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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Marriage, Mission and Messing Around - Part 1

[Dear Readers,

Certainly not the only letter of it's kind that I've ever gotten, nor even the only one from someone attending a Church school.

Part 1 today.  Part 2 on Friday.

- Bro Jo]

Hello Bro Jo.

I really appreciate what you do for the youth of the Church. I literally just barely stumbled across your blog, and I can't help but wish that I had known about it while I was still in high school.

I admire that you and your advice are both so versatile, that you are able to relate to all different age groups and circumstances.

That being said, I hope that you can help me with my circumstance.

I realize that you've addressed situations similar to mine in previous posts, and I've read all the ones that I could find.

However, I feel that my situation has a few aspects to it that have not been addressed in previous posts.

Also, as I've read through some of your posts, I'll have my own theories as to what you will advise the individuals to do, but then I'll be completely off base.

Therefore, I would like to submit my issues to you in hope that you can offer insight and guidance. 

*DISCLAIMER* I'm going to try and give you as many relevant details as possible, because if there is one common trend that I've noticed in your posts, it's that you need more details in order to help. Which makes sense, because if you don't have a full story, how can you offer insight? Plus, you have your agency, so you can just start to skip at any point in the narrative. 

Now where to start?

With the basics, I suppose.

I'm 20-year-old lady and a student at BYU, with two more semesters left.

Serving a mission has always been something that I thought would be an awesome opportunity, but I have a desire (perhaps even a greater desire than that to serve a mission) to be a wife and a mother.

I started my college career with the following attitude: to prepare myself for a mission, but not disregarding any relationships that came along in the process, and run with the one that came first (unless otherwise directed by revelation).

I was just taking everything in stride as it happened in my life.

I stayed true to that, having a few relationships over my three years in college.

As circumstances would have it, I was set up on a blind date with a guy towards the end of this September, we hit it off, and we went on a few more dates.

October Conference he invited me over to watch the Saturday morning session of conference at his place with some friends.

Thus commenced the notorious announcement in the change of missionary age, with the two of us sitting side by side. I muttered something to the effect of, "well, this changes everything," and he tensed up and gave me a sideways glance out of the corner of his eye.

About a week later and after another date, he called me up and asked me to go for a walk with him.

My roommates and I knew that this could mean only a handful of things: that he wanted to make a move (hold my hand, kiss me, etc.), that he wanted to have a DTR, or that he was going to chicken out and it would just turn into a fun yet pointless walk in the cold.

After about 40min of us walking around, having silly yet empty conversations, I asked him straight up if there was a point to this walk.

He played it off, saying that he just wanted to spend some time with me, but after another 10 minutes, he got down to the nitty-gritty and asked me to be his girlfriend.

He had clearly been thinking about this for a considerable amount of time, evidenced by the fact that he had a monologue prepared.

After explaining why he wanted to be exclusive with me (he really liked me, he felt that I liked him back, we got along swimmingly, etc.), he turned it over to me.

I replied honestly that while I would be thrilled to be his girlfriend, there was only one thing holding me back: serving a mission. Due to the fact that I could in theory turn in my papers right then, I was completely conflicted, and I expressed that to him.

He told me that in his mind, serving a mission is a great thing, but the selfish part of him wanted to keep me for himself.

After talking things over for a bit, we decided that we would be boyfriend/girlfriend while I prepared to go on my mission (he's a teacher at the MTC, so he even said that he would help me prepare), and we would just see how things panned out.

We had known each other for about three weeks at that point.

Thus we took our relationship to the next level.

In pretty short order, he started talking about marriage. And by short order, I'm talking the first three weeks of us dating.

To help with the timeline, that meant that he was talking marriage within a month and a half of us knowing each other.

This confused me for many reasons.

Even though I had never prepared for a mission before, I was smart enough to realize that talking marriage was not conducive to serving a full-time mission.

But at the same time this was all very exciting, because:

1) it's BYU; everybody's doing it, 
2) I really like this guy, and I could see myself marrying him to some extent or another,  
3) being swept up in a romance is so... romantic. 

So I just sort of went along with it to a certain extent.

While I told him that I wouldn't be ready for marriage for at least another year down the road (because I do not want to rush into things when it comes to marriage; I've seen enough marriages end in my short life that I want to be feeling pretty good about things before I actually get married), I never completely shut those conversations down.

We would talk about these things, but I'm not sure either one of us left those conversations feeling like anything was clarified; at the very least, I know I didn't.

Nevertheless we continued to date, because we still like each other, and we agreed that we should continue dating until we knew something otherwise.

I was still trying to figure out if I was supposed to serve a mission, or if I should stick around with my boyfriend and see if it lead to marriage.

It really is a hefty decision, and my main goal in life has always been to not offend the Big Man Upstairs; I was scared of making the wrong decision, not doing what God would have me do.

Eventually it got to the point that he was feeling really insecure about the whole thing, and was starting to talk about breaking up.

He would say that he really wanted to date and get married, but that if I was going to go on a mission, then we should just break up right away.

He kept pressuring me to make a decision before I felt that I had received an answer for myself.

That lead to a certain amount of strain in the relationship.

He got into the relationship a whole lot faster than I did (he said 'I love you' pretty quick into things; around when he started talking about marriage), and then he was using that as a reason to break up: I wasn't feeling as strongly as he was and I wasn't into the relationship as much as he was.

He started talking about breaking up that I started to think that there were other reasons for him to want to break up (specifically, I started to think that there was another girl that he really wanted to date.

He never said anything in particular about that, it's just what my female/jealous/irrational brain started to conjure up), so I gave him the ultimatum of 'if you want to break up, then talk about breaking up; if you don't want to break up, then don't talk about breaking up.'

That worked for a little while, but breaking up started sneaking back into our conversations.

After he told me that he wanted me to make a decision about the 'whole mission thing' over Christmas break, I had had enough, and I told him that I'm running on the Lord's timing and if he's not ok with that, then we need to rethink the relationship.

He apologized, and he stopped with the pressuring for a bit.

Through some various events, the tables turned on how he was pressuring me.

After some things happened that helped him recall feelings and emotions associated with his mission, it became his new goal to get me on my mission.

He told me that he didn't want to be 'that guy' that kept a sister missionary from serving a mission and touching the lives of families who need a specific sister missionary.

He then told me that I should serve my mission at the end of this next semester, and postpone my last semester until after my mission.

The way he sees it, I can serve my mission and then have an excuse to come back to Provo, that way we'd have an opportunity to see if we want to continue our relationship or not.

On the other hand, there is something to be said about just finishing up my schooling before I go on my mission.

Before the age change, I would have been leaving after I graduated anyways, so that wouldn't change any of my plans that I had made previously.

I can just finish my degree and be done with it, and worry about graduate school after I get back.

Really, there are pros and cons on both sides of the fence.

Another layer to the madness: we got a bit too physical with each other. Boundaries were crossed that should have never been crossed.

Our schedules were such that we both had a break from school during lunch for a few hours, and we would make lunch at my apartment, and then do homework afterwards.

My roommates' schedules were such that we were alone for those few hours.

This is where I wish I had been smarter.

We should have never been alone together for those extended periods of time; if I could redo all this, that is something that I would not do.

But nonetheless, we made the choices that we did.

It all escalated to the point where we were making out.

On top of each other.

Quite sexually aroused.

We did not have sexual intercourse, and our clothes stayed on, but in all reality we were enjoying each other physically in ways that should be saved until after marriage.

Due to those events that day, I found out that before his mission he had sex with more than one girl (I didn't ask how many, because he wasn't very comfortable about talking about it, and I was feeling rather awkward myself).

After that day, we decided together that we weren't going to do that again, and that we weren't going to make out anymore.

Unfortunately for us, we did not take the necessary measures to get to that point.

We continued to be alone together.

We didn't get to that same point again, but on two separate occasions, one of my roommates walked in on us.

Obviously, that was really awkward for both of my roommates when they walked in on that, so we made an apartment rule.

The rule was that no one (mainly me and my boyfriend) could not get 'frisky' on the couch, or else the offenders would have to treat the whole apartment to lunch at a delicious restaurant that is higher priced.

Something WAY out of my budget, and I had no desire to drop upwards of $150 just on lunch.

This was right before Christmas break, and unbeknownst to me, my boyfriend decided that he wanted to take my roommates and I out to lunch at this place anyways, thus the consequence had no leverage on him anymore.

One thing lead to another and one of my roommates walked in on us again.

It came out that my boyfriend had already made the consequence null and void in his head after the 'crime' was committed, and I was left feeling very betrayed and violated, upset that he had not shared this desire with me, so that I could have been more aware of the situation.

I realize that we both made decisions that day that lead to us being 'frisky' on the couch, but I feel that since he had made that decision (which I feel involved me a great deal) and hadn't let me in on it, it only led to us breaking the rule/promise.

I don't know if I'm out of line with these feelings, but I feel that by not telling me that, he wasn't viewing me as an equal.

(This is starting to get rather lengthy, and I'm beginning to feel like I've dubbed you my personal psychiatrist.)

So, due to the fact that I don't know if you want to know this much information, I'll just cut to the chase and give you my questions. I feel that if you need more information at this point, you will ask (which you have my full permission to do, by the way).

Here are my questions:

1) In your opinion, what should I do about my mission? Should I wait to serve it until after I graduate to serve it? Should I serve it at the end of this next semester? Should I serve it at all, i.e. should I just pursue my desire to get married and have a family, with my current boyfriend or some other man later down the road?  
2) Do you have any sound advice about this relationship that I am in? I realize that every story has a bias, this one has mine, but I have to believe that you have some input after reading this. 
3) As for the 'frisky' crisis, I have thought and prayed and pondered about it, and I've decided that I am going to go in and talk to my Bishop about it. Should I encourage my boyfriend to do the same? Is that any of my business? Will this effect my worthiness to serve a full-time mission, possibly postponing it until I graduate, anyways? 

Those are my main questions.

If you have advice to give on other areas of my narrative, I will more than gladly accept and consider it.

A large part of why I wanted to write to you is because you seem to have a pretty level head about things, and you aren't afraid to say things how they are.

Please do that with me.

And honestly, another large pull was the fact that you don't know me or anybody involved in this narrative, so I feel that you will not have a bias based on people and personalities.

Again, thank you so much for giving your time to people like me; I can't even begin to comprehend how many lives you have touched and helped through your blog.

- Name Withheld

Dear NW,

For what it's worth yours is not the only email of its kind to reach my inbox from the Y.

To your questions:

1. My feeling about missions, particularly for young women, is that if you don't feel compelled to go right away, hold off on the paperwork. You're correct, and following prophetic counsel, when you realize that as a woman you're not to put off marriage for a mission. Motherhood is a much higher calling, should that be the path that the Lord has for you.

2. I ALWAYS have input! (Although I should tell you that Sister Jo often says I should have LESS input . . .) I think you're in a Good Relationship. The drive you two have to . . . "be together on the sofa" isn't in and of itself a bad thing . . . we're supposed to feel that way about the person we marry, after all, but you're right: the timing is early. And thus you two need to be more mature about the situations you allow yourselves to get into. Sex, and sexual stuff, clouds our judgment and confuses things. The only way to know, I think, if you two are really falling in love or simply driven by hormones is to reign the sofa behavior in. Boundaries need to be set. No alone time. No going over to each other's apartments Even If you think someone else may be there (let's not lie: you two have played that game and lost before). No parking. No hiding in places after dark. You know the drill. And I'll tell you right now: if he can't respect those rules, then he doesn't respect you. And as I've counseled often, No Man Can Love a Woman He Doesn't Respect, and You Can't Respect Someone Who Doesn't Respect Themselves. The thing is, NW, you two may indeed be in love. And that's wonderful! But how will you know if your relationship is based on him manipulating things and you so he can get what he's gotten before? (That part worries me a bit, by the way.)

3. Anytime one thinks that perhaps they should talk to their Bishop the answer is: Go Talk to Your Bishop. That's not a thought you're having, it's a prompting. And any feeling you have that you can wait, or it's no big deal, or your Bishop doesn't know you well, or Whatever is ALWAYS Satan working on you to keep you from making things right, from feeling the Spirit. Look, whether or not you two have committed cutaneous spiritual crimes, don't you think all of this doubt you're having, all these questions, would be much easier to deal with if you could feel the Spirit more and hear promptings better?

Talk to your Bishop.

You'll feel better when you do. 

Encourage your boyfriend to do the same, but see that the choice is his.

Don't badger him about it.

Simply tell him you're going to talk to yours.

Tell the boy you really like him, but you feel that the two of you have gone to far with all the "frisky" stuff.

Tell him you enjoy it, but you need to know if he likes you for that or for you.

(Make sure you have this conversation in a relatively public and well lit place, by the way.)

His response will let answer many questions.

I hope and pray he's smart enough to see that, while that stuff is great, there's so much more to love about you than that.

Good luck.

Let me know how your conversations go.

And, please, feel free to email any time.

- Bro Jo

PS:  I'm glad you stumbled across the blog. I'm sorry I had not found a way to reach you when you were younger.

PSS: Great idea you and your roommates came up with, by the way. And very telling, I worry, that the Boyfriend didn't care.

1 comment:

Bro Jo said...

Dear Anon,

Deepest thanks for catching my error.

- Bro Jo