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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Finding the Balance in the Dating Extremes

Hey Bro Jo!

I love reading your blog, mostly because I have no love life, so I suppose I'm trying to fill a gap.

That's really why I'm writing to you. I'm almost 19 years old and a freshman at Harvard. We've got a great group of YSA in the Boston area, enough to fill a University Ward that is as big as my ward back home. I love having such an active YSA group and being able to go to church activities multiple times a week. But as great as it is, before I came to school I had expected to wait and start dating in college. Now that I am here, it seems that my expectation will be harder to realize than I thought.

Not to brag about myself, but to let you know more about my situation, I'm a great catch!

And I'm happy that I can be confident with myself!

I'm attractive, smart, funny and a great friend. It's not that I made a conscious decision not to date in high school, but I think I just as well closed myself off to dating because I was so focused on other things. I wanted to concentrate on my studies and my extracurricular life, and I made myself very busy.

I was fine not dating. When I say I wasn't dating, I mean that I never really went on dates or had any relationships. I kissed a few boys before I was sixteen, against the will of my parents.

I was so heartbroken and disappointed in myself for having to lie (by omission) to my parents about boys, so I repented and kind of pulled a 180. I told myself that I was wrong, and from then on I associated physical intimacy with sin. Which was fine for me during high school, because I was able to repent, and move away from those temptations and really excel academically and as a person. Yet I fear that I have closed myself off for good... I told myself that I was just waiting for the perfect boy and would not settle for anything less.

But I'm an extravert, and I love my friends, so I have grown close to many guy friends who began to like me and I couldn't return the feelings. I agree with you that guys and girls can't be just friends without one starting to develop romantic feelings for the other.

Some of these guys have been great catches. Before I left for school, I dated my best guy friend for a few weeks. I knew he had liked me for a while, and in my mind he was a perfect match. He was everything a great guy should be but I couldn't make myself have any feelings for him. My heart was still closed to the idea.

I wasn't attracted to him, and I can't remember the last guy I have been attracted to. It's weird how much my mind can close my heart. But it's a good thing I wasn't head over heels with him, because I was leaving for school and a few months later, he left on his mission. He is doing wonderfully, and I am so proud of him and his growth. I write him every few weeks, and I love receiving letters back. But I feel like he is a brother, not anything more.

Before his mission he called me and asked not if I would wait for him, but if I would still be single and willing to date him when he came home. I told him that I wasn't going to wait for him, and I want him to close off his heart during his mission. I'm afraid that he hasn't completely closed off his heart, but I know he is doing well on his mission.

Whoa, I didn't intend to tell you all of that!

I guess I'm just trying to fill you in, though I'm sorry if it comes off as rambling.

Basically, I'm trying to say that there are several examples of boys like the one above in my life. But I have yet to find a boy that I like. I want to date so badly, and I am so excited about meeting a soul mate to spend eternity with. I'm not looking to get married anytime soon, but I'd like to get married soon after I graduate from undergrad at Harvard.

I'm writing you to ask for advice.

Why can't I love?

Why am I unable to return romantic feelings to guys like me?

I want to be asked out on dates, too, but that hasn't happened. Are my standards impossibly high for men?

I have set standards, but I don't think they are impossible. I want someone strong in the Church, and if he was able to, someone who has served a mission. I strongly value my intellect, and I'd like a guy who is smart like me and is going somewhere in life.

He also needs to be funny and personable, because my sense of humor makes up most of my interaction with others. There are a couple boys at school who are like the boy I spoke of above, great matches who meet my standards, but I just am not attracted to them.

I want to have a crush on a boy. I want to be able to see what love is like, because I feel like I'm missing out on something. I know that as long as I choose the right, everything will work out.

I believe Heavenly Father has a plan for me, but I also know that His plan requires action from me. Is there anything I can do to open up my heart? I've conditioned my mind to guarding myself away from intimacy and romantic feelings as protection against temptation.

But now I'm a YSA, and some things are okay that weren't okay when I was younger.

I am so happy with myself and my life, and I've heard so many times, "You are going to have an amazing husband", but sometimes I just feel like I want to have a boyfriend, even if it is just to feel loved and wanted.

Sorry if this took too long to read. Thanks again for your dedication and sincere love for those of us who need help, it really is a great thing that you do.


Closed Off

Dear Closed,

At 19 there's no way you're "closed off for good".

What I get from reading your letter is that you look at romance and dating in extremes and, little sister, life doesn't really work that way.

Here's what I mean:

- You kissed a couple boys (which, while I don't approve, need not be life altering devastation) younger than you should have, so you gave up on dating in high school altogether

- You dated one of your "friends" and felt you had to make yourself "have feelings for him"

Plus it seems like you've overly planned things out (like getting married, but not until you've finished your undergrad); life doesn't work that way, either.

You want to date? You want to meet someone? You want to know what it feels like to have a crush?

Then you've got to R-E-L-A-X.

I'm not saying to relax your standards, but stop putting so much emphasis on every date; stop thinking that every guy you associate with has to be an all or nothing, perfect or forget it, man.

Just go on some dates already! Lots of 'em.

Stop hanging out. Stop treating every guy you know like a buddy, burring him in the friend zone forever.

Heavenly Father does have plans for us, but that doesn't entitle us to sit around and wait for him to do everything.

You say you’re an extrovert, so get out there!

Go out and have some fun, even if you don't find the guy to be dreamily attractive. You might be surprised. And that, for you little sister, might be a very good thing.

See, you put out the vibe that you don't date; now you've got to put out the vibe that you're ready to change that.

WORD of CAUTION! Don't go to the extreme on this like you have everything else, 180-girl! You don't want to be known as the fickle girl who will date anyone and everyone with no regard to feelings or future.

Just pick out 2-6 of those buddies you have that you like a little better than the others and tell them what you've told me: that you think you've put up this wall, are stuck in the friend zone, and you'd really like to go on some dates with some Good Guys.

And then hand them a schedule of when you're available.

- Bro Jo


Kate said...

Agreed. Just relax, girl. Dating is fun, and not every date is a big deal. Think of it as having a long conversation with one person while doing something fun. And just be patient. You might have to drive a lot of Geos before you get a Ferrari. But that doesn't mean you can't enjoy the scenery the whole time. :)

Anonymous said...

Bro Jo, I'm surprised you didn't address the fact that she "associated [and, by the sounds of it, still associates] physical intimacy with sin." Kissing is not bad in and of itself... heck, sex isn't bad in and of itself, so long as it's used at the right time, within marriage as an expression of love and devotion to eachother. If these feelings go on, this girl could suffer from serious intimacy issues, even within marriage!!

Anonymous said...

Here's a quick question: how can you get to know a guy and get close without him being in the friend zone? Thanks!

Anonymous said...

What a small world! I'm a 19 yr. old Bostonian YSA, attending Wellesley College. Though, I don't attend the UWard. I've chosen to attend a family ward. Kudos "Closed Off" for writing to Bro Jo. Best of luck girly!

Dave Johnston said...

@ Anon #1 - I've addressed it often, and this time around I felt like it was a minor issue given the larger context.

@ Anon #2 - Don't hang out.

@ Anon #3 - It IS a small world! Just remember to attend YSA activities, lest you find yourself (much sooner than you may realize)no longer Y but still SA.

cait said...

It's like this was written for me. I'm also the type of person that things tend to be all or nothing.It's hard to get over that sort of thing.