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, March 30, 2011

Love at First Sight

Dear Bro Jo,

Does Bro Jo believe in love at 1st site?

- W



Dear W,

Nope.

I do believe in attraction at first sight, and instant spiritual promptings that you really should get to know someone, but love requires some familiarity.

Love is something that grows, not something that magically appears.

(Related tangent: we often confuse the Spirit with love, which is why non-engaged people shouldn't go on Temple dates.)

Now, all of that said, when I first saw the future Sister Jo I was VERY attracted to her. Six months later when we had what I call our first date I seriously thought "wow, I could fall in love with this girl". Three months after that when we had what she calls our first date, I was absolutely smitten with her. And there are times now, 20+ years later, when think I wanted to marry her from the very first day we met, as if it was prearranged in heaven.

And this comes from a guy who absolutely doesn't believe that there's just one person out there for each of us.

(But that's not what I told her when we were dating - I used the "we are destined to be together" line relentlessly!)

- Bro Jo

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Poem for an RM

Dear Bro Jo,

Hi there.

So I'm an RM that has a hard time reading girls, which I bet many guys fall into the category of. This is probably a really dumb question, but are there any particular ways to know if a girl has interest in you or if she just enjoys your company? There's one girl in my ward who talks to me every opportunity that she has, even if she's in a hurry, but I don't know if its just me wanting the attention, or if she's genuinely interested.

I really like her and want to ask her out, but I'm worried that I'm just taking the signals wrong. Any advice is welcome. Thanks so much.

-Clueless



Dear RM,

Ask her out, bro.
It's the only way to know.
And if she says "no"
She won't go
Then at least you'll know.

Seriously, make more dates and fewer excuses. It's just a date. Ask her.


- Bro Jo



Dear Bro Jo,

Very nice poem and advice :). Thank you very much.

- RM


Dear RM,

Anytime, my brother. Anytime.

- Bro Jo

Friday, March 25, 2011

Marriage Prep

Dear Bro Jo,

I was just wondering how you expect us (I'm an 18 year old girl) to be prepared for marriage if we've never been in a real relationship, or even get to the point to consider being married to someone before then?

I haven't read all of your blog, but you seen to have a "casual dating only" policy. While I think there is serious risk in serious dating, I think that there is a lot that can and should be learned from it- for example, the staples of a good, Temple marriage: spiritual support, communication, what to do in a fight, and just learning to be close to someone. You better believe that before I commit eternity to someone, I will know everything I possibly can BEFORE we are married, including and especially personal things you don't share with someone you are casually seeing.

When do you think a serious relationship is acceptable/healthy?

You can't say that the only full-on relationship we should have is with our spouse...

Thanks so much

PLEASE reply, even if it isn't posted

- Searching



Dear Searching,

It’s not so much an issue of what I expect, but what I recommend . . .

Casual Group Date while you're a teen.

Serious Single Dating for girls after high school, for guys after the mission.

Both are marriage preparatory.  So are dances, etiquette dinners, missions, scouting, personal progress . . . each thing at the prescribed age and stage.

For the record, LOTS of people, both in and out of the Church, have very successful marriages with the first and only person they've ever been in a serious relationship with. Think about it.  Look around at the people in your ward.

Now it's true that I dated a lot as a teen and young single adult. Some relationships were more serious than others, but Sister Jo is the only relationship I had that lasted longer than three months. This month we're celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary.

There's no way to know everything about someone before you marry, but there are some warning signs to avoid and some questions you definitely need the answers to.

Check out

Bro Jo's "Five A's of Why NOT to Marry That Person"

and

"Bro Jo's List of Stuff You Need to Know Before You Get Engaged"

Thanks for reading!  And don't worry, you'll find love, probably when you're not searching so hard.

- Bro Jo

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What does it mean when she's touchy-flirty with other guys?

Dear Bro Jo

I have a dilemma I would really like you to help me out with.

I'm 15 (16 in two months!)

She's also 15 and 6 months until 16.

Both temple-worthy members (at least on my part)

Half a year ago there was a girl that I used to like a lot, she liked me back and we got along very well. However all of a sudden she started liking another guy while at the same time she would be very friendly, flirty, and would hug me all the time. I just got the feeling that she was pretending to like me, and had really found another interest. Feeling hurt and somewhat betrayed I decided I wasn't going to waste my time and just let go, I'm 15 after all. I know I'm an attractive person and she isn't the last fish in the sea, so I should just go have fun. We live a ways away so after a talk about my feelings we gradually stopped texting/calling each other.

Where the problem starts is recently we started talking again. Predictably, we started the flirting again. Although I've been hurt by her before, I can't seem to stop myself from feeling attracted to her. She is very confusing because she is very touchy-feely with other guys. She is the kind of girl who will cuddle with her friends for movies and hold hands with them (who are guys, and I know you're views on that) I know she flirts with at least 2 other guys the same way she does with me. Not casual flirting, but not sexual. She claims that of guys she's attracted to I'm tied for 1st (although I think ranking is just wrong).

A mutual friend that is close to both of us claims that she simply finds it hard to go back to liking someone after their feelings for each other stopped. That she has trouble seeing things working out after they've failed. She thinks I stopped liking her first, so she stopped liking me. I think she stopped liking me first, which is why I stopped in the first place! I am just so confused as to what to do, she knows I really like her, we spend time together, and she even invited me to her house, but yet she is so liberal with other guys. I don't know if our relations are anything different.


I think my options are:

Just continue being myself, flirting, having fun, and wait it out

Stop flirting, stay friendly,

Or move on.


Thank you,


-Mr. I hope she reads this



Dear Hope,

1. All flirting is, on some level, sexual; even if one is joking or has no serious intentions anything going anywhere. That doesn't mean that flirting is bad or verboten, but here I insist on calling things what they are. Still, I get your point.

2. You shouldn't, at this point in life, be doing anything that (either real or implied) leads to a serious relationship. In two months it will be time to go on Casual group Dates, and when it comes to girls that should be your focus.

3. With this girl what you see is what you get. Just like the computer language (WYSIWYG). She's casual with her relationships, uses flirting and the responses she gets to make herself feel better (which includes confirming to her own attractiveness), and liberally hits on everyone. It also sounds like she's manipulative and, dare I say so, more than just a little physically willing and aggressive. If I were you I might think about taking her on Casual Group Dates (when she's old enough), but I wouldn't get my heart set on anything (certainly not anything serious) and, given her pattern of behavior, I wouldn't get my heart broken when she social-climb-flirts her way into a relationship with someone that ain't you.

Still flirt. Still be a Good Guy. Don't take anything too seriously, and don't get yourself in a position where this girl could get you in trouble.

- Bro Jo

Monday, March 21, 2011

Changing the Dating Culture

Dear Bro Jo,

Thanks for all the help you give the youth. Your blog is a great idea and I’m glad to see that you’re helping so many people. I have enjoyed reading the posts.

Quick update on me: I'm a happy father of 2 in the middle of medical school in (location withheld), who just bought a minivan, which makes me feel old. My wife and I are madly in love and work hard to make our marriage better all the time. I am now the second counselor in the young men’s presidency and scout master. I love working with the youth and trying to teach them righteous principles and playing hard with them.

I had an interesting and eye opening experience this Christmas break and I was curious what your thoughts would be regarding it. My brother-in-law, Cody, turned 16 in November and by Christmas time had not gone a date yet. I decided that I could help him get over that first date hump. I had a little chat with him about the dating section of the "For the Strength of Youth" pamphlet and we determined that he did want to date, and that it was good to date, but was nervous about it.

What a wonderful opportunity for a loving brother-in-law to help out! Even before we got to my wife's home town, we had decided that it would be fun to do a group date. Me and my gorgeous wife, my 16 year old brother with his date and my 23 year old returned missionary brother in-law (who has his own dating struggles and issues) and his date. So I encouraged Cody to find a date.

At which point our conversation abruptly hit a wall, "I don't have anyone to ask," he said.

Most of his female classmates/friends were still 15 and he was intimidated by the thought of asking a girl older than himself. And here is a big part of my question, he also said that the majority of other girls he could ask had boyfriends. He lives in a small Mormon settlement town in (location withheld) with 10 wards. I was sure there would be someone he could ask and I was determined to help him get over his nervousness. In order to help him get over his fears I did what any good brother would. I threatened him with social embarrassment. If he could not find anyone to ask on our date, then I would ask someone for him. How embarrassing would that be right?

With some more time and pressure he did come up with one girl to ask. (I saw him skip down the hall with the phone to call her, grinning like the Cheshire cat.) Unfortunately, she was in Hawaii for the break. Back to the “no one to ask” wall. Eventually, my wife called all of the young women’s presidents in the stake and asked about available 16 year olds. We found someone he could ask. He did ask her, not me.

We all had a great time making PVC pipe marshmallow guns and shooting each other. It was a success in the end.

I have been very interested in Cody's current situation. He would like to date. He understands that dating is good, but the number of possible dates he could ask out is so small, even though there are so many LDS youth in his town, because so many girls have boyfriends. I understand it is popular in the world to have a boyfriend or girlfriend in high school. I felt the pressure even back in my day (I can hardly believe that was 10 years ago).

I am curious what your thoughts are about how to establish a culture of appropriate dating rather than specifics of individual dating. Specifically, in Cody's stake, what would you recommend leaders do to change the dating culture, and what would you recommend the youth do?

Curiously,

A Former Student



Dear Friend,

How great to hear from you! For what it's worth, ten years have gone by quickly for me, too!

The culture shift is going to be a long and complicated endeavor. In our day girls are, even more than before, convinced that their value is derived from guys and not, as it should be, from Heavenly Father. From an ever increasingly younger age that problem, in their minds, seems to be solved by having a boyfriend. It's a misconception that is growing worldwide, and one that's propagated by many of their parents, yes, even Latter-day Saints. If a girl has a boyfriend, then she's pretty, she's wanted, she's valuable, or so she's lead to believe.

Add to that the benefits boys realize if they have a girlfriend. It publicly identifies them as heterosexual, relieves them from heaps of pressure (from peers, but also their parents) and presents possibilities for physical stuff (because, as some boys realize, girls will do many things they don't want to or think they should do if it means having and keeping a boyfriend).

These, as my oldest daughter says using air quotes, "relationships" are the antithesis of dating. Despite what they say, these kids aren't "going out" or "dating", they're hanging out and kissing.

For decades many of us in the Church responded to our fears of youth immorality by creating a culture of non-daters. You and some of your friends were exceptions, but I'm sure if you think back you'll remember many of your LDS peers who NEVER dated. Even some of you who did date were still terrified by the horror stories old people told you. And thus the Church now finds itself with a growing problem. Many youth are either panicked about dating or getting in . . . "relationships" too young.

What you and your wife did for your nephew is exactly in the right direction. Casual Group Dating is the key to the middle road. A way to build important social skills and have some great experiences without jeopardizing your temple worthiness.

So Cody may be blazing new social territory, so to speak. His first step is to find some good dating buddies, guys that have the same goals and intentions he does. Once the group is formed, they just need to start going on Casual Group Dates, preferably once a month. It will be difficult, and he'll probably have to most, if not all, of the work. But by graduation he will have earned the reputation of being one of the nicest guys and best daters around. It won't make high school necessarily any easier, but when he comes back from the mission he'll be one hot commodity!

Leaders and parents will be a little more difficult to convince. If they're already on the boyfriend-girlfriend or anti-dating wagon, they'll be there because of their own fears or experiences; as you know from your mission experience, you can't convince people they're wrong, they have to discover it for themselves. All we can do is teach and testify.

If leaders and parents are on board, there's a lot of great things they can do!

Youth dances need to be regularly held, and the bigger (multi-stake) the better. Youth dances are preparatory for dating (the same way, I argue, that casual group dating is preparatory for missionary service, serious single dating, and marriage), and regular opportunities will help the youth be more comfortable with each other in social situations.

Etiquette Dinners should be a yearly occurrence; so should "how to dance" classes. Both are actually recommended in the youth handbooks, (Etiquette dinners used to be something a teacher could sign off as part of his Duty to God, I think they still are!) and Youth Leaders should encourage combined activities. (In Sister Jo's ward the priests and Laurels would get together once a month for a movie party at a leader's home.)

Parents should encourage their children to have regular gatherings at their home. Movie parties, game nights, mixed gender barbecues, all should be happening from age 14 on. (An added benefit to these get-togethers is that parents will know their children's friends and potential dates, making everyone more comfortable when 16 rolls around.)

Adults need to also abstain from hanging their own baggage on young people. Didn't get asked to prom? Dated a scary girl? That doesn't mean your child should stay home.

Being attracted to the opposite sex is a good thing; rather than deny reality, we have a responsibility to teach young people how to deal with those feelings and hormones in a positive way, building their confidence and social skills so that, ten years from now, they'll be happily and smartly married, hopefully with a couple kids.

Creating our own eternal families is, after all, why Heavenly Father sent us here in the first place, right?

- Bro Jo

PS:  Sister Jo and I are very proud of you and the examples you and your spouse are setting.  Keep it up, brother!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Activating a Neighbor

Dear Bro. Jo

My friend "Alex" is my backdoor neighbor who moved in a couple of years ago. He's very anti-social with anyone but me and couple of select friends. Me and my group of friends try and include him in activities and get him to do double dates with us and whatnot but he just shies away from it.

I honestly don't think he's ever held a conversation 1 on 1 with a girl and I know that very few people actually know more about him than his name. He's a cool guy and can get along with most people but just doesn't go near enough to meet them.

How can I get this guy included?

Also he says that if he knew how to ask a girl out properly he would but I’m not really an expert cause I barely turned 16 myself. I told him just to ask the girl if she wants go on a date, say what they’re going to do and who with and that’s it but I’m not sure if that’s quite correct.

Any help will be greatly appreciated,

- No Name



Dear Neighbor,

There's a difference between "anti-social" and "un-social"; your shy neighbor seems to be the latter.

As you get to know him better you may discover what's driving his shyness, and that may help you know what to do, but remember that not everyone is a "get-out-there-and-mingle" kind of a person; what you see as a flaw maybe something he's very comfortable with. Try accepting him for who he is.

Of course, when he says things like "not knowing how to ask a girl out" you could always direct him to "Bro Jo's Guide to Casual Group Dating" (and the Notes on the Facebook fan page)!

Another thing you can do is host a game night or movie party, inviting your neighbor, the kids he's comfortable with, and a couple new kids as well.

- Bro Jo

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Dealing with Child Abuse

Dear Bro Jo,

How popular is child abuse in the Church?

What is done to those who are abusive to their children?

My dad is really abusive and I'm going off to college next year but I can't report him to the police or anything like that because we'd need the income to survive. It's not to the point of life threatening I mean, he's threatened to kill me but his like physical actions aren't to that point. I just try to avoid him.

I'm not sure what would happen if I called the police. Before we lived in another state and my mom called the police on him and (from my 7 yr old memory) he was put in jail and then my mom got him off on bail. And, he had to take abuse classes on Mondays. If I called the police I'd want him gone forever not just have to take classes. I also have a younger sister and I'm worried what will happen to her once I leave.

At church he puts up this total front. I wonder how many other members are putting up a front. And he doesn't abuse us all the time. Every few weeks he'll have this 'episode'. I've put up with this my whole childhood and I just can't wait to leave for BYU and be rid of all the problems he brings into my life.

- abused



Dear Abused,

I hope you mean "widespread" and not "popular" . . . and the answer is that I don't know. One instance of child abuse is not acceptable in any organization. I suspect that the statistics are the same inside the LDS faith as they are outside, though I hope with the Church's focus on family, and regular worthiness interviews (did you know that in Adult Temple Recommend Interviews members are specifically asked about abusive behavior, and that a Temple Recommend is supposed to be denied to anyone who is abusive?)

But child abuse isn't just a Church issue, it's a worldwide issue; it's abhorrent regardless of who the perpetrator is, and I have zero tolerance for abusers.

I want you first to take a good hard look at what you're calling abuse. You downplay the violence, but it's important. Is he physically abusive? Is he striking you or others to assert control over them, vent his anger, or submit them to his will? Is he verbally abusive? Is he often yelling or screaming, to the point of making others cry? Is he emotionally abusive? Does he belittle others, playing mind games with others to the point where they feel worthless?

That's abuse. If you and he aren't getting along, if he lectures you constantly, grounds you, or takes away your stuff . . . you're not being abused; you're being parented. Before you take the next step you'd better be clear which is which.

If you're old enough to be going to BYU soon you're past old enough to do the right thing and old enough to know the difference between abuse and sternness.

If abuse is happening, you MUST take action. You need to call your Bishop or Stake President RIGHT NOW. You need to meet with them as soon as possible. You have to tell a trusted adult about the abuse, someone who can step in and help.

No joke. You need help. Your sister needs help. And so does your mother (although it sounds like she's got classic denial problems, and is not likely to help anyone).

I agree that it's good that you're leaving, but you have to think about your sister and your mother and their safety. You have to help them.

And your dad needs help, too.

Please make the call.

Don't worry about the money or prison or anything else; safety and doing what's right is more important.

Keep me posted.

- Bro Jo

Monday, March 14, 2011

Friend or Not?

Dear Brother Jo,

Like everyone else says I love the advice you give out, I'm keeping a lot of it in mind for when I can start dating in a year. And that's the thing, I have one year left and at times it's hard to wait that long, but I'm going to.

But I do have a guy friend who is in a few of my classes at school, and is LDS. We both can't date yet but are still good friends. I like him a bit and would like to date him once we are both 16.

Here's the problem though, we don't talk much about what happens outside of school. And today he was saying that he knew me well, so I asked him simple questions, such as what my favorite color, or movie, etc. and he didn't know any of them. I would really like it if he would get to know me better then just what classes I take and so forth. Then when I ask him those questions he'll tell me the answers but he never seems to even want to get to know me. Is he just shy, or just doesn't know what to do?

Or is it bad to get to know him that well before we both can start dating? And trust me I'm not going to date till I'm 16, there's no point in dating at 15, but can't we still be friends?

Sincerely,

Friend or Not?



Dear Or,

I don't know if he's shy or just incredibly self-centered.

And thanks for giving me the opportunity to clear something up: there's nothing wrong with guys and girls BEING friends, or more accurately perhaps, "being friendly"'' when I talk about "Men Can't Stay Just Good Friends with Women" there's a few things I hope everyone realizes.

1) I'm talking about Men and Women, not Boys and Girls
2) I say "can't stay" not "aren't"
and
3) the point is that men don't get into close, intimate friendships with women that they're not attracted to, typically hoping that something more comes of it, and that if the woman finds another man (or he another woman) the friendship between them should change and if it doesn't it's because he still likes her AS MORE THAN JUST A FRIEND

Whew! Lecture over.

No, there's nothing wrong with you being friends with boys your age.  Dating people you know well can be fun!

However, as far as this guy is concerned, you may have to face the fact that he's not smart enough to be interested.

But take heart, that may change as he gets older.

Just continue to be nice.

But be nice to other boys, too.

- Bro Jo

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Dating and Chronic Illness

Dear Readers,

I received the following comment on last Monday’s column (March 7, 2011), “Bro Jo’s List of Stuff You Need to Know Before You Get Engaged” and I felt it warranted its own column.

- Bro Jo


Dear Bro Jo,

I wonder what your thoughts on chronic illnesses and their effects on a relationship.

I'm a 25-year-old RM who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis shortly after coming home. MS isn't your garden-variety chronic illness (as if there was such a thing); it will eventually prevent me from holding down a job and perhaps confine me to a wheelchair or to bed. Most cases can be managed, but mine is progressing faster than most.

Aside from severely limiting my physical abilities and energy (sometimes it is all I can do to drag myself to work and then back to bed afterwards), it has caused me much worry over how a potential spouse might react to my condition when I tell her. How do I prepare the women I date for this news, and is it reasonable to expect her to eventually assume total care of my physical needs?

Also, I feel that this is a huge liability in my dating life - would you concur? And how would I overcome that obstacle?

- Anonymous



Dear Anon,

Not to make light of your illness, but we all have challenges. None of us is perfect physically and as part of our earthy trial our physical challenges will increase with age. Even if you marry a woman who’s the perfect picture of health there’s no way that will always be the case for her. Life happens, my brother, and that includes any number of things that we can’t possibly plan for until they happen.

You have MS. That’s hard, but not insurmountable.

My aunt was diagnosed with MS when she was in her 30’s. Already married and with teenage daughters, like you, her initial stages progressed rapidly. It changed all of their lives. But through all of the worries and challenges, the bad days and the setbacks, the medications and home remodels, she and my uncle played the hand they were dealt. They had several decades of happiness together.

I don’t agree that this is a liability in your dating life at all. Maybe it means you have to plan dates for times when you find you have more energy, or plan dates that accommodate your physical limitations. If you were a guy that has seizures, then yeah, you’d probably go on double dates or make some arrangements in case something happens. Maybe you’d tend to date girls you know a little better instead of strangers; people you could talk to, who would understand when you tell them “this might happen, don’t worry about it, happens all the time, but if it does, here’s what you do”.

Yes, you may need to share your situation with the girls you date, but I don’t see it as a first couple dates conversation. Spilling our guts is not what those first couple dates are about. If you feel you need to explain, then go ahead, but be positive; “Hey, this is the way things are, but I’m dealing with it in a positive way.”

At some point in a more serious relationship we need to talk about serious things. If you look at “Bro Jo’s Levels of a Relationship” I think it falls somewhere in the Level 7 to Level 9 range, that's the right time to bring up MS if you haven't already.

Husbands and wives have a right to expect that their spouse will help them with whatever physical challenges may come up, and we, their spouses, have an obligation to not make ourselves more of a burden than we really should be.

Oh, and while I’m thinking about it, I have a friend who has MS, is more than double your age, and he works a regular job. I know it’s difficult, but try to stop thinking about what you can’t do, and focus more on what you CAN do.

In his autobiography, Wayne Gretzky talks about the difference between 100 goal a year scorers and 50 goal a year scorers. The 50 goal guys, he says, can tell you the brand and color of every pad on every goalie in the league. The 100 goal scorers can’t even tell you who was playing goal on any particular night. One tries to shoot around the obstacle; the other more successful guy doesn’t see the obstacles.

Remember, life is about what we do with the time we’re given. So go out and date!

Great question!

Thanks for reading and writing in.

Best,

- Bro Jo

Friday, March 11, 2011

Should She Serve a Mission?

Dear Bro Jo,

So I just found your blog a few months ago and I think it's great that you are doing this for teens! It's a lot of help. I just have a big question that I hope someone can help me out with...

So I have dated this guy for 2 years during our senior year in high school and our first year of college and then he left on a mission last June. I know you hear this a lot but we are best friends! We write every week and tell each other everything. Well the last month or so I have been having feelings like I should serve a mission. Which is funny because my whole life I have NEVER wanted to go on a mission, it's never even crossed my mind really! And then this passed month it kinda just hit me like a rock that I should go.

I haven't even told my parents yet that I have been feeling this way because I don't want to let anyone down if I don't go.... But if I did go I would leave this December-ish and not get back for a year after He has been home. So my question is, do you think some girls are supposed to go on missions? Cause I found a quote from Pres. Hinkley saying that girls shouldn't feel obligated to serve a mission and that it isn't there responsibility, but that they are welcome to serve. Also that if they didn't serve, God wouldn't take away blessing from them if they didn't go, and He would still respect them the same. Anyways let me know what you think about this if you have time!

-Anonymous



Dear Ann,

Well . . . you KNOW of course that President Hinckley is absolutely correct.

Are some girls SUPPOSED to go?

I honestly don't know. It does make sense, though. I believe that everyone who worthily goes on a mission is sent where they're sent because someone that they'll meet (often several someones) needs to meet them and hear of their testimony of the savior. And I believe that feelings that are directing us towards a righteous thing are from God.

If you sincerely feel that a mission is what you should do, by all means pursue it.

My only other advice to you is that, as you travel down that path, listen to what the Spirit tells you, and be aware that the boy you like may not be available when you come home (nor should you expect him or require him to be).

Of course, you probably know by now that I neither believe that there's just one guy for every girl (a romantic notion that defies all common sense and denies history) nor do I believe that a girl (or guy) can bank on a person returning from a mission and being the same (or having the same romantic interest in them) as before they left.

I suspect that the next few months will be very Spiritually interesting for you indeed.

Let us know what you decide!

- Bro Jo

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

It's About . . . Time

Dear Bro Jo,

I'm writing to get your advice. I'm 17 and my boyfriend is 18. He's amazing and I like him SO much. He's great for me. He's my perfect guy and meets all of my requirements... Well, MOST. And that's why I'm writing you.

One thing that really means a lot to me is TIME. I love spending time with (let's call him BOY). But I feel like I'm always the one setting everything up. I'm organizing dates (always group dates, by the way), etc. I can't remember a time when he's actually planned something. I've actually brought up the topic before to him. And it's always the same: "I have a tough schedule, a lot of stuff to do." Well, one day I looked at his schedule and compared it to mine. We're involved in the same activities in and out of school. The only real difference is that he has a larger family than I do. I don't know how much of a difference that makes.

Another reason that I've always been confused about him is the standards he's put up for us. Now, don't get me wrong, I really appreciate how he's viewed it. We're dating but he only wants us to go out on group dates. I agree, great choice. But we're DATING. Shouldn't that entitle some sort of one on one time? I don't think ALL THE TIME is a good idea, but just every once and a while. Like, a special occasion or something?

He's also decided that any kissing is out of the question. Of course there's no harm if we don't. We both have really strong morals, but I think he's going a little overboard to say "not at all". It kind of makes me feel like I'm more a "best friend" than a "girlfriend". He says he wants to kiss me but his parents would rather us not... I've never been kissed before so I'm oblivious. But in our school's musical we were both recently cast as the romantic leads. And, of course, just our luck, there's a stage kiss involved. I don't want to look like an idiot on stage, having my first kiss ever, with my boyfriend. Everyone knows we haven't kissed yet, and our director is just getting a kick out of it. Boy has had his first kiss (maybe insight as to why he doesn't want us to kiss?), he's even had plenty of stage kisses... He says he doesn't want to "steal mine away" that he doesn't want me to regret anything, that he respects me. I believe him.... but I need advice.

Those are the only frustrations I have with Boy. And just when the problems come up again, he always gives me some reason to remind me how much I DO like him. Example: Christmas day he heart attacked my front door and left me a present! :) It was great! He's always doing stuff like that. :)

People are always telling me to just talk to him about how I feel. To communicate. Sometimes I feel like I'm making all of these sacrifices for him and he's not doing much for me. What should I do?

-The Confused.



Dear The,

Your Boyfriend is a GENIUS.

You on the other hand, and I say this with love, are not.

Every reason you give, everything you want, is EXACTLY why I tell people your age to NOT get involved in committed relationships. Yeah, he should be the one setting up dates, but why should he when you're willing to do all of his work for him?

And it's clear why you do: if you didn't you wouldn't be "dating" at all. You'd be like every other girl at school that says she and her boyfriend are "dating" but they never really go out or go anywhere.

And I salute him for insisting that you only go on Casual Group Dates. If two teens are in an unrecommended "relationship", then prohibiting your wanted "alone time" is very prudent.

I don't see anything wrong with a kiss goodnight or goodbye between you two, but if he's not ready, you're wrong to push him.

Now, something does seem weird, and I'm not sure if it's more that he's waiting to kiss you but has no problem kissing other girls, or if it's that the two of you are pretending that kissing is no big deal if it's in a play. Color it anyway you want, "stage kissing" is still kissing; trust me (I went to a performing arts high school and have a degree in Theater, Television and Film), lips are lips, whether there's an audience or not (are his parents clueless, in denial, or is he lying to you about their wishes?).

(Related Tangent: and you can share this with your director, a first kiss should NEVER happen on stage, if your first time is during a show yes, you will look like an idiot. That means, so that we're all on the same page, you're going to have to rehearse kissing him, and that will include various "who's watching" scenarios. Weird. Good luck.)

The only thing I see that "Boy" is doing wrong is that he should be Casually Group Dating lots of different girls, not just you.

You, my friend, need to be going on dates with other guys and to stop pushing for alone time and kissing.

I'm not naive; I know that despite my repeated council teenage boys and girls will get into . . . "relationships"; I just don't recommend it. Your guy is doing the best he can not to mess up either the boyfriend-girlfriend thing or put either of you in situations that will be too tempting.

You should be grateful.

And yes, you need to communicate better.


- Bro Jo




Dear Bro Jo,

Thank you so much! I think that's the first time I've ever laughed at my own stupidity and blindness! HAHA! Thanks for kicking me back into reality. :)

- The No Longer Confused.



Dear No Longer,

Harshness, but with love!

Oh, and by the way, stop setting up all the dates. He needs to do that.

- Bro Jo

Monday, March 7, 2011

Bro Jo's "List of Stuff You Need to Know Before You Get Engaged"

Dear BroJo,

Knowing your experience and wisdom, I'm wondering if you have a list of things you should know about your spouse before you marry. I know some obvious ones, like, how they deal with children; if they have any allergies, food or otherwise; but I'm wondeing about less obvious stuff that I'll wish I'd known.

I know I'm too young to use this, but I tend to think ahead.

~Listmaker



Dear Listmaker,

I've been working on that one for a long time. The challenge is that, while you can never possibly know everything, the list needs to be long enough to give you a clear picture but short enough not to dilute the value of each question.

Thank you for asking!

The list is posted below; please consider it a work in progress.  Each category is listed alphabetically.


- Bro Jo




Bro Jo’s "LIST of STUFF YOU NEED TO KNOW TO BEFORE YOU GET ENGAGED"



Economics

- Who will provide the money needed for the family and how?
- What is your current debt load?
- How do you feel about credit and debt?
- How many hours a week do you expect to work?
- How many hours do you expect me to work?
- How do you feel about work that requires a person to be gone from home?
- What’s more important: a home, a car, leisure time, food, or entertainment?


Family

- How many children do you want to have?
- How soon would you like to have children?
- What would you do if my parents needed to come live with us for a very long time?
- How do you feel about your siblings?
- How would your siblings describe you?
- How do you feel about moving in with my parents? Your parents?
- What are some favorite family traditions that you hope to continue in our family?


Goals, Hopes and Dreams

- What do you envision you’re life to be like in 5, 10, 20 and 50 years?
- If you could live anywhere, where would you pick and why?
- What’s your dream job? Do you intend to get it? Why?
- Do you see yourself serving a mission when you’re older?
- When would you like to retire?
- How important is money to you?
- What amount of money do you think we’ll need as a family?
- What do you envision your funeral to be like? What do you hope people will say about you?



Health

- Do you have any chronic health problems or concerns?
- Have you ever had a blood test? What were the results?
- What are the health histories of your family?
- What is your biggest health fear?


Love

- What things that I do let you know that I love you?
- What do you do to tell me that you love me?



Pet Peeves


- What are some things that people in your life have done that have driven you crazy or seem totally illogical or unreasonable?
- What do you do that people have said the same about you?



Philosophy & Politics

- Is it better to be smart or attractive?
- Would you steal bread to feed your children?
- How do you like to handle political disagreements?
- How do you feel children should be disciplined?
- Do you believe a woman should keep house or go to work?
- What habits, possessions or activities would be the most difficult for you to give up if I asked?
- How do you describe yourself politically?
- What do you list as your top five priorities, in order?


Religion

- Describe your relationship with God.
- What do you have a testimony of? And how did you gain that testimony?
- How do you think a person can best grow their testimony?
- Do you think its okay to take “vacations from Church”?
- What are the things in life that you think its okay to miss Church for?
- Where do you draw the line between faith and personal revelation?


Sex and Morality

- What’s the furthest you’ve ever gone? With whom, how often, and how recently?
- Have you ever had sex? If so, with whom and why?
- Have you ever looked at pornography? If so, when was the last time?
- What do you think should be done to protect children from pornography?
- Have you ever done anything that made you unworthy to enter the temple? If so, what did you do and what have you done about it?
- How would you feel if we couldn’t have sex for five years because of injury or other problem?
- What are your sexual expectations? How often? How adventurous? How soon?
- What does sex mean to you? Is it an expression of love? Strictly for fun? Do you see it as an obligation?

(c) 2011

Friday, March 4, 2011

Passionate Kissing and Petting Defined

Dear Bro Jo--

So, the church is pretty straightforward about most things, but I think there are a few things where they say "don't do this" and you have no idea where the words they used draw the line. So I was hoping you could shed some light on the subject?

The first question I have has to do with kissing (what else!? ;D). In the Strength of Youth pamphlet, it says not to participate in "passionate kissing". But this doesn't seem so clear to me. I mean, every kiss has got to have some sort of passion behind it, or kissing wouldn't be wonderful, right? Without a little bit of passion, kissing would come to be like shaking hands, and I'm pretty sure the Church doesn't intend it to be like that. But, on the other end of the spectrum are those hot and heavy makeout sessions on the movies with arms racing and tongues flying...and i'm pretty sure that's not right, either. So where do I draw the line?

The second area of confusion is the guidance that says "no petting". Luckily, this seems to leave less gray area than "passionate kissing" does, but the main problem here is that I don't think a lot of youth actually know what "petting" entails. Which, you know, can be dangerous, if you know the edge is there, but you don't know what it is. You're pretty much bound to fall off. I have some friends who are, as you might say, "Close Friends" and on occasion, they'll be sitting watching a movie or something and she'll reach over and start to draw circles on his knee or something like that. Does that count? Or back rubs? Or playing with another's hair? Please advise!!

Thanks so much for your help :)

-- Definition Daft


Dear Dee Dee,

Well . . . I'm no Church spokesperson, but here's what I think.

I think what makes a kiss "passionate" is intent and duration. If the intent is to seduce or get somewhere else, or kissing for the sake of making out, that's too far. If you want me to be graphic, I think anything that involves probing tongues has crossed the line to too much passion for teens; if you have to wipe your face off after kissing (or even in between), you've gone too far. For more of my take on that, check out "Bro Jo's GUIDE to KISSING".

Petting typically means the touching of breasts or genitalia. However, I think the back rubs, knee holding, leg circles, hair playing, and any form of massage is all inappropriate. Trust me. I have seven children; I know exactly how enticing a massage and all of that other stuff can be. Think of it this way, as a married guy if any guy tried any of that stuff with my wife I'd hit him hard and fast, no questions asked.

Another rule of thumb for teens and kissing and touching, if you wouldn't do it at the dinner table in front of Grandma; if it takes being in the dark, sitting or laying down, being alone or under a blanket, you shouldn't be doing it.

Is that straightforward enough?

- Bro Jo

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Mama Cheese asks about the boy sent home

Dear Bro Jo,

Hello again! This is Cheese's mom...she is doing so well, very happy, having lots of fun with many good...um, not friends (because they're male)...lads to spend time with, and a few close girlfriends, too. She's acing all her classes, enjoying cheer & drama & all the regular high school stuff. So all is good on that front. But today I have a problem for you that the Big Cheese (Daddy) & I have been trying to wrap our brains around for the last few weeks.

Cheese had a friend who turned 19 & went into the MTC at the beginning of October. (Note, this is not Hero Boy from a previous letter. He's waiting for his call to arrive any day now & still filling a helpful big-brother/protector role.) Anyway, he's a sweet kid, but (obviously) Big Cheese & I did not love him spending much time with her before he left due to their age difference. (She's 15.) He was always appropriate--no alone time with her, EVER, etc. He never even suggested he might have any romantic interest in her, just was at our house whenever he could be. So Big Cheese & I let him be part of the group that's here a lot for movie parties & ice cream & such, knowing he was leaving on his mission and assuming he wasn't problematic because his departure was imminent.

All good until the last week of October when he left the MTC & went home. We don't know exactly why; it's certainly not our business to ask. What he has told us is that he had something in his past that made him need to spend time counseling with his Stake President, and he's now doing that. Which, I'm sure was an incredibly difficult thing for him to do, and I give him full credit for manning up & doing the right thing.

Still, this leaves our family in something of an awkward place & we're not sure how to treat him. We DO NOT want to allow him to think of Cheese as a love interest, and she, thank goodness, is NOT interested in him romantically. But we also don't want him to feel like he's being shunned, especially now when it's obvious he really needs support & friendship.

Should we continue to allow him to be "one of the guys" at our house? Tell him "stay away"? Something else? We need ideas. We care for him as a child of God & want to help him. But we are also worried, because he has made some colossal mistakes, & we don't want to communicate that we condone those. Help!

Mama Cheese




Dear Mama Cheese,

A 19-year old man should not being hanging out with a 15-year old girl (unless she's a relative) regardless of how good of a guy he is or isn't. Period. The potential for harm and confusion is just way too high. You remember what it's like to be a 15-year old girl, right? Any boy that shows you attention is a good thing, especially if he says you're pretty, or he likes your outfit, or whatever. Creepy boys are the exception. Sometimes. Feelings get confused, being nice gets mixed up with attraction (and, let's face it, if there was no attraction on his part he wouldn't be at your house). It's all around bad. You and I both know that Cheese, like any other 15-year old girl, thinks about kissing boys; and that in itself isn't bad, but 15-year old girls can look pretty mature and 19-year old boys can be pretty immature . . .

(My 15-year old son's friends are not allowed to "hang out" with my 11-year old daughter for the same reasons.)

Let me say it this way: sure, nothing has happened, and nothing likely would happen (maybe), but how bad would it be if it did? Does it matter if it's just flirting and holding hands, or kissing? Or something . . . more?

Your home needs to be a refuge from the world, and sometimes that means keeping out those who might otherwise violate the spirit (or your daughter).

Like I've said before, no 19-year old guy would be spending time with a 15-year old girl if he didn't find her attractive. Creepy as that sounds, weird as it may be, it's true. Ask Big Cheese. It may be tough for him to admit, but deep down he knows the truth: the boy thinks his daughter is . . . well, as the Jo boys say, not painful to look at.

If Cheese changed her mind and came on to him, could he resist? Would he want to?

(The fact that he hasn't suggested romance means nothing, by the way.)

I think you need to be pro-active. I think you (or perhaps more appropriately, Big Cheese) need to go talk to the young man. I think you tell him exactly what you told me: "It's none of my business why you came back, in fact I admire you being man enough to set things straight with the Lord."

And then I'd add: "However, where my daughter is concerned, I want you to stay away from her. this has nothing to do with any issues you may have, and everything to do with the fact that 19-year old men should not hangout with girls in High School, especially those too young to date. You seem like a smart young man, and I hope that you are; if you don't put some respecctable distance between the two of you, I'm going to show you what happens when one adult doesn't respect another."

Okay, that last part was typed with the voice of John Wayne in my head, so you may not want to use it.

But I do think you need to talk to him.

And I think you need to talk to Cheese, too. She's very bright; don't go behind her back; share with her the concerns that you and Big Cheese have. You can all be supportive and offer friendship without fostering inappropriate behavior. Sinner or saint, he's too old to be stalking your little girl.

To be clear: yes, he needs to be removed from the invite list. He needs to be told that he's too old to come over. He needs to be told that dropping by is unacceptable. If he doesn't get that or his feelings are hurt or he feels that you're punishing him for his sins . . . well, I know it sounds calous, but that's his problem. It's part of accepting responsibilty.

- Bro Jo