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.)

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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Dating Good, Girlfriend Bad

Dear Bro Jo,

Clicked on the Facebook link to your site and you definitely sound like you know what you're talking about, so I thought I'd ask you.

I'm sixteen and I just started dating a few months ago. I've got going out on dates down for the most part, my parents like to rub in everything I do wrong, so I'm learning quick. I know how to talk to different girls and make them laugh until they're ready to cry and I've even got some great "wingmen" to help me out.

My problem is that I don't know how far I'm allowed to take a relationship under Church rules. Can I actually be dating some one person? I've gone over the For Strength of Youth pamphlet a hundred times, but I'm still confused. All of my friends seem to be in a relationship with someone or looking for someone they want to date, but I don't know if it’s right or wrong.
I definitely need some clarity on this.

-Embarrassed and Confused


Dear Confused,

Thanks for clicking, for reading, for writing, and for the compliment.

I don’t think you have anything to be Embarrassed about; you’re learning to be comfortable around girls, you’re having fun dates, and you’re analyzing how those dates are going with your parents – all exactly what we’re shooting for here. (Also - smart thing getting a couple good Wingmen)

It’s natural to seek out a steady relationship; it’s comforting and, let’s be honest, the more time a couple spends together the more hand-holding, kissing (and so on) that’s going to happen. Now that’s all enjoyable stuff, to be sure, but pre-Mission getting too committed and too involved makes the likelihood that we’ll be ready and worthy to go on a Mission significantly less.

You know it’s true.

Look at the guys that are just a couple years older than you that have had “long-term” girlfriends; I’ll bet several of them are struggling with going, and while it’s none of our business, we’d be pretty safe guessing that a few of them aren’t worthy to go. Physical and sexual temptations grow exponentially the more comfortable a couple becomes with each other; heck, you can see that just walking down the halls of any High, Middle, or Junior High School.

Do yourself a favor, bro, stay away from serious exclusive relationships until you get back. Then, when you are back from the Mission, completely shift gears. Exclusive dating is the path to marriage, and that’s a pretty solid goal once an RM comes home. Then, if you really like a girl, see her every night you can. Keep it Temple worthy, but don’t be afraid to Hold Hands and Smooch a little (assuming she let’s you). If either of you feel that this isn’t a good fit, kindly part ways and move on.

(Here’s a little side note for you YSAs: the way I knew Sister Jo was the right woman for me is that it ached to be away from her for any length of time; I couldn’t imagine going through life, let alone eternity, without her.)

For now my young friend, date everybody. Once a month minimum, but not necessarily every weekend. Rotate them. You can take the same girl out, but put a couple different girls in-between those repeat dates. Let all the girls you take out know that

1) You have a Plan

2) You’re going to Pay

3) You’re going to Pick them up

4) AND you’re not looking for a Girlfriend; you just want to practice dating and get to know a pretty girl a little better (which can also be used as a great line)

Your friends want “relationships” because it’s scary to ask girls out, because they think that having a girlfriend is cheaper than dating (and it is, if the girl is dumb), and because they’re looking to get more physical than they should at this age (again a comment on the lack of intelligence of some girls is appropriate here).

You’re on the right path; hold true. Hold off on the Serious Dating for just 5 more years; you’ll be glad if you do.

- Bro Jo

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Asking a Boy Out

Hey Brother Jo,

I just began a dating class through BYU Independent Study. (Actually I was surprised that you weren't teaching it.)

Because of the class I decided that it would be okay to ask a boy out since we are both over the age of 25. When I asked him out, I told him that I had a movie gift pass for myself so he wouldn't have to worry about me. I would have rather been asked out by him, but since he hadn't asked me out, I figured that since I was doing the asking I should at least pay for myself.

I haven't been asked out for a LONG time, so I decided to make it happen. However I don't want guys thinking that I'm some liberal girl and scare them all off. What do you think?

-Forward Gal


Dear Gal,

I’m not a big fan of girls asking guys out, regardless of their age. Instead I advocate “Girls Getting Guys to Ask Them Out”. There are some tips and tricks for that, some of which I’ll share at the end of this post. When girls ask guys out, for most guys, it removes the challenge aspect, and actually makes them less attractive – maybe it’s our need to be the hunter, I don’t know . . .

When I was a young buck I briefly dated a girl who was funny, intelligent (4.0 pre-law) and stunning, but she was so eager to be my girlfriend it was a huge turn off. At first I was flattered that such a high-quality girl would take any interest in me. I liked the attention: she called all the time, was very complimentary, and would come over to visit me whenever I asked her to. Soon instead of being flattered, I was scared, then irritated, then annoyed. She agreed with everything I said, all the time! It quickly wore old and became, well . . . pathetic.

She was one of the last girls I dated before Sister Jo, who refused to call me, never gave in if she thought she was right, and never, NEVER, came to get me; she always required that I make the effort for her.

See girls, you need to understand something: like so many things in life, we value more that which we have to work hard for.

Now, I have to be a little brutally honest with you here: You didn’t ask a Guy out.

See a Date, a REAL DATE, requires that the asker do three things: Plan, Pick Up, and Pay.

(Ever hear that before?)

You Planned, but you only Paid for yourself, and I’m guessing that you didn’t Pick Up.

(And that’s good, by the way, that you didn’t actually take this guy on a date)

Unless it’s a special “Girl-Ask-Guy” event, no matter how long since you’ve gone out, don’t give in. Instead, get him to ask you out.

I think the best way for a girl to do that is to come right out and say:

“Hey, when are you going to take me out?”

If he says “never” then realize that he’s a loser and move on.

If he says “I don’t know” then respond with “Gee, I thought you were smarter than that” and move on (he’ll hopefully clue in).

If he says anything else indicating that he’d like to take you out, encourage him to have a plan. You can even say “I love movies; I can be ready Friday by 7pm; put together a Plan and call me later today” and give him your number.

You may scare a few, off but those aren’t the guys you want anyway. Most likely what you’ll be doing is giving some training that many guys need, including Husbands and Future Husbands.

Sister Jo says that learning to be Persuasively Flirty is one of the best techniques a Young Woman can learn.

- Bro Jo


BTW - I'd love to teach that class!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Trapped in the Friend Zone

Dear Bro Jo,

I am a 19 year old female. I have been having some problems with dating (like not getting any dates).

Since I turned 16 I have been on 3 or 4 dates in which I have asked the guy. I am a very shy person, I don't have many friends the friends I do have are mostly guys.

I am comfortable with them and have no problems talking to them but they look at my like I am one of the guys. They come to me with their Girl problems, it is very frustrating.

I want to date but no guys are asking and when I ask I feel like they are only taking me out because they feel sorry for me in my mind if they liked me they would ask me out not the other way around.

Some of my girl friends are getting married and I feel like they are at the end of their dating life and I have barley started. I have high standards for the guys I want to date or marry. (When I say high, not un- normal for girls in our church) but lately I have been thinking about lowering then just to get a date. When older women in my ward ask my mom if I have a boyfriend she says things like “she (me) is more concentrated on school than boys”; it hurts when she says things like that mostly because it’s not true I would date if I could get a date.

What should I do to get dates??

Thanks,

Getting Desperate


Dear Desperate,

Reality Check Time.

1. You’re not Shy: you’ve asked out each of the 3 or 4 guys you’ve gone out with (not a good idea, BTW), and you seem quite social and comfortable around others.

2. You don’t have ANY “Guy Friends”. You have lots of Boyfriends without the perks of the Free Dinners and Movies. You’re being used, and it’s entirely your fault. You’re their “Safety Net” – and you know what sucks about that? No one thinks about you until there’s a disaster to be averted; until they’re falling to their death and hoping someone is there to save their sorry carcass. As long as you play "The Buddy", you’ll never be "The Girlfriend".  All of these guys that are your “friends” would date you if they had either: a) no other prospects; or b) it was the only way they could spend time with you. Keep reading and I’ll tell you how to get Option B.

3. When you ask out boys they don’t respect you; so you’re right, they are only going out with you because they feel sorry for you (or they think you’re easy – sorry, but that’s the way guys think – some will protest this point of view – those that do are Lying – you can bank on it).

4. You don’t have High Standards; and therefore can’t lower them. You’ve already indicated that you’d be happy to go out with anyone that asks, but no one is asking (you’re doing all the asking, remember?) If you get One Thing out of this letter, let it be this: IF YOU WOULD SIMPLY RAISE YOUR STANDARDS YOU WOULD GET MORE DATES – again, more about that later.

5. Dating doesn’t stop with marriage (or at least it shouldn’t); I go out with my wife once a week, minimum.

6. What do you want your Mom to say? “My daughter is confused and thinks that being a 'pal' is going to get her dates . . . she’s not bright enough to realize that is the reason no one is asking her out”. You should thank you mom for covering for you!

Look, you seem like a very nice girl, and clearly there are men in your life that see that you have value; you just need to realize it yourself and begin acting accordingly.

First, you need to give all of these “Guy-Friends” in your life their walking papers. You can still be nice, but you’ve got to establish that you’re not there to be “hung out” with, you’re a Young Woman of Promise, and like to be treated like a Princess and Future Queen.

The next time one of these guys calls you (and EVERY TIME) and says “Hey, watcha doin’?” and wants to hang out, or come cry on your shoulder, you try one of these lines:

     “I’m waiting for a Good Guy to take me to Dinner. Why? Are you asking?

     “I’d love to hear all about what a witch so-and-so is, but it’s going to cost you a date. You come up with a plan for where you’re taking me and call me back” and HANG UP!

     “Well my social calendar is pretty full. I’d love to talk to you, but there are so many guys madly in love with me right now that I have to commit all my time to them. Now, if you’re interested I’d be happy to pencil you in . . .”

     “You know, (insert name here), you’re a pretty Good Guy, but I’m a little tired of being treated like your second choice. You like being around me, and I like being around you. Why don’t we just cut to the chase: you ask me on an actual date and I’ll say ‘Yes’.”

     “Hey, buddy; I’m not your consolation prize!” (That’s from a movie)

Get the idea?

You don’t Ask Guys Out; you get them to Ask You Out.

- Bro Jo

Monday, April 27, 2009

Too Serious Too Soon

Dear Bro Jo,

I have several questions to a complicated situation.

Basically it starts off with my best friend/not official, fiancé, who just joined the church at the age of 18, and has a wonder testimony of the church.

He's considering a mission since the church encourages every able bodied young man to go, but there's a dilemma. It's difficult for young men to choose to go when they've been members their whole life, but he's only been a member about a month and a half, but the dilemma is that while he's contemplating this, with all the usual problems every young man has (like college, scholarships, money, and his family is NOT in favor of it), there's me, which I know is big factor for him.

Now, I know it is not my choice but his and Lord's, but I am not sure what I should do in this. We are planning on getting married, though not official, everyone (especially our little branch) thinks we will get married, which is something both of us want and we have prayed about it. But he worries that if he goes, I might not wait, not that I am not willing to; I just don't know what the Lord has in store for me if he were to go.

And I worry, that he would be distracted because of this while on his mission if he were to go. My question is should I encourage him to go, or would it be best if we just got married soon instead?

I know it's his choice, like I said, but I also know I have a lot of influence with him. I am completely split on the matter, and I really don't know if I want him to go or not, because I rely on him so much to be there, but I want him to do the Lord's will.

My parents keep giving him the impression that he would be a horrible person if he doesn't go. But would he be? Could we still get married in the Temple?

I know these are questions that I should be asking my parents or branch president, but although they think we'll get married, they don't really want to talk about it yet, because a wedding would be at least a year away. They don't believe you should be engaged before a mission. So I really am not sure what I should do in the matter. It's been a really hard thing for both of us. So your advice will be welcomed. And thank you so much for taking the time to read this.

Sincerely,

“Beth”


Dear “Beth”,

Thank you for the letter, and "Your welcome!"

But let’s see if you’re still grateful three or four paragraphs from now . . .

This boy is not a horrible person . . . but You May Be. The Opportunity and Honor of serving a Mission for this Young Man is a Once in a Lifetime Opportunity, and you’re injecting your marriage hopes into the situation. You're willing to presuade him from that possibility becuase you're "in love" (I guess . . . you never actually said that you love him . . . interesting).

You say you “know it is not my choice but his and Lord's” and yet everything you’re doing is contrary to that (ever hear the phrase "if you love someone, set them free"?). You admit that you’re a big factor here, but continue to treat this boy like he’s your fiancé (you even say you consider him that), but the indication from your letter is that he hasn’t even proposed!

No Popped Question + No ring + No Date Set = Not Engaged (all three of those things are required).

Geez, he’s only 18, barely been a member of the Church for 6 weeks, and you’re ready to drag him to the Temple?!?! Oh, I’m sure he’d go, but do you really want to marry a boy who married you not because it was he was ready, or becuase it was his choice, but because he was afraid of losing you? That’s not Love; it’s Fear.

(And NOT the Old Testament “Respect” kind of Fear, either)

You SHOULD be talking to your Branch President AND your Parents; they’re right: someone who’s engaged should not go on a Mission. And if he does go, you should not wait, you should tell him you’re not going to wait, and you should be supportive of his sacrifice and commitment, and you should date any Good Guy that asks. Remember kids, very few couples get back together after the mission . . . and that’s Not a Bad Thing, it’s just the way things work out.

If he proposes, then fine; if the two of you can stay clean and worthy until he’s been a member long enough to get married in the Temple, then that’s what you should do. If you can’t wait that long, get married now, before you make a mistake (you know what I mean), but remember that’s not my first recommendation.

I have to tell you, based on the limited information I have here, I don’t think either of you is ready for marriage. Not even close. Look, there’s no way to be completely ready for marriage – too many people put it off because of money, schooling, housing, and a wide variety of other excuses – but you two are still in the “INFATUATION” stage, you haven’t lived enough life or been together long enough to really know who you are. You don't get married because you're lonely or affraid the person you're dating may find someone else . . .

If he doesn’t go on a Mission, he’s not a horrible person, and “Yes” you could still get married in the Temple, but I think the best thing for Both of You right now is to SLOW DOWN; Break Up (this can be a Positive Thing). Go back into Casual Dating mode, at least through the summer after High School Graduation. Date other people. Get some perspective. You’ve fallen in to the trap of being Too Serious Too Soon.

If it’s meant to be, it will be, but don’t hurry into marriage or you’ll both start one of the most rewarding jobs of your lives with a pile of “what ifs” and regrets.

- Bro Jo

Friday, April 24, 2009

Reader's Note - Dear Bro Jo now has a Facebook Fan Page

Reader' s Note:  "Dear Bor Jo" now has a Facebook Fan Page.  You can Discuss your favorite letters, look up some of Bro Jo's Famous Lists (like the "Dating Rules For Teens") and post Fan Photos.



Too Hot

Dear Brother Jo,

I'm almost done with my senior year of high school. There are only 5 weeks until my 18th birthday and I head to BYU-Idaho in January.

As excited as I am to go to college and start the rest of my life.. I'm afraid of one thing. I’m afraid of BYU-Idaho. But only for the fact that I don't want to be attacked.

It seems that ever since I got accepted all I've heard in church, school, life are the stories of how the adults in my life met and got married. Guess where? That's right BYU, BYU-I, etc.! I've never dated before.... I've "casually dated' as it's called. I've never been presented, tempted, or had the desire to steady date anyone. I've always decided to wait as the prophet says till I'm 18. That in my situation was easier than for others. But I guess I’m saying is that I don't want to be pressured by the college and students to get married or even date!

Yes I will casually date because I know it's something that I can't avoid and is yes is fun! But I'm afraid of getting caught up and almost choked by the students. I want to be able to be free and not depend on someone else to make me "complete". To me a boyfriend is just a hindrance to my goals. Do you have any comforting words?


Signed -

No Boys Allowed


Dear No Boys,

Well . . . for a girl who’s never had anyone even ask to be her Steady, you seem pretty confident that you’ll be the Cat’s Pajamas at the Y of I! Think we’re pretty hot stuff, do we?

Relax! (That’s my comforting word)

Maybe you’ll be the most popular girl in the building, and maybe you won’t. Does it really matter? Yeah there’s a lot of dating that happens at Church Schools, but there’s also a lot of SCHOOL (you ARE going there to Study, right?)

I’m not worried about boys mobbing you to the point where you can’t breathe (believe it or not, you won’t be the only Hot Girl there – trust me), what I’m worried about are two things: 1) your lack of understanding that this is the time to Serious Date, not Casual Date, and 2) you’re totally warped description of marriage.

Let’s take them one at a time, shall we?

1) Casual Dating is what you are doing in High School. It means NOT looking for a boyfriend, so the fact that you didn’t have one is a Good Thing. By definition (MY DEFINITION) it means Group Dating. Serious Dating is what you Get To Do after you Graduate. It means that you no longer Double Date, you Single Date. One on One. It means you can go out with the same guy several dates in a row, IF YOU WANT (and If He Asks, because, you know, he may not). Serious Dating does not mean that every date is a Boyfriend; it does mean that should you find a guy that you would like to have as a boyfriend and IF he wants to be your boyfriend, well that’s OK.

2) Marriage is NOT the opposite of Freedom; it’s the result of Loving Someone So Much that you put your needs behind theirs. It, along with Parenthood, is the ultimate act of selflessness. Yes, there’s an element of Selfishness in that you’re so gosh-darned grateful that you have met this wonderful person and you want to keep them to yourself forever as your Eternal Companion, but a Marriage without Sacrifice won’t last.

Being married is the smartest thing I’ve ever done. I’m not “tied down”, I’m Lifted Up by my Best Friend who cares about me and my success. And I will do anything for her. That, my friend, is True Freedom. A Good Spouse is not a hindrance; a Good Spouse is an Inspiration!

But I wouldn’t stress out about it too much. You’ve got a little maturing to do before you’ll be marriage material . . .

Don’t take too long, though. You may not want to get married at 19, but you’ll be pretty bummed if you’re not married at 39; and you’ll have no one to blame but yourself if you give boys the “I’m Better Than You” attitude (very similar, I might add, to the “Everyone Wants Me” attitude) or choose to blow off dating altogether to focus solely on a Career.

- Bro Jo

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Be Who You're Looking For

Dear Bro Jo,

I saw your add on Facebook and figured it couldn't hurt to email you.

To be honest, in high school I didn't date very much. Most of my friends were guys and I didn't really have the desire to date any of them. Therefore, I starting "dating" my first year of college. Eventually, I met a young man and helped him turn in his papers to go on a mission. Six months after he left, I went on my own mission. I didn't hear anything from him until after we both got home. He sent me an email telling me how I had ruined his mission and his life and he never wanted to talk to me again.

Since I've been home from my mission, I haven't really dated anyone. I've been on a few first dates, and I got one young man to take me on a second date, but that's it. I wouldn't feel as bad, but my roommate, who is divorced and less-active, and has multiple dates and more male attention (from temple-going young men!) than I do.

Out of all my high school and pre-mission friends, I'm the only one that is still single. I'm only 24, so I am not hopeless, but it is hard avoiding the feeling that something is wrong with me. I don't know what I am doing wrong. I got along well with all of my missionary companions. I normally have a happy attitude about life. I won't ever be on a magazine cover, but I'm not bad looking. I am also active in the church and attend the temple regularly.

I don't know what I'm doing wrong, but I'm willing to fix it. I will confess that I am lonely and I don't know how to get a boyfriend. Your suggestions would be appreciated.

-Perpetually Single


Dear Single,

Well, you never know . . . you could get carpal tunnel syndrome . . . break a nail . . . I’ve caused a few people to bang their head against the keyboard . . . so there’s always a possibility for injury when writing to me . . .

I have no idea what went on between you and that Missionary, but my instinct is to tell you that you’re well to be rid of him. Who knows WHAT this guy’s problem is, but clearly he has some things to deal with that he’s not man enough to accept responsibility for; that’s why he blamed you.

I’m curious what your roommate has figured out that you haven’t . . . you may want to ask her.


The first thing you need to ask yourself is:

“Are you the type of person you’re looking to marry?”

You are a Daughter of God, and as such have intrinsic value, so it would be best if you were comfortable with and confident in whom you are, but who among us doesn’t wish that they were a little thinner, richer, or better in some way?

The question is asking you if you fit the mold of what you have in mind. Are you looking for an athlete? Then you should be athletic. Are you looking for an Outdoorsman? Then you should like camping. Are you looking for someone who loves cats? Get a cat.

Most people don’t self-evaluate well, but it’s a crucial skill. If you need help, put away your sensitivities and ask someone who knows you well and will be honest with you to help you discover who you are. Make a list; write it down. If who you are is not what you’re looking for in a spouse, it’s time to make a change. Hit the gym; buy a tent; go to the pet store. Or, and this is acceptable too, change for whom you’re looking.


The second question is:

“Are you looking for the type of person that you are?”

Tied closely to the last question, the emphasis needs to be on the verb “looking”; finding a spouse is like finding a job: it takes Active Effort. Do you put yourself in places to meet Good Single People? Let’s face it, Sister, you’re not going to find a husband in Relief Society! So go to conferences, hit all the dances and activities, take an Institute of Religion class (or better yet, take all of them). If you want to spend the rest of your life with that One Special Person, you need to be around LOTS of Special People.


Third question:

“Are you looking for a husband, for a boyfriend, or to meet people?”

If you’ll allow me to borrow from the “Tao of Pooh”, you need to just BE. See guys, while as a group are not very bright, ARE very perceptive about some stuff. If you come across to every guy you meet as desperate or pushy or whinny they’ll immediately turn off (at least those that are looking for a quality woman) because they’ll be afraid that if no one else wants you (and that’s exactly what you’re telling them when you’re desperate or pushy or whinny) that you’ll be a bad choice for them too.

So just be You. Kind, Faithful, Beautiful, Adorable You. Be the Real You, just not too obvious or in-their-face or fast. Guys are rarely in charge in a relationship, but we like to think we are.

Beyond that it’s tough to tell what you’re “doing wrong”, if anything, because we don’t know what you are or aren’t doing . . .

But let me say this: if you don’t know how now, learn how to demure a little and be a little flirty. Do the best with what you’ve got; knock their gosh-darned socks off!

Lastly, take heart, would you? I don't know that I'd call Single at 24 "perpetual".

- Bro Jo

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

And They Call It Puppy Love . . .

Dear Bro Jo,

I have a serious issue.... there is this boy that I have liked for over 2 years now. We are basically going out- I guess- but not dating..... Do you know what I mean?? He has said he likes me and I have said I like him. We talk, flirt, walk around in the morning and ETC....... No out side of school contact except for phone calls (I’m only allowed 1 hour a day...... do you think that’s fair??(I don't think so))

Problem #1: he gave me a hug before I left school and kissed the top of my head.... (personally I don't find this a problem) but the problem is now all of my church friends think we are dating...... and that’s bad cuz I’m not 16.....yet....in November I will be....

Problem #2: because of #1 none of my friends talk to me anymore....... it’s sad I know... I think it’s because he is not a member..... but he is investigating

Problem #3: my mom has told me that there is no way I’m allowed to hold his hand.......I’m 15 3/4 and I think that she is a little wrong......help...

Problem #4: before my mom told me that.....well.....you know I was kinda holding his hand....

Problem #5: well I don’t really find this a problem I just help with it but he is almost an entire year younger than me..... It’s kinda weird.....

Please help me.....I'M DESPERATE

-Seriously Confused


Dear Serious,

You sound Desperate and Confused!

You may totally hate me in about 5 minutes, but remember two things: 1) You asked; and 2) I’m right.

First of all, you’re WAY TOO SERIOUS about a boy you’ve liked since you were 13 and he was 12. I have shoes that I’ve had a longer relationship with than you’ve been alive; trust me: we don’t discover the Love of Our Lives at 13.

Oh, I know exactly what you mean: you’re not dating at all! When you say you’re “going out” you mean you’re "an item", “boyfriend-girlfriend”, you have “confessed your Mutual Like for each other”. You have a relationship that’s advanced to a certain level of security, and that’s comforting for you.

(Boys and Girls, "comfort" is not always a good thing. When we become too comfortable in a romantic relationship we relax our standards when it comes to the physical stuff. I know you're smart and observant - you can SENSE - and SEE - when a couple at school has become VERY COMFORTABLE with each other).

Before I get to your problems (BTW – I DO like the way you listed them – very clever), let me tell you one more thing: The JO KIDS don’t have cell phones, they don’t text their friends, and the only time they’re on the phone for an hour is if they’re calling several kids to set up a Movie Party or Church Activity, and that certainly is NOT every night. Fair? You bet it’s fair! And WISE.

(Sister Jo and I do let the older boys – who are older than you – borrow one of our phones if they’re out on a date or coming home very late from an out-of-town school related function or competition)

OK. Here we go:

#1 Of course YOU don’t find getting hugged and kissed a problem; Duh! You’re the one getting hugged and kissed. Is it weird? No. Is it evil? No, but if you transition into “making out” it will be a mistake (and Bro Jo knows that’s where this is headed, if it hasn’t already by the time you get this response). Maybe you should listen to your friends instead of focusing on what “feels good” for the moment . . . Yeah, they may be jealous on some level– but the jealousy doesn’t make them wrong.

#2 I doubt your friends have stopped talking to you because you got kissed on the head by a non-member boy. Be honest, here: it’s because you’re acting different and they don’t know what to say. Again, they may be jealous (you have a boyfriend and they don’t and, as I’ve said before, in the same way that water seeks it’s own level, at a certain age girls are pre-disposed to wanting a boyfriend – it’s a security thing), but if they’re really your friends you should be able to go up to them and talk things out.

#3 There’s no way you’re going to get me to say your mom is wrong. Consider this: with very few exceptions no guy wants to take out another guy’s girlfriend. You hold hands (and other stuff) in public and All the Other Guys that are thinking about taking you out on REAL DATES when you’re old enough (very soon) will scratch you off the list. Is that what you want? Is that your goal? Where are you headed? To be the make-out buddy of a non-member guy that won’t be old enough to date you for another year and a half? That won’t be old enough to take you to Prom next year?

#4 Look, I’m not saying that holding hands is BAD. It does feel nice . . . It’s reassuring; like someone publicly declaring that you’re good looking and have value. But like Cheating to get one more Gold Bobsledding Medal, if you’re not enough without it, you’ll never be enough with it. (Please tell me you get the movie reference . . !)

#5 I don’t think Dating, casually or seriously, someone who’s a little younger than you is a problem, so long as you’re both at that stage in life (the “16 years old to date” rule needs to apply to BOTH people on the Date, not just the Mormon). In fact, I think girls dating younger guys is an inevitable part of the program! If a guy is supposed to start Casually Dating at 16 and he only dates girls who are Already 16 . . . get it? I do think, however, you better listen to the promptings of the Spirit – you’re the one that said “it’s kinda weird” – where do you think that feeling is coming from? What do you think the Spirit is telling you?

I’m sure he’s a very nice guy. And, member or not, if he’s a decent guy and is willing to play by the Dating Rules I say, when he’s old enough, Date Him!

But until the two of you are Marrying Age, I think you need to re-evaluate how serious this relationship is, and how serious it’s going to get if you continue on this same path.

The boy being a non-member is in no way a bad thing, unless we’re talking Marriage or Serious Dating (for you that should be AT LEAST 4 years away, and if he joins the Church and goes on a Mission, for him it's at least SEVEN YEARS away). Everyone reading this column knows that Church Membership is not a guarantee of Sainthood, nor is Non-membership a guarantee of Immorality. However, it’s very foolish to enter into any relationship hoping for change . . . Everyone changes, but to think we can control them, the change, or the outcome, is Insanity.

- Bro Jo

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What's a Dad Supposed to Do?

Dear Bro Jo,

What should parents be doing once their children start dating?

- Not Ready Dad in Orem



Dear Orem,

I'm with you bud, this can be a scary time for parents, but it doesn't have to be. There are several things you can do leading up to dating age, but let's focus on the question at hand.

Bro Jo's WHAT PARENTS OF DATING TEENS NEED TO BE DOING

  1. Know who your kids are dating. You don't have to have genetic records and finger prints, but you should know their names, where they live, and a little about their parents. Chaperon Dances (casually, man, you don't want to embarrass the kiddos), have Movie Parties and other Get-Togethers AT YOUR HOUSE - and don't hide in your Study, meet the kids (and hopefully their parents) at the door, shake hands, memorize their names, ask them how they know your kids (if you don't already know, if you do, repeat it "Oh, you're in her science class"). No young man should take your daughter out of your house if you haven't given him a little interview (it's actually fabulous fun)


  2. Go over rules and expectations in advance. Don't want to be surprised about your child's behavior? Make sure they know what you expect. You can use the "Bro Jo's Dating Rules for Teens" as a place to start; they're listed here on the home page on the side.


  3. Establish a "Guilt Free Bailout" rule. This is crucial! Talk to your kid in advance (girls AND boys) and tell them that if the poo ever hits the fan while their out, and they need to be rescued, you will come get them, any time, any where, no questions asked; no lecturing allowed. YOU MUST DO THIS. You need to be the person they can call for help, and to do that you'll need be self disciplined enough to know that at that moment all they want to know is that they can depend on you to help them and to love them. No matter how enraged, sad, or betrayed you may feel, save it for later. The alternative is that they don't get help when they really need it, and you don't want that.


  4. Talk. Before the date. After the Date. In general. You know how we're always hearing in Sunday School Lessons that we should pray often and how we should work hard to hear the promptings of the Spirit so those lines of communication will always be open? Yeah, the same thing is true of kids; talk often, not just yelling and lectures (those things do have their place and purpose), but just shoot the breeze. Getting in the habit of casual conversations will make the more serious conversations that much easier.


  5. Date. Your spouse. Weekly. Set the example. And, if you don't have a spouse at this time, apply the dating rules to yourself (consistency is highly valued among young people) and get out there. If you're going to be the authority, know what you're talking about.


  6. Encourage. Don't push the birds out of the nest, but give them lots of opportunities to fly.

One last thing? Don't treat your kids as Father Confessors; keep your sordid stories to yourself. Or at the very least, edit them for a PG rating. It's your kids that need to be understood, not you.

- Bro Jo

Monday, April 20, 2009

You are 17, Going on 18 . . .

Dear Bro Jo,

I am a seventeen year old girl (almost eighteen), and I have never been asked out on a date.

My parents say not to stress about it and that I will most likely be asked out when I get to college but I still feel like I must not be very pretty since no guys like me.

I feel left out when all my friends talk about their dates and stuff at church on Sundays. So I was just wondering if I should change how I act around guys or if I should just continue with my life and hope for the best?

I have a fear that I will never date or get married and I'll die single. Making it impossible for me to go to the Celestial Kingdom. Thanks for reading this, and thanks for all the great advice on your blog.

~Rissa, Las Vegas

PS: You may come up with a pseudonym if you want but Rissa is not my real name so I don't mind if you use that.


Dear Rissa,

Some of the most beautiful girls I’ve ever known didn’t date much, if at all, in High School, including Sister Jo (and she’s a Hottie!). Author Stephenie Meyer (LDS writer of the Twilight Series) says that she was very “unpopular” with boys until she went to college, so you’re in good company!

Your parents are right, don’t worry about it; as I’ve written often, boys are dumb. (Some guys INTENTIONALLY don’t ask out girls they really like in High School so they can “save” them as possible marriage prospects when they come home from the mission – rarely works out for those boys though. . .)

I don’t know how you act around boys, so I certainly can’t tell you to change, but I will tell you this: you need to be the type of person you want to marry. What that means is that if you want to marry a Temple worthy guy, be Temple worthy. If you want to marry a smart guy, be smart. If you want to marry a grateful guy, be grateful; if you want to marry an athlete, be athletic . . .

(See the pattern?)

There have been many great and wonderful women that don’t have the opportunity to get married here upon the earth. There are also many good sisters that marry when they’re older, and that’s OK too!

One thing you need to know is that it’s incumbent upon Men to marry in the Temple to enter the Celestial Kingdom, not Women. That’s Doctrine. You don’t have to get married here to still have a shot at the CK after this life, guys do.

You just have to remain worthy and endure to the end.

Now, all of that said, there are a few skills you can practice that will help bring you to the attention of boys.

1. Practice Talking to Boys. Ask THEM about THEM, everyone likes that, especially guys. Don’t be too loud. If I hear one common complaint from guys it’s that so-and-so is very pretty but she’s SO LOUD!

2. Flirt a little. Smile; look guys in the eye when you speak to them (the trick is to pick one eye and focus on that, don’t “bounce back and forth” from eye to eye) – don’t stare! – occasionally after you make eye contact, look down and then back up in his eyes – that’s good stuff, trust me!; touch them on the arm – we guys are suckers for the arm touching; sit close – not on his lap (that’s dumb, and WAY too risky), but close enough that no one could squeeze between you.

3. Make yourself available. What I mean is, put yourself in situations where Good Guys can get to know you. I can’t begin to tell you how many Single Sisters over 25 whine to me about not being married but they never go to the Singles Ward (or, for those over 30, never went); don’t go to activities, and don’t socialize AT ALL – tough for Good Guys to even know they’re datable if they’re never around. Go to all the Dances and all your Activities. If your Stake doesn’t dance, get on the Committee and change that.

4. Do the best with what you’ve got. Dress nice. Be clean. Be YOU (you are a daughter of God, after all! That means you intrinsically have value just being yourself).

5. Smell good. Don’t drench yourself in perfume; there’re some hairsprays out there that boys get pretty excited about; I don’t know what they are, I just see the reaction when a girl who smells nice gets in the van (I’ve asked girls, and the closest I’ve gotten is “I don’t know, Bro Jo, it’s in a purple can” – Help Readers? - The hairsprays that seem to work are fruity, coconuty or marshmallowy,). Have gum or tic-tacks readily available.

6. Be Fit. Not everyone can be Supermodel Skinny or WNBA Athletic, but take care of yourself and be active. Sitting around doing nothing isn’t attractive.

Start there and see if things change a little.

Sister Jo says be careful that when boys start asking you out that you’re not TOO eager. Make them work a little, be calm when you accept a date (she suggests never saying "yes" right away, always say “that sounds fun; let me check my calendar; can you call later tonight?” - maked him call you - he needs to work a little; keep him respecting you), and never lower your standards.

Thanks for reading “Dear Bro Jo”, and thanks for writing!

Hang in there! The best is yet to come,

- Bro Jo

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Respect Yourself

Dear Bro Jo,

I'm seventeen, and never been out on a date. I don't think I'm totally horrifying but I'm not a Carmen Electra. I haven't really turned down anyone, I've just never been asked out on a date, just to be a girlfriend. But anytime I'm a girlfriend I find a relationship terribly overrated, I'd rather just date. But now I'm starting college at BYUH and I have no dating experience under my belt. What do I do? How can I just date? And how do I play it cool with those college boys with all their charm?

-Totally clueless.


Dear Clueless,

OK. We need to talk. If you’re agreeing to be a “girlfriend” for a guy who’s never taken you on a date, you need to make a SERIOUS adjustment in your thinking; you’re doing all of this backwards.

If a guy says “hey, will you be my girlfriend?” your response should be “are you asking me out?”
When he says “yes”, ask him what the Plan for the date is; if he says “no” you say “why would I be the girlfriend of a boy who doesn’t care enough about me to take me out?”

AND WALK AWAY.

Look, you Sisters are killing this whole dating thing for yourselves and for each other. Why would a guy bother to buy you dinner, to take you to a movie, to show you some small level of respect when you don’t respect yourself enough to be treated well?

You don’t need to worry about the Charming guys at BYU-H, you need to worry about the lazy, cheap, do nothing guys that expect you to come over, make them cookies, watch them play video games, and then make out with them once their friends have gone home.

At that point a girl isn’t even a girlfriend; she’s pathetic.

You want dates? Start acting like you deserve to be dated!

No more Hanging Out. No more being a pal.

Clearly guys are interested in you; now it’s time to add a little Self Worth into the mix. You need to understand that up until this moment guys haven’t dated you because they don’t have to.

Here’s one quick tool for you to use: go up to a guy that you think is a Good Guy (very important to pick a GOOD GUY) and say “Hey, when are you going to finally ask me out on a date?”

It’s one of the best lines; I guarantee its success.

There’s a lot more you can do. I’ve written several letters on getting a date. Search the archives and read them. Memorize them. Make them a part of you.

- Bro Jo

PS: Carmen Electra?? Really? Is that who boys your age are excited about???

Can we raise the bar a little higher? (Isn’t Carmen Electra 45, and more than just a little artificial?)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Reader's Note - Dear Bro Jo Going Daily

Reader's Note: Dear Bro Jo Going Daily

Thanks to you loyal Readers and Fans, "Dear Bro Jo" has grown tremendously (Now in Ten Countries and All 50 US States!). To be more responsive to your letters and demands, as of Monday, April 20, 2009, I'm going to start posting letters every weekday, Monday through Friday. If the demand stays high, I may occasionally post more than one letter a day.

I've also changed the post time to 7:00am, Mountain Time.

Thanks for sharing "Dear Bro Jo" with your Family and Friends!

- Bro Jo

If at First You Don't Succeed . . .

Dear Bro Jo,

You're doing a good job, I love what you do. But I kind of need help. I'm 17 and haven't had much luck with dating.

The first girl I asked out turned me down, and the next two I did take on a date now refuse to talk to me. Ever.

Sure, the second girl was a complete stranger, but having messed up bad three times I don't want to have another bad date.

There are tons of girls that are really nice and I would love to take out on a date or two just for fun. But I don't want them ending up hating me as well. I don't get it either; I'm not really boring, and I'm a southern gentleman, my mom being really tough on me about that.

How do I work up the confidence to ask someone else out, and how do I make sure that no future dates go as bad as my first two?

-Not really sure about girls...


Dear N.R.,

Refused to talk to you??? Just what are you doing wrong?

What, are you a little to smoochy? Are you expecting them to pay for the date? Are you asking them for Gas Money? Is your sense of humor nothing more than quoting dumb movies and fart jokes??

Seriously, N.R., I have news: you’re going to go on many more bad dates before all of this is over.
Before dating Sister Jo I went on something like 180+ dates with 60+ different girls (I had a little notebook I used to keep track of whom I took out where and when, lest I say something dumb) – and I got married young!

I had one girl “dump” me twice in 14 hours; I had one beg me to bring her little brother on our date (we'd been seeing each other for a month), and another girl who dumped me to date my friend but still expected me to take her to a fancy banquet that I’d already bought tickets for! (And believe me, there’s plenty more stories to tell).

I don’t know what you’re doing (or not doing) on these dates (or after) that’s making these girls so mad – you could try asking them (they may not tell you, but it would be entertaining to see what they'd say if they did) – but if you’re truly being a Good Guy, then the anger is their problem, not yours.

What you need to do is realize that you’re in the “Casual Dating” phase of life – just keep asking girls out. Be honest, upfront, and gentlemanly. You said there are “tons of girls” you’d like to take out, so get back to work!

Some dates will go better than others. Try to have fun, even on the “bad” dates.
Here’s a quick list of things you can do to help make that so:

1. Get a good Dating Buddy (or two). We old people call them “Wing-men”, and their like a Toy’s moving buddy – if you don’t have one, GET ONE! Someone who can watch your back, help you plan, keep the pressure off and the conversation flowing. Plus, then the two of you can review the night afterwards, helping each other realize the mistakes you made.

2. Make sure that you’re communicating the Date Plan with your Date when you ask them out (much to my chagrin, I’ve learned that many girls don’t like to be surprised on a date – Sister Jo, who thinks I should refer to her with you guys as “Jo Mama”, hates being surprised for our dates, and always has).

3. Be Clear about the “Not Looking for a Girlfriend” thing. That may mean you’ll get kissed a lot less (sorry, but this is actually a good thing), but you’ll be respected for being upfront. Steer clear of the Fillies that think the first date is a commitment.

4. Relax. It’s just Casual Dating, Bro. We’re here to have a good time, share a laugh or two, get to know each other better, and move on to the next social event. Until you come back, the Mission is the focus, not getting a girlfriend.

Don’t give up! As I said, I went on a lot of dates before Sister Jo; the Eternal Marriage waiting at the end of the pre-married dating line is well worth all the other heartaches.

- Bro Jo

BTW – thanks for the kind words – even Bro Jo needs a little encouragement once in a while.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Single Adult Parlay (Following the Guidelines)

Dear Bro Jo,

What're the guides or rules for singles dating over 40? Are they the same as when I was 20? In high school? I want to stay worthy and righteous and live a clean life...Temptation is out there and I want to avoid it.

Thanks,

Sam S.


Dear Sam,

Nope! Different rules, my friend!

There are reasons the Church separates Young Single Adults and Single Adults (typically around 30) – the needs and life experiences are vastly different than, oh say, 19 and 45.

Now within the Over 30 group we have several sub-groups:

People Who Have Never Been Married and Are Looking. In principle they’re just like the Young Single Adults, just, well . . . older. For whatever reason things just haven’t worked out yet, sometimes by choice, sometimes by fear, and sometimes because it just hasn’t meant to be yet. The operative word here is that they’re “looking”, which in and of itself may be a change. Often it seems as though this group has the longest uphill battle to fight. They’re getting to the party late, and many of the best dancers have already found a partner; or at least that’s the perception.

People Who’ve Been Married and are Looking Again. Typically older, often with kids to work into the mix, this is a tough group. Most are Divorced, some have had a spouse pass away; they just don’t want to be alone anymore, which is totally understandable. Because of their age and complex lives you’d think it would be difficult for them to find someone that meets their needs and criteria, but that seems to be offset by having been married before; it’s as if being previously married gives you the experience and confidence that you can do it again (even if This Time you’re going to find Someone Better).

People Who Aren’t Looking. Some of these folks have “been there, done that” – in most “family wards” they sit on the back row – sealed to the only person they’ll ever marry, they wouldn’t think about getting married again, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The rest have resigned themselves to being single during this earthly existence and, beyond a certain age, who are we to argue with them? Maybe they’ll change their minds, and maybe they won’t, but their marital status should not preclude the Church from using this very talented pool of experienced members.


Your letter indicates that you’re in one of the first two groups. Either way the Rules ARE NOT the same as in High School, nor are they the same as they are for YSAs. No more Casual Dating for You! Time is short; Get Serious.

That Means “Date Everybody”, or at least all the Eligible Women you can. If she fits the Criteria:
• LDS, and willing to go to the Temple (not a recommend holder necessarily, but could be and wants to be)
• A Woman (no Girls, understand?)
• Single ("Separated" is not "Single" - be very careful here)
• Not Crazy (in the Clinical Sense - Wild and Crazy is OK)

Date her! At least twice (people can be nervous the first date, give it two or more before you write her off). Put your prejudices, quirks and "requirements" away; they're all Daughters of God, and all have something to offer.

You should have a date every weekend. No excuses.

Now I know the Temptations are out there. Like any other Single, don’t put yourself in bad situations. No bars, no late-night making out on the sofa, and stay in the front seat of the car.

Unlike Young Single Adults, you may want to try some Group Dating, but better than that I think Single Adults should be having Dinner Parties. Even number of Men and Women, if you can; 6-14 people; a great way to get to meet some new potential dates.

Like Young Single Adults, be the type of person you're looking for and focus on dating the type of person you are.

Unlike Young Single Adults, because the Dating Pool may be quite small, I say it’s OK to Date non-members so long as you stick to your standards of morality, keep yourself worthy, and pick a date that shows some interest in the Church. I don’t think I’d go on a third date with a non-member who wasn’t at least willing to go to Church with me every Sunday.

We joke (sort of) about the YSA “University Wards” being “meat markets”; I say “So what?”! Single Adult Conferences should be both Spiritually Uplifting and a Meat Market. Every Guy and Gal in attendance (and you should all go to all of them you can) should not be allowed to leave until everyone present has at least 5 dates set with 5 different people. Let’s stop ignoring the Elephant in the Room!

A parting thought: Dating takes on a special challenge if you have children, especially children still living at home.

Talk to them. Tell them how you feel. Tell them about not wanting to be alone. Ask them for understanding and help. This applies to any child old enough to greet your date at the door – that means over 2. Make sure your kids know they’re number one in your life, and take special care that you only get serious with someone that will love your children the way you do. Be sensitive to the challenge of your kids getting attached to someone you’re not as fond of as they are; if you’re going to break up, without giving them all the gory details, put the your kids in the loop.

Avoid temptation, Sam, but don’t stop dating until you’ve talked one into marriage.

- Bro Jo

Monday, April 13, 2009

Avoiding the "Girlfriend" Dilemma

Dear Bro Jo,

I am a 17 year old boy and I am in need of some advice here as I have a dilemma. You see, there is this nice, pretty LDS girl that goes to my school and I know she likes me because she has told me, and I am not going to lie, I like her too.

Her 16th Birthday is coming up soon, and we (she and I) have talked about "casual dating", the problem is I think that she thinks that we might "exclusively date". Don't get me wrong, I like this girl and would really enjoy "exclusively dating" her (probably because I am just a hormonal guy), but I also know I shouldn't have a "serious" relationship with a YW until after my mission.

How do I tell her that I like her, but I don't want to get too complicated before my mission without hurting her feelings?

While my question may seem quite silly, I am petrified of telling her my true feelings and I don't want to hurt her. I guess this also has a "courage" issue too. Can you maybe help?

Sincerely,

- Confused and 17 in Spokane


Dear 17,

You bet I can help!

(and your question isn’t “silly”)

You’re a bright guy, and right on just about all counts.

There’s nothing wrong with the two of you liking each other; Heavenly Father intends that men and women be attracted to each other – it’s in the Family Proclamation you know. The feelings you have are RIGHT, but the TIMING isn’t; not yet anyway.

Girls, including LDS girls, are often pre-disposed to having a boyfriend. Not all, but most. I’ve been in YW classes where girls will say “Brother Johnston, all we want is for boys to be brave enough to ask us out”. I explain that boys that are focused on a mission don’t want the entanglements of a girlfriend, and they’ll say “we totally understand!” Then on Wednesday I’ll overhear one saying to the other “so-and-so just asked me to Prom, he’s my new Boyfriend!”

Of course when I go up to the guy and say “Hey, congratulations! You got yourself a pretty cute Prom date” he responds “I don’t know Bro Jo, I think she’s expecting more than a date; she acts like she’s my girlfriend”.

Happens all the time – everywhere. It’s nearly gosh-darn Universal. Sister Jo says that women are pre-disposed to seeking out security – a valuable quality in a husband to be sure – and that’s why girls naturally look for something steady; it’s genetic.

True or not, the point is: yeah, you’re right: she is (or will be) pre-disposed to the “boyfriend” scenario.

(Yes, Young Sisters, I absolutely expect you to protest this, but I’m right, and you know it. Any girl who says she has no desire for a boyfriend is no more honest than the guy that buys a girl drinks because he “wants to get to know her better as a person”)

Which is why you probably CAN’T tell her how you feel without hurting her feelings. Sorry, man. Love’s like that.

And you HAVE TO tell her. It IS a Courage thing. Time to Man Up.

Come out and say how you feel before anything happens. It will be difficult because of the attraction you two have, but if you don’t have the conversation it will be worse.

Be honest. Just come out and say it.

“I really like you. A lot! But I need to stay mission-worthy and focused. When you turn 16 I’d love to take you out on the occasional date, but for me it has to be Casual Dating only. That means that I’m going to date other girls and you need to date other boys.”

Take off the pressure BEFORE it builds up.

I hope she takes it well, but I can’t promise that. You shouldn’t allow the possibility that she’ll feel hurt keep you from doing the right thing. Just be cool about it – treat her kindly, respect her, and be a nice guy.

If she can’t “casually date” you or you can’t “casually date” her, simple: don’t date each other. Date other girls. Look this one up when you come home from your mission (which you might want to do anyway, so long as she’s not married).

(Not to toot my own horn here, but buddy my Dating Rules for Teens work – share ‘em with your friends! And your parents . . .)

BTW, here’s the One Spot where you’re wrong: you’re not “just a hormonal guy”. Oh, sure, you’ve got raging teen-hormones – again, quite normal (and a good thing; too many guys 10 years older than you could stand to be a little more driven to get married, if you know what I mean) – but if you were “just” you wouldn’t be concerned about doing the right thing, and that, my friend, is what separates the Men from the Boys.

- Bro Jo

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Doing the Right Thing

Dear Bro Jo,

About two years ago I developed a crush on a boy in my grade. I hadn’t ever really talked to him, and he's really shy, but for some reason I was attracted to him. Since I didn’t really know him all that well it kind of faded to the back of my mind, but it was still kind of there.

Well, ironically, I found out a while later that I had fallen for the one inactive Mormon I hadn’t known was a Mormon!

He had moved in a year before and never been to Church, so I had never seen him there before.

Well I started trying to talk to him and get to know him a little bit, (my Bishop had told me to get to know him if I could and see if he was interested in any youth activities or whatnot) but since he was so shy I never really made much progress.

But then, last year he spontaneously showed up at Church! I tried to talk to him a little to make him feel more comfortable, and it seemed to go well. He kept coming, and a few months later (last summer) he was able to receive the priesthood! He became really active and I got to know him pretty well through youth conference, mutual activities, Church, etc.

This year in school we have a lot of overlapping classes, so I’ve gotten to be pretty good friends with him over the last year, and he opened up a lot.

Well, recently I was in a conversation with him on facebook where somehow I wound up admitting that I had a crush on him. He admitted the same to me after a while.

Neither of us was entirely sure what to do at this point, but we decided on a few things for sure. We are both freshman (I just turned 15, he'll be 15 this summer) and neither of us are willing to give up our standards and date before 16. We didn’t want to tell anyone else either, because that might seem like we're dating.

Since then (it’s been a couple weeks) nothing much has changed in our friendship, and we've worked really hard to keep it that way. It’s so important to me that I keep the commandments and stay within the Lord's standards!

We’re not dating, we're not "going out", and we don’t hold hands, or try to act like we're dating. The only thing that has really changed is that we can be honest with each other and get to know each other a little better. Surprisingly, it’s made it so much less awkward, because there's not so much blushing and awkward laughs when we talk to each other.

Given that we both care so much about respecting each other and our standards, I feel like we've done the best that we can. We support each other and give encouragement and advice when we need, and otherwise we joke around or flirt a little. We're both pretty good at school, so we give each other help with our common classes when we need it.

I could go on and on trying to explain this situation, but the gist of it is that we've really tried to keep our friendship as much of a friendship and as little of a dating relationship as we could. Do you think this is a good relationship?

We're trying to be friends and to get to know each other first, so that if the time comes that we want to date that we'll have a friendship base to start with, which makes it so much easier. Am I handling this correctly?

Since we already know we're mutually interested, what can we do to make sure we stay within our standards and follow the Lord's council? Are we right to be trying to be friends like we are? What should we be doing? I really want to do all that I can to ensure that I have good friendships with those around me, and that I stay clean in order to have the best experiences dating that I can when the time comes. What is your advice?

Sincerely,

"Trying to follow"


Dear Following,

I think this is a great relationship, and so far it sounds like you’re both doing what you’re supposed to do.

As I said in the letter I posted on April 6th, at some point the two of you won’t be able to remain friends; you’ll either develop into more than that, or you’ll both end up in relationships with other people that would make continuing this association (even at the level it is now) inappropriate. You could be friendly, and you could associate, but if you’re married to people that aren’t each other, then it would be wrong for you to spend this type of time together, especially having confessed mutual attraction.

But that’s a ways down the road.

When you are old enough to date, my Dating Rules still apply. You’ll need to date other people in between dates with each other (No Cheating! Bro Jo knows all about the “Let’s double date; I’ll take your girlfriend and you take mine so our parents are happy and when they’re not looking we’ll swap dates” game). You’ll also want to make certain that all of your dates are group dates, that there are no make-out sessions, and that you keep things Casual.

Until then, there are some special guidelines you two should follow so that the temptation to make your relationship more intimate than is appropriate is avoided.

1. Don’t be alone together. This is non-negotiable, and there are no exceptions. Want to watch a video together? Make it a movie party. Want to do homework together? Fine; at the dinner table with adults home and walking through the room every 20 minutes. No bedrooms. No cars. No walks through the park at night.

2. Don’t cut off associations with all others. Still talk to (and eventually date) other boys (and girls). Don’t allow each other to become the Center of the Universe.

3. Bring a trusted adult (or two or three) in the loop. Bishop. Youth leader. Parents. People who can offer mature council in that moment when you’re too caught up in the relationship to think clearly. People who can help you keep things from getting too close.

4. Keep feeling the Spirit. Cliché or not, there’s Power in Prayer (and personal scripture study). As you continue your relationship with Heavenly Father, He will help you to make good decisions in your other relationships.

In general, it sounds like you two are Doing the Right Thing. I’m proud of you; keep it up.

- Bro Jo

Friday, April 10, 2009

High Anxiety

Dear Bro Jo-

I am a 25 year old guy and RM that has a unique experience with dating. For one, I hadn't dated until after my mission due to a variety of reason. My personally type is somewhat shy and timid. I have struggled with anxiety and depression a majority of my teen years and even up to now. I understand that it's just something that I have to deal with. Trust me when I say that I have had counseling and medication to help out on that part.

The main problem that I have had with the experience in dating is that of panic attacks. It just awkward to deal with alone and has caused a lack of dating to begin with. I realize that high anxiety and a low skill level in dating sets me up for a disaster every time. The few dates I have been on make it hard because I realize you don't want to turn it into a therapy session; not to fun on the first date for the girl.

So, trying to face up to the fear and approach it with great respect to the girl, I make sure that I call her to ask her out. It seems that no one likes answering their phone which leaves me a better choice of leaving a message. This way gives me a chance to prepare for the answer since I am pretty stressed out about just calling. The answers have always been that they're busy but would "love" to go out another time. The girls have all been from my ward, so I think I have the reputation of being a way nice guy. Any answer, good or bad will set me off.

A downfall that is on my part is that I rarely show the symptoms of panic attacks or anxiety to others. It comes as a great shock to people when I tell them that I am really having panic attacks about dating (usually to the girl I am approaching to go on a date with.) I know that I either scare them or they just don't know what to do. So... my question is: when is it a good time to approach the subject? If I don't tell them at some point, the stress makes it hard to be around them. The bad (but for good learning) experiences have ended with them saying they just wanted to be friends or receive no contact at all. I have taken a break from dating for a while, yet really want . . . I hate letting this get the best of me.

Thanks for your time-

_guy that needs a better plan


Dear Guy,

I think you need to broach the subject in the beginning.

If your panic attacks are real (and it sounds like they are – and you’ve been smart seeking counseling and other help), then you need to treat this issue no different than if you were a type-one diabetic (or had any other serious medical challenge) – how awkward for your date if you started to go into insulin shock and had a seizure right there at dinner because you were worried that telling her about your diabetes and your inability to eat sweets would offend her because she brought treats to the picnic . . .

So you mention it up front. Per haps you could practice this one girl at a time in a “not yet asking her out” scenario. Pick a Good Sister at Church who you think is kind (WAY more important than her being “hot”) and find an opportunity to chat with her. Not a date; just two people getting to know each other better. Heck you can do this on the Sofa in the Foyer. When the time is right, confide in her. Should be easier, you’re not asking her for a date here, just a friendly person to talk to. Be Honest; Be Sincere; Be Grateful.

That might be a first step: getting to know the girls around you well enough so that when you finally ask them to go out it’s more a natural extension of your relationship than a Huge First Date.

But the bottom line is, if there’s a possibility of you having a major attack while on the date, you need to tell the girl in advance and prep her for what she may need to do to help, even if it’s just to give you a little space.

Like any treatable condition, you need to be diligent in taking care of your self, and it sounds like you’re doing a good job recognizing the Trigger Elements (like phone calls).

Heck, Guy, you could even use it as an Opening Line: “Hey, I need to talk to you. Now please don’t freak out, but I have a real problem with panic attacks. I’m serious! In fact, right now just talking to you is a challenge. You’re such a wonderful girl, I’d love to take you out on a date, but I’m worried that my situation will freak you out . . . do you have any suggestions?”

See, now you’re asking her for help (Everyone Needs to Be Needed), getting it out in the open, and may even get a date out of it!

You could possibly even set a goal of telling five girls in one week. You’re not asking anyone out here, just making new friends. As you get to know them better, then who knows? For now, it’s just one Baby Step at a time, Bob.

You’re right: most girls aren’t going to be willing to give a relationship a real shot. They’ll be afraid, and that will freak them out, but don’t let that stop you from continuing to try. You just need to accept that as a sad reality; even better: look at it as a Testimony Building Challenge.

Eventually you’ll find someone who will love and care for you, who will be willing to help you. Of course, that means that you’ll need to be a Good Enough Man that you’re willing to accept her with her challenges, too; willing to accept that she’s not perfect either. But you won’t find that person at all if you don’t endure; if you don’t continue dating.

I don’t know why these attacks are happening to you, but don’t let them get the best of you.

And you’re not alone. Seriously, which man among us doesn’t feel anxiety around girls? (Only those that either: a) lie; or b) have never been around Those Kind of Women.) There’s an awful lot about them that’s Exciting . . .

I still label very beautiful women as “Lose Your Breath Pretty”. I’m old enough now that it’s very rare that a woman other than my wife can elicit that reaction from me, but all guys know exactly what I’m talking about: you look at this girl, in person, and you literally can’t breathe, let alone speak . . .

Yes, Sisters, that’s no guarantee that she’s bright, or worthy, or even a good person, blah-blah-blah . . . but she might be stunning and all that too. Put your claws back in, I’m simply acknowledging that we can all have our own little anxiety attacks (yeah, don’t deny it, you get that way about some boys, too) around certain people. To this day, after being together for 20 years, my wife can still take my breath away . . .

So, not to trivialize your very real situation, Guy, but we’re all with you.

Never give up, never surrender!

- Bro Jo

Thursday, April 9, 2009

To Dance or Not To Dance

Dear Bro Jo,

I have a question/concern I'd like to ask.

I've read what you have to say about guys asking girls to dance at church dances, and I love it. I wish every guy at my stake dances was being required by his parents to dance every slow dance, too. Unfortunately, it isn't so.

It's very frustrating to go to youth dances. I have fun at them anyway, because after waiting for guys to ask me to dance alllllll the time since I was 14 (I am now 17 and have only maybe 2 or 3 more youth dances left), I now just have fun with my girl friends during the fast songs. But during slow songs, I am so tired of asking the guys to dance.

The last couple of youth dances I've been experimenting and seeing how many slow songs it took before a guy asked me to dance. The last dance it was 2 slow songs before a guy even approached me. Of course, the guy who approached me, it was his first ever dance, barely 14, 8th grader, and I'm just about ready to graduate. Not saying we didn't have fun, but the point being, absolutely NONE of the guys my age were asking girls to dance. And it's been like that for a very long time. (also, side note, I do try to look nice at these dances and have a positive attitude so I don't seem like a grumpy, unattractive sour-puss.)

Now, my parents and some leaders disagree with me on this. You might, too. At many of the dances, people bring card games and sit in a corner of the dance room. It bothers me because it's called a "dance", not a "sit-on-the-floor-and-play-cards". Sure, they're socializing (kind of), and I've even joined in to play with them because I was tired of being one of the only ones out on the dance floor. Though it was kind of boring, because nobody talked much.

At a dance, playing cards is not exactly the way I feel is appropriate to socialize. Youth disagree with me because they say "but it's fun!"

My leaders disagree with me being frustrated by this because they say "well, some people don't feel comfortable dancing, and if that's how they want to socialize, then that's how then can do it." That solution really doesn't solve anything, I think.

And if the guy isn't refusing to dance, he's already got a "girlfriend", or the girl he flirts with all the time, but they're "not really dating, wink-wink, they're just extremely flirtatious and good looking" and he always dances with her.

Nobody else. Nope. Their hands are like, glued together. And there's more than 1 couple like that at most dances. I wouldn't want to break them up (and honestly, if he's so attached to the one girl, I wouldn't want to dance with him and have him be staring over my shoulder at her the whole time), plus I don't really care for them much anyway, but some variety would be nice.
Girls who sit next to the boys and just stare/talk don't help much, either.

Honestly, if I wanted to sit down and talk with a big group of people, we'd get together and hang out someplace. But at a dance-am I alone in thinking you should get up and dance? (If it's a serious matter of being embarrassed to dance, I used to be, too. I say, just get up and do it. You might think you look like an idiot, but honestly, EVERYBODY does. That's what makes it fun! And a good workout.)

What do you suggest I do? I honestly don't think there's anything I can do alone, I can't force the guy to actually want to dance. I do often ask them to come dance with me in the slow dances, but once it's done, they go back to sitting and staring at the wall.

And I'm tired of it. I'm the female youth rep of my ward. (The male youth rep is one of the leading people who sits down and doesn't dance.) We have a stake youth rep meeting coming up before a dance here in a couple of weeks. Do you have any suggestions that I could bring up at our meeting? (I might not be able to make the meeting due to conflicting schedules, but I can at least write a note to a Sister in my ward who directs these meetings who agrees with my concerns about the lack of dancing.)

Also, from your own experience, do you know if YSA dances tend to be any different from youth dances? I'll be staying in my ward for college (father works at local college, free tuition, can't pass that up), and I have an older sister in the YSA, but she has a boyfriend, so when they go to dances, they're together. I think they dance with other people, but mostly they're together. I guess it's probably different from stake to stake, but just wondering if there might actually be an over-all difference, like Primary vs. YM/YW.

Thanks, I know it's a lot of questions,

Dancing Solo


Dear Dancing,

First of all, unless it’s a girl-ask-guy Dance or Song, you shouldn’t be asking guys to dance; that’s like being frustrated that your kid won’t clean their room but continuing to pick up their stuff and make their bed! Why should guys learn that you deserve to be asked if you’re going to give in and do the work for them?

(Sisters, this same concept applies to letting YSA Guys “Hang Out” at your apartment instead of teaching them that you deserve to be dated)

I’m proud of that Young 8th Grade Man – well done! I hope everyone realizes the Courage and Class it takes to cross a room and ask a girl to dance, especially one that’s a lot older; and even more, one that so desperately wants to dance; and more still, when all the other boys in the room (including the older ones who are SUPPOSED to be setting the example) are too afraid of girls to dance. . .

That’s called “LEADERSHIP” fellas!

Church Dances are a GREAT way to teach very valuable social skills. Asking a Girl to Dance is training for Asking a Girl Out, which is training for Asking a Girl to Marry You.

Your leaders are right, not everyone is ready for that level of socialization. That said, I think kids get sold short. There is such a thing as “positive peer pressure” (A Seminary Teacher recently shared with me that at a local S-Days kids from one area were “pressuring” each other during the Testimony meeting. One young man gave in to this pressure with very positive results).

Kids everywhere say they “don’t like to dance”, but what they mean is that they’re AFRAID of the OPPOSITE SEX. Parents and Leaders - Mark my words: if you fail to teach youth these important social skills now you will end up with a bunch of un-married 30-year-olds hanging out in your basement.

Young Men have got to learn that Girls are not Evil; they’ve got to learn how to overcome their fears and go up to a girl and talk to her; they’ve got to learn that it’s GOOD to take a girl by the hand, lead her to the dance floor, and that it’s OK to hold her left hand in your right and rest her right arm on your left.

I’m not kidding when I tell you that I REQUIRE ALL YOUNG MEN that ride to Church Dances in my big 12 passenger van that if they want a ride home they Must Dance Every Slow Dance with a Girl.

You know what? No matter how scared they are or how much they complain or protest, what they’re hoping for is that someone will help them have a reason to cross from “it’s not cool to admit you like girls” and “mom said all girls are evil” to “Girls are Cool! That was a lot of Fun!”

If it takes them blaming Bro Jo for making ‘em dance those first few songs, I’m fine with that. By the end of the dance they’re different men. They’re confident, they’re talking about girls. They’re assessing the types of girls they like and don’t like. All of this is GOOD.

Going to a Church Dance for a 14 year old boy is like a Mormon Bar mitzvah – they go in as boys and come out as men . . .

If kids want a game night, have a game night! (We're having one in our Ward for a Combined YM/YW activity in April - the idea of our Teacher's Quorum Presidency - there will be LOTS of FOOD!)

Maybe yours is just not a Dancing Stake . . . that’s what I’d start with in your next meeting - addressing whether or not you guys should even have dances if most kids don't want to dance and no one is encouraging dancing . . .

I do think that “Game Night” and “Stake YM/YW Dance” should be separate activities, preferably on separate nights, but at the very least in separate rooms.

As far as what you can do to encourage boys (and girls, let’s be honest: there are YW that vanish during slow songs too) to dance, here are some thoughts:

1. Modified Dance Cards. Small cards you can pick up at the beginning of the dance. Dance a slow song, get your dance partner to sign it, take your full card to the snack bar and redeem for treats. No full card, no candy (or whatever). I also like the “old fashioned” rule that says that a different name must be on each line of the card, and that you must fill at least one card before you can dance with the same person twice.

2. Have Learn-to-Dance Activities. We recently had a Combined YM/YW Activity where our YW brought in a professional dance instructor (who came in as a service – and maybe a bit of advertising). Yes, some boys refused to enter the gym, but those that came in had a wonderful time, and their confidence as dancers increased. I hope we do it again VERY soon.

3. Create Other Social Situations. When my oldest son became the Teachers’ Quorum President he set up a Very Formal Etiquette Dinner. The evening started with an Etiquette Lesson from a very classy sister in our stake; and then each boy escorted a selected-for-him-at-random girl to take by the arm and lead into the dinner (in the room down the hall). Once in the room he was required to escort her to her assigned seat, hold out her chair, etc. The dinner itself was very formal, multi-course, and elegant. Our Ward afforded it by having food donated and prepared by various auxiliaries. The Bishopric were the waiters and gave 5-Star service. If the YM/YW become more comfortable with each other, perhaps they'll be more-likely to dance.

4. Make Dances Special and Unique. Consider Theme Dances – you know: all Big Band and Swing Music; all 80’s; consider bringing in a Live Band! Not just rock bands, but maybe the Jazz Band from a Local High School . . . or the community symphony . . .

(Notes for DJs and Music Committees: not all popular current music is foul and indecent; do your homework, learn the difference; play stuff that’s “easy to dance to”; play more slow songs; have specific girl-ask-guy songs; do that thing where each girl throws a shoe in the middle and guys have to dance with the girl who’s shoe they pick)


Readers, what are some of your suggestions for Dancing Solo? (Reply with your comments and ideas below)

As far as YSA Dances, it really varies as much by area as Stake Dances. Ask your sister; even though she has a boyfriend, she should be able to tell you what your future ward is like.

Now, there’s one more issue you brought up that needs to be addressed: the Boyfriend-Girlfriend thing at Dances. I know they’re a couple. You know they’re a couple. You can bet that your leaders and Bishopric know, too. I agree that they shouldn’t be a couple, and I understand why it bothers you, especially at dances, but there’s nothing you or I can do about it.

Well, there are some things. You can Lecture, Learn and Lead.

Lecture your friends (and later your children and the kids you have stewardship over) about what’s right and wrong (lecture may be too strong a word here – talk to them, but don’t be superior – I just liked the idea of having 3 “L” words)

Learn from what you see. Let it be a lesson to you about what you should and shouldn’t do.

Lead by example. Teach others. If you and the Other Laurels in your ward who want to dance can teach the New Teachers that it’s cool, you’ll be helping out the Future Laurels and Mia Maids . . . a lot!

Keep the Faith, and Keep Dancing!

- Bro Jo

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Great Unknown

Dear Bro Jo,

I wish my fiancé would have broken up with me before we were engaged. Sometimes I wonder if the only reason he asked me to marry him was because we were at BYU and he felt pressured because we'd been dating for so long.

When I fasted and prayed about it, I really felt good about it, so I said, "Yes." But to break up with someone three months before the big day and then never even talk to her again even you're in the same Ward can really break a girl's heart and make her wonder what on Earth happened?

- Ex-fiancé


Dear E.F,

I understand that you’re heartbroken, and I agree that he should have called it off earlier, but I think you should be grateful. Seriously, what was the alternative? That you marry this guy? You wouldn’t want to marry a guy that really doesn’t want to marry you, right?

Maybe some day he’ll come clean, until he does there’s no way to know why he broke it off, but better to cancel the Wedding than to be in a bad marriage.

When Bro Jo was young he had a girlfriend that he was really starting to fall for. We worked together and one day at work we made plans to go out to dinner. She never showed. (Keep in mind that this was an established mutually-exclusive relationship) I called her home (this is before the days of cell phones, kids), no answer. I was really starting to worry about her. I went to her home. No one there; I was freaking out!

I couldn’t sleep all night. The next day we were supposed to work together; she wasn’t there. No answer at home. Long story short: she quit work, never took my calls, and I never saw her again; ever.

I went by her home every few weeks for several months, hoping to someday run into her parents or someone that could tell me what happened. One time her mom finally came to the door. She wouldn’t let me in, wouldn’t let me talk to her . . . but finally conceded to promise to give her a note that I quickly scribbled on a small piece of paper I found in my car (the mom wouldn’t give me paper, either); for all I know she tossed it.

In the note I said that I’d really worried about her, that if she no longer wanted to see me that I’d understand, but I cared about her and wished we could talk. I gave the mom the note and she disappeared inside the house. I came by a few more times over the next while, but no one ever came to the door again.

I’ll never understand why she just didn’t come out and say “hey, you’re a nice guy, but it’s not working out” or ANYTHING that would have at least let me know SOMETHING.

The point of the story is this: sometimes relationships end, not because of anything we did or didn’t do, in fact we may never know the real reason these things happen. It’s painful and weird, but ultimately for the best.

Consider this whole ordeal as one of those trials that will make you stronger. Hold your head up and keep dating. Sister Jo says you should move; I say make sure that every time you go to Church you look so hot he wants to cry.

- Bro Jo

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

When "Going Out" isn't "Dating"

Dear Bro Jo,

I'm a girl in High School and recently I have lost interest in dating. Through the past year, I've "gone out" with several guys. I know that I wasn't supposed to, but I did anyways. Nothing bad happened, but I feel like I can't trust myself around guys right now. So, I've decided not to date until I can trust myself.

Many of my friends and family members are worried about me.

My mom keeps pressuring me to go on dates and often it is a topic of argument between me and my two best friends. One of my best friends keeps telling me we should do a double and I keep telling her no. She's kind of bossy, so she seems to think that I want to when I really don't.

The prophet has asked us not to pair off during our high school years and that's what I did--several times in the same year. I feel like I can't trust myself because a lot of the boys I hang out with are "looking" for a girlfriend and I'm worried about developing feelings for them and acting off them.

I have tried talking to my bishop about it, but I'm still confused. Is it bad that I'm not dating right now? Is there something wrong with me? Should I be dating?

I thought I'd ask you to get an outsider's opinion.

Thanks,

Tsuki Bear


Dear Tsuki,

No girl should ever feel obligated to go out with a Bad Guy (parents and leaders take note: you should never prostitute your young women as a way to activate a young man), but if you’re old enough and a good guy asks, you should let him take you out - on a Group Date (we call that "Casual Datng".

Your friend is right when she suggests that you should double (or even triple) date. It takes off much of the pressure. Now, that’s of course assuming that your friend is a “good girl” and not looking for someone to use as a front seat occupant so her parents won’t learn that she’s in the back seat with her boyfriend making out – finding good dating buddies is tough but very important. You’ll have to decide if your bossy friend is trying to help you realize that not all guys are bad or if she’s just using you.

You shouldn’t pair off in High School. That level of comfort breeds intimacy that should be saved for later (I’ll bet you could list kids in school who’ve been a “couple” for a while and everyone knows that they’ve gone farther than they should. Sister Jo and I can look at a couple and the way they interact with each other in public and KNOW just how far they’ve taken the physical side of their “relationship” – it’s a learnable skill, not a gift – I wonder how many kids realize that . . .) Prophets aren’t wrong, heed their counsel on dating and spend some more time talking to your Bishop.

I’ll bet your mom is pressuring you because you’ve kept much of this secret from her, and that’s too bad. I wonder how many moms (and dads) reading this have no clue what’s going on in the hearts and minds of their children, particularly when it comes to dating . . .

(Parents, the key, as always, is Communication. I don’t care how busy you are or how many children you have, you MUST regularly interview – and talk to [two different things] - your kids. It’s like prayer: the lines of conversation need to be opened often.)

If you talk to you mom, tell her how you feel and what's going on, she’ll probably back off on the pressure.

Can I make one more observation?

You used quotes for the phrase “gone out”, which to me suggests that you’re talking about something other than Dating. When I was a kid we called asking a girl to be your girlfriend “Going Together” (guys would actually say “will you go with me?”, which was a dumb way to put it, because the two of them weren't “going” anywhere. . .); people my parents age used to call it “Going Steady”, meaning that a particular person was your Steady Date.

I’m guessing that “going out” is more likely to mean “being someone’s girlfriend” or, if we’re being honest, “being the girl a particular guy smooches”, right?

That’s not Dating!

Take a look at the letters I’ve responded to about Kissing, and read through the JOHNSTON FAMILY DATING RULES FOR TEENS listed in the side bar. In fact, you should discuss them with you parents.

If you set rules and boundaries for yourself (and your dates) than you should have little to fear; you’ll trust yourself if you behave appropriately and stick to the rules. Date, just don’t put yourself in situations where you’re going to be tempted to do something you’ll regret.

BTW - it’s perfectly OK to be upfront with a guy when he calls to ask you out. Insist that he have a Plan for your date; require him to tell you who else is going; and tell him upfront that you think it will be fun to go out with a boy who’s not looking for a girlfriend.

I’m proud of you for being so self-aware.

- Bro Jo

Monday, April 6, 2009

Men and Women Can't Be Friends

Dear Bro. Jo,

I am a freshman at my local high school and even though the school year is almost over, I've never seen so much drama! You see, I made the mistake of "kinda" dating a good friend of mine and we both realized that we're better off as good friends very soon off. We now are great mutual friends and I thought it was behind me.

But recently, my best guy friend who is a member of the church and I always admired him for the way he seemed to stand for what we believed in. A couple of months ago, he asked out one of my best non-Mormon friends and they have been getting very serious. I was so worried that he was falling away and not standing for the belief of not dating before 16.

Now that a good friend of mine who is also not Mormon commented on how she was surprised that he doesn't seem to be standing for what he says he believes in, I'm extremely worried. I've confronted him about the dating problem and told him he's taking it too far, in my opinion, but he hasn't even considered my worry. I'm now wondering if anything he ever stood for was truly pure in his heart.

I know I made a mistake earlier this year, but I've repented and swore that I will wait until I'm 16 to even consider seriously dating. And now my guy friends best friend is telling me that I'm a hypocrite and that I need to respect my friend and his relationship with his girlfriend because they like each other so it's okay to be so emotionally and physically attached. I'm finding it so hard to stand for what I know is right when the people around me and especially the person I used to look up to are telling me that I'm being ridiculous and stupid.

Am I overreacting due to my not so far back experience or am I in line?

-Lost Mormon Friend


Dear Friend,

Bro Jo’s head is spinning from all the Drama too!

OK, one thing at a time.

Working backwards through your letter . . .

First of all, you ARE overreacting, but you’re not out of line. You do realize, I hope, that in this little play you’re the Drama Queen, right? Rather than focusing on being a friend and setting a good example, you seem to be stirring the pot and butting into everyone’s business. On one level it’s OK to be your “Brother’s Keeper”, but looking out for your friends is not the same as meddling in their relationships (we’ll get to why you’re doing that in a minute). You’re “In Line” when you remind your friends about Gospel Principles, your allowing yourself to be swept up in the drama, and thus overreacting.

Secondly, you’re not being a hypocrite. That would require you to be unrepentant and still dating. Your “friend” (the quotes are intentional) is calling you names because he knows he’s doing wrong; he’s trying to make you feel bad and to excuse his behavior. Don’t fall for it.

Third, you’re jumping to conclusions about the level of this boy’s testimony. He still knows what’s true; he’s just in denial because the sinning FEELS good (for now). You won’t be able to change his mind, either. You still have an obligation to stand for and speak what’s right, but he won’t listen to you until he realizes on his own that this is a bad path. When he does, and he will, instead of telling him that you “told him so”, bear testimony to him of the Savior and the Power of Repentance.

Fourth, I’m glad you realized that it’s better to wait to date when you’re 16, but that’s when we start “casually dating” not when we start “seriously dating”; there’s a very big difference, and you need to learn it. Serious Dating is what we do when we’re looking for a spouse (and you’re at least 4 or 5 years away from that phase); Casual Dating is what we do when we’re testing the waters, getting to know people better, and having fun.

Don’t rush through the Casual Dating phase, you’ll miss a lot of good times and risk making a lot of life altering decisions (as you’ve noticed several kids in your school doing – I’m old, but I know what goes on in High School).

Finally, and no doubt most controversially, you don’t have any “guy friends”.

I always ruffle more than a few feathers when I preach the “Men and Women can’t be friends” doctrine. Mostly from women, which I say just proves my point, but that just makes people madder . . .

The line is from a movie (which you should only see on Edited Television), but it still holds true.

The problem is two fold, one of semantics and the other social context. The word “friend” has become so watered down recently that I need to concede that it no longer means to everyone what it means to me. In my world a friend is someone that’s more than an acquaintance, colleague, teammate, fellow parishioner, coworker, or someone you chat with at business networking functions.

Friendship to me denotes a level of commitment. Friends talk about personal, intimate stuff. They eat meals together. That level of “friendship” is inappropriate between a married person and an opposite-sex person that is not their spouse, married or not. Why? Because two opposite-sex people alone together at lunch, regardless of age or marital status, is a "date".

I’m social with ladies at Church, but I would never take one of them on what an outside observer could, even accidentally, construe as a date. We're acquaintances, not best friends. Even if I say "Hi, friend!" that doesn't mean we take one-on-one walks in the park.

You may have four hundred “friends” on Facebook, but emails and instant messages are not alone enough substance to constitute a solid relationship.

In a social context, what many people, again mostly women (and even more so: young single women) fail to understand is that No Man will spend Quality Intimate Friend Time with a woman he’s not attracted to. It doesn’t matter if he’s married, sworn off women forever, or just a “buddy that hangs out” at your apartment. If he’s straight (and sometimes even if he’s not) and he’s spending lots of time with you, it’s because he wants the relationship to take on a physical aspect. Perhaps not right away and perhaps he will never have the courage to do or say anything, but that’s why he’s there. Even if he says it’s not.

("Boys" and "Girls" are an exception to the rule. Note that the quote says "Men and Women", I include that to mean "Young Men and Young Women", but if maturity is lacking, and we're still talking about "boys and girls", friendship is possible. We all mature at a different rate, and that's perfectly OK. Me, I started being openly interested in girls in the second grade . . . some guys are too afraid to hold a girl's hand even though they're 35 - that's part of why they're still single - again, I digress)

The introduction of the "Men and Women can't be friends" principle is a revelation often leads young women’s minds to race: “is so-and-so really attracted to me?”

Yes, he is.

They all are.

Even if he denies it, he thinks you're pretty.

If my daughter is reading this, you need to know three things:

1) Guys lie - especially when embarrassed

2) Guys are shallow - we're wired to observe all that is pretty

3) Guys are dumb - that goes without saying, but we blame girls for making us that way

If there's a guy that seems to be spending a large quantity of his time with you, he's interested. If that’s a bad thing, you’re well advised to alter that relationship, pronto. And you'll have to be clear (see rule number 3 above); you can say "I'm not really interested in dating anyone right now" and he'll hear "but if you follow me around forever, eventually I'll give in and love you".

And therein is part a big part of your problem, Friend (there’s a joke in there somewhere), even though you’ve already discovered that Friendship with a boy can lead to Romance, you’re not seeing that a large part of the conflict between you and your “best buddy” is the underlying reality that you may date each other in the future. THAT’S why there’s so much Drama, THAT’S part of why he won’t listen to you now when you tell him to break up with his girlfriend – he thinks you’re biased (even if you’re not).

So . . . what’s a Girl to do?

You’ve made the right decision to put off dating until you’re 16. When you are old enough, keep it casual. Continue being Friendly, but realize that the potential for romance will infest every guy-girl friendship, and beware. NEVER let the sins of others make you feel bad for making the right choice, regardless of what anyone says or does.

And be patient; the Drama will pass. If not right away, at least by the time you have teenagers of your own. Then it will be their Drama.

- Bro Jo