Things to know

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

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

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

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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Net

Dear Bro Jo,

I don't know where to start so I'll just jump in.

I am 18 years old and have been raised in the church.

I have had a good friend (who is male) since I was 14, he is also a member and is planning (hopfully) on going on his mission next year.

We have never dated although the subject has come up quite a few times.

I wouldn't mind dating him but there are complications that would make it rather difficult to have a 'normal' relationship so we have stayed friends.

Here is my problem. Every-time he gets a girlfriend I'm left out in the rain. He won't call, text, email or even send up a nice old fashion smoke signal. This goes on for a couple of weeks and then when they inevitably break up he calls me to talk about how he misses her.

How do I explain to him that although I don't necessarily want to date him, I don't want to be forgotten when he finds a cute new blonde to hang out with?

Yours Truly

Last Choice



Dear Choice,

I'm sorry that your friend is dumb.

Perhaps when he comes home from his mission he will have awakened to the wonderful girl that you are and wish that he had and could date you.

But I hope for your sake you're not available when he returns. If you are, and he's smartened up, I hope you make him beg.

Not too much.

But a little.

:)

Other than that, I think you're learning a very valuable axiom of life (and if you've read my column for a while, you may be able to guess what it is . . .)

You are no doubt choice, but he's not choosing you.

And, frankly, as long as you're there to be the back-up safety net he can fall into when the bimbo du jour turns out not to be what he expected, he'll never think of you as anything more.

I'd like you to wrap your head around one thing: when you finally do get a boyfriend, for the sake of continuity let's say it's this guy, how would you feel if he was constantly sending smoke signals to one of those other girls?

Don't say "fine". There's NO WAY you'd be fine. NO ONE is ever "fine" with their companion having a relationship with someone else.

If you're still wondering, the axiom is . . .

"Men Can't Be Just Close Friends with Women".

We have no right to complain about being wet when we're the ones standing in the rain.

If you ever want to be more than a friend, and it's clear you do, you'll need to cut give him an ultimatum.

Since he's leaving for the Mish soon, I wouldn't bother.

Not yet.

Better to move on.

Like I said: if you're still available when he comes back, then draw the line.

But don't wait around because, frankly little sister, it may never happen.

And you deserve better than that.

- Bro Jo


Dear Bro Jo,

You're right, I guess I need to re-watch When Harry Met Sally, boys and girls cannot be just friends.

Which is all I want from him. I'm tired of 'being his safety net' and 'back-up plan'. I just miss my friend. But thanks to you (thank you, thank you, thank you) I've realized I would rather have him out of my life than in and out and walking all over me.

I seriously doubt that he is going to notice my absence since him and his new beau have become more serious than any of his previous girlfriends, it wouldn't surprise me if they were to get engaged.

But if for some reason they do break up and he comes back I will read and re-read your email until I have the courage to tell him the truth.

Thank you again.

Choice


Dear Choice,

If you do re-watch the movie, only watch the “edited” version.

:)

Be Strong.

- Bro Jo

Monday, June 28, 2010

How Old is "Too Old"?

Dear Bro Jo,

The short version - Is there a point where someone is too old for you? I know you've had this conversation for teens, but what about us YSA?

By chance have you seen the "Twilight / Mormon Spoof"? Ok, well that pretty much sums it up (in a humorous way) except I'm 20, and I'll be finishing my Bachelors within the year. I've been lucky enough to date a lot of great and not so great guys over the years, and he rates very high in the ranking.

We both are at the same University (how we met) and our common friends think it is about time we got the picture. I guess my concern is the fact my parents will freak (they aren't thrilled that he likes me... not his fault). They want me to finish graduate school before I even think about dating someone seriously. I think I'd be wrong to give up a chance like this to date an amazing guy who I get along with, and if it doesn't work out in the end, well at least I won't have to wonder what-if. I'm sure my parent's won't be the only ones who have doubts... any suggestions on how to deal with it?

Am I crazy for trying?

Miss May


Dear Miss May,

Well I doubt you're crazy (although I might change my mind once I see the video).

:)

And I'd hardly call 20 "May", maybe mid-March, but not May . . .

You never mention just how old Mr. December is, but I'm inclined to say that you should always investigate the possibilities.

With respect to your parents, and the many others who agree with them, IMHO any woman that "puts off" Serious Dating for college, especially grad school is out of her gosh darn mind.

Look, sometimes it just works out that marriage doesn't happen until later in life (or not at all), but intentionally dodging potential Eternal Companions is just about the surest way to keep oneself out of the Sealing Room that I can think of.

Not to mention that it goes against everything that any Prophet of God has ever said on the subject.

Yes, I firmly believe in pursuing a higher education by men AND women IF they have the aptitude, desire and it fits within their career goals (it's too expensive otherwise) - have I mentioned that I teach at the local tech college? - but I don't think you pick it INSTEAD of a family.

I went back to school as a 27-year old with four children (OK, three children. The fourth was born in the middle of that.) It IS possible to do both.

But let's not jump the gun here: it sounds like you haven't even dated this guy yet, so for all we know it may not even work out.

But it might.

And you'll never know if you don't check it out.

Do you really want to look back, ten years from now, single, advanced degree in hand, and wonder "what if"?

As for how to deal with the negative comments of others . . .

Ignore them.

It's none of their darn business anyway.

Unless there's something more to this guy or this situation that you're not telling me (like he's a serial killer), I say date him.

- Bro Jo

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Too Much to See

[Readers: I got this note in April, but am just having the opportunity to post it now. Even though the author references Spring, it's no less important a statement now that it's summer.]


Hey Brother Johnston!

I wasn't sure where to email you, but you emailed me on here once, so I thought here would work! As you may have noticed, spring is here! I absolutely LOVE spring! But there is one thing that I dislike intensely about it...immodesty! It's EVERYWHERE! I'm in Utah and it's bad. So I was just wondering if you could send a reminder to all your readers that despite the nice weather, remember your standards and be modest!

Thanks!

D


Dear D,

I’ll do better than that; I’ll post it as a Bonus Column!

Sisters, we men are visual creatures, and while we admit that works to give you an advantage over us, we humbly request that you help us keep our thoughts pure. As the weather gets warmer we know the amount of clothing worn will get fewer, and while our prurient selves are not complaining, please remember that if we’re ogling you we’re not thinking “she sure is a sweet girl; I’d like to introduce her to my parents”.

We want to stay friends with God, and when you're not wearing much it makes it easy to forget how he feels about the Natural Man.

We know this is more our problem than yours, but you're so . . . enjoyable to look at . . . we sure could use a little help.

Thank you,

 - Bro Jo (on behalf of The Good Guys)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Becoming a Good Wife and Mother

Dear Bro Jo,

I have been reading your blog for a few months now, and hearing about you and your beautiful family has got me wondering about my own future family.

For a while now, I've been thinking about what I want to do in the next ten years or so. Questions like, do I want to go on a mission, or should college be a priority?

At what age should I start looking for a husband? That last one really got me thinking about how little I know about marriage and a family. My parents got married at a young age (my mom was eighteen). My father had been raised in the church, but my mom had stopped going to Catholic church when she was ten. They didn't get married in the temple and my mom did not want children.

A few years later, however, she changed her mind on the one condition that she wanted her children to know god. She didn't care what church they joined, but thank goodness my father did. A little while before my brother was born, she got baptized and they got sealed in the temple. Fast forward a few years to when I was five. At about this point, they realized thatthey had been married too young and didn't love each other, and parted ways peacefully and joyfully; no lawyers, no fighting, just simple divorce.

So now I've grown up a little more, and I wonder what my family will be like. Actually, I don't wonder, I'm terrified. I don't know how the 99% of my family that is not in the church (including my stepmom, whom I love very much) will deal with not being able to see my real wedding.

And how do I know if the man I love is really the man I love, or if a few years down the road we'll decide we don't love each other anymore? And the scariest thought of all, the one that keeps me up at night, is that I don't know how to raise a family. I have maybe done two family home evenings in my entire life. I don't teach things very well. My mom hasn't been the best example to me.

For that matter, how can I be a good partner to my husband if I don't know his job? Now don't get me wrong, I'm grateful for my parents, but I have never had a father's blessing, and the only priesthood holder in my house is my seventeen year old brother.

So my question for you is this: How the heck am I supposed to be a good mother and wife???

- No Name



Dear Little Sister,

You already have one of the most important qualities, one that can't be taught, and that's Desire. With out Desire you'll settle for mediocrity.

Parents aren't perfect. Yours weren't, mine weren't, I'm not, and you won't be either.

Part of that is because "parenthood" is one of the very few things on that list of stuff for which no book, class, lecture, or similar experience can possibly tell you what it's really going to be like; you have to live it to know.

(Marriage is one of those things on that list, too.)

Still, we can prepare.

We're commanded to honor our mother and father, which we absolutely need to do, but we can also learn from their mistakes. You're gaining a testimony of having the Priesthood in your home and the value of Family Home Evening; I can add to that my testimony of Family Prayer, Family Scripture Study, Attending Church Meetings Regularly Together as a Family and Regular Temple Service. So live your life in such a way as to get there.

Have you ever heard the advice that you should write your own obituary or epitaph and then live your life towards that goal? When you've moved beyond this life to the next, what do you hope people will say about you? (It's kind of like Dicken's "Christmas Carol" . . .)

I'd like people to say "He honored his family and his priesthood, he worked hard and tried to help others", so everything I do needs to lead to that. (Or at least it's supposed to . . .)

Fortunately you still have a lot of time before you're married and mothering. Sure, it will go by quickly, but when the time finally does come, and it will, you'll do like the rest of us: pray often for help, follow in faith, repent regularly, and learn as you go.

For now: relax, observe, and be good. Strive to be the type of woman that the type of guy (worthy, hardworking, loyal, honest . . .) will want to marry.

The first ingredient is Desire.

The Second is Hard Work.

And the Third is Faith.


- Bro Jo

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Has She Crossed the Line?

Dear Bro Jo,

I've written to you before, and I feel kind of bad about bothering you a second time. I've been debating with myself for a while, but here I am.

At a January YM/YW activity, I met a boy who has lived on my street all our lives, but converted (alone) about a year and a half ago. I'd never known him before, since his family has always kept to themselves, and after he started coming to church I guess our paths just never crossed. But since the January activity, we've grown very close. We walk home from church together and I see him increasingly often on weekdays - and we almost always end up spending 2-4 hours talking. I don't know where the time goes. I enjoy it while we're together, but when I go home and realize how much time I've spent with him, I feel so guilty.

This would all be fine and wonderful if we were YSA, right? But I'm 16 and and still in high school, and he's 18 and leaving on his mission in the summer. My family and I have been helping him with his mission papers - he just got a miraculous "ok" from his dad to cover the finances (the day after I prayed long and hard for his parents' hearts to be softened), and my dad has instructed me to take his mission pictures today so he can send everything in. I'm planning on writing him because he needs all the support he can get.

It's obvious we have feelings for each other, but we don't talk about it or hint at it. We only spend time together in public places and my parents are always aware of it. We keep our distance physically, but (at least on my part) it's getting more and more difficult. I have trust issues due to past life experiences, but I'm beginning to actually trust him... quite a lot. I'm not bold enough to admit the L-word to myself, but I guess it's probably moving that way.

However, I believe in neither high school relationships nor trans-mission relationships. I don't want things to become romantic, but I'm getting more and more attached to him, and I sense the same changes coming from him. I feel like it's becoming inevitable and that scares me. I'm so confused and I don't know if I'm doing right - and (short of chastity) what even is right in this situation.

I guess this could all boil down to two questions: 1) Is there anything in my conduct towards him that I should change? and 2) What is the line that I/we shouldn't cross before he leaves?

Thanks, Bro Jo. I hope I made sense; if you're confused about anything, just let me know. Have a great day!

- I can't think of a witty name, so you're free to. :)



Dear Little Sister,

So long as you don't put yourselves in situations where the temptation and opportunity to get too physical is high; and so long (as you wisely realize would be a problem) there are no commitments made or implied, I think you're fine.

He sounds like a nice guy, and I'm glad things are going so well for him spiritually (very exciting times).  Unless you're doing stuff you shouldn't, or spending time together is keeping you from doing things you should (like homework, Church stuff, things with family, or going on Casual Group Dates with a bunch of different guys) I don't think you should feel guilty about the time you spend together.

The line is between Casual Group Dating and Serious Dating, and you shouldn't cross it.

If you're asking how far you can go . . . can you hold his hand? can you kiss him? . . . well I suggest you check out "Bro Jo's KISSING APPROPRIATENESS"  and my column "Is French Kissing OK?"

- Bro Jo

PS - you write as often as you need

Monday, June 21, 2010

Follow Up - Getting a Dating Buddy

[Readers - a Follow-up from April's "Getting a Dating Buddy" column.]

Dear Bro Jo,

Yes, in the time since I sent the request I found at least one non LDS young man who would certainly be able to date, though he is a skilled player, so it really depends on the timing with him as he does not seem to keep a lady long.

The presence of my 19 year old brother for the next few months (or years) makes the situation a little easier for the time being, as he can drive, though I wonder whether providing additional reason for him to stick around is advisable. It's his choice regardless whether to go on a mission, and when to go.

As for willing young ladies, I have found that I needed to change my view point completely. The reason for this was found in how the young ladies who were attracted to me, were not the ones I was trying to attract, and were the ones that I was only friendly with, and not flirting with. Therefore I shifted my view to not seriously considering any young women, and viewing all as friends only. (yes i do understand your thesis on the subject, however I also have the religiously valid material to maintain my position on that)

Presently I am working on planning an outing with my parents, and a girl skilled at flirting, to see an imax film sometime this next week. I'll update you on whether it actually happens.

- - - seven days later - - -

As i expected, something came up, she ended up being too busy with other concerns to be able to show, another failed plan, back to the drawing board, maybe the aquarium of the pacific this next time. theres also a good local library, maybe that will be workable.

- Anon


Dear Anon,

Your brother presents a great option, except that he's on one side of adulthood and you're on the other. Sorry that last date didn't work out, keep trying . . .

And make the Circle BIGGER.

The Aquarium of the Pacific is very close to where I lived when I went to High School and College; in an area of six million people you should be able to do better than "at least one non lds young man who would certainly be able to date, though he is a skilled player".

Make some friends, bro. I just checked, I think you have over 10 wards in a five mile radius . . . in my old home town of Cypress (I was a Centurion!) there are now FIVE different wards alone! (And that's just one town over from the Aquarium.) Surely you can find another over 16-year old LDS Guy who's a decent chap that's ready to date.

Doubling with your parents can be fun, but should be rare.

I think you're approaching this thing too clinically . . . stop worrying about "girls as friends" and get out there and have some fun!


- Bro Jo

PS: About your date "criteria" - widen that, too. Why does a girl you ask out on a casual group date have to look a particular way, or be your buddy, or find you attractive, or be particularly flirty? Non of that matters that much at this stage. Casual Group Dating is like a YM/YW activity where they boys and girls are paired off and there are no leaders. Get four Priests together, ask out five Laurels, and have a good time.

It's as easy as that.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Making Something Out of Nothing

Dear Bro Jo,

I love reading your blog every day and never thought I'd be the one wanting advice, but I really trust your opinion. So here it goes...

So there's this guy. I know, I know, you're thinking here we go again. Apparently he's liked me for 3 1/2 years. But he just barely told me, and now I've moved. But that's kind of okay by me because, well, there's a few things wrong with this. I actually like him too. A lot. But he's not a member. And of course I don't want to let my standards down at all. And I'm not 16.

My seminary teacher told me to just enjoy the long distance attention (because we're over 3,000 miles apart now), she said if he lived here she might feel differently but not to worry about it. Well apparently there's a really high chance that he's moving within an hour of me this summer. His mom knows he likes me and his dad said he can ride the train up to see me every weekend.

He knows my standards, he knows I'm not going to date until I'm 16, and he knows that I want to marry a returned missionary in the temple. I told him that I wouldn't be allowed to hang out just the two of us even if he did come up on a train every week. He said he understood. I said maybe we could go in a big group with a bunch of other people to the mall but even that I wasn't sure about. I also told him I wouldn't hold his hand or anything, just to make sure we were at the understanding. He said he understood, he's fine with that. But then there's the whole "boys and girls cant just be friends" thing.

I don't want it to turn into anything but I really like him and I don't want to lose him as a friend either. What should I say to him? How should I handle the whole situation?

p.s. my friends say I should ask him to read the Book of Mormon, that maybe he'll get baptized and maybe go on a mission and then I won't have anything to worry about. But I don't want to just shove a Book of Mormon in his face and say read this or I can't like you. And I'm sure I'm not going to be marrying him. Converting him, though, does seem semi likely but I don't really know.

Thanks,
confused


Dear Confused,

I hope you don't take this wrong, but really this seems like a non-issue.

You're free to like whomever you like, but you're not going to date this guy, he lives to far away to be any kind of boyfriend, you're nowhere near marrying age, not that he meets your criteria anyway . . .

Be nice. Corespond. Share your testimony if you feel so inspired.

But don't make this out to be anything more than it is, which, frankly, is "hey, I know this guy who lives really far away that is kind of good looking".

Big deal.

Spend your time and attention much closer to home.

- Bro Jo

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Two Coffees, Please

Dear Bro Jo,

I don't like to tell tales. I never have. but on this one I don't know, it just seems important.
There is an oldish woman in my ward at church, she's really close friends with my bishop and his family and she works in the temple most days...

Recently I started work as a at a small "coffee" shop in town, its a small place that sells sandwiches, ice cream, cakes, tea, coffee and hot chocolate among other things... Its a really good job, the wages are great and my workmates are alot of fun. last week during one of my afternoon shifts I was asked to serve two coffees to table 3 - its a coffee shop totally normal. when i got to table 3 I was sure they'd messed up the order somehow... Two coffees -- two old ladies - one member of the church!

Sunday I was talking to the sister who was at table 3, we ended up talking about my job and she asked what days I was working this week... I thought nothing of it - just general talking right?

Well yesterday I had switched shift with one of my friends because she had a doctors appointment -- again I was asked to serve two coffees to table 3, again it was two old ladies and one being the same sister from church. so i went back to double check the order. it was defiantly written down as two coffees. So I asked another waitress to serve that table ---

I wasn't sure but we don't normally get orders messed up. so (name withheld) took the two coffees to the table was thanked and i watched both women drink their coffee! To say I was shocked is an understatement. I was then asked to serve table 4 -- right next to table 3, when the sister saw me she looked horrified! like a little kid who had just been caught steeling from the cookie jar. I carried on with my job and pretended to be none the wiser... maybe it was a mix up? I doubt it but maybe?

Until I was asked to serve table 3 two more coffees -- not decaff I asked. I served the coffees this time. again guilty child with the cookie jar, but the sister did not try to correct the order.

I have asked my mums advice - she says I am not the first to witness this sister drinking coffee since she became a temple worker, nor am I the first to talk to the bishop about it. I don't want to accuse my Bishop of anything, he is a good man. but how messed up does that seem! The bishop knows this sister has a world of wisdom problem and still she is a temple worker? - I always thought that to be a temple worker you had to keep the word of wisdom? have i got this wrong somewhere?

Should I try talking to my bishop about what I saw? or maybe it would be better to talk to my stake president? Or is it not my place to say anything? I really don't know what to do for the best. I have talked to my boss... he says that the two women have been in everyday for the past year and they always order two coffees, so I know this isnt a one time thing. I don't think I can brush it under the carpet and pretend i dont know anything. I am not that type of person.

- Concerned Waitress



Dear Friend,

It's always a tough situation . . . how and when do you draw the line between "none of my business" and "I am my brother's keeper"?

You ARE right: to be a Temple Worker you must be able to enter the Temple. That requires that you hold a valid Temple Recommend, and to hold a Temple Recommend you must meet with a member of your Bishopric (Branch or Mission Presidency if you're either in a Branch or on a Mission) and a member of the Stake Presidency for a regular Temple Recommend Interview. In that interview one of the questions you're asked is if you live the Word of Wisdom.

As neither you nor I are in her Bishopric or Stake Presidency, it's not our job to judge her worthiness to hold a Temple Recommend. So, in that way, it's none of our business.

BUT . . .

It becomes our business if we either a) care about her spiritually, and/or b) she's doing something that can bring harm to herself or others, and that includes the reputation of the Church.

I think you and I can agree that what she's doing meets that criteria.

The question then becomes "what do I do now", or "how can I best be my brother's keeper"?

And that's where most of us error.

Whenever possible, and not dangerous, our first step should be to talk to the individual. As difficult as it may be, as awkward as you may feel, your first step is to have a private conversation. You can bring / include a parent or trusted friend for support and encouragement, especially if you're still a youth or younger. But the conversation should be between the two of you.

In your case, it should go something like:

"Hi, Sister ___________, can I please speak to you for a moment? I know you've seen me at the coffee shop. It looks to me like you're doing something there that makes me very uncomfortable, especially for someone whom I understand is working in the Temple. I feel the need to talk to Bishop _________ about how I feel, and I'm going to do so this Sunday, but I thought it best to talk to you first, and see if you'd like to talk to the Bishop before I do."

Say it with love and respect and concern and humility.

And be prepared to be unpopular.

That's OK.

Few people like to be confronted with what we're doing wrong or what we should be doing better. It's typical for us to get defensive or angry or try to justify our behavior. An older person hearing that from a younger person can act even more offended because older people don't feel that younger people have the right to correct them. How dare they! They're younger!

But being older doesn't make you perfect or always right. (My kids can testify to that, me being their father and all.)

If you'll allow a side tangent: I think one of the most dangerous traps we fall into is that of Justifying Ourselves as the Exception. We hear what the prophet says, and we can think of how the truth applies to others, but can fall in the trap of thinking that we're the exception to the rule. Looking for excuses can get us into lots of trouble.

So . . . the first step is to go talk to her. Do it as soon as possible; the longer you carry this burden the harder it will be to unload.

The second step is to follow through. Make the appointment with your Bishop and if she doesn't go talk to him, you need to. Don't focus on his flaws or inaction, don't cast stones at her as a sinner, but rather tell him how what you know makes you feel; ask him to help you know what path you should follow in this situation.

Do you see the difference in that approach?

And remember, we don't know everything about this situation, or what the Sister or the Bishop have discussed, or what anyone may or may not be doing.  We all need to repent, and how we go about it should be between us, the Lord, and when appropriate our family and priesthood authority.

Be Humble. Be Patient.

And whatever happens, remember that the Gospel is Perfect even if those of us trying to live it are not.

- Bro Jo

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

You are 16, going on 17 . . .

Dear Bro. Jo,

I have an issue. I think that I like this girl however she is exactly 2 years younger that me (we have the same birthday). Anyway, I'm 17, making her 15. I would like to go on a date with her once she turns 16 but that would make me 18. I think that, at that age, I would be to old to ask her out. However, I have talked to a number of people and there have been mixed opinions. I was wondering if you could please help me out?

Sincerely,

Confused


Dear Bro. Confused,

I think 18 & 16 are fine, especially if you're still in the same school.

But even if you've graduated and she's still in High School, I see no problems with you taking her on some Casual Group Dates.

Stick to the Dating Rules.

And have fun!

- Bro Jo



Bro. Jo,

We don't even go to the same school, she's only in the ward that shares the same chapel as mine. Is that still alright? There is also another issue. I live in Australia and NO ONE goes on dates. As in ever. I have been on one. Even in the Church, dating is weird. What do I do? I don't want to freak her out or anything.

Sincerely,

Confused


Brother Confused,

Not only is it alright to date girls from other schools and wards, I can tell you from personal experience that it's GREAT!

(Imagine: less drama, less pressure, less gossip . . .)

It's not just you LDS Aussies that don't Casual Group Date as much as you can or should, that's a world-wide issue, and one that we're here to fix.

Perhaps what you need to do is start by getting a couple dating-age buddies together and start planning some Group Dates. Set a goal of going out once a month. Make these Casual Group Dates fun, no-pressure, guy paired up with girl activities. Review "Bro Jo's Dating Rules for Teens" with your friends and parents, making sure that everyone has a clear picture of what you're doing and why. Ask the girls in your area how they feel about what you're trying to do, and get their input.

You may just have to accept the fact that you're going to have to be the leader on this one. Who better than you?

- Bro Jo

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

"Hanging Out" Defined

Hey Bro Jo,

I have a quick question for you.. When you talk about being in the 'friend zone' and girls hanging out with guys.. Are there limits to when you can hang out or not? For instance if a group of friends get together to play sports or go to the beach, is that alright as far as hanging out with guy friends? I'm just curious how the 'no hanging out' works. Thanks for everything!

-Gal Pal


Dear GP -

Great Question!

And thank you for the letter.

A bunch of friends at the beach or playing sports is great! Especially if you're a teen.

But when you're an adult, and it's time to do some more Serious Dating, then there has to be more than just the regular group party.

Hanging out, in my mind, is when college-age guys loiter at college-age girls' apartments, watching videos, making each other dinner . . .

When they start doing those things that couples should be doing together As A Couple, but they're not a couple, that's when they've entered the dangerous "Friend Zone".

If a YSA looks around and sees that there's more Group Activities than dating, then it's time to make a change.

- Bro Jo

Monday, June 14, 2010

This One or That One?

Dear Bro Jo,

Hey! So I recently switched schools and this guy I just became good friend with told me that I should go out with his best friend.

He's been saying it even before I met his best friend and is still saying we should go out.

I met his best friend a week ago while I was tutoring the guy with math and his best friend told me that I was beautiful but I dont know if he was kidding or just trying to be funny or what because hes only said it once.

A few days later I saw him again but I had an errand to run so I asked him to watch my things. While I was running the errand he had to go somewhere so he took my things with him since he said he would watch my stuff and he asked someone for my number and called to let me know that my things were safe and he'd be back.

However he hasn't called or texted me since then... a few days later I saw him again and I sat by him. We talked for a while and when he had to leave he told me that it was nice seeing me and he tapped my shoulder while he was leaving.

- New Girl


Dear New Girl,

So . . . what's your question?

- Bro Jo


Dear Bro Jo,

Is this guy interested in me? Should I text him first?

Do you think the guy is interested in me?

I want to text him but I want him to text me first.

Should I just text him first?

Or will that just make me look desperate?

Helppp!

-New Girl


Dear New Girl,

Yes, he's interested in you.

And so is the other guy.

No, you shouldn't text either of them first.

I don't think texting makes for much of a relationship.

Yes, it may come across as being desperate. Maybe not. Tough to tell given the information.

If you're old enough to date, then you could hint to these guys that they should take you on some Casual Group Dates.

Our Facebook Fan Page has lots of great information on what a Casual Group Date is, and how you can go out and get one.

Have Fun!

- Bro Jo

PS. If you're goal is to get a boyfriend . . . don't. Not if you're still a Youth. Wait for that until you're an adult.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Finally, A Date! But . . .

Hi Bro Jo!

I've written to you before and your advice was very helpful so I figured, why not write again!

As a reminder, I wrote to you about being 17 and not being on a SINGLE date. The worst part was everyone knew it too. My leaders and others teased me about it all the time even though they weren't meant to inflict harm. I just felt bad because I'd only ever been able to attract creepy guys (who aren't members) who are, plainly, CREEPY. So here comes the giving me advice part!

Just to give you some background...one of the girls in my ward/good friend dated another guy in our ward. They were very sweet together until "things changed" and they broke up. It's been a little under a year since they've broken up. Every girl in our ward knows of this break-up and therefore dating him is taboo. He was recently reminded of my dateless status and took it upon himself to ask me out. It was a nice gesture and I thought he was just kidding until he talked to me and told me he was serious. We have a date scheduled for the weekend. I had him promise me not to tell anyone because I don't want to cause issues with people in our ward, especially with my friend who dated him. She's told me countless times I should date him, but I always ignored her. So my question is, should I go on this date? I mean...I know I don't like this boy IN THAT WAY but I'm still going. Am I just doing this to get a date? I'm so confused!

Sincerely,

Go For It?


Dear Go,

Eeek!

Sorry for the delay!

I've missed the date!


For the record, I would have said this:

Friends are more important than dates until you becoming marrying age, then all bets are off.

You should tell her he asked you out.

And then you should go out with him. Why should you remain dateless just because they used to be a couple?!?

You don't have to be "in-love" or "twitter-pated" (old guy word, but very apropos) to date someone, especially not at your age.

Other than that, I get the sense that you're not going on a Casual Group Date, which I think should have been remedied.

Call your friend and make sure she's OK.

Call the guy and tell him you're excited, but that there has to be at least one other couple.


So . . . how did it go?

- Bro Jo


PS - I remember the previous letter. I'm glad you're hanging in!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Big Brother to Little Brother

Dear Bro Jo,

I'm an 18 year old guy who's very close to leaving on a mission. My problem is (or at least was) this, I live in an area where the Mormon population is not very high, (we have no dating age young women in our branch) and if a guy was to ask a girl from school on a date the implication was that they were in a relationship. While this isn't entirely my problem anymore because I'm now focusing a lot on my mission, your advice will certainly give me insight as to how I can help my younger brothers who will inevitably be going through this very shortly. How would you suggest going about dating girls without repeating dates too frequently in an area where selection is limited?

- Future Missionary


Dear Future Missionary,

Thanks for the letter.

It's an ongoing, world-wide cultural problem, and if it's any consolation, I don't think it's any better in predominantly LDS areas either.

The deal is this: girls want boyfriends. Even Mormon girls.

OK, not all girls.

But most.

For many of them it's an external validation of their value and attractiveness, and that messed up notion is propagated by many of their parents (many parents of guys do it too). It's as if being in a relationship is somehow proof that they're popular and good-looking.

Which is, of course, not true.

Our Divine Nature and Individual Worth come from God, and is recognized from within.

But that's a difficult concept for many teens, and many of their parents, to understand.

So the first thing you can do for your brothers is to help them to understand that they are, as the song says, Children of God.

Then teach them why Young Men should Casual Group Date (social skill development, practice for when they're old enough to Serious Date, learning the value of putting someone else first, etc.); then teach them how to get a date (this is covered extensively in past columns and on our Facebook Fan Page).

Then testify to them that, especially if you're following the Casual Group Dating Rules, there's no need to limit your high school age dating to LDS girls. Tell them to broaden their circles, and have fun!

- Bro Jo

Monday, June 7, 2010

A Slight Change of Perspective

Dear Bro Jo

Hello again. Various events have occurred since my last letter; And now I think I am need of your help again before I lose myself in my own thoughts of what is going on...

In my close circle of friends, I'm the oldest male out of the bunch! The oldest girl had just come out of a very close friendship/relationship with the 2nd oldest male in the circle of friends (Following me here?).

While that was blowing over, for various reasons and events me and this girl started to hang out more and got to know each other better. After various hints made on her behalf, I got the general idea that she did like me and after a casual group going to movies-turn-single date though we had a conversation about relationships; I pretty much though said (Now that I think about it) I wasn't interested in anything too serious before my mission (That view since has slightly changed, which is one of the reasons I send this email)

A few days after that though I started to realize that I liked her! We did hang out casually after that single date, just the two of us, before we were joined by afew others coming to these events we organize amongst ourselves! Since then we have all hanged out in a large group, which has been fine! Now though I realize she either doesn't seem to have, or atleast now isn't showing as much interest in me anymore, yet here I am now realizing what an amazing girl she is and everything!

My questions is what and where do I go from here? I did formally ask her on a group date that did go well, and while I am keen to continue just casually group dating, I don't want this chance of being with her more often, now and post-mission, let me slip by reguardless of what
she now thinks of me...which is something I'm still trying to figure out, based on what happened before and what is happening now. She does seem now she isn't interested in me as much, but I'm not sure what has happened for her to lose interest in such a short space of time...

That Guy


[Just typing this email out is embarrassing and I'm hating the thought
of it being online (How many other people say such when writing to
you: Just me) :? And really, while I am 18, all this Youth/YSA
like/love business is all new to me...having come out of what I now
call admiring this one girl for 6 years during Youth before we started
hanging out...maybe other girls had some interest in me before - I
just never have seen the signs til now...
]



Dear TG -

Let me start with the Post Script first: Welcome to the Club!

All of the angst, trepidation, longing and confusion you're feeling means that you're just like the rest of us.

Congratulations!

As for this One Special Girl, I say keep dating her but keep yourself open to other possibilities as well. In a year or so you'll likely leave on a mission; all of this Casual Group Dating we do pre-mish is to help us break out of our comfort zones and give us a base knowledge and some experience that we can build from when we return and begin Dating With a Purpose.

For now just relax and enjoy!

- Bro Jo

PS - Interest comes and interest goes. Don't sweat it. If she's moved on, then you should too! (Besides, you're not supposed to be that serious yet, remember?)

Friday, June 4, 2010

Reader's: Can you guess the guy's "deep dark secret"?

Dear Bro Jo,

i love your blog!! the advice you give is fantastic!
i have 2 questions for you that i would be delighted if you answered!

question 1

I guess it's obvious that you stand on the whole "boys and girls can't be friends" side. but what do i do????? over half my friends are guys!!!!!!

question 2

I really like this guy....he is like super super nice. He told me that he had a crush on this other girl. and i helped him by asking the girl whether she liked him or not. she didn't. He didn't seem to be to upset about it. but says that he really likes her and stuff.

but see, he certainly ACTS like he likes ME!!!! for example whenever we're online at the same time he will start the conversation within 5 seconds. i have caught him staring at me MORE than once. plus he flirts with me all the time and tells me that i'm amazing and stuff. he has asked when i am turning 16. I've noticed that he seems to always want to be closer to me and will lean toward me when we're sitting next to eachother. and he goes out of his way to give a goodbye hug

he wants me to tell him who he likes....and says that i can trust him and stuff...and that he would tell me one of his deep dark secrets if i told him who i liked.

so....should i tell him?
do YOU think he likes me? what's your interpretations of his actions?

-CONFUSED!


Dear Fused,

1. You realize that your "friends" would like to date you, and that means that when you're finally in the place where you're picking just one to spend eternity with all the other guy friends have to go.

2. OF COURSE he likes you! Yeah, you can tell him, but I don't think you should. Call him "shy" or call him "coward", the dude is hinting pretty hard that he wants you to make the first move, or at least give him the green light, and since you're not yet dating age, and should avoid the entanglements of a Boyfriend at this stage in your life, I see no reason to make it easier for him than you already are (and clearly you're no closed book). When you do finally turn 16 you can suggest that he take you on some Casual Group Dates, but for now slow down you love sick puppy!

I invite you to check out "Bro Jo's Dating Rules for Teens" and discuss them with your parents.

- Bro Jo

BTW - I can already tell you what his "deep dark secret" is. Hint: it's what he'll say immediately* after you confess that he's the one you like.  (*Unless he's chicken, in which case he'll panic or drag it out.)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

How Does He Know He Loves Her?

Bro Jo,

I searched your blog and could not find any advice on what differences are important when selecting an eternal companion.

When it comes to marriage, I am a person who knows (thinks) exactly what I want, but understand that in the end it may not really matter. Right now I am with a girl that I do like, find attractive, and enjoy being with. However, we differ on so many issues, issues that may seem small to most, but are big to me. For example, I hate dogs, they are messy and I don't want to ever have one. She is a dog lover. We don't like to eat the same things, watch the same type of TV, or have same view on gun control. We are just beginning to form a relationship, not sure if the differences are giant red flags or me just being selfish or picky.

I assume there comes a time in a relationship where you realize that you care about the person enough you are willing to make major sacrifices. I seriously don't expect to find a person that matches my ideal companion (or even know what my ideal companion really is). Would you share your insight on what level of differences are important to note when dating, how important knowing your differences, and how to make a marriage work when it comes to major differences.

Sincerely,

Alias


Dear Alias,

Sure, I'll help the best I can. Let me ask, how close are you to marrying age?

- Bro Jo


Dear Bro Jo,

Thanks for your response. I am 23 and a return missionary, ready and able to start a family.

Thanks.

- Alias


OK. That helps.


Dear Alias,

What an insightful, poignant, and challenging question!

I did write a column on the "5 A's of Why NOT to Marry", which you can read HERE.

And I think that's a good place to start, but I think ultimately what you're asking me is "How do you know you're in love?"

Once you've eliminated the "5A" stuff, those things that can bring even the strongest person to relationship disaster, that really is the only question left, right?

Like you said: at some point you realize that the small stuff you might otherwise call "deal breakers" don't really matter. Lust is the motivation when the person we're interested in is so . . . sexually exciting . . . that we're willing to overlook anything for a shot to act upon our desires and passions. Love is when we're willing to set those things aside because we care about the well being of the other person more than our own. Lust is selfish; Love is selfless.

At some point many men and women realize that they're are lots of types of people that they think they could get along well enough with to live together. I think this is why it's so much easier for old people to get remarried than young people; at that point it's no longer about "hotness", it's about companionship.

Let me tell you a a story.

I went to High School and College in an area where everything and everyone seemed a significant drive away. It's the culture. I drove thirty minutes to work, forty-five minutes to college and, occasionally an hour to pick up a date. That was normal where I lived. And yet, after a few fiery crashes, I swore I'd never date another girl that lived more than fifty minutes away. The inevitable pain just wasn't worth the sacrifice in time and gas money; there were plenty of girls who lived much closer that were willing and able to reject me . . . why go to all that extra trouble?

But I fell in love.

With a girl who lived a two-hour drive away.

And I didn't care.

Before we got married I made it Very Clear that I didn't like pets, I never wanted pets, I'm too busy for pets in my life, and I'm allergic to cat and dog dander.

Two months into our marriage Sister Jo brought home a kitten.

I was . . . livid.

To say the least.

But I got over it.

Now we have two cats, a dog (which she claims was my idea), a frog, three fish . . . and some of the kids would love to add lizards, spiders and snakes to the family zoo.

I still don't like pets.

But I have them.

I have many friends who don't spend much time hanging out with their wives. They like different activities, different movies, different friends. For most of them it doesn't matter; their marriages are solid. For some you can just tell that it's not going to work out.

I'd rather hang out with Sister Jo than anyone. We love the same movies and TV shows. We can talk for hours day after day. Sister Jo is stunning, and I like kissing her, but I'd rather skip a month of kissing than a weekend of talking. (Which is, of course, not to say that I would ever by choice skip kissing her.)

But that's us.

What works for us doesn't have to be what works for you.

Or anyone else.

See, Alias, you need to find out what works for you, and the best way to do that is to date.

A lot.

And be realistic.

Ask yourself, and the girls you date, the Hard Questions.

Questions about:

- Kids (how many, how soon)
- Where to live
- Thing that you feel are important
- Politics
- Traditions

Talk about Hope and Dreams and Goals and Fears (and realize that all of that stuff changes as life gets lived.)

If you're adamant that you never want a dog, and you're not so in love with this woman that you're willing to put that aside forever, Dog-lover Girl is not the woman for you. Tell her she's great, wish her well (don't burn any bridges), and move on.

Frankly, I fail to understand what you're basing this relationship you're starting on.

I mean: why would you get More Involved with someone you have so little in common with?

Is she what my boys like to call "loose-your-breath-pretty"? Does she have a ton of money? Does she smell so good you can't think straight?

Are you worried that you're going to end up alone?

Because none of those are enough of a reason to commit to someone.

Even at 23, even as an RM, you shouldn't be committing to anyone unless you're thinking "Wow! This girl is great! I'd rather be with her all the time than not; there's so much potential here that I can't imagine not seeing if this is going to work out".

THAT'S what an ideal companion is (no such thing as "the ideal companion").

If you're not finding that, if you're not feeling that, you need to be dating WAY more than you are.

50 dates a year, RM, that's the Bro Jo recommended minimum.

You're never going to find someone you have Everything in common with; I'm sure it's no surprise, but Sister Jo and I disagree . . . A LOT! (And we don't always get along, either.) But you should be able to find someone who's happiness you'll put before your own, and who will do the same for you.

Too Picky is when you are being too superficial, holding others to a higher standard than you hold yourself, or when you don't date enough because your fantasies aren't breaking down your door begging you to marry them.

The time in the relationship you're asking about, when you're willing to make major sacrifices, doesn't happen In The Relationship, the Relationship happens because you've reached that time.

As for how to make the marriage work when the poop hits the fan . . . well . . . here are four principles to follow:

1) Listen.
2) Apologize.
3) Be selfless.
4) Accept change.

And the best ways to be open to all of that are:

1) Be of service.
2) Stay worthy.
3) Attend the Temple together.
4) Continue dating each other after marriage.
5) Pray together.

Because you've got to feel the Spirit.

All the time.

Never make her feel like anything less than a Royal Daughter of God. Always express your love, appreciation, and gratitude.

Because, let's face it Brother, any girl that's willing to marry you or I (or any of us) makes us very lucky men indeed.

- Bro Jo

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Importance of Respect (and Bro Jo's Tirade on Modesty and Hugging)

Dear Bro Jo,

I'm 14 years old, and I'm a freshman in high school. Being a teenage girl, I am boy crazy. I think most girls are, right? I've never had a boyfriend, or broken any of the standards, but I just love boys and I love flirting. There's this one boy at my school who I really like, and I am almost positive he likes me back. He's really nice, and he meets my 'list' for what I like in a guy... He's tall, he has brown hair, he's funny, he's nice, he's easy to talk to, he has a great personality, he's musical... everything I like! We are very good friends and hug daily, not being flirty, but just because we're good friends and we're both very 'huggy' people. I think we have a special friendship because we've only known each other since the start of the school year, but we clicked instantly. We have a ton of things in common, which I love.

Only about a month ago did he find out I was Mormon. I was shocked at his response. Most of my friends know I am, but I don't go around saying "hey guess what! I'm a Mormon!" But, it's on my Facebook page, and people just know it and it spreads around. If people ask me, obviously I don't deny it, but I avoid talking about it (I know, I should be trying to bring it up and get people interested, but its hard!) because of being criticized about things especially like "magic/special underwear..." Being told I'm stupid for my religion does not feel good, and is the main reason I hate talking about it. Anyways, I was talking to him about a friend who goes to my church, and he's like "oh I know her!" and I was like "Really? she goes to my church," and his face immediately froze and he was like "oh..." I then said "what? You make that sound like a bad thing!" and he said "well, YEAH! I HATE Mormons!" I think I just about died. I asked him why, and he answered "Well, just because of gay rights and stuff. And I really just don't like Christianity in general." (I was happy he at least knew we ARE Christian...) I was sad that he reacted in such a way, but I'm glad that he knows and our friendship is unchanged.

He will make a comment sometimes, but not often, like I'll say something and he'll just randomly be like "yah, you MORMON!" Or, he'll sometimes he says to someone that we're talking to "hey, you know she's a Mormon?" He doesn't say those things a lot, but when he does, it hurts my feelings and embarrasses me-- not because I'm embarrassed of the Church, but just because it is embarrassing that people think that about me or my religion. I can't explain the feeling.

Regardless of all of his comments, I still really like him and like I said, I pretty sure he likes me. I actually didn't start liking him until after all this happened. We flirt a lot, but not in an extremely obvious way. To me, flirting with him is just how much we talk, and how deep we talk, and it just seems like we are always together. We sit at the same table at lunch, a lot of the time next to each other, and we are partners in class, he goes out of his way to talk to me or to be near me (it seems like...). I don't know, I guess it might not be flirting, but to me it is, and I think he feels the same way. Talking to him is important to me. We don't go a single day without talking and having several good conversations. And, he's a good person. He's not trash like a LOT of people at my school. He is just a good person.

Talking to him all the time, I know a lot about him. I finally learned why he hates Mormons for gay rights so much. For a while, I was scared thinking maybe HE was gay, because he felt SO strongly about the matter. I learned he for sure isn't, but that's besides the point. He has a lot of gay people in his family, including his twin sister, so he is just sticking up for his family, which I can't blame him. I stick up for my family, too, and it shows me how much he cares about his family. Still, I know homosexuality is wrong, but he doesn't understand why we believe that. So I guess he just "hates Mormons" because some of his family is being 'discriminated against', or something like that.

Anyways, I guess my question is just Is it okay/good for me to like him? How can I get him to change his opinion about Mormons? I really, really, really like him. I can't explain my feelings for him, they are so strong. I know I am only 14 and can't date him for 2 more years, but I just can't stop thinking about him.

-Girl with a Crush



Dear Crusher,

I'm not convinced this guy is a great as you say he is. He picks on you, insults your faith, constantly speaks in ignorance, and is too "huggy".

Forgive my while I'm blunt here for a moment, but Too Many of you Younger Sisters seem to have no clue that boys aren't hugging you because they're friendly or want to console you; they do it because it's the closest they can get to copping a feel without using their hands.

You can tell me "it's not like that" until you're blue in the face, but I know better. And any teen boy that tells you that when he's hugging a girl he doesn't notice her chest is (and read this very carefully) a L-I-A-R.

Even the nicest, purest guys notice.

Guys may be dumb, but they're observant.

They have radar when it comes to girl underwear and the things it's supposed to cover.  They see every bra strap, notice the underwear hanging out of your pants, and look down your loose top when you bend over in front of them. When you're not wearing a slip under your skirt or dress and step between them and the sunlight, guys see it, and if you sit in a short skirt in a non-careful, non-lady like way, then even the blindest of them could pick out wall paint to match your panties.

And in those moments they are not thinking "she seems like a very intelligent person".

Get a clue.

(For the record, I'm appalled at how many older women who should no better, even in sacrament meeting, have no concept of the value and importance of modesty.)

Yeah, sometimes a hug is just a hug, but not when a teen boy is hugging a teen girl.

As for this guy you're infatuated with, move on.

Even if you could ignore all the other stuff, you can't let go of the fact that he doesn't care if he hurts your feelings. THAT'S a recipe for disaster. You have more value than you're giving yourself credit for.

The only way you'll ever be able to change his opinion is if you hold fast to what's right; stand for your standards. You need to have his respect (which you don't now, sorry, but it's true) before you'll ever be able to talk to him about your faith.

And, as a related side note, you need to know that while in the case of this boy it's just a crush, no man will ever love a woman he doesn't respect. Sure he may "like" her, or be attracted to her, but love is different.

File those last two sentences away, will ya? And remember them when you're just a bit older.

It's OK to like a guy, to have a crush, to experience all those things you're feeling.

But it's not OK to change yourself or compromise your standards.

Try to upgrade from "boy crazy" to "boy appreciative"; the first one implies that you're out of control, the second shows a level of sophistication and maturity.

- Bro Jo

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Follow Up - To Prom or Not - Take 2

Readers - Do you remember the Girl that wasn't sure if she should go to the Prom? The original letter can be read HERE.

Below is a follow-up email she sent me.

- Bro Jo



Dear Bro Jo,

Thank you!

That helped a LOT! I was leaning in that direction, but everyone kept saying that I should go so I didn't miss out on such a big event. I had a really busy weekend anyway, so I turned him down by saying that I had a bunch of family coming in town because my brother was getting baptized (he really is :]) and I'd be spending time with my family all day, and that I thought it was more important to go to that than prom, so I was sorry, but I'd have to turn him down. I thought that was a pretty smooth way to reinforce that I put my beliefs in front of him, don't you think ;)

I actually got asked by another guy not too long after, but I turned him down too.. and I'm really happy with my decision. Yeah, I'll miss Junior Prom, but that's okay! It's not the end of the world.. and I can always go on a date with guy #2 later. But I'll have my family for forever and having them all in one place is something that doesn't happen too often.. So I think I'm going to make the best of it. Plus.. There's always next year! :)

Thanks again!

- Magnet