Things to know

Regularly read by 50,000+ readers in over 140 countries around the world, "Dear Bro Jo" is published several times a month.

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, "Dear Bro Jo" is not an LDS Church website. (And Sister Jo thinks you should know that he's sometimes wrong, and often way too opinionated for his own good.)

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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Manipulation By Email

Dear Bro Jo,

My friend is on a mission.

He's at the MTC right now and has been for almost 2 months.  Before he left, he liked me a ton.

I liked him too, but just a little bit, and stopped after he started getting a little bit . . . crazy . . . if you will.

For about 6 straight months before he left, he seemed so just . . . crazy about everything.

He wanted me to "wait" for him and not date anybody else while he was gone. He said we were meant to be and he needed me to get through life and I was selfish if I did't, in so many words.

Which is a bit outrageous because I went on only one date before he left, and I am sixteen!

I made it clear that I wasn't going to specifically wait for him because I didn't want to get into anything serious, but that we could see what happens once he got back.

He got mad and said it wasn't good enough, and off he went.

About 2 days later (not even kidding), I got letter from him.

I probably shouldn't have, but I wrote him back.

I made sure not to say anything that could be taken as even a little bit flirty.

We've written back and forth about 4 times now.

About a week ago I got a letter that was the craziest one yet. I don't want to go into detail but he says he thinks and prays about me every day, and he says he is sorry about everything and that we need to get married as soon as he gets back.

It’s a long letter, but you get the idea.

It scared me!

So, I just haven't written back and didn't really plan to.

But then today I got an e-mail from him saying that I need to “Dear Elder” him right now because he "hates it out there and needs something to hold onto".

I'm worried.

Would I cause more damage writing back or not?

How do I get rid of him without being the reason he would go home or do something like that??

- Worried

Dear Worried,

If he comes home early it's because he's unstable, not because you're impossible to live without. The dude is more than a bit of a control nut, and might also just be a plain nut, too.   (No, not everyone who comes home is unstable . . . but this guy sure seems . . . off.)  He has no right to make you feel guilty for anything.  You haven't done anything wrong.

I think you should cut him off. No more letters.  Nothing.

I don't think there's a way to be nice to him without him taking it as more than niceness . . . accusing you of stuff . .. trying to manipulate you . . .

He may send you some threatening, sad, or guilty letters. Or emails.  Show this last correspondence to your parents, and share with them anything else he sends.  This whole thing has me concerned.

As for any "relationship" with this guy . . . I say let it go. My general policy is to stay away from crazies.

And manipulators.

- Bro Jo

Monday, July 29, 2013

Seeing the Goal, Not the Obstacle

Dear Bro Jo,

So a lot has happened since our last communication. You don't need to upload the last one, I don't think that has anything of value to anyone else.

But I do want to update you on what's going on now. I think I'm finally getting it.

Bro Jo, it's been over TWO YEARS since I last was worthy to take the sacrament. That also means it’s been TWO YEARS since I've been worthy to go to the temple. I'm no longer dating that guy my parents hated. I broke up with him.

I started dating the RM guy my parents loved, but I couldn't handle that. I had a huge brain malfunction and did some severely stupid things which came to the very open attention of my parents, who rightly stripped me of my rights at home.

I was angry and in my anger wanted to move out so I could "do whatever I wanted" without reprimand.

After all, I'm old enough. I'm legal to do anything I want (except run for president I'm still too young for that).

However, this week I pulled out some of my old journals and scripture study journals and I cried reading them because in them I found out how long it's been since I've taken the sacrament and how my attitude hasn't really changed much... but I think I'm starting to get it through my thick skull.

Bro Jo, I feel awful. I want to fix myself so I can feel welcome at Church things and welcome around my friends who are spiritually in a better place than I am.

Because right now I don't feel welcome. I feel awkward and weird. I know it's my spirit feeling inadequate. I know what to do to change things, and I've started (I still need to see my's that big of a deal what I did most recently) doing those things -reading, praying daily, keeping my thoughts clean, things like that.

But I'm scared I'll fail again.

It always seems to happen..when I'm either feeling close to being worthy enough or when I'm just starting to come back...I do something stupid that spirals me back to hell.

I know it's better to be a mile headed away from hell than a mile headed away from heaven, but I don't want to be so close to hell anymore.

I read a talk by Boyd K Packer I had journaled about and it hit me differently now than it did then, which is a cool feeling because that's how I feel when I read the Scriptures or my pat blessing.

Anyway, I felt hopeful after reading it, but reality still scares me.

How can I make my reality the same as the reality that president packer talks about when he says things like repentance is like detergent, even the most set in stains come out..?


Seeking an alternate reality

Dear Seeking,

You're an adult, you know Exactly what you need to do.

It's time to stop making excuses, stop feeling sorry for yourself, stop punishing yourself.

When Christ says that forgiveness is His, and that of us it's required to forgive everybody, that includes ourselves.

We Deserve His joy, love and happiness, but we need to seek it, we need to seek Him.

Go to Church.

Talk to your Bishop.

Do those things that you know you need to do.

And don't procrastinate; two years is too long. 

As for falling again . . . you're reminding me of two things. The Jo Boys are Pole Vaulters (a sickness they inherited from their father and grandfather). While it's a very physical event, it's also very mental. The key is to visualize yourself Over the Bar; if, as you're running down towards the pit you focus on the bar, you often hit it. What we focus on is what we achieve. If we see ourselves going over, or overcoming, then we can; if we see ourselves not making it over the standard, then we don't make it.

The other is a Vince Lombardi quote: “The greatest accomplishment is not in ever falling, but in rising again after you fall”.   We all fall.  We all have doubts.  We all struggle.  Sure, not with the same things, but that's how life goes.

Rise up!

You're a Good Person.  You've just, as you've said, lost your way.  You have the map.  And you know which way to go.  Go get the joy that you deserve!

Make the call.

Good luck, and Godspeed,

- Bro Jo

PS:  You may not FEEL welcome, but I assure you that you are.  Satan wants you to feel that way, to keep you lonely and thinking that others don't love you but, of course they do!

Friday, July 26, 2013

A Guy Asks About "The Kiss on the Doorstep"

Dear Bro Jo,

I've been a regular reader of your page for a number of years now and love your insights, but have never really gotten around to asking you a question myself.

Most of my questions are already answered by your pretty consistent responses to others' questions, but I don't think I've run into the answer to this one before, so I'll give it a shot.

I think I've seen you write that a peck kiss on the porch after a casual group date, with the parents opening the door any minute (how embarrassing), is fine and that leaving the teen years no longer a member of the virgin lips club is pretty normal.

Personally, I just don't know how that can happen and things still stay casual and drama free.

I've heard John Bytheway talk about "what kisses mean" and how guys and girls interpret them differently, with they guy usually thinking, "Wow, so this is what it feels like. I'd like to try this again in the near future!" and the girl usually thinking, "Aww, he cares for me! He really likes me! Aww!" (paraphrasing).

He goes on to talk about the emotional confusion that ensues about what the kiss meant to each party and the possible resulting heartache.

Now, as a 17 year old guy no longer in the VLC (old drama, gotten over and worked out by now, partly with your indirect help), I think I can agree that he is pretty accurate with that statement.

Given that, I wonder if adding a goodnight kiss to a good casual group date kinda takes the word "casual" out of the equation?

No matter the virtue of the two teens, I think you can pretty much simplify the situation to the guy wanting some lip action and therefore the girl thinking he wants to be her "special friend" (or even the other way around or some form of the two feelings).

Am I old fashioned about kisses or just missing something?

No big drama here, just wondering.


[Insert Anonymous Name Here]

Dear Pseudonymous,

I always find the phrase "Old Fashioned" a bit of a misnomer. It implies that no one now (or very few people) share one's opinion or values; that those values are "out dated", and the truth is: that's almost never the case.

I get called "Old Fashioned" all the time, especially regarding my stance on saving sex for marriage . . . as if Living Together or Premarital Sex are New Ideas . . . which, of course, they're not.

I think Bytheway is a Good Guy; very funny.

John and I don't always see eye-to-eye on everything, but to be honest, I'm not even sure he knows I exist. 

Our motivations are very similar, I think, but our perspectives are quite different.

For example, while I think much of what you (and JB) have said about kissing is true, I also find that the opposite can be true.

Kissing can certainly introduce drama, drive out the casual, imply commitment, and make hormones ignite.

It can also be seen as simple, sweet, natural, and nice but not a big deal, and fun. And, while I'm the King of Simplification, experience (and 100,000 readers) has taught me that those attitudes are not easily categorized into "guys think this" and "girls think this".

I worry that simple things (like dating, holding hands, short hugs and simple kisses) have been injected with an unhealthy dose of fear, which I believe is contributing to one of the biggest not-mentioned-often-enough problems we have in the Church right now: the proliferation of unmarried 30+ year olds.

(I also think using "fear of the opposite sex" to try and keep our children "morally clean" is a contributing factor to some of the pornography problems we have. I believe that we should be teaching about boundaries and sacredness, AND that our feelings are natural and we can express them within limits in healthy ways.)

To your question: does a "kiss goodnight" take Casualness out of the equation?

It can.

But it doesn't have to.

Here's one way that a kiss might happen and the date still be "casual":

"So . . . I really want to kiss you goodnight, but I'm worried that if I do you'll think this is more serious than it should be. What do you think?"

 Corny, perhaps, but effective.

Communication, my brother, is so often the key.

Of course, she may lie to you, saying that she won't take it that way, but then she will . . . but that's the risk we take. I just happen to think it's worth the risk.

- Bro Jo

Thursday, July 25, 2013

What Do You Do When Your Roommate and Her Boyfriend are Going Too Far?

Hi Bro Jo!

I'm a 20 year old college student and I really like your blog. You give great advice and tell it straight, which I know I greatly appreciate.

I realize that you usually deal with issues regarding dating and relationships, and this is kind of like that, but also kind of not. I'll just explain.

I'm living in an apartment with three other girls. We are all LDS and we get along pretty well. Three of us are in our 20s.

Our fourth roommate, Jane*, just barely turned 18.

I'm not complaining about her age. I have plenty of friends who are that age or younger, however she is the problem in this particular scenario. The problem is her and her boys.


Around the beginning of November she got out of a relationship with a guy, Pete*, she'd been dating for several years, "seriously dating" as in they-were-planning-their-wedding-and-he-hasn't-even-gone-on-a-mission-yet serious.

She cut it off because he had some issues regarding being able to go on a mission.

Fast-forward about two weeks and she's seriously dating another guy, Harry*, who also has yet to go on a mission.

And when I say "seriously" I mean they spend most of their time at each other's apartments cuddling.

I once walked in to find them both horizontal on the couch.

I don't think they were doing anything more than kissing but needless to say, it's really awkward and I don't feel comfortable in my own apartment.

I spent the last half of last semester at other apartments just to avoid them.

The three of us are really worried about her.

We think that Harry is a rebound and a kind of place-holder for Pete, because Jane still talks to and about him.

Jane hasn't been single since middle school.

Which we're thinking shows low self-esteem and insecurity.

Which you can also tell from other things that I won't get into.

Anyway we think they're in an extremely flammable situation that could blow at any time.

They're both good people but I don't think they realize how serious this could get.

I know that she was also very physical with Pete when they were dating so she may not know anything else. 

My question is should we talk to her about what we're seeing and if so, what can we tell her so that she'll realize how serious this is in a way that doesn't create a bad mood in our apartment?

Thanks for your help!

-Curious and Concerned Roommate

Dear Roommate,

I kind of feel bad for her; you're absolutely right in your assessment of her need to validate her worth/beauty/whatever by always having a guy in her life and quickly getting inappropriately physical with them . . . not that horizontal kissing isn't great (said the Old Married Guy) - it IS, but its not exactly how a single girl (or guy) gains the love and respect of the people in their lives (including the person they're kissing).

And let's be honest, no one is "only kissing" when they're prone.

If you and your roommates all agree, you can certainly team up and tell her no more making out in the apartment; if she can't deal with that, then she'll have to move.

(Frankly, I think you should have a "no boys over ever" rule.)

If your roommates aren't on your side, then you're the one that will either have to deal with it or move. The roommate stuff you can and absolutely should deal with.

Now, can you talk to her about her . . . "relationships"?

You could.

Maybe she'll listen.

Maybe she won't.

If you are going to talk to her, I think it's best to start with a calm, Not At All Confrontational, apartment meeting, where in non-accusatory adult tones the four of you discuss how you feel about having guys over and PDA.

Don't use the word "you", only say "I"; so it's not "You need to get some self-esteem and stop swapping spit with every guy you meet", but rather "it makes me uncomfortable when boys are over here, especially if it involves kissing".

You get the idea.

Don't back her into a corner, just establish some ground rules.

And don't get defensive when she tries to turn this whole thing into a "you're all just jealous because I'm getting kissed and you're not" thing. Even if you and the roomies are a little jealous (and, let's be honest, you very well may be), that doesn't give anyone permission to make you feel uncomfortable in your own home.

In ALL (including marriage) shared living situations, one person's desire to do whatever they want does not trump the desire of someone else to be bother-free.  A quiet place to live wins out over "it's my music and I can play it as loud as I want whenever I want".

(Some people really don't get that, but I just chalk it up to immaturity, selfishness, or kicking against the pricks.)

When you've said your part, just calmly let her state her feelings, and then stick to the subject.

If you have a close relationship with her, like that of a Big Sister, then when all the dust has settled, if the Spirit is right and the moment comes up, then talk to her about this specific relationship.

Ask her how this relationship is going; show genuine interest and concern.

Teach her (and testify) that as a Daughter of God her value comes from within, not from having a boyfriend. 

Tell her that you think this new guy is great, and that you're very happy for her, but let her know that because she's so awesome she doesn't need to . . . be physical with a guy to keep him. 

Not if he's a Good Guy.

Good luck.

Let me know how it all goes.

- Bro Jo

Monday, July 22, 2013

Marriage and Money

Dear Bro Jo,

I have a question about how much a couple needs to agree on in terms of money, before they get married. I’ll explain the situation a little bit.

My fiancé grew up in a home where money was always a little bit tight, both his parents (divorced) had a bit of debt and were not in any position to help him pay for school. He has had to pay for his school all threw loans and he has slightly looser guidelines when it comes to debt.

I grew up in a home where there was always sufficient money to pay for whatever we needed.

My father has always been very strict when it comes to debt, and hated even paying a mortgage. He would pay cash for all of our cars and expenses, and would try to pay houses off in a very short amount of time.

Because of his saving and planning he was able to give each of us a college account that paid for all of our expenses while away at school, therefore I have no debt.

Because I grew up in this situation, and it has worked out nicely for me, its hard for me to see any other perspective.

I know that we both have the same end financial goals.

We want to only go into debt for schooling, and then a house later in life, and try to get his loans paid off as soon as possible.

However, he is a little bit more lax about it than I am, and seems reluctant to work a lot during school when he can just get grants and subsidized loans to pay for things. Its hard for me to understand this.

I would rather us both work as much as we can so that we don't have to take out many more loans at all. I think the biggest reason I'm concerned is because I know money is a hot topic for divorce, and I don't want these little disagreements to turn into something bigger later in our lives. I know this is a long explanation, but what would your advice be?

Do you see this as becoming a big problem later?

What’s is the best way to find a middle ground?


- Worried About Money

Dear Worried,

You're right:  couples fight about money more than anything else, and it's more likely to lead to divorce than infidelity. (Of course that's not good, either.)

My feeling is that when it comes to money, the person who is against going in to debt or buying things you don't need always wins, and I think acceptance of that principle is the only acceptable middle ground.

Our monthly income is significantly more now than when Sister Jo and I first got married, but we still discuss every purchase that's off budget (yes, you absolutely must have a budget that you both discuss and agree upon) or over a certain amount. Now, that said, at this point in our lives both she and I have a small budget that we can each spend without consulting the other. We call that "my money / your money". But it took us a long time to have enough money where we could afford that luxury. (And it's not very much money, by the way.)

Lack of discipline when it comes to unnecessary spending is a huge danger. And so is too much control. I don’t mean for anyone to go overboard with the “I say you can’t buy that” veto.

Again, understanding and communication is required.

When Sister Jo and I were first married we had agreed that I would be the one balancing the check book. (I think it’s best if you do it together, but that can be very unrealistic. And, FYI, that duty now, and for quite a while, has been Sister Jo’s.)

I remember one very educational incident where we decided that each of us needed cash for new socks for me and nylons for her. I grabbed $10 out of the cash pool and gave her the same.

I was excited about the treat I’d buy myself after I bought a 10-pack of white socks for $6; she looked at me like “what the heck am I supposed to get with this inadequate amount of money?!?”

That was a huge lesson in “what’s fair”. 

Marriage, I’ve learned, needs to follow the Law of Consecration. Everything goes into one big mixing pot, and to each partner their needs. While in a community it often breeds resentment, laziness and jealousy, in a marriage it’s crucial. And it requires Trust (which includes honesty), Communication (which includes prayer), Sacrifice (which includes selflessness), and Love (which includes the physical stuff). (Those are the Four Qualities of a Great Marriage, should you want to quote me.)

I think it's great that his parents required him to pay for school, and I think that your parents should have required you to as well.  You have a great work ethic (that I think your fiance needs to learn from) but it's not as if you've had to struggle for what you have or earn what you need.

But I think your dad is absolutely right about avoiding debt and I'm concerned about your fiancé accepting debt instead of working.  (There are only three things on my "Daughter Please Make Sure Your Husband Has These Qualities list, and "working hard at whatever he does" is on there.)

As the List of Qualities suggests, Communication is very important, and that's especially true when it comes to money. You need not always agree, but each should have a safe harbor to discuss their feelings and concerns (in "Safe Harbor" conversation we never use the word "you", as in "you did this"; instead we only say "I", as in "I feel this way when this happens"). Never go to bed mad. Always pray as a couple before one of you goes to sleep. And always pay your tithing. Avoid debt. Budget for weekly dates even after you're married. Talk all the time. That's my marriage / money advice.


- Bro Jo

Friday, July 19, 2013

Is She a Cheater?

Dear Bro Jo,

I'm lost.

I've been dating we'll call him John (28) on and off for over a year, we became official and have been for about six months; he is a truly wonderful guy.

He was struggling for some time and was unable to go on a mission, he's really gotten his life straighten out since then. I've really grown to love him, which is something that I'd thought I'd never end up doing. I was even ready to marry him.

I traveled home a month ago for a month. And while I was there I started not feeling as strongly about John.

Later I hung out (basically a date; it was treated as such) with an old friend and we'll call him Don.

While I was with him we held hands, snuggled just a little and kissed. And when I met up with Don again, I realized I still have some very strong feelings towards him. I'm lost and confused and I know I am in the wrong.

Don has no idea (to my knowledge) that I am in a relationship, a pretty serious one at that.

I need to tell John, he has every right to know.

I just won't tell him until I fly home tomorrow, I feel as of he deserves to hear it face to face, and I already know exactly what will happen, I'll be ignored, big time.

He won't talk, look, or even respond to me.

It always happens.

I once made a joke with my roommates about another guy looking good, and he took offense even after I said not as good looking is you.(not the best move).

He immediately got ticked off moved away from me, and wouldn't even talk to me.

Same thing happened when I told him I had feelings of going on a mission, and during our on and off again times. I've had this strong feeling of moving to where Don is currently located, (across country about 3.5 hours from my parents) for around there for school, for quite some time.

I am currently 21 and wanting to go to into interior design.

Unless I follow through with my plans, and move I will probably hardly see him again.

But my current relationship is on the brink.

And I'm very worried.

I would love to hear what you think and get some LDS advice on my situation

thank you,

- The Cheater

Dear Sister,

Well . . . it's a good thing you didn't marry John!

(for both of you)

I saw this quote the other day, I doubt it was said by the person it was attributed to, but basically it said "if you find yourself attracted to two people, pick the second one, because if you were really in love with the first one you never would have sought out a relationship with the second".

I'm still not entirely sure how I feel about that quote, but it does make sense on many levels; if you really loved John, why did you go out on a date, hold hands, cuddle and kiss Don?

See, love, real love, is about putting someone else ahead of yourself.  We make mistakes, we do dumb stuff . . . but I'm not sure I'd say that this was . . . an accident.

That's not to say that Don is your guy; he may be … and he might just be a manifestation of the fact that you want to end things with John.

And, to be honest, when I look at what you've shared with me about John, it doesn't seem like there's much of a relationship there.

Perhaps if I break it down . . .

Here's what you've said:

- 1. John is a wonderful guy.
- 2. He straightened out his life.
- 3. You've (much to your surprise) GROWN to love him.
- 4. He's easily jealous and insecure (of course, we now know he has reason to be).
- 5. He's manipulative (he ignores you, playing the hurt puppy when he doesn't get his way or to make his point).

Do both of you a favor: let John go.

Stop holding him on the brink; give him the chance to be loved by someone who cares more for him than you do. Because, let's face it, this whole thing with Don was no "random act of unplanned passion".

Before you even agreed to go out with the guy, all the way up until the time you kissed, you were hoping that's exactly what would happen.

I don't know that you need to make John feel worse by confessing your kissing; let's face it, that move is designed to make you feel less guilty, not to help him.

Just tell him that despite the fact that he's a great guy, it's not working out for you.

Wish him well and at least do him the courtesy of not watching him cry.

If you do move, move for school or family, not a relationship that doesn't exist and right now isn't anything more than a way for you to escape the relationship you're in but don't want any more.

Who knows?

Maybe things will work out with Don . . . time will tell.

But I always think people should be skeptical when someone cheats on the person they’re with for them; there's no guarantee that they won't kiss the next person that comes along when they're bored with you. I don't want you to think that I think you're a bad person.

Confused?  Yes.

Bad? No.

Lacking in self-control? Perhaps.

Of course, all of that depends on what you chose to do next . . .

Let me know how it goes, would ya?

- Bro Jo

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Chatting On-line with a Not-yet-divorced Man

Dear Bro. Jo,

I recently heard you speak at a fireside.  It was nice to see / meet you after!

Since then I wrote you about a guy I'd met over text who was going through a divorce.

We're still friends.

I came home from school two weeks ago and told my parents about him, even though I didn't strictly need to, but I want them to be part of my life and to know who my friends are.

They flipped out and my mom told me "You are to stop talking to him now and never talk to him again."

That bugged me. I am 18 after all and I feel like they don't trust their training of me that I won't make stupid decisions.

When I wanted to have a real conversation about it with them they shut me down and didn't listen.

I kept talking to him, not behind their backs necessarily, just not telling them.

Last night my mom came in and asked, and I wasn't going to lie but neither was I embarrassed.

I just told her that yes, I was still talking to him.

After family prayer she and dad called me in and told me again to stop talking to him immediately or they were going to take away my temple recommend, laptop, phone and driver's license.

I asked them what their problem with him was and they said their biggest one is that right now he's still married and it's wrong to talk to someone so much even if your spouse doesn't care.

(We talk once or maybe twice a week for two to three hours. Sometimes it's just a hey how are you, I'm busy, have a good one.)

I admit they have a point with that, but when I told them that with people up at school telling me not to ever talk to him again I felt confused and stressful and when I prayed Heavenly Father said "they don't have the whole story. We do. It's okay to still be his friend."

And I felt calm again and confident in how to tell my parents in such a way that they didn't need to blow up, but they blew up anyway, but my parents said the confused feelings were my conscience and that the peace was the devil trying to "entrap" me.

Conceding the marriage point, I asked if they thought I shouldn't talk to him after the divorce is final.

My dad said no because said guy has told me and I told my parents that his wife accused him of physical abuse before she walked out. My dad says whether it's true or not, abusers don't repent.

Those were his words.

Abusers don't repent. I took personal offense to that because I don't think you should ever judge someone of not repenting (besides that I don't know all the details. It's not my business, and personally I think it took guts to tell me that. "Guy" is a very honest person.)

Another thing is, I've thought about his ex's accusation a lot, and if we were ever to meet in person I would ask for more information and then take a few strong guys with me to meet "Guy".

I'm not dumb.

I think about these things and I won't put myself in danger.

Mom said I shouldn't talk to him after the divorce because he's "the kind of person who talks to a young single girl when he's still married".

My response to that is he hadn't seen his wife in almost two months, we're just friends, and he's only 20 years old for crying out loud!

He's just a young guy who's confused and needs a friend.

He doesn't have any deep agenda for sneaking into my good graces and stealing my virtue or anything.

I told my parents I wouldn't talk to him anymore because otherwise they were going to keep escalating threats.

In fact at one point my dad said he'd kick me out on the street if I didn't stop.

"I don't want to have to do that but I will."

But after crying last night and thinking about it today, I knew I couldn't just drop Guy without a word.

We've been having better and better conversations.

He really makes me think and he's also a great listener when I'm telling him my thoughts and ideas.

So tonight I told him what went down and he said "It's better to respect your parents. They're just trying to protect you and keep you on the straight and narrow."

So I let him know I'm going to keep trying until my parents hear me out and I hope he'll let me know when the divorce is official.

Bro Jo, I feel like if I let this go without a fight (bad word choice, a discussion or debate) something else will happen and they'll think they can threaten me with taking away stuff (my laptop and temple recommend and license) that are mine, and treating me like I'm a 10 year old again.

It's not so much Guy as that they have to let me grow up. It makes me never want to come home again and never tell them anything about who I'm dating.

Not that I would date Guy, which is what they seem to be most worried about after the still married thing.

I mean, yes, if after a while of being divorced, and he goes back to school, tells me he's going back to Church, can give me some more details about why his wife left, moves out of his parents house and gets a steady job, etc. etc a LONG list, if he wanted to meet me in person, I would see about it.

Anything more would have to come with solid recommendations from his Church leaders about his Church activity and worthiness, and if anything eternal was on the table it would be at least a year of courtship where we'd meet each other's families, see each other in social situations and actually interact in person. And after that it would still be questionable.

But that is so many maybe's and so many if's and so far away from either of our minds and reality right now. He needs a friends and so do I.

We help each other be better where we are in life. And I'm just not willing to give that up because my parents don't want me to grow up.

I'm trying to examine all of my reasons and my arguments and make them be as adult as possible.

Please, please help.

I don't even know how to open a discussion about it with my parents because they seem to think that it's over and done and I'm just blindly obeying them.

Anything you can say would be helpful.

Is it really just me or are my parents being really judgmental toward someone they don't know?

My mom has even said he's emotionally abusing me and I have zero idea where she got that from.

I never said anything about that.

He has been nothing but honest and sincere and thoughtful at times, but not inappropriately so.

- Name Withheld

Dear NW,

When you wrote me before you told me he was already divorced. Or at least that's what I thought you meant when you called him a "recent divorcee".

Look I may not agree with your parent's approach and their threats to take stuff away . . . but I understand their concern.

If the guy is still married and carrying on a virtual relationship with you . . . well, then little sister, he's a cyber-cheater.

And when I look at the whole picture, here's what it boils down to:

- 20 years old
- No Mission
- Failing marriage
- Abusive Husband
- Has virtual relationship with girl he's never met and is not his wife

Little Sister, everyone who knows you best (your parents, your roommates, your friends) has all told you that this guy is bad news and that you should get away and stay away from him.

I think you need to listen to them.

Yeah, I agree that you parents have no right to take away your Temple Recommend or your driver's license. (The laptop and other stuff may come down to whether they own it or you.)  And, yes, I think that even abusive jerks can repent (though your dad is right in that, well . . . they don't often do so).

None of that changes the facts of the day.

And add to that what I said before: hiding in a virtual relationship (even if YOU think you're "just friends") is not the way to deal with the disappointments you've had with your love life..

Sorry, but I'm with everyone else.

I think your "promptings" are more a matter of you hearing what you want to hear.

I think this guy is bad news. And I think you need to cut him off.

I'd go with one last message: "I've come to the realization that me, a single girl, carrying on a relationship (of any kind) with a married man is inappropriate. I wish you well. I hope things work out for you in your marriage."

And then block him.

He's not your project.

If he's going to heal, married or single, he's going to have to man up and do it without you.

If the marriage dissolves and he gets his act together and decides he wants to pursue a relationship with you he will.

Six months from now, if you still care unblock his email and chat name, etc.

But don't initiate contact.

If he's ready and it's right, he'll contact you.

Trust me.

If you can't hold to the not initiating contact, then don't unblock him.

Your parents may be overreacting, but that doesn't mean that their reasons for doing so are wrong.

- Bro Jo

Dear Bro Jo,

Thanks for getting back to me so quickly.

When I wrote you the first time I thought he was divorced. That is what my roommate said.

A few days later he mentioned that he was "getting a divorce" and he told me that he didn't know when it would be official.

That's when I started feeling a little awkward. I hadn't meant to become friends with someone who was still married.

But by then I didn't feel like I could tell him I wouldn't be his friend until it was official, because wasn't that making a bigger deal of it then it should be if there wasn't anything going on?

And I didn't want there to be anything going on. I've come to understand that his talking to me and trying to gain single, female friends while still legally married was/is wrong just on principle.

I hesitate to judge him on that, but I know it wasn't/isn't what he should have been/be doing.

When he started talking to me the divorce papers had been in for about a month and he hadn't seen his wife for almost two. I realize that doesn't make the situation better but I did want to clarify my actions.

If he'd been seeing her every day or even if they'd been in the same state or the decision to get a divorce was still in the air, I would have been gone immediately. But I felt that if he needed a friend, I could be his friend and I just didn't see him as a Big Divorce walking around.

I saw him as someone who had problems that I didn't need to judge him on. I'm realizing the truth of Pres. Hinkley's statement about being friendly to everyone but choosing friends carefully . . .

I've blocked him and I'm not intending to check whether he's tried to talk to me for six months.

At this point I'm still planning to care.

I told him the last time we talked that I saw my parents point about not talking to someone who was married, but that I was still his friend and wished him the best.

Who knows what will happen.

I'm trying to let go of this since I have no control over his actions or what God causes to happen in his life.

As you said, if it's right and he's ready I'll hear from him. Part of it is I hate giving up on people because I feel like a bad person/friend.

But I'm realizing that giving the situation to God isn't giving up on him but placing him in the best hands possible.

In six months I guess I'll see what's going on.

Thanks for helping me put this in perspective.

And your point about hiding behind this because of my disappointed love life stings. But that's what you do best, right? =)

You're right, as usual.

I just didn't admit it before.

I'm starting new things in my life and I'm planning on getting very close to the Lord over the next six months so that when/if the time comes to talk to him again, I'll be ready.

Thanks again,

- NW

Dear NW,

A little more about "answers to prayer" - one way to know if what we hear is the Spirit or us is whether or not it's of benefit to someone else and not a harm to anyone else.  Yes, you could argue that your talking to this man over the internet is a benefit to him (not just you), but don't you think it is harming his wife?  What about their marriage?  And by giving him an "outlet", even though he may not realize it, you could be helping him hurt himself.  If your response is that you don't care, or that he doesn't care . . . well . . . that's not the same as "do no harm", is it?

As for "judging" him . . . I think people need to remember that Heavenly Father has given them Discernment.  There's a purpose in that, and I invite you to figure out what it is, and why we have it.

It's always right to care, but that doesn't mean to condone or enable.

Hang in there.

- Bro Jo

Monday, July 15, 2013

Clueless About Girls

Dear Bro Jo,

I am a fairly clueless (or at least that's what my sisters and mother tell me) when it comes to sensing feelings and what not.

There is this girl, "Anne" I think is cute and really nice and all a great daughter of God always being modest and kind to people.

I've already took her to one school dance and one other group date.

Both were pretty great and all.

Now however I'm on a stake committee with her and her parents and I talk to them fairly regularly which is odd since before this year I had never talked to either parent or Anne really.

Now though they talk to me whenever they see me and about a ton of life stuff. The dad in particular just barely had a long future talk with about college and mission stuff with me which was a bit strange but good cause I got some helpful tips for college.

However I can't tell if Anne likes me and would want to go on another date or whatever.

Also a few days before the school dance date Anne's sister measured me to see if she needed to wear heels for a goodnight kiss or not which I don't think is normal but again I'm not the most socially informed character out there.

My real question is whether Anne's family talking to me more means anything about Anne or if they just are being nice?


Clueless Dude

Dear Dude,

We're ALL "clueless", my man; it comes with being a guy.

As a pre-mish guy, it shouldn't matter Too Much how much she likes you; I know it does, but be careful not to let this turn into something too serious.

For the record, though: I think she does like you.

And, yes, everyone's behavior so far sounds very normal.

The dad wanting to get to know the guy that likes his daughter a little better, the little sister teasing both of you about smooching at the end of the night, you having a crush on a girl that likes you too . . . all of it. 

"Anne" likely was hoping you would kiss her goodnight at the end of the School Dance Date, and she likely would have given that more meaning than either of you should, and it could have lead to all kinds of drama and weirdness.

That's part of the experience.

(As for what her sister was teasing you about, if it helps, check out Bro Jo's Guide to Kissing.)

You realize, I hope, that the only way to find out if she wants to date you again is to . . . you know . . . ask her on another Casual Group Date.

However, my friend, my suggestion to you both is that you Follow the Rules, including not dating each other twice in a row.

Have fun,

- Bro Jo

Friday, July 12, 2013

A Guy's Perspective on When Your Friends Won't Date

Dear Bro Jo,

I've been sixteen for about 4 months and have gone on a total of about 4 dates.

My problem isn't that I don't want to date, because I really really want to!

The problem is that my friends have no desire to date!

All my friends are LDS and are sixteen or older as well, and they just have no strong desire to go on group dates.

We hang out all the time, and we have a lot of fun together as just guys.

At school we hardly ever see each other though, and it's not really seen publicly in our school that we're all really good friends. We all come from different backgrounds as well, one of my friends is more into the theatrical and singing group in the school, one of my friends is into just about everything and is super funny, and the others are heavily involved in sports like lacrosse and basketball.

I am way into the sports scene as well running cross country, track, and being a triathlete, but I'm sorry to say I don't really have any really close friends outside these LDS group of guys in my ward.

I was in the "popular" group as a freshman with all the stud freshman football and basketball players but I decided to separate myself from that group because of their issues with drugs and alcohol leading into sophomore year.

Now the problem I'm faced with is that I want to date all these girls in my school, but the only one's that I want to date are in the "popular" scene as well.

The classes that I'm in are super rigorous and the girls in those classes aren't exactly the kind of girls I want to go on dates with.

I have girls though, that I know pretty well from church activities and stake dances, and I know they'll go on a date with me but I want it to be a group date!

And my friends aren't exactly willing to find a girl to go out with. They think that getting a group of girls together that don't even know each other will be awkward and just won't work out. I agree with them too, I think that getting girls together that don't even know each other at all will be super awkward!

I've talked to my parents about what I should do, but they haven't provided any good insight. I've fasted and prayed too for help with my dating situation because I really feel and want to start dating!!!

I need your advice Bro Jo.

I need help on getting to know more girls that I don't have classes with and on getting my friends together to have group dates!

We sure talk a lot about getting all these girls that we could date when we hang out as guys, but we never put it into action!

- Brother Who Wants More Dates!

Dear Brother,

You're not alone.

Even the Jo Boys have from time to time struggled to find a good dating buddy. (Even a house full of brothers who have a testimony of dating is no guarantee; brothers can be busy with stuff.)

So here are three things you can do.

1. Widen your circle of friends. There's a lot of Good Guys out there who aren't members of the Church (yet); guys who aren't doing drugs and drinking alcohol. The Jo Boys have found that some of their best Dating Buddies, and best friends, are non-member guys. You may also find that you're doing a little missionary work.

2. Focus on just one Church Buddy. Rather than deal with the challenge of getting a bunch of guys to buy in, pick one. Preferably one who isn't afraid of girls. Maybe even try to solicit help from his siblings and parents.

3. Take a step back. Set up some movie parties and game nights at your house. As they guys and girls become more comfortable with each other, they'll be more open to dating.

Be Patient and Be Positive.

And don't give up.

Happy Dating,

- Bro Jo

PS:  Four dates in four months is about where a guy your age should be; no need for you to date much more than that.  Relax, brother; you're doing fine.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Is a Proposal Coming, or Is It Time to Fill Out Mission Papers?

Dear Bro Jo,

 I love reading your blog. It has answered a lot of my questions and I think it is a great resource for young single adults to have.

I am a 20 year old, female, BYU student.

Recently, I have been at a crossroads-confused and going crazy on what to decide. I have been thinking recently about going on a mission.

 However, I desperately want to get married and feel like I will blow my chance with a certain guy if I do go on a mission. What do I do? I want to make the right decision in my life.

I don't want to live with the regret.

I don't want to look back on my past and wish I would have gone the other way.

I feel like I will be letting people down if I do not go on a mission and be giving up great experiences. At the same time, I will like if I do go on a mission I will never get married.

Any advice?



Dear Desperate,

How does the guy feel about you?

How close are the two of you to getting married? 

hen you ask him if you should go, what does he say?

We don't choose to go on a mission because we don't want to disappoint others; we choose to go because we want to serve the Lord and help others.

- Bro Jo

*Readers:  I actually got this email before the age change announcement last October Conference.  I'm not certain what this sister decided to do, but I think her email speaks to several things.

1.  Often we go through lots of worry and stress about our relationships . . . where we stand, how things are going, what are they thinking . . . all of which could be easily cleared up if we would simply just TALK to each other.

2.  I believe that Information Precedes Revelation; before the Spirit can Guide us, we need to do our part, and that includes getting all of the facts. . . . and maybe the opinion or two of others.

3.  Often when we're not "getting an answer", that IS the answer.  It's also possible that the problem is that we're not asking the right question.

4.  Candidly, I'm more than a little worried that Missionary Service for Girls has become, for some of you, "the popular thing to do".  For lots of guys the age change simply meant they could leave earlier.  As we've seen girls rushing to turn in paperwork, many of whom had previously not really given any thought to serving . . . well, while I of course think serving a mission is a good thing . . . let's just say I'm a touch concerned.

5.  I still believe, color me old fashioned if it makes you feel better, that no sister should forego a Temple Marriage to a Good Man whom she loves and he loves her enough for them to be Good Eternal Companions, in favor of missionary service.  Marriage and Motherhood are higher callings than "Sister Missionary"; no woman should ever be made to feel "less special" because she got married instead of going on a mission.  A Mission is a Good Thing, if honorably served, no doubt about it . . . but for sisters it should not replace the other if the opportunity is there.  IMHO.

I look forward to your comments.

Best to all,

- Bro Jo

Monday, July 8, 2013

Sometimes, Girls, You Need to Do Some Training

Dear Bro Jo.

I am having trouble figuring out this young man.

I am 22 years old, and am ready for the next phase in life. I am a college student and have had several classes with this particular young man. I met him about a year ago at a mutual friends birthday party and thought that he was nice and attractive.

With that being said here is what’s on my mind.

After having some classes together, same study groups, nothing came about of us. Until this past month, I had put him into the friend, or acquaintance category, and moved on a couple months back when I thought nothing would come about of the two of us.

It was until we saw each other studying in the library a couple weeks ago, the next time we both were there he sat at the table next to me, and the time after that he asked to sit with me to study.

Since then it has become a ritual that we sit together, although conversation is little to none, why does he always want to come sit with me?

I don’t know how to talk to him because I don’t want to make a fool of myself. I see him at the gym we notice each other say hi and that’s where we leave things. I don’t know if I am just reading things wrong.

Is he interested?

I try to talk to him but its always the small talk. I want to get to know him more and see if there is something that will come about of us but am kind of shy and timid when it comes to guys, especially when there is interest.

Do you have any advice of what I should do?

Or do you know what he could be thinking from a guy’s perspective?


- Wondering Woman

Dear Wondering,

I think he likes you but needs some encouragement.

So ask him. "Hey, you and I seem to get along pretty well, and I'd sure like to get to know you better . . . are you ever going to ask me on a date?"

He might be shy, he might be inexperienced . . . In a world where lots of girls are scarily sexually aggressive, gender definitions are being muddled, and paranoid LDS parents have failed to teach their sons how to dance and date, we have a lot of single men who need more than a little training; with this guy that just may be your job.

So tell him it's okay to ask you out.

(Sister Jo says "arm touching and eye batting can be helpful!)

Let me know how it goes,

- Bro Jo

Friday, July 5, 2013

Should She Pursue the Missionary That Taught Her The Discussions?

Dear Bro Jo,

Last year when I was investigating the Church I met a missionary who taught me most of the lessons along with his companion.

I developed a crush on him but I obviously couldn't do anything about it and I thought it would go away after a while.

A few months later I stopped investigating the Church but I stayed in contact with the missionaries.

After this specific missionary finished his mission I started investigating again and ended up being baptized.

He and I have stayed in contact over Facebook and my feelings for him haven't gone away.

My question is should I go ahead and tell him how I feel since he's no longer on his mission or should I leave it alone?

I've hinted around a little bit about my feelings for him but I haven't come out and said anything.

I'm worried about making our friendship awkward if he doesn't return my feelings but I also worry that I'll have a bunch of "what ifs" if I don't speak up.

I'm not much younger than him and I feel like our only challenge would be the distance since we live in different states.

What do you think?

- Name Withheld

Dear NW,

I don't think it's ever a good idea to tell someone how much you like them unless there's already a relationship (or at least dating) there.

Usually that just scares people off. If your goal is to have a relationship with this man then the two of you will need to be in the same general area; a relationship can’t get very far when it’s nothing more than virtual. 

I don't think one should join the Church because of a love interest, and I don't think you should move just for a guy unless, as I said, there's already a relationship there.

 And, no, "friendship" is not enough.

Probably the only thing that might work at this point would be to ask him if he'll ever come back to your area and take you on a date.

Maybe that will put the idea in his head.

But I've got to tell you, even though I know it's worked, I'm not a big fan of missionaries going back to a place where they served to date a girl they met while they were there.  I know it happens . . . and sometimes has turned out well . . . but for me, on a personal level, it usually has a feeling of them not being focused on the work while they were there.

 - Bro Jo

Dear Bro Jo,

Thank you for the advice. You helped me see it in a whole new way. LDS dating is a whole new world to me so I didn't see it like that at all.

- NW

Dear NW,

Any time.

And, for what it's worth, this stuff isn't exclusive to the LDS faith.

- Bro Jo

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Cheesy Wednesdays: Remember that Guy? - Part 1

Dear Bro Jo,

Remember how forever ago I had that one friend who I wanted to leave me alone but he wouldn't?

Well here's another question about him... I'm really worried about him but I have no idea what to do.

Long story short(er). Years ago he had many problems with anorexia and OCD. They got so bad he was hospitalized for a few months

He got better.

He met me

He was way overbearing

He started to leave me alone

I set him up with Mac

He turned in his mission papers

Church says he needs to visit with a therapist before they will send him his call

Mac thinks she is in love

He meets a girl and they think they are in love

OCD problems really start to show

Today at a football game my dad ran into him.

And I think the easiest way to explain the outcome is to send you the texts.

Dad said you are engaged?! 
I am married actually! :) my eternal companion (Name Withheld) is perfect! She is amazing fun adventurous sweet thoughtful magnificent my perfect other half exciting loving kind zealous virtuous dedicated loyal my perfect eternal companion my perfect eternal Queen my perfect eternal best friend! She and I will be sealed in the true temple and are now together for all eternity!!!!!!! 
You are married? What about your mission? 
My darling eternal companion and I are together for all eternity! We will be sealed in the temple! She will wait for me and we will be sealed in the true Temple for all time and all eternity! Her and mine's eternity is together and we will make it to the Celestial Kingdom in the highest degree of glory exaltation sealed together as eternal companions! Absopositainly beautiful and perfect that is and my girl and I are!!!! We know it! We are 150% certain! No doubt at all!!!! We know! These are perfect eternal truths and facts! :) Serving well and fully!!!! Where when I will be receiving my mission call next week or next possibly!! Wahooo! 
Does she know she is your eternal companion? 
Absolutely positively certainly! No doubt and 150% certain!!!! 

I really think he has lost it.

I worry he isn't going to get to go on a mission.

Dad said he was saying the same things in person.

Is there anything I can to to help him out?

Or should I stay out of this all together?

- Cheese

Dear Cheese,

Stay out of it, stay away from the dude, and thank heavens Mac doesn't have to worry about him, either.

 - Bro Jo

Dear Bro Jo,

Is there anything I can do to help the girl out?

- Cheese

Dear Cheese,

Who, Mac?

 - Bro Jo

Dear Bro Jo,

His "eternal companion"

I have a feeling she is stuck in the same place I felt stuck in with him, but worse.

- Cheese

Dear Cheese,

You're probably right about her being stuck.

IF he's telling the truth. And it's very likely he's not (how could he be???  He's married . . . but he's getting his mission call . . . they've been Sealed . . . they haven't been Sealed yet . . . they're "Eternal Companions", but no wedding yet . . . ).


Either way, it's not our business nor right to meddle in other people's lives, giving advice, if they don't ask for it.

If she were to come to you and ask, that's one thing.

Or maybe if she was a close friend or relative . . .

And even then you should proceed very cautiously.

No one likes to be told their an idiot.

For now, I think you should mind your own business.

And maybe thank the Lord that you didn't end up with this nut.

 - Bro Jo

Monday, July 1, 2013

Transitioning Your Social Life Post Mission

Dear Bro Jo,

I am a recently returned RM and let me tell you the last 8 weeks of my life have been harder than the last 2 years of my life.

I'm not wavering spiritually but socially.

I have come home and I am a new man. I don't see things as before obviously.

I've never had a harder struggle in my life to fit in with society even amongst many LDS YSA; I have seen this new cancerous idea of being of the world and still not off the world, like a double standard so to speak.

Why is it that I feel in order to have friends I must lower maturity levels and standards?

Now I haven't resolved to that at all. But why is there such a way life like the one I'm seeing?

I'd love some advice from you on how to adjust better.

I'm all ears my great brother in Christ.

- RM

Dear RM,

What you're experiencing is very normal (and, btw, a large part of why I tell couples to breakup before either of them leaves to serve a mission).

The Church is big, and full of a wide variety of personalities; that means that not only will you run into those that have yet to have the Spiritual Growth that you have, but that there are other people that feel exactly like you do. 

Now is the chance for you to put all of those great Missionary Skills to work in your personal life. 

Skills like:
- Getting to know lots of new and different people
- Helping others, in a loving way, to mature and grow in the Gospel
- Build Relationships of Trust with others in whom you can confide and endure life's trials, challenges and difficulties. 

And, heck, perhaps now you'll have a stronger testimony of why missionaries are counseled to "return home and quickly find a great eternal companion"!

See this not as a roadblock, my brother, but as new opportunities!

Don't drop your standards; help others to raise theirs.


- Bro Jo