effort into finding out what was bothering her.

(I can tell you this, were I her father or if she’d written in, I’d have told her NOT to go on two consecutive dates with the same boy, which would have bummed her out, and could have resulted in the short answers you got in that second conversation. The irony being that the advice to mix up the dates would have been based on trying to avoid the very situation you’ve wandered into . . . you have no idea how amusing I find all of that!)

So, again from her perspective, rather than comfort her the way a Boyfriend “should”, you went out with another girl. As word of that spread around her school she felt embarrassed.

The question you should be asking me next is: How, as a guy that wants to “follow the rules” how do you Casually Date and avoid the Boyfriend-Girlfriend Thing?

(I love the phrase your dad uses, “Play the Field without Playing the Field”, by the way; tell him I intend to use it)

Well first of all, with some girls it can’t be avoided. You may not think you’re her BF, but she will, regardless of what you do or say, so as long as you’re a decent guy and have been upfront and clear, all you can do is write that off as her psychosis.

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve known girls to complain to me one day that guys won’t ask them out, that they’re not looking for a Boyfriend, that they just want to go out on a nice group date, only to announce a couple days after such a date that so-and-so boy is now their Boyfriend, much to his shock and horror.

It’s an uphill battle and a fact of life. Don’t let it keep you from dating, but to minimize the likelihood, let me give you this:


“Bro Jo’s AVOIDING THE BOYFRIEND DELIMA DO’S and DON’TS”

DO let her know, upfront and clearly, that this is a Casual Group Date (you may even want to specifically use those words; “Hey, my buddy and I are putting together a Casual Group Date . . .”

DON’T make out. Kissing is a commitment (or at least it should be taken much more seriously than it often is)

DO mix it up; never date the same girl without dating two different girls in between.

DON’T give extravagant or overly personal gifts. Bro Jo recommends staying away from Perfume, Jewelry, and Flowers (all mistakes he made). Flowers can be OK for a formal occasion, but Be Careful!

DO date in groups (see the Dating Rules).

DON’T ask a girl to a Formal Dance that you haven’t Casually Dated previously.

DO be honest and clear. Let he know that you’re not looking for a Girlfriend. Tell her you need to stay focused on a mission (although, the irony is that, for many girls that will just make them like you more).

DON’T hang out at her house, or with her one-on-one anywhere. The Hang Out can be confused for a relationship, and as we all know: “Men and Women Can’t Be Close Friends” without the Relationship Issue.

DO be kind and courteous . . . to ALL girls.

DON’T spend all night (or even a long time) talking, texting, instant messaging, calling, whatever her. You lay in bed texting her at 1:00 am and she’s going to think you’re her “special friend”, this I promise you.


(Like all lists, this list is posted on the Facebook Notes Page, where you can comment on and discuss them. You’ll also find things there like “The Levels of a Relationship” and “How to Get a Date”)

As for you specific situation, you should talk to girl number one and be prepared to apologize for stuff that’s not necessarily your fault. I wouldn’t recommend dating her any time soon, but it’s a good idea to save that bridge before it completely burns.

- Bro Jo

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Art of Conversation

Dear Bro Jo-

I have this problem where I tend to get shy around boys, but if I've known them for quite awhile I can talk up a storm. But I've been quite interested in some boys in my ward, and I really want to get to know them better before I date in a year, but I never know what to say. I seem to always get tongue tied, and I always seem to say the stupidest things! What should I do to help me have good conversations that aren't awkward or lame or hard to think about?

Thanks for your help!

-Stressed


Dear Stressed,

You’re not alone! Being uncomfortable or uncertain about what to say around the opposite sex, particularly at your age, is the norm, not the exception. We fear that we’ll expose our feelings, or say something unintelligent, or just generally come across as dorky . . .

The Art of Conversation is an important (and, I’m afraid, dying) skill. Why? Because we’re becoming, in my opinion, addicted to communicating through technology. Texting, emails, even cell phone conversations cannot replace the multidimensional communication that happens when we’re face to face (bonus points if you can quote the Scripture Mastery scripture on this subject).

So you’re wise to want to work on improving this skill before you begin dating (although I want everyone to realize that developing this skill is a Very Large Part of why we should regularly Casual Group Date as Teens – you need not be a perfect conversationalist, yet, to date).

The key is to talk to the other person about THEM, not about you. On the Facebook Fan Page I’ve posted “Bro Jo’s LIST of STUFF YOUNG GUYS CAN ASK GIRLS ABOUT WHEN DANCING”, which you should check out; the list works for both Girls and Guys in any conversational setting: the He’s and She’s are interchangeable.

The trick is to start by asking the person you’re talking to a question, LISTEN to what they are saying, and respond with an appropriate and intelligent related follow up question.

Let me give you an example.

Girl: “Hey, Bobby, I heard you’re playing football this year, how’s it going?”

Boy: “It’s OK.”

Girl: “Do you like playing”?

Boy: “Yeah, but we’re in two-a-day practices right now, and it’s really rough.”

Girl: “Two football practices a day sounds like a lot of work. Why do they do it?”


See what’s going on there? Even if she makes a short statement, it’s still followed by a question. If he’s a good conversationalist he’ll start to ask her questions, probably along the same topic.

Boy: “Because most of the guys are out of shape and our first game is the first Friday of school. How about you? Are you in Marching Band again this year?”

Girl: “Yeah, we’re in two-a-day practices as well, but one is in the class room.”

Boy: “Is it air-conditioned?”

Girl: “I wish! But at least it’s inside. Do you guys get to cut practice shorter if it gets too hot?”

She bounces back with another question about him.

And THAT, my friends, is Conversation.

And don’t feel bad. There’re more than a few adults that struggle with the concept, too. I’ve been in “conversation” with plenty of adults that feel like a one-sided 30 minute interview. I use it as an opportunity to learn a lot about them; if they don’t learn about me, well that’s my gain and their loss.

Be less Stressed; enjoy the experience!

- Bro Jo

Friday, August 21, 2009

Nothing to Wait for

Dear Bro Jo,

The guy that I like is graduated this year and I am sophomore. I am athletic trainer so I have to work with him. He was really nice every time he saw me: he told me "hi" but sometimes I didn't look at him and I think he got mad about it.

I don't know. He was a senior quarterback football player(with scholarship for that) and basketball player (the normal one just ignores you and avoid you)and when I was going back to my country, he asked me why; then 3 months latter he asked me again and asked me if I was going to go to high school here...

You know he showed me that he cares but the problem is and he is the cutest one on the senior team! There are a bunch of cheerleaders that he can be interested in and I was a freshman. My friends tell me that he is out of my league but I really do like him and I am not sure if he likes me back.

Next year he is going on a mission and I want to wait for him. I KNOW WHICH UNIVERSITY HE'S GONNA BE SO I WAS THINKING . . .

Is age is important here??? How do I know if this guy likes me back???? Should I tell him??

Thanks for all, your fan

(name withheld)


Dear Fan,

In High School the age difference IS important, a little. At that point in life 14 and 18 are very far apart . . .

But that will change in a few years. Twenty-one and twenty five aren’t far apart at all, nor for that matter are nineteen and twenty-three . . .

How he looks isn’t an issue, though. There are so many more things that are important when we’re looking for that Long Term Relationship.

But you’re not there yet.

Not even close.

A sophomore girl in High School should put Adult Men (which he is) out of their minds, and visa versa. At this point neither of you should even consider dating each other.

So, “No”, you absolutely should not tell him that you like him.

Nor should you “wait”.

Not just because this falls under my ever-controversial “Don’t Wait for Missionaries” policy but, on top of that, you don’t even have a Relationship to “wait” for! Holy Heck in a bucket! When this guy comes back from the mission you’ll STILL be in High School!

Date guys your own age.

Mix it up.

Keep it Casual.

(see Bro Jo’s DATING RULES for TEENS)

I’m sure there are lots of boys out there to date.

- Bro Jo

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Pondering Priest - Letter 4 - Kissing

Thanks again Bro. Jo.

Still wondering though. Didn't you say that you were going to post my last question on last Friday?

- PP



Dear PP,

I did, but I decided to run the letters over several days within one week, but things can always change.

Where do things sit with "the girl"?

- Bro Jo


Eh. We talk more than we touch, so that's good. We did kind of end up kissing once on Friday night though... I don't exactly know what to say about that though...


Dear Pondering Priest,

Which, of course, begs the question: if the two of you were to start following the Dating Rules, in an effort to slow things down, which is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED if you have Mission and Temple Goals (and you'd better), is she prepared for you to go out with a girl other than her (and her another boy other than you) before you two go on your next date?

Are you prepared to stop the unchaperoned "hanging out"?

(my wife and I talk more than we touch, too, and we have seven children)

Kissing is nice. If you keep it from being a make-out session, I think it can be OK, but remember the guidelines:

Not Horizontal
Not on the Sofa
Not in a Car or Bedroom

Keep it short
Keep it simple
Keep your hands to yourself

Don't sit on each other
Don't turn out all the lights first
Don't be far away from parents or others who can interrupt

Remember who you are
Respect who you're with
Review this list many times

- Bro Jo


I am going to go on a Mission, I am going to the Temple.

I am prepared to be fine with her going out with other guys and she says she thinks she is.

We don't hang out unchaperoned. I don't let it happen.

The only problem i can see that I didn't think to take care of was that we were horizontal, because we were watching the stars. (which i guess kind of implies that the lights were off. they weren't the field had some pretty big stadium style lights.)

The physical contact was holding hands and meeting lips.



Good Goals, my young friend. Mission is a once-in-a-Life-Time opportunity; and nothing Beats a Temple Marriage.

I hope my YSA readers take note of the power of Star Gazing - very effective!

(seriously, Post Missionaries, take note!)

You're a good man, PP. I think you'll be fine.

Keep the Faith,

- Bro Jo

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Pondering Priest - Letter 3 - Holding On

Dear Bro. Jo,

What do you think of holding hands and just holding each other and stuff like that?

"This girl" really wants me to just hold her, and (as I'm sure you know) I want to.
But at the same time I really want to please the Lord. If it's OK to just sit there and hold her then please, please let me know.

It's really been bothering her that there's no physical connection. Me as well, but I don't know if it's wrong or what.

Please let me know soon.

- Priest




Dear PP,

It depends on the context.

If she's experiencing a tragic moment and is sincerely distraught, I think putting your arm around someone in a comforting, non-sexual way, is OK. But keep things in perspective; a fight with parents over Room Cleanliness is not the same as Grandma Died.

I have no problem with a guy taking a girl by the hand to lead her out to the dance floor, nor do I have a problem with teens holding each other in Proper Waltz Position. For girls, holding a guy by the arm or taking his hand as he escorts her, particularly on a date, is OK so long as you both feel comfortable and are keeping things casual.

Groping, Dirty Dancing, Full-body Hugging, and Grinding are all out of the question.

As is just "sitting there holding her".

Not a good idea. For either of you.

I've got to tell you, PP, the notion that this girl, at your young age, is bothered by the lack of (and longing for more) "physical connection" is a BIG RED FLAG.

Hey, I get it: holding a girl can be Very Enjoyable! But, well, let me explain it this way: can you imagine your father (or Bishop, or Young Men's President) cuddling anyone other than his wife the way this girl wants to be held?

Totally inappropriate, right?

Do you understand why?

Plus I've got to tell you that, again especially at your young age, anyone, guy or girl, that is that dependent on physical reassurance and confirmation of love is more than a little too Attached, Dependent, and perhaps even . . . (it has to be said) Unstable.

She needs to recognize that she's a Daughter of God, and as such has Intrinsic Value whether you're there to hug her or not.

So the short answer is: No; it IS NOT OK for the two of you to be holding each other.

Knock it off.

Save that level of Temptation for your Wife. Her you can hold as much as she'll let you with no moral repercussions should it lead to something more.

You and "This Girl" are WAY TOO CLOSE. You're 16 for Heaven's Sake! You're certainly NOT following the Dating Rules, and if you don't cool your jets soon, this thing's going to get out of hand.

Casual Dating, that's the key until you come home from a mission; that's the goal.

Despite what I said before, I think it may be time to Let Go . . .

- Bro Jo

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Pondering Priest - Letter 2 - Avoiding the Pressure

Dear Bro Jo -

I wouldn't say they are so much pressuring me to get a girlfriend as I would that they are implying I should get one. It’s my mother and two of my brothers (both return missionaries). I honestly have no idea why they might be doing it.

I think you advise that we date multiple people so that we can have a much wider range of people we know that could be prospective eternal companions, and that we should keep from getting to serious because it would make the temptations more and more "there".

- PP



Dear Pondering,

I think you should point-blank ask your Brothers and Mom what the deal is with the GF pressure - might be interesting answers . . .

And you are correct. We want you to get to know more people, to broaden your horizons, and to be safe. The longer you're in a relationship, at any age, the stronger the temptations. That's just a fact. Not everyone sees that, but it's true. A guy and a girl may be too shy to hold each other's hands at first, but you put them alone in the dark enough times, especially if there's a mutual attraction there, and eventually the clothes come off. That's why we try to keep you out of the dark, mixing up the dates, and married when it's no longer possible to keep you apart.

You're still young.

This girl may be everything you've hoped for, and she may feel the same, but neither of you should find that out for certain until it's marriage time. So slow it down. Keep it casual.

Trust me: Break-ups suck. And the Younger You are and the Closer the Relationship, the worse they are.

I'm glad you're working hard to stay on the right path. Good for you!

A mission is a once in a life-time opportunity, don't live a life where you're going to look back and regret that you messed up the opportunity to go.

Look, I understand the drive to have a Girlfriend, even without pressure. And I understand how great it can be. I don't advise it for the very reasons we've discussed. But I'm not going to tell you to dump your girlfriend.

I AM going to tell you that you should talk to this girl and tell her that you think she's great, that you really like her, and that you love spending time with her. Tell her that you think you should date, but that you see the intelligence in both of you keeping your relationship from getting too serious at this point in your lives. Tell her you plan to go on a mission some day (LDS girls eat that stuff up, by the way), and that it's important for you to keep that as your number one goal.

Tell her that you think the best thing for you both to do is to go on Casual Group Dates, sometimes with each other, and sometimes with other people. Tell her that just because you're taking some other girl to the movies on one of these CGDs, it doesn't mean that this other girl is your Girlfriend or that you're going to be smooching her, you just need to mix up the companionships as a way to keep things light.

If for no other reason, do it to keep people from hassling you about how serious your relationship is at this point.

Does that make sense?

- Bro Jo


Yeah, it does. Thanks for being so quick to reply and thanks a lot for the great advice. I'll talk to her now.

~~pondering priest

btw she wants to read this if she can so I was gonna tell her as soon as you posted it. Thanks again.


Feel free to share it with her, forward, whatever. It probably won't post online for a week or two (and I'll edit it a little)

Good luck and God Bless to both of you!

- Bro Jo

Monday, August 17, 2009

Pondering Priest - Letter 1 - The Exclusivity Conundrum

Dear Bro. Jo,

I’m not sure if you got my earlier messages because I was using a Linux mail client, but I was wondering if I could have some form of confirmation that they've arrived. Now I understand that you probably get tons of emails on a daily basis. I don't know if you just didn't have time to respond to mine or if they just didn't arrive. If you get this could you in some way let me know what's up that would be greatly appreciated.

- Pondering Priest



PP,

I'm sorry; I haven't received any other emails from you. What can I do for you?

- Bro Jo




I'll just resend them, here:

Dear Bro. Jo,

I'm sixteen years old and turning seventeen at the end of August. There is this girl in my ward that I've known my whole life and that I've had a crush on for most of it. This spring I asked her to prom because her date flaked out. Since prom we've been on one or two dates but I haven't really gone out with other girls at all. (I know I should though)

Now, I've read your Dating Rules for teens and I totally agree with them, but at the same time I really like this girl and I just can't really see myself asking another girl out. On top of that my family (we are all LDS) keeps talking about "getting a girlfriend" and saying things that have to do with BF/GF relationships and not much about dating other girls. I don't know if that's on purpose or what.

I'll admit that I've had some problems in the past with not wanting to go to church and pirating music and movies and stuff but I am really trying to turn around. I guess you could say that my ultimate goal is to be perfect. Even if it's not possible I'm going to do my best.

This girl wants to be with me exclusively and I have to say I want to be with her. But at the same time we are both trying to keep the commandments, I've made it the entire purpose of everything i do. I've prayed about it and I've been told to go to someone who knows what
they're doing and, lo and behold, the next day i found your advice column. Any help you can give would be greatly appreciated.

~~Pondering Priest

P.S. Sorry it's not exactly in the form of a question.


Dear Bro Jo

This is pondering priest again. I remembered that I hadn't told you that this girl and I message and talk to each other all day long.

~~P.P.



Great letter, PP! Thanks for sending it again.

I'm sure you're not alone in this challenge (and it's OK that it's not exactly a question)

Fill in some blanks, if you will, please.

Who in your family is pressuring you to have a girlfriend, and why do you think they're doing that?

Why do you think we old people advise young people to mix it up? Why are we telling you, even if you may have (at this young age and early stage) found "the one" (which I do believe is possible, by the way), to date other girls and keep from getting too serious?


- Bro Jo

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Readers Note: This Week's Posts

Readers: This week I'll be posting a series of Letters I received from "Pondering Priest". He and I corresponded over several days, and I'll be breaking that correspondence into three different columns, posting one each on this coming Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Stay tuned! Should be fun . . .

- Bro Jo

Friday, August 14, 2009

Scared of the Y of I

Dear Bro. Jo

I LOVE your blog! Your awesome! I had a ton of questions to ask you and after reading a few posts I saw you already answered them, but I still wanted to address this.

Like the recent post about Tired of Being Dateless, I too am soon going to college and scared. I can't say I haven't been on a date, because I have been on a few, but not nearly as many as my friends. I love the excuse that boys in my ward/stake don't ask girls out, but the truth is they do, they just don't ask me.

I am 35 days away from going to BYU-Idaho (not that I'm counting down or anything!), and my dad asked me a question today. He asked me if I will be crushed if I don't get asked on a date my first semester. The answer... YES!!!

I am not the kind of girl who is going to BYU just to find boys and get married. I have a major in mind and I intend on finishing college, but come on, who doesn't want to date!

I guess my main question is: How do I overcome the fear of not dating? If my roommates get asked out and I don't, how do I not get jealous? If there is a social gathering, and I don't have a boy talk to me, how do I leave that happy? And, what is BYU dating going to be like? The boys my age will all be preparing for missions, and probably are focusing on that right now rather than girls. Plus the 19 and 20 years olds are on missions? Will I not date until I am 21 too?

I can see myself going on a mission at 21, does that mean I won't date until I get back, will it be too late then?

I have kinda rambled about a lot of random stuff, but this is what I have been thinking about as I pack my room up for school. Thanks for your blog, it rocks!

-Scared of BYU-I


Dear Scared,

I’ve been married nearly 20 years, and I still love to date!

Interestingly put: “how do I overcome the dear of NOT dating?” . . . I often get letters from people afraid TO date . . .

I think the first step is to realize that, as a daughter of God, you have intrinsic value, you are a Young Woman of High Quality whether or not you EVER date.

Bro Jo cannot explain, account for, nor entirely understand the stupidity of men when it comes to failing to acknowledge and date great women . . . their loss more than yours.

The second thing you can do is to increase your odds of getting asked out.
Check out my related columns:

“How a Girl Can Get a Guy to Ask Her on a Date"


“Bro Jo’s 10 Ways a Girl Can Increase the Chances a Guy Will Actually Call”


“Bro Jo’s YSA Dating Do’s and Don’ts”


and “How a Girl Can Get a Guy’s Attention”


And be honest with yourself.

If you find that guys don’t talk to you at social functions, you need to ascertain if that’s because of you as much as them. Too many Sisters sit at home, dodging Church Activities and not doing anything to show the Brethren how wonderful, bright, fun, spiritual and attractive they are, hoping that Prince Charming will somehow divine their location, as if following a distant star, and knock unsolicited on their door. They dream of throwing it open and upon for sight of them, he’ll proclaim “Oh, Sweet Princess of my Dreams! Thou art she whom I’ve longed for and desired!”

Ain’t ever gonna happen.

No, it’s not too late to find a great guy if and when you get home from a mission; quite the contrary, so long as you actually LOOK.

Lastly, I have news: once you get to BYU-I all men under 30 are in your age group. Not that I typically recommend courting over a large age gap, but just because the 19-22 year old guys are gone doesn’t mean that there won’t be plenty of men over 21 that are interested, appropriate, and available.

Good luck at school, you’ll do fine. Thanks for Reading and Writing In!

- Bro Jo

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

When Friendship Grows Hormones

Dear Bro Jo,

One of my best friends is a guy and I read somewhere that many many times guys can't be just friends. We have been friends since I joined the church when I was nine. We hang out a lot with our other friends and they always joke about us being cute together, but we just laugh it off. Well lately he has been acting different around me. He says stuff like "hey pretty" and "cutie" and things like that.

He will also sometimes put his arm around me when we are standing around or whenever. I notice him looking at me and then he just smiles and looks away. I never know what to say or do. I don't know how I feel about him other than a friend. I never want to lose our friendship I would be crushed!!

What if he likes me?

What if I start liking him and something happens to our friendship?

I don't know what to do. Please help me!

- Just Friends


Dear Just,

How old are you now?

- Bro Jo


Dear Bro Jo,

Sixteen.

- Just Friends


Dear JF,

Thank you.

Believe it or not, that’s important.

First of all, I’ll tell you where you’ve read it, many, many times . . . Right Here!

At nine-years old the hormones typically kicked in yet, so guys and girls Can Be buddies. But somewhere between there and now things have changed. You’ve changed. He’s changed. There was nothing either of you could do about it; it’s inevitable.

Now it is possible that he’s saying “hey pretty” and “cutie” because he’s trying to lift your spirits, but let’s face it: he could do that by saying “hey brilliant”, couldn’t he? (and he may be . . .)
I think we often choose our words intentionally, even if subconsciously.

The boy thinks you’re Pretty and Cute.

Shocked?

You have no right to be.

Surprised I’ll give you, but not shocked.

You’re a girl. He’s a guy. The fact that he’d eventually discover that you’re (as my boys have put it when they’ve reached the age where they’re ready to confess that it’s OK to like girls) “not painful to look at” is a given eventuality.

Let me be clear: your nine-year old friend ship was destined to take one of two paths: either he’d find you attractive or turn his attention to another girl (or several girls).

I’m sorry, I know that’s harsh for many of you Younger Sisters, but it’s true, and frankly, I don’t think it needs to be taken harshly.

Look at the reality. At 16 if he has the hots for some other girl, and if he gets up the courage to talk to her, he’ll stop spending so much time with you, unless she rejects him. He’d be focusing on her. If that doesn’t work out, he’ll probably try hanging out with you some more. Then another girl will come along.

That’s the destiny of the undiscovered “teen friend”; you’ll be playing back up between “something betters”.

Perhaps he’ll spend his teen years not really pursuing anyone strongly (which is what Bro Jo recommends). He’ll go on some dates, perhaps a few with you, but not have a girlfriend. At 19 he’ll leave on his mission with no relationship tangles behind. When he returns honorably he’ll be 21 and thinking of Temple Marriage, wanting to create for himself what he’s seen so many on his mission be blessed with in their own lives.

If you’re not married, perhaps he’ll ask you out. If he writes me and asks me if he should, I’ll tell him he’d be an idiot not to (a strong friendship being a cornerstone of an excellent marriage).
So, in the regard of either scenario, the friendship is “doomed” in that you can’t possibly stay “just friends”. Again, I’m sorry, but you just can’t. The underlying attraction will always be there until it either plays out or goes away, in which case he’ll find another girl to be Best Friends with (and hopefully, eventually, that will be his wife).

Don’t be crushed.

If anything, be flattered (he is trying to compliment you, after all).

So now what?

Well, as it always is with women, the ball is in your court.

At your age I STRONGLY RECOMMEND AGAINST the Boyfriend-Girlfriend thing, for many, many reasons. (Yes, one is temptation, but think of this too: most High School relationships breakup, as they should; is that really heartache that you want to go through at this age? Especially with someone you care about?)

I think that, unless he’s a jerk, it’s OK for the two of you to Casually Group Date (see Bro Jo’s “Dating Rules for Teens” in the side panel, or on Facebook HERE). I think you should still be nice to each other, and talk much, but not alone, not in his car, and not on the sofa.

I think you should both recognize the value in each Casually Group Dating other s, and that you should encourage and support him as a missionary. I think that while he’s gone (just three short years away) you should write him. Not love letters, but “Way to go Elder!” letters.

I think you should date any decent guy that asks while this boy is serving, and I think you should encourage a few decent guys TO ASK.

When he comes home, if you’re single, and if there’s a possibility of romance, I think the two of you should date and see what happens.

But, for now, understand that he does like you in a “more than a friend” way, and there’s nothing you or he could have (nor should have) ever done to prevent that.

Just do me the favor of keeping things Light and Casual for the next 5 years.


PS: There's one other aspect here for you and I to cover, and that's the "arm around" you thing. Guys, especially Teens and repressed LDS Young Singles, have a difficult time responding to and expressing the chemical drive to touch an attractive gal. They get "touchy", sometimes expressing their physical desires aggressively (rough housing, tickling, wrestling, grabbing) or in unwanted casual contact (arms around, sitting too close, hugging, dancing too close, you know what I mean), and I sense that part of your letter may be asking what to do in those situations.

Sisters, unwanted physical contact is Very Bad, and it needs to be dealt with swiftly and surely. The Nicest thing to do is to pull the guy aside, but still within visual contact of others, and explain that his behavior makes you uncomfortable. For most guys, good guys, that will be enough.

If it's not enough, you've got to take more drastic measures.

Yell at him to stop.

Talk to you Bishop (or his parents, or yours), or other Church Leaders or Authorities (anyone who can help).

No woman, teen, or girl, should ever have to tolerate feeling man-handled or endure aggressive behavior.

Flirting can be OK and fun, but recognize when the line has been crossed.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Is 18 Too Young?

[Readers: The following comment was left on a recent column. I've decided to post it also as a separate column, and also on the Facebook Discussion Page, which you can get to HERE]


Anonymous said...

I know that you said that 19 is not too young for an LDS woman to get married, but what about 18?


Dear Annon,


Clearly I should Clarify.

I think there are many factors at play when we discuss the concept of "too young" to get married; I've known people in their mid 20's, even their mid 30's, who just aren't spiritually mature enough that I'd say they're ready to be married (I'll bet we all know some of those).

Now, even if you "think" you're ready, you're never really "totally ready", but that's a bit different . . .

18 too young? At this time in history? I'd say: "yeah, typically", but not always.

If a couple is emotionally and spiritually ready to make that level of eternal commitment, once a proposal is out there, and the Temple is the Target, I'd rather see them get married soon than wait through a year of temptation just because of a birthday.

I like to ask couples this question: "Are you ready to have children, or are you just eager to have sex?"

(Regardless of what society and the "safe sex" crowd are teaching our youth, regardless of the impressions many have, there's No Such Thing as 100% Sure Birth Control other than Abstinence)

And if they say "we want to start a family" I ask "what will you do to support your children spiritually and temporally?"

As they answer those questions, together, I believe a couple will discover for themselves whether or not they're "ready".

- Bro Jo

[see the original letter HERE]

Monday, August 10, 2009

Is it OK to Date Non-members?

Dear Brother Jo,

I have already asked you for advice, and I don't know if I get to ask you again. You seem really busy. I emailed you previously about how confused I was that I wasn't getting any dates. I started flirting more (which stresses me out immensely, but I figure it's for a good cause), but...

I have moved to California this summer to pursue a career opportunity, and I have not gone on a date with a single LDS young man (I'm still dateless since last October). I go to FHE, institute and many of the activities in my singles ward here, but I don't attract any attention. I still don't know why. Maybe I seem too career-oriented? Maybe I'm not attractive enough? Maybe my voice is whiny and squeaky? Maybe my testimony seems to shaky? Maybe the young men instinctively know I can't cook?

I am having no problem getting attention from men of other faiths, and have been here long enough that I'm getting asked out by coworkers and neighbors. I feel kind of lost. Why aren't I attracting LDS men? I dress modestly, I think (being a temple-worthy RM tends to do that). The young men I attract still have high morals. I'm afraid to go out with them because I don't want to become too attached, but I don't want to spend every Friday night by myself either.

What am I supposed to do? If I start dating men of other faiths, the LDS young men that I've unknowingly attracted won't ask me out, but brushing off the non-LDS guys in hopes that someday a righteous LDS man will ask me out (which seems more and more unlikely) doesn't seem like a good plan either.

:(

- Wanting to Go Out


Dear Wanting,

It's a great letter, and you can write as much as you like.

It's OK to date non-LDS guys, just don't do anything that keeps you from being Temple Worthy. If you're concerned that's an issue, don't go on the date. Still hold the non-Mormons to the Dating Standards (Plan, Pick Up, Pay), and as an RM you should recognize these as Missionary Opportunities.

Don't get serious about any guy that isn't Temple Ready. If you fall for a non-member, be sure to give him the "I'm only getting married in the Temple" lecture (did I ever tell you that's what Sister Jo did with me?).

I doubt it's that you're not attractive to LDS guys, it's more likely that the guys in your area are too (I want to say "lame", but instead I'll say) "shy" for their own good. Talk to your Bishop about it.

And maybe use your new and improving Flirting Skills to put an LDS guy or two on the spot. A little pressure can be good.

"So, what's your deal? When are you finally going to man-up and ask me out?"

or, if you're feeling particularly bold

"Tell me, Brother, how do you expect to find a wife if you're too shy to take girls out? I'm free this Friday, here's my number. You look like a smart guy; call me."

Trust me. This stuff works.

And keep going to your Church Meetings and Activities! No one will find you if you're never there to be found.

- Bro Jo


(Readers, check out the Facebook Fan Page for more helpful tips. The Notes and Discussion Pages are filled with things like:





and much more. Check it out!)





Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Too Young to Marry?

Dear Bro Jo,

Thanks so much for taking the time to read my letter. I'm a 19 year old at BYU-I approaching my third semester here.

I now have a boyfriend. He's an RM and we've been dating for two months now. We were good friends before we started dating. And now we're talking about marriage and he's meeting my family and all that stuff.

But I'm not sure, I think I love him, but what is love?

How do I know he's a good husband for me?

How do I know we're not just lusting after each other?

How do I know he'll be nice to me after we're married?

How do I know I'm ready for marriage?

I know I'm young and I've always given girls crap for getting married at my age, but I just can't push him away.

Anyways thanks for your help I really appreciate it.

- Too Young?


Dear Young,

Well, I guess what goes around comes around, eh?

Seen any Black Kettles, Sister Potts?

Been walking a mile in someone else’s moccasins?

(OK, ok, enough with the clichés . . .)


These are really great questions.

1. What is love? (“Baby don’t hurt me . . . “, careful, Bro Jo is in a very musical mood) Love is Simple. It’s putting others before you. That’s it. As Christ put our eternal salvation ahead of his life, when we put others first, their needs before our needs, we show that we love them. One of my favorite scriptures is “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (in fact, it’s that concept that gets me to cry in a movie, every time – bet you didn’t need to know that).

2. How do you know? (“How does she know you love her?” – I warned you)

a. First, review “Bro Jo’s FIVE A’s of WHY NOT TO GET MARRIED” (The Facebook link is HERE; the Original Column link is HERE; and check out Question # 5 on THIS letter). Put your feelings and infatuations aside, and see if he meets any of those criteria. If he does, get out of the relationship NOW. If you’re too close to the subject matter to judge accurately (and I think you probably are), ask a parent, sibling, Bishop or close friend to give you the honest truth.

b. Second, observe how he treats his family. Is he kind? Is he forgiving? Is he fun? Is he caring? Once the Honeymoon is over, he’s not likely to treat you any better than he treats them. If you haven’t seen him with his family, you’d better. If he has no family (none, zip, zero) the next one is even more important.

c. Third, try him out; do some Big Family Baby Sitting. Volunteer to watch the kids for a family you know (4+ kids are recommended, preferably of various ages). How is he with them? What does he say about the kids when they’re not around? Watching children so a couple can go on a get-a-way or to the Temple for several hours can be very enlightening.

d. Who is first in his life? Is it you? Is it him? Is it his car or hobby or favorite team? You can’t bet the rest of your life on the hope that he might change.

3. How do you differentiate between Lust and Love? (“Baby, baby, please let me hold him . . .”) Well, let me ask, can you go without it? Try making a deal where you both commit to no kissing for a week.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a big advocate of kissing (that’s for YSAs and older, lest you High School and Youngers think I’m talking to you) and there’s nothing wrong with a little lust in your relationship (and in your marriage a lot of lust is a good thing, so long as it’s consensual and for each other), but see what is left of your relationship if you turn off the hormones for seven days.
When you give birth it’ll be No Sex for 4-6 weeks minimum, if you can’t keep your hands off of each other for one measly week now, you’ll never make it then. Bodies and Looks change, but Love is Forever.

4. How do you know he’ll stay nice? (“R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me . . .”) You have to take a step back and observe (see #2 above). How does he handle stress? Disappointment? Frustration? What does he do when he’s angry? Does he switch from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde in a flash? And this is VERY important: Does he scare you?

5. How do you know you’re ready? (“Are you ready? Yes I’m ready . . . to fall in love . . .) Well there are certain things in life for which nothing can truly prepare us. It’s a very short list. For example: no book, class, lecture, discussion, situation or scenario can prepare you for either parenthood or marriage. You have to live them to know.
(Bro Jo believes that’s at the core of why Living Together before Marriage is statistically worst thing you can do for your relationship. People think, or pretend, that such an arrangement will help them to be better prepared for marriage, but it doesn’t. The two things are just not the same.)
So you can never really know. What you can, and should, do is pray. Pray, pray, pray, pray, pray. The Spirit will comfort you and guide you in righteous decision making. Beyond that, set your emotions aside and look at the big picture logically; does it make Sense to marry this person? If you FEEL that it’s a bad idea, trust that.

And let me give you some unsolicited advice:

Talk.

A lot.

Before you two get sealed FOREVER, you need to know some pretty important things.

Where do you both want to live?

How many kids do you want?

When do you want to start having them?

How do you each define the roles of husband and wife?

What Holiday traditions are important to you?

What are your goal, hopes and dreams?

What are your priorities?

Will he always take care of you and will you always let him know you appreciate him?

(I can’t emphasize that last one enough)

You’re not going to agree on everything (Sister Jo will back me up on that), and you both need to recognize that people change, and not always in the way or at the time that we want them to.

An old adage goes like this: Men marry Women they hope won’t change and Women marry Men hoping they can change them; both are phenomenally wrong.

Ponder that.

And then ponder this: Nothing you ever do in life will be as important or can be as rewarding as being Sealed for Time and all Eternity in the House of the Lord. Nothing.

I love being married.

That doesn’t mean that every day is perfect.

But it does mean that I highly recommend it.

Thanks for Reading and Writing In; that’s why I’m here.


(P.S. In my never-humble-opinion, if the guy is right, 19 is NOT too young for an LDS woman to get Sealed in the Temple)

Monday, August 3, 2009

The "Friendly" Boyfriend

(Readers: This is a comment I received to the Original Post "Clearing Up the 'Men and Women Can't Be Friends' Concept". I decided to post the comment and response separately here.)


Bro Jo-

I find your reasoning on this topic AMAZING and really hard to find in a man.
Me and my boyfriend are thinking about getting married next year and we always find each other on 2 sides of the fence on this topic. I am an extremely jealous women. I don't like him talking to other girls. However, I find it good that he has opposite sex friends but, if you’re in a relationship you should only be mere acquaintances like “hi, how are you?” But that’s as far as it should go in my opinion.

- Bride To Be?


Dear Be,

Talking alone is not enough to justify jealousy, but being “friends” might . . .

It depends on the intimacy of the “friendship” and the reason(s) it exists.

If your Boyfriend is Close with another woman, you need to be asking yourself “why?”

Is she a Back-up?

Will he be looking to her when things aren’t going well with you?

Does she offer him something that you Can’t, Won’t or Don’t? (That’s not to say you should, either. You should be his confidant, yes, his strength and support and cheerleader, but some things that he may expect are deal breakers.)

Sometimes a guy will bond to a girl and treat her like a sister, and that can be fine, but it’s rare that, left unchecked, the relationship won’t become something more, especially if they spend a lot of alone time together.

I have one Actual Sister, four Sister-in-laws, and a ton of “Little Sisters” at Church (and around the world). I chat with non-relative women and young women from time to time, but I don’t hang out with them, I don’t call them, we’re never alone for long periods of time . . .

That’s the difference between “acquaintances” and “close friends”. People today have hung a negative connotation on the phrase “acquaintances”; we toss “friend” around pretty loosely. Heck I’m “friends” with people on Facebook that I’ve never met, and some that I haven’t seen in person in more than two decades!

We’re “friends”, but that’s not the same, is it?

You and your Boyfriend need to have a serious discussion about why he has these associations and, more importantly, how it makes you feel. If his actions make you that uncomfortable, and he’s unwilling to stop, you need to move on.

How would he feel if a New Handsome Single Man moved into your ward, and he was nice to you and complimented you and you hung out together (just as “friends”, of course)?

If your Boyfriend says he wouldn’t feel threatened, and that he trusts you, he either doesn’t see the value in you he should, or he’s a liar.

Either way, if that’s his response and he won’t come around to reality and honesty in a hurry, get out.

- Bro Jo