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.

Please like our Facebook page, and check it often for Discussions, Notes, Events and just General Good Stuff!

Everything here is copyrighted. If you're going to quote any part of anything here, please get Bro Jo's written permission. You can reach him at dearbrojo@gmail.com.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

What Does He Mean By "Hang Out"?

Dear Bro Jo,

I'm a freshman in high school, and 15 years old. I'm writing about this little problem that I could use your opinion on. I've sat by this guy in one of my classes for a few months, and we talk a bit, and he's really nice. 

The only problem is that he's a senior, and he's 18.

He texts me sometimes, and a few times has asked me to go and study with him during school. He told my friend that he likes me, and a few days ago he was texting me, and said that we could have been really good friends, (I'm moving out of the country this summer) and he said we should hang out at least once before I move away. I'm not quite sure if that would be such a good idea, because of the age difference, and I would like your opinion on it.

Thanks so much for your time!

-Over-thinker




Dear Thinker,

If the "hang out" is a bunch of people getting together for a movie party or game night, and so long as your parents consent, then I think that's fine.

If "hang out" is this guy's code for "date even though you're not 16 yet", or even worse "date where I don't plan, pickup or pay, but I spend time with this girl alone and see what I can get her to let me do", then I vote no.

And I feel that way regardless of the age difference.

 - Bro Jo

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Is a Mission Why She's Not Interested?

[Dear Readers,

I get emails like the one below often.  I think the first one we posted was "Mission or Marriage?" back in 2009.  (Click HERE to read that post.)

While this particular email came and was answered before the missionary age change, I think my advice is the same:  young women should prep for a mission, but not put off dating until papers are in, nor should they feel any amount of guilt for either serving or not serving; I think the prophet has been pretty clear on that.

The one element in this correspondence that I never really got to was the idea that this sister maybe using a mission as a way to avoid relationships, like there's something deeper that she's afraid of . . .


What do you think?

- Bro Jo]



Dear Bro Jo, 

I'm a 20 year old girl with an immense desire to serve the Lord for a full 18 month mission.

Here's the thing:  because I have such a strong desire to serve, my desire to date or get into a relationship has decreased....a lot. Is this a bad thing?

I'm afraid of getting into anything serious. Not that I haven't been dating because I have still been socializing a dating with guys. I guess I’m more afraid of any relationships developing. I have had so many people tell me that I am way out of line for not wanting to date seriously at my age and go on a mission instead.

My way of thinking is that the Lord isn't going to withhold me from something as important as marriage just because I am a female and decided to serve a mission.

Some people also feel like I am doing this because they think I am "waiting" for my old boyfriend who I recently sent on a mission. This is not at all the case. I don't even believe in the waiting game.

Am I being ridiculous to just want to focus on my studies and making money and preparing for a mission instead of looking for a husband?

Sincerely,

A Wannabe RM




Dear Wannabe,

Is this your response to my question to your last letter, asking how everything went with your first kiss? 

Seriously, if you want to serve a mission, then serve a mission. In my opinion, I wouldn't call that "out of line" . . . but then, to be honest, I question if that's what people are really saying to you, because it doesn't seem to fit.

I just can't hear "Mom, Dad, I want to serve a mission" followed with "daughter, we think you're totally out of line!" Right?

My guess is that what you're really hearing is that you shouldn't be closed to any romantic possibilities during this time. Sorry to sound old fashioned, but there's a big difference between being an 18-year old guy and a 20-year old woman when it comes to marriage. 

So I think that if a nice guy asks you out, you should go.

Keep preparing for a mission; save your money, keep studying hard, and when its time, if you feel so inspired, by All Means, Go!

Don't aggressively look for a husband (I don't really like that point of view for any woman, anyway), but don't live like a nun, either.

Oh, and while I agree with you that you shouldn't "wait", I also think there's nothing wrong with a young woman serving a full-time mission at the same time a guy she likes also happens to be serving.

May the Lord guide you in all of your decisions,

 - Bro Jo

PS:  I'd love to hear more about why you think you're "afraid" of getting in a relationship.  Is it more than just fear that finding someone you'll love for Time and All Eternity will keep you from serving a mission now, at this time in your life?

Monday, February 25, 2013

When Texting Goes . . . Bad

Dear Bro Jo,

Firstly I want to thank you for the wonderful service you are giving us. Now straight to the problem I had, because it just happened and I am honestly terrified, horrified, mortified... words can't even really explain it. I am a 17-year-old girl in my last year of high school.

So my one of best friends is of Indian descent, and last summer holidays (we live in New Zealand, so that was in about December-January) she went back to India for a visit. She went to school for a bit there, and one of her friends whom she met in her class added me on Facebook.

I accepted, as she told me over the phone that he was one of her closer friends there; also I wanted to be more in touch with my friend and see how she was doing - she didn't have internet access where she was staying, though he obviously did.

He would sometimes chat to me on Facebook at the beginning, just small - albeit rather awkward - talk. We didn't strike up any sort of friendship; due to the language barrier and possible other factors our talk was more like question and answer - how are you, what are you doing, etc. - and I didn't really enjoy them although I'd always be polite and obliged him as much as I could. This happened about 3 times, then stopped for a good few months.

However, a couple of days ago, on Saturday night, he began chatting to me again - he is always the one to start the conversation - and although it went as it normally did at first, he then asked if I had a boyfriend (which of course I don't). I said no, and he replied, "waiting for me, hmm?" and he was serious.

He asked me for my MSN Messenger and Skype address, tried to get me to web chat, and asked me for "better" pictures than the ones I have on Facebook, even though I have almost 800 on there. He also asked for my phone number, saying that he would call me. This was all in that one conversation, the first in months.

Over the next couple of days he proceeded to start conversations with me, telling me he loved me, that he will help me to fulfill my dreams, that he will make me happy, and even said that one day we will love together in England with his family, "who will become [my] family". He would ask me repeatedly if I loved him back, and seemed desperate for a "yes". He seemed absolutely sure that we loved each other and that we were without doubt going to end up together.

During most of these conversations my friend would be with me, either on the phone or also chatting to me on Facebook. We found the whole situation rather hilarious although a bit creepy... but he was on the other side of the world so we didn't feel unsafe. Also, she knows what this guy is like, and although he may sound dangerous, he's actually just... deluded.

Even his request for "better pictures" wasn't a crude one - he just thought we have a special bond and wanted to reinforce it any way he can, so the more photos the better, he probably thought. So we laughed at this whole entire thing and just humored him. She even began chatting to him and agreed to his request for her to say positive things about him to me. The whole time we shared our entire conversations with him to each other, and of course did not take it seriously at all.

Earlier tonight - well technically yesterday, Wednesday - he tried to ring me four times. From India. He had also gotten extremely annoying, always chatting to me whenever I was on Facebook or MSN, and even liking a large number of the pages I had liked in the past 2-3 days in one big obvious go that made it clear this was not incidental. It was then that we decided that it had gone too far, and that I would just tell him how this was not going to work.

After much deliberation as to how we would do this - I am ashamed to say that we were still reluctant to stop this, as we found it highly amusing due to his... different... personality (my mum said he was "crazy") - we decided that I would send him a message telling him that he had to stop. By this time he was whinging, asking why I hadn't picked up his calls, and absolutely begging me to call him. So I wrote a message, telling him the truth of the situation, and got my friend to check it and in the end, this is what we came up with:

"I don't know how this started but honestly, it has to end now. Let's get this straight: we don't know each other, and we don't love each other. I don't know how you got ideas like us being in love and even having a future together. I never even started any of our few conversations, and suddenly you were getting ahead of yourself and saying all these things about us. I was hoping that you would get over it, and that I could just wait it out. I didn’t want to be rude or hurt your feelings unnecessarily, so I tried to just be as polite as I could. Now it's gone too far, and it’s actually creeping me out. I am a seventeen year old high school girl – I spend my time thinking about my marks, my friends, socializing and having fun; not settling down with a guy. A relationship is not a priority right now, especially a long distance one, and particularly with someone I have never met. I am not looking for love, I am not waiting for anyone, and I don't know how you get the idea that I didn't have a boyfriend because I was waiting for you. I don’t know about you, but I could personally never be truly “in love” with someone I have never met. For example, I could never be “in love” with an actor – I don’t truly know him, so how can I love him? On top of all of this, my parents would definitely not approve. Please stop your constant attempts at winning me over – they will not work. I'm flattered that you tried, but I'm sure you will find other girls – didn't you write our friend's pictures how much you love her, and telling her to call you if she loved you back? Obviously I'm not the only girl in your life; you'll be fine. I really hope you understand. All the best for the future"

I sent this to him on MSN messenger, and waited for a response.

My friend and I had decided this over just logging out, which may have seemed rude.

Obviously we made the wrong choice: he reacted terribly.

First he 'reasoned', but as you may have been able to tell, he wasn't the most rational of people. He told me to listen to my heart, because my heart is telling me that I love him, and other things along this line.

I tried to be firm whilst standing my ground, saying stuff like, "This is my final decision, I hope you respect it."

Then he said he couldn't and started grovelling.

Again I stood my ground. This whole time I was still talking to my friend online; I copied and pasted his responses for her, and she always checked every reply I made to him before I sent it. At the same time we were making comments on how pathetic he was and how I should talk to him.

He even said that he wanted to "kill himself," but we didn't know what to do so in the end I kept firm.

Finally he told me to check his Facebook profile picture. I passed it on to my friend, then had a look. We both completely freaked out. It was this picture of a hand with this deep bleeding cut on the palm, like he had cut himself with a knife. It looked pretty bad. By this time he had gone offline, and my friend and I are in a panic.

We wondered - hoped - that maybe he got the picture off the internet. My friend was even brave enough to try searching it up on Google Images, though she stopped before she could find it, it was getting too much for her. I tolerate things such as these worse than she does - I could not even stand his profile picture, and the whole thing just made me sick to my core.

I deleted him off MSN and blocked him on Facebook.

Which brings me to now.

My friend and I spent a while still chatting to each other. We were both so shaken, but it was past 2 a.m. and there wasn't much we could do. In the end we dissected the situation.  We still felt horrible, like we'd somehow caused it, now I'm still shaken.

It's 4:15 a.m. and I am afraid of going to sleep. I am in the living room, with the tv on, and I think I will keep myself awake for tonight.

My friend has gone to sleep.

I don't know what to do. 

We figured the chance that he'd really done something to himself was very slim. Even if the hand thing was real, we don't think he will go further. I mean, he only started this on Saturday. Less than a week ago. He can't be that serious. Right?

I am so scared.

Please help me.

I know that you can't possibly know what he really did, but what would you have done in our situation, at the end with the 'dumping'?

Apart from not leading him on, even indirectly, which we decided we would never do again?

What would you advise us to do if something like this happens again, from the beginning?

What should we do now?

Also please say a prayer for my friend and I, Bro Jo.

I honestly don't know where to turn.

Thanks,

-Shaken




Dear Shaken,

My advice is to learn from this situation and not go down this road again.

Ever.

The problem with virtual communication, especially texting and instant messages, is that it is by definition detached from reality.

You think you're harmlessly flirting with some guy an ocean away, he thinks he's met the girl he's destined to be with forever. Your sarcastic and he thinks you're serious. You get serious and he thinks you're joking. 

Computers and cell phones allow people to hide who they really are and that, little sister, can be dangerous and deceptive.

As a general rule, I don't think you should ever text anyone or add someone as a "friend" that you haven't met in person, and even then I think we all need to be very selective.

Doing so gives a stranger quite a bit of access to some very personal things, like pictures.

We all need to be less naive when it comes to the internet.

People who shouldn't be trusted can do some pretty sick things with, to, and while viewing, your photos. 

Not to scare all of you, but I hope you're aware that some people out there use pictures (even "normal" ones) as "soft porn", and as you've hopefully learned (albeit the hard way) that "chatting" and texting can be wrongly interpreted as a "real" relationship.

Please Be Careful!

You were right to cut this stranger out of your life; and you'd be wrong to ever let him back in.

Your friend should do the same.

He's crossed the line from "needing a friend and needing help" to "being manipulative and dangerous"; at that point, other than possibly notifying proper authorities (which may perhaps include Facebook), you're not responsible for being this brother's keeper.

[Reader's Note: this stuff is real. Because I write a "dating and relationship advice column", and am on the internet a lot, I've gotten invitations to all kinds of illicit sites and Facebook pages. 

Some of you may remember the time when I had a few people attack the "Dear Bro Jo" Facebook page, leaving inappropriate posts and threatening my family. In every case, I've reported the offenders as appropriate, blocking pages and people, and on that one occasion several authorities were contacted. 

I invite debate and disagreement; even Sister Jo doesn't agree with everything I write (although I find the "anti-Bro Jo" pages to be sad, twisted, and dishonest, people have the right to say and write their opinions, too); but pornography and violence are never encouraged, allowed or tolerated.]

The best way to avoid this in the future is to not start any more personal relationships over the internet.

You also need to tell people around you, like your parents and Bishop, what happened. Not that you did anything horribly wrong. I do think you misled this boy, and it does seem like you went from "flirty" to "foul" pretty abruptly, but you need to tell others for your own protection.

If for any reason this guy shows up in your town or he really does do something stupid, it will help you a great deal to have people you trust know about what happened.

This bit of cyber-bullying is very scary stuff . . . more than just your "creepy-stalker guy", this person has crossed the line into dangerous.  Again, I really think you need to report it.

- Bro Jo

Friday, February 22, 2013

When Casual Group Dating Isn't Done in Your Town

Dear Bro Jo,

I have two problems that have the same base problem: no one in my area really dates.

I live in a small town surrounded with other small towns. There are 200 (give or take) students in my high school, so there aren't many people in the first place. But to add to that, it seems that most of he people willing to date are always in relationships, and therefore don't date around.

Plus, most of the guys aren't really that great.

They swear and talk inappropriately, even the members (most of the people in my town, and the entire area, are members)!

I recently turned 16, and things started getting complicated.   At a teen dance (it's kind of like a stake dance, but in an area of small towns, we need more than one stake to make a dance haha) I danced with a boy that I sort of knew from a school activity.

He's from a town a little ways from mine, but since that dance I've been on a few dates with him, and I know he wants to take me out on more. It's not like I have haven't gone on other dates, but...

So I guess my question is, how can I go on other dates in between when no one else ever asks me on dates?

People hardly ever just go on fun, Casual Group Dates!

I don't want to be the one to ask someone on a date, and even if I was ok with it, I would be too worried that I'd find out the hard way they are dating someone.

Now that I've poured out my heart and soul, I hope that you can give me some advice. 

Sincerely,

Confused



Dear Sincerely,

Sister Jo and I have talked about this a lot lately as our older boys graduate and move on and our oldest daughter is all too rapidly approaching dating age.

We understand the need to be flexible, but we also are firm believers in the "Dating Rules" that we've established. Here's our opinion so far, as well as some things that may help you:


Q.   If a girl is supposed to follow the "no dating the same person twice in a row" rule, what happens if only one boy is asking her out?

A. If enough time has passed, say 3 months or so, we may consider that enough for the dates to not be "in a row"; however, we think a better choice is for her to tell the guy that really wants to date her "look, I'd love to go, but I can't go out with you until someone else takes me out . . . and no one else has asked; so if you want to date me you better fix that".

That may sound . . . weird or awkward, but if everyone is Casual Group Dating (as you should be - though I get the feeling you aren't) then it's no problem.  If other kids in your area aren't on board with the concept, then it's up to you to be the leader; teach them!  Be an influence of change.

Consider this: since all of his dates with you are supposed to be double or more dates, then he and his buddies can simply rotate who's taking whom. Everyone plays by the rules, everyone gets to know more than one person better, and much more dating happens.


Q. What if a guy asks her out, but because of lack of friends, or lack of friends who are willing to date, he can't find a Dating Buddy?

A. Then you don't go. People seem to solve problems when properly motivated; when no Dating Buddy equals no date, and a guy really wants to go out, he'll find someone. Trust me.

(By the way, our rule is that the Dating Buddy needs to be in the car when she gets picked up, and in the car when she gets dropped off. Very important.)

And for your part, when he asks you out you should be asking who else is coming. If he has a buddy, but that buddy doesn't have a date, you should be ready to suggest one of your friends.


See how it all works?

And if you end up not getting as many dates in High School as you want . . . or deserve . . . that's okay, too. You're a wonderful daughter of God!  And you have worth and talent and value, whether the boys in your small area are smart enough (or brave enough) to realize that or not.

- Bro Jo

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

You Marry Who You Date

Dear Bro Jo,

Okay so I've heard the phrase, "You marry who you date" practically my entire time in young women's but I never really thought much of it.

That is until I recently got in a relationship. (I am 17.)

It seems like everything happened so fast, I liked a boy, he liked me and then BAM we are in a relationship. 

All my friends have been really happy for me and supportive of the relationship which I loved but now I think I'm having second thoughts. This guy he is a really strong Christian but even if things worked then we couldn't get married in the temple because he isn't a member.

My dad was recently converted after 25 years of marriage to my mom but before that it was a strain on my family and I wouldn't ever do that for my future family.

Recently the guy asked me what my life goals were, just out of the blue. Getting sealed is one but I didn't tell him that because I thought that it would make him feel guilty or make things uncomfortable (those are stupid excuses, I was really just being stupid...)

Anyways, relationship-wise everything is going good and not too fast so none of the friends I've talked to see a reason to break it off but like I said, I've been having second thoughts and I don't know what to do.

P.S. Since the first week in our relationship he's been saying "Love ya", "I love you", "Kinda love you", etc. 

He's been my first boyfriend so I didn't know what else to do besides say it back but I had to convince myself that first.

After I got my head back I told him that we shouldn't really say it except very sparsely so it won't become rote, but that didn't change much after two weeks.

Sincerely,

- Confused




Dear Confused,

You know . . . sometimes I believe that people communicate with me about stuff because they need to hear a specific message, even if it's not what they think they want to hear. I'll bet this qualifies as one of those times.

Despite how you feel and what your friends say, I don't think 17-year olds should be in Serious Relationships. There's too much drama, too much pressure, and too much temptation.

Look, I get it. It's comfortable, it's flattering, it's romantic . . . It's exciting . . . And teens tend to pair off. (Including the Jo Kids once in a while.)

But none of that makes it a good idea.

Heck, even in their teens our kids have occasionally dated people that we've thought "wow, wouldn't that be a great marriage match! "

But it's too soon.

Moreover, as I believe the Spirit is testifying to you, regardless of the eventual success of your parents, marrying a non-member is just not a good idea.

Too many struggles.

Marriage is hard enough without that hurdle to overcome.

Can it be done?

Sure.

Is it a good idea?

No.

In fact, the two qualities I want the Jo Girls to find in a husband are :

1. Worthy and active priesthood holder, and

2. Guy who works very hard on good things.

The rest doesn't really matter to me.

Now is the time for you to be Casual Group Dating. And I have no problem with you going on Casual Group Dates with non-members, including this guy (although I don't think he'll be too excited about his change in status) so long as you follow The Rules (and I don't think he's going to like that either) .

Worries can often be promptings of the Spirit, especially when we're not doing what's exactly right and we know it.

- Bro Jo




 Dear Bro Jo,

Thanks, yeah I think most of the time advice is what you know but don't want to hear.

I totally agree with everything that you said, but how do I go backward and explain all of this?

Especially with the "I love you"s all the time. They kinda freak me out because now that I've got my head I don't feel like I should be saying it at only 17 but I've said it in the past...

 - Confused



Dear Confused,

You don't have to explain anything. Feelings change, and teenage "I love you"s are by no means binding and permanent.

And saying "I love you" because you feel obligated, or pressured, isn't a good thing.

We learn as we go; that's one of the great blessings of life.

 - Bro Jo




Tuesday, February 19, 2013

When Someone You LIke Begins Straying Off the Path with Their Current "Relationship"

[Readers,

This column is a followup from the one I posted yesterday.  I've been dropping the ball lately (my apologies) on publishing columns Monday, Wednesday, and Friday like I've promised, so I'm going to try to make it up to you by sliding in this extra one.

Blessings to you all!

- Bro Jo]



Dear Bro Jo,

Hi Bro Jo, this is NW. =)

I e-mailed you a while ago about my best (Mormon) guy friend/crush, who is dating (steadily, girlfriend / boyfriend) a non-Mormon girl.

You told me to, um "stop treating him like the sun, moon and stars", which I thought was hilarious!

Anyway, you said not to talk to him about it, but to go have my own life. I've been trying to follow your advice, but it's been harder than I expected. I love him a lot. But I'm trying, and I think I've been maintaining some good distance.

The reason I'm e-mailing you is that things have gotten worse with him, and I'd like a re-reply?

Something like that.

See, since I e-mailed you last, he's...changed. He's not acting like himself anymore, and I would know, because he's been my friend for 4 years.

I'm not the only one who's noticed. My friends all agree, and some of them don't even know him that well.

The adult leaders are also worried.

He's usually really bright and sunny, right? Totally charismatic, funny, and a great leader. He makes everyone around him happy. And sometimes, he's still like that.

Sometimes he's still my friend.

But then all of a sudden, he'll go "dark", I'd call it. He gets all angsty and depressed and stops talking to me and the others. He beats himself up, too, calling himself "a jerk" or "selfish".

Orchestra means everything to him, but he keeps saying he's not good enough, even though he's so gifted it makes me jealous sometimes.

This switch can happen in the space of a few minutes.

When he's not in either state, though, he'll get flippant and even cruel, saying things to me I know he never would have once said. We already got in one brief fight about it, before I even knew he was with the girl.

It's horrible because he's always been such a good guy, like, the type who would NEVER go against the Church or his parents' rules, or hurt anyone, and I think this is messing him up. I've heard some... bad things about the girl, too, and she might be just making it worse. I know for a fact he's lying to his parents about it, and he's been ditching classes and seminary.

He's destroying himself, and it's killing me a little.

The other kids either don't know him well enough or are too scared to talk to him about it. He's ignoring the adults.

So my re-question is, do I talk to him about it NOW?

Or do I keep being a distant alternate option, dateable and friendly enough to make him not want to be in a stuck relationship?

You recommended basically the second before, but now... I'm really scared for him. I'm so tempted to start yelling at him to get his life together (I've even had dreams where I do just that). Of course, that would be unproductive. But one of my friends suggested I say "I'm worried about you. You don't seem happy," and leave it at that.

Your advice??

Very much in need of help,

- Name Withheld




Dear NW,

I agree with your friend.

As a friend, or more appropriately As A Sister (I hope the difference makes sense), you have a right . . . an Obligation, to say “hey, you seem really unhappy lately, what’s going on?”

As he talks to you he may or may not want your input or advice; you may or may not think he needs to go talk to someone in authority . . . like the Bishop.

Start by just listening.

If it all gets a little deeper than you’re comfortable going, tell him so. And then refer him on.

If he won’t open up, then the best you can do is say “well, that’s just how it seems to me, and I thought maybe you’d want to talk to someone; if not me, then perhaps someone else”.

Wish him happiness and move on.  Don't abandon him as a friend, but give him the space he needs to be responsible for his own actions (as a dad I can tell you, that can be Very Difficult . . . but it's Very Valuable).

Oh, and as always whenever you’re about to have a difficult conversation, I highly recommend praying first; these are moments when we definitely need the Spirit.

The "Boyfriend - Girlfriend Thing in High School (or before)?  Yeah . . . Never a Good Idea.

IMHO

- Bro Jo

Monday, February 18, 2013

When the One You Like Likes Someone Else / Is It Okay to Date Non-members?

Hi Bro Jo,

I only started reading your column recently, when I found your casual dating book in my best friend's room.

She and I both love reading it!

It's hard for us to actual follow much of the advice because the Mormon guys in our area don't ask (Mormon) girls out much. There's also a definite girlfriend/boyfriend trend going on.

I finally got my first date a few weeks ago, though (I'm 17 1/2), so I'm satisfied about that for now.

So, the question I have now is about my guy best friend, who is a Mormon also, whom I also happen to love in a romantic way. It took me a while to figure that out.

Anyway, he took the (non-Mormon) girl he has a crush on to Homecoming. I wasn't happy, but I didn't bug him about it of course, because that would be jealous girl syndrome, aka "the Fangirl". I figured I might be able to get him to go to another dance with me later, with a little encouragement.

It's not like I haven't tried to be the kind of person he'd be into. I dress nice, I work hard in class and on my interests (not just because of him, of course), I try to be happy but honest, and I take care of him when he needs it. I'm always picking up stuff he forgets, etc... I've even done him favors involving this girl even though it kills me a little inside, because I want him to be happy.

And I want to be a good friend and make a difference in his life.

The problem is, I just found out today he and this girl are now boyfriend and girlfriend, and I am extremely disappointed, not only because I like him, but because I thought that was against the church rules (it is, right?) and I trusted him to do right.

He's always seemed to be, like, the 'perfect' guy, although I know he has weaknesses. I know what they are. I've been his friend for 4 years.

But now I'm a little lost because this... is wrong, right?

And as his friend I want to keep him on the right track, but I don't want to pry or be cruel. Should I talk to him about it, like, ask what's going on or something?

Or should I leave it alone and hope he figures this out himself?

I'm graduating soon. He's a grade below me. Who knows if I'll get a chance to go on a date with him now...

But I don't want to be the Fangirl. BUT I want him to be happy.

And righteous.

 Please help. :-(

- Name Withheld




Dear NW,

First of all, I'm glad you and your friend are enjoying the column and the book!

Secondly, Casual Group Dating does not require that anyone, let alone everyone, in the group be LDS. 

Knowing that, perhaps you and your friend can expand your dating pool. As long as everyone follows The Rules, their denomination doesn't much matter.

As for the guy you like . . . He'll likely never think of you in "that way" so long as you're willing to be his "back-up girl", which is exactly what you're doing when you coddle (I'm sorry, "help") him with his other romantic interests.

You're in the "friend zone" and the only way to get out is to let him know how you feel and stop letting him treat you like a non-girl. (That means that he's treating you like a buddy, not a potential date.)

Now, I'm not sure that you telling him anything is going to make things . . . "better". It's not likely that he's going to dump her for you and, given your thinking about boyfriends and girlfriends (which IS correct, by the way) you don't really want him to be your boyfriend anyway. Right?

So you best bet is to say nothing but act differently. (I know, I know, I always say that "communication is the key", but this is, I think, one of those times when the best form of communication may not be verbal.) Stop giving him help with other girls, stop acting like he's the sun, moon and stars, and instead widen that dating pool and get yourself some dates!

In similitude of the wishes Heavenly Father has for us, we want those we meet and mingle with, those we care about, to chose eternal joy over worldly happiness, but each is free to chose their own path.

One last clarification: having a boyfriend or girlfriend in High School is, in my opinion, a Bad Idea, but I also understand that it happens; I don't recommend it, but I wouldn't say that someone is necessarily "unrighteous" because they had a teenage relationship.

Now what two people may be tempted to DO in that relationship, if they do those things, can be quite wrong, and the pressure of teen relationships can make teen life very difficult, but a kiss good-night after a Casual Group Date or occasionally holding hands is not something I would classify as a spiritual disaster.

Hope that all makes sense,

- Bro Jo



Dear Bro Jo,

Thank you so much for your advice!

That all makes sense. Your view on non-LDS kids being OK too is really helpful. I am making an effort currently to get other dates.

Now - I think your view is that it's not OK for girls to ask guys out?

But what if that's the only way you'll get dates?

Thanks!

- NW




Dear NW,

I know it sounds old fashioned and against current social trends, but some things are eternal . . .

When a girl asks out a guy, if he's . . . NOT a nice guy, he figures he's going to get somewhere.

If he IS a nice guy, he feels that she's uncomfortably aggressive.

Sorry, that's just the way our little minds think.

Girl-ask-guy events can be the exception, but even then I recommend that the girl only ask a guy whom she's already gone out with. (And, btw, I give the same advice to guys when asking girls to formal dances: only ask a girl you've already dated.) See, there's just an element of desperation when a girl asks a guy out, and let's face it . . . social unfairness or not, it IS true.

You want to ask guys out because you're frustrated that they're not asking you. I get it. I understand.

But I also know how guys think, and I'm telling you that you won't be doing yourself any favors. It may seem like splitting hairs but, as I've said in the Guide to Casual Group Dating book, the key is to get THEM to ask YOU out.

And you can be really blunt about it, too. "You should ask me on a date" is very powerful. "Will you go out with me" is not.

 Good luck!

 - Bro Jo

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

When All the Girls Around You Seem to Be "Waiting" Instead of Dating the RMs that are Already Home

[Dear Readers,

The comment below was originally made on September 17th, 2012, as part of the "Waiting for a Missionary" post from May, 2009.

I had told the writer I would respond the following week, and my response got missed for a series we were running.


The writer mentioned it again as a comment on the post from Friday, February 8, 2013, "Is Waiting a Waste?".

So, finally getting around to it, the comment and my response is below.

Enjoy!

- Bro Jo]



Dear Bro Jo,

Thanks for writing about this issue.

I just found this blog today and this is the only thread I've read so forgive me if you've covered my concern elsewhere.

As I read the comments on this thread, I didn't see anything specific that touches the side of the Return Missionaries, that didn't have an MG, and who struggle with dating because girls will shun us off because they're waiting for "their missionary".

You made comments about "hidden motives" and so I'll specify that I do fall in this boat of RM's.

It's frustrating to like a girl and date her only for her to cut it short because she has a missionary. I read comments about girls saying that they'll date other guys because it'll make their love for their missionary stronger, but that's very inconsiderate to the RM.

Sure, the girl admires the missionary for being one, great, but I was one too!

I gave two years of my life to the Lord. Now that I'm back in the dating scene looking to date His daughters and find my eternal companion, it's very disappointing to have girls cut me short because they have missionaries.

They'll give me a date or two, but no more than that. I feel that they really don't give me a chance; it's as if they see me as "the bad guy I'm the scene that is out to ruin her relationship with her 'one and only'."

I understand that, as a guy, I have it easier to initiate dates with a girl because I do the asking.

I also understand that there are many girls out there who are available and are not waiting for a missionary.

At the same time, I don't know ahead of time whether or not a girl has a missionary. I've been interested in several MG girls and it hurts.

People will say "man up and find someone else." I try to move on, but I just wish that girls wouldn't wait for missionaries so that they could be available for the great guys around them.

We RM's already served. Some of us are jerks/players/bad/etc., but many more of us really want to do what's right and be a quality boyfriend and husband for our Heavenly Father's daughters....please give us a real chance.

I agree that no mission president wants missionaries to have girls waiting for them.

To go with that I feel that, if Heavenly Father unconditionally wanted a particular guy and girl to marry for a specific purpose, then He would have made it so that the girl met the guy as an RM. That way he would serve a faithful mission undistracted and she would grow and prepare better for marriage by dating in her prime years like he's supposed to.

Sorry for the long message. I look forward to hearing any input from you that addresses this issue from the RM guy’s perspective.

- JA




Dear JA,

I totally agree that Girls shouldn't wait . . . and neither should guys, for that matter.

And by “waiting” (lest the torrents of the obsessed begin again) I don’t mean “writing supportive letters and sending the occasional care package”, I’m talking about those people who act like they’re married, who stay at home, refuse to be open to other romantic possibilities, and might as well wear black armbands for all the Mourning Their Lost Love that they do.

In that I think you and I are on the exact same page.

(At least if they wore the armbands it would be easier for you to spot them instead of spending your Dinner and a Movie Money on “somebody else’s wife”, right?)

I also think you make an excellent point about "if she was meant to marry him, they'd have met later so she wouldn't have to wait".

But after that is where you and I part ways. I’m sorry, but there are just too many great, unattached, possible eternal companions out there for me to tolerate all of the whining.

We Old People have no idea how someone can go to the Big Box Store of LDS YSA Dating and not find someone to marry – it’s ridiculous! When we squeeze you for more information we invariably learn that it’s not that there isn't ANYONE, it’s that you have a particular person in mind, whether you've met them or imagined them (both are just as likely) and things just haven’t worked out the way you wanted them to.

I feel for you, I really do, but while you’re crying in your cocoa you’re missing dating lots of great people!

I've been brokenhearted. I've “loved and lost”. A lot.

But eventually I found someone.

And, frankly, it took a lot of effort. (And being married takes a lot of effort, too. Just ask Sister Jo, she’ll say the same thing.)

So while I feel your pain, and share your frustrations, I also don’t see any point in trying to convince a girl that she’s given her heart to the wrong guy. Seriously, who wants to marry someone that’s in love with someone else?

Maybe that needs to be the new opening line y’all use at the Y.

“Hi, I’m considering asking you out on a date . . . no pressure, just a lot of fun and a chance for us to get to know each other better. I’m a pretty honest guy, and I respect honesty; so let me just ask right now, are you ‘waiting’ for some other guy? Because, as great as you seem to be, I don’t have time or money to waste.”

What do you think?

As you ponder that, let me add this:

Love is the reward of the courageous; loneliness the territory of the whiny and negative.

Chin up, Amigo!

It will get better.

- Bro Jo


[And for you Sisters Reading this, he's totally right, you are making serious mistakes not giving these RMs an honest chance. - Bro Jo]

Monday, February 11, 2013

What to Do When You Have a Bad Seminary Teacher

Dear Bro. Jo,

I am currently having issues with my seminary teacher. Many students had told me that they didn’t like him, but I tried to go into the class with an open mind. I feel like he teaches opinion and not gospel fact. And today just put me over the edge.

Today he had me and another student teach a lesson on Obadiah.

Well my partner had been sick every day that we were supposed to prepare, so I prepared the whole lesson thinking it was supposed to be 5 minutes (it was supposed to be 15) well my partner shows up today and I teach the whole lesson without her help.

Overall we got a B- grade on our presentation because the class was non-responsive (our class only has about 10 members) I thought our lesson was good considering she didn't help me at all.

Well after our lesson my teacher decided that he would allow everyone to take a nap, and then he let us out of class without a closing prayer. I brought up the fact we didn't pray and he told me 'I did that on purpose. We didn't learn anything today so there is no point on saying a closing prayer.'

Truth be told I was offended considering I spent time on the lesson. I don't know what to do because our last quarter of school is almost over, but I have no desire to go back to seminary.

I don't want to be in his class, I don't want to hear opinion.

Any suggestions of how I can improve my attitude Or what I can do?

Thanks!

I appreciate everything you do!

- Sick of Opinion

PS:  Oh I should also add that I am having a hard time feeling the spirit in his class. I am open to the spirit and I feelthe spirit other places, just not in seminary.

Thanks again - s.o.o



Dear S.O.O,

When we don't like someone, that's our problem, not their problem.

Even the most obnoxious and annoying people still have some redeeming qualities. Often we see what we choose to see.

This guy may deserve your frustration, but how is he supposed to overcome that?

Seriously.

I'll bet he has no idea how you feel, and No, being difficult in class isn't going to "give him a clue".

You'll have to talk to him, tell him how you feel, and give him a chance to explain why he is the way he is. 

You may not like what he has to say, but at least if you're open to his feelings you'll learn something about the guy.

Look, I agree that based on what you've shared I'm not a huge fan of this guy, but school, even Seminary, isn't just about the subject matter being taught; often the most important things we learn in school have more to do with learning how to understand people a little bit better.

Why does this person act that way?

What is it that a particular teacher expects?

The bottom line here, is, that you may have to be the bigger person.

Even though you're the kid and he's the adult, you may have to be the one that makes the first step towards reconciliation. But, perhaps most importantly, is that you learn this lesson: Never Let Anyone Keep You from Doing What's Right.

There will always be someone, in Seminary, at Church or even at work that may drive you crazy; don't use them as an excuse to stop going, to stop learning, to stop improving.

If you quit going to seminary the one who will lose out the most . . . is you.

And let's face it; it's not that he's expressing opinion, it's that you Don't Agree with the opinions he's expressing, right?

Because, again seriously, how is anyone supposed to teach any subject without opinion and perspective?

If you've ever been in one of those classes, you'll agree that they're dreadfully boring. 

Finally, let me say this: I agree that there are lots of terrible teachers in the world, professional and otherwise.

Heck, in every class I teach at the local university there are at least a couple students that think I'm awful; I try to be open to what they have to say, even though 95% of the rest of the class is very complimentary. 

Sure, usually these are students that aren't putting in any effort, but I never know when one of them might spark a good idea or have a valid point.

But if this guy truly is bad, and you talk to him and get nowhere (or it gets worse) then you should tell someone.

Don't be vindictive or spiteful, but let his supervisor (and your parents) know of your struggles and the effort you've made to try to overcome them. It's always possible that he needs to be in a different profession.

Best of luck, and please let me know what you decide to do and how it all turns out.

- Bro Jo



Dear Bro Jo,

I will talk to him on Tuesday.

I told my patents about my struggles in his class and how my class only has about 7 attending students including me. My father called the supervisor and we are going to talk tomorrow.

I understand how I might have to be the bigger person, and just to clarify I would never drop out of seminary considering it is my favorite class. I was planning on changing to a teacher I have had before and in whose class I have had the most spiritual growth do far.

I agree that without opinion class is boring, but he teaches his opinion as gospel truth. If we (any class member) tries to express our opinion most of the time it us shot down as false, and he proceeds to tell is his is fact (he then can't prove it if we ask for proof).

Also in his class I feel I get a more spiritual lesson by indexing then by listening (I do listen to the lesson until we have about 15 minutes left of class and if I feel I need a bit of a spiritual uplift, I index the rest of the class.)

I know that this class has been a challenge for me, it really makes me question what is true and not.

Thanks for your advice!

-  S.O.O.

PS: I could never imagine you being a bad teacher.



Dear S.O.O,

That's very sweet to say, but trust me, not everyone would agree with you.

It definitely sounds like the talk you and your father are going to have is a good idea. I hope it's productive for all.

Even Seminary Teachers can improve!

I'm glad you're sticking with it.  Switching to another instructor may just be the thing to do.

I hope your conversation goes well,

 - Bro Jo

Friday, February 8, 2013

Is Waiting a Waste?

Dear Readers,

Nearly four years ago, in one of my first columns, I addressed "Waiting for a Missionary".  (You can read the original HERE.)  Since then it's been our most commented on post.

Yesterday I got the following comment.  Below is my response.

Best to all,

- Bro Jo


Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Waiting for a Missionary":

Guess what?

I waited two years for my missionary (And yes, I call him mine)

I dated other guys and such but I held onto my guy. He got back, we dated a little more, and guess what?

We got married.

You just don't like to be wrong, that's your problem.

I agree with all the girls that say that they are strong, you are.

It's not easy to say goodbye to someone that you love for two years.

Support him, write him, date other guys.

I wrote him once a week and he asked for letters once a week. He didn't have a huge support system at home.

I know you said you've never heard of a mission president who encourages a MG but his never discouraged it either. Why do you feel that waiting is so wrong?

He was never distracted and he loved his mission. He lead the mission for many months, became the AP.

Ladies, it's not a distraction to write him, but it is a support.

Tell him every week how incredible he is, what a good example he is. Let him know that his service is appreciated. Pray for him.

And if you want to wait, go for it. I see nothing wrong with it.

If he comes back and things work out, congratulations!

If they don't, then you tested it and you can move on.

But never tell yourself that you wasted 2 years, ever, because you didn't.




Dear Anon,

First off . . . CONGRATULATIONS!!!

I’m truly happy for you both.

I have LOTS of problems . . . just ask Sister Jo!

When it comes to being wrong, I think I’m like most people.

I don’t mind being wrong when the result is positive, not that it’s fun when people gloat or belittle . . . but I can’t be angry when something good happens.

In fact, when I’m expecting something bad I love it when I’m wrong!

I don’t like it when I’m right, or think I’m right, and people want to argue . . . it happens all the time, so I should just get used to it I suppose.

Of course, in this case at least, I wasn't wrong.

In fact, it seems you and I agree on almost everything!

Almost.

He wasn't “your missionary”. I don't care what you call him.

It was his mission, and he was his parent’s son, but he was the Lord’s Missionary. It’s in the song, you know . . .

And I’m glad he found joy in service; what an excellent testimony and example he set!

Now he’s your husband, and (hopefully) your Eternal Companion, and those are Very Good Things.

You dated other guys, which is exactly what I recommend; good for you!

By following that advice, you didn't wait.

At least not by my definition.  Again, good for you!

You also said to support him and write him, which I wholeheartedly agree with. I think it’s very unwise for a young woman to blow off all dating for the two years “her missionary” is gone, but writing non-romantic letters and being supportive is Always good.

If you read my columns on this you’ll see that I say “sure it can work out, and when it does, that’s great!”, but when it doesn't work out, which again is most of the time, it’s a big mistake.

Why?

Consider this: I submit that your opinion is what it is because things worked out the way you wanted them to. I think it’s very easy to sit there and say that you wouldn't feel that you’d wasted two years had things worked out differently, but I've got piles, PILES of mail from Young Women AND Young Men who “waited” and it didn't work out and they all, ALL, say exactly the same thing “I wasted my time waiting around and now I’m worried I won’t find anyone”.

Those letters and emails talk about Great People that they could have dated but didn't because they hung all of their hopes on a fantasy line. I've got letters from girls who waited because Uncool Coward Missionary Guy was scared or wanted to get lots of mail from star struck girls that he had no intention of marrying; I've got email from Good Couples who had every intention of being together forever only to discover that, shock of shocks, two years of experiences and maturity have led to the realization that they weren't a good match after all (glad they figured it out Before the Temple); and I’ve got tons of correspondence from Good LDS Guys who are pretty tired of how many of you good sisters use them for free dinners or act like nuns because you treat some guy who can’t even call you for two years like he’s your husband on military deployment.

I’m so, So Glad that things worked out for you!

I really am . . . despite your smugness.

But for every story like yours I’ve got many times more stories from people who found a great eternal companion rather than wait around for “maybe”, or for whom waiting was a waste.

See, there’s no truth to “there’s only one person out there for you”.

How could I possibly in good conscience tell someone to wait, tell them to lock themselves away, tell them that at 16 the 18-year old boy they have a crush on is worth skipping Prom for . . . worth not going to any movies for . . . worth risking a life time of loneliness for . . . just because it worked out for you?

“Dude, you should totally jump off this bridge! The first forty guys who did it are in the hospital, but I heard that it really worked out for one guy . . .”

That's why I tell people "all bets are off" and "don't wait around".

Stories like yours are why I tell people "go out, date others, and when the missionary comes back, if you're still single and you're both still interested, by all means DATE!".

One last thing: it may bring y’all comfort to spin this with “but his Mission President didn't tell him to dump me” as “I wasn't a distraction”, but that's not the same thing.  And I’m sure some of you aren't distractions . . . too much . . . but I’ll tell you that’s not what I hear from the guys that have had missionary companions with serious girlfriends back home.

Wishing you every happiness,

- Bro Jo

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Getting the Creepy Texter to Stop

Dear Bro Jo,

There's this guy that I met at a youth dance who I gave my number to so he could give me his manager's number so I could apply for a job where he works.

Now he texts me all the time - and creepy stuff like "good morning" and "you have beautiful eyes".

I reply to be nice but I'm being careful not to lead him on.

But yesterday he asked me out.

I said no because I'm not 16 yet, but I don't want him to keep texting me all that creepy stuff.

What do I tell him to let him know I'm not interested?

From,

The Irritated Mia-Maid



Dear Irritated,

When you gave him your number he thought you liked him and wanted him to text you; it doesn't matter that the initial "excuse" was about employment - a number's a number, regardless of how we get it.

We guys can be lame that way.

When a pretty girl shows us a little attention we get quite hopeful.

And, frankly, if you liked him you wouldn't think him saying “you have beautiful eyes” was creepy; you'd be writing me asking me if the two of you meeting at the mall or him coming over and watching movies at your house is really a date (which they are, by the way; lame, yes, but still dates).

Every time you respond to his texts you encourage him to text you again, so . . . if you don't want him to text you, stop responding.

If he continues to bother you, then you'll have to tell him to stop. With guys you need to be clear and concise.

"Hey, please stop texting me. I'm only 15 and you're creeping me out."

Anything less direct, less honest, and you'll only be encouraging him further.

Guys hear "I'm not 16 yet" not as "no", but as "but when I turn 16 I really want to go out with you".

If you're not interested, say "I'm sorry, but I'm not interested in you in that way".

Clear and concise.

Or guys will never get it.

 - Bro Jo

Monday, February 4, 2013

Is It the Age Difference That's Scary Here?

Dear Bro Jo,

I recently was asked out by a guy in my YSA stake.

I don't get asked out a lot and he did not give off creeper vibes so I agreed.

He added me on Facebook, at which point I discovered him to be eight full years older than me!

I am only eighteen (one month to nineteen), and this seems like quite a jump.

Should I be worried, or refuse any further advances?

He is also still in college, I see him around sometimes, and I am wondering if there are reasons for that. (We both go to UVU, so he most likely isn't going for an advanced degree.)

I am just quite shocked and really don't even know how to react.

 Also, thank you, thank you!

For the time you put into this, you always know what to do!

Sincerely,

Young 'Un



Dear Young 'Un,

Go on the date; have a great time.

If the age difference bothers you at that time, make it a onetime thing.

But you won't know if you don't go.

- Bro Jo



Dear Bro Jo,

Thanks.

Also, I was worrying about how to say no, and that very same day you posted a letter that answered it!

It's amazing how things work out like that, isn't it?

Sincerely,

Young 'Un




Dear Young 'Un,

Did you go?

- Bro Jo



Dear Bro Jo,

I did go on one date with him and probably about five days later he called again. He usually calls and asks if I want to go out and then waits a few days before actually setting up a tentative plan. He isn't very good at planning things out exactly.

- Young 'Un



Dear Young 'Un,

Interesting.

- Bro Jo



*** 2 months later ***

Dear Bro Jo,

It's been a while since this started.

We haven't gone on a date since but he called me twice on a weekend where I was super busy. I did not end up calling him back and a while later he sent me a text that said "you hate me".

And that was all.

I did not know how to respond and felt like he was trying to manipulate me so, again, I did not respond, although for a different reason. He sent me another text later that said "moo cow". I really don't have the time or desire to deal with stuff like this.

A few of my guy friends are telling me to just tell him I am not interested. But my mom thinks that he seems like the kind of person who would not take the hint and/or would get angry. She thinks I should just ignore him, but I still see him at stake activities and such.

What do you think?

- Young 'Un





Dear Young 'Un,

I'm with your mom on this. I'd ignore him on a social level, but be polite in public settings. You've gone on the required-to-be-nice few dates; there are too many other guys out there. I say "move on".

- Bro Jo

PS:  You wrote "guy friends" . . . hahahaha . . .

Friday, February 1, 2013

Four Years of "Dear Bro Jo"

Dear Readers,

Welcome to the Four Year Anniversary of Dear Bro Jo!

A couple weeks ago we passed the 200,000 mark for page reads . . . I'm still trying to fathom that . . .

I just wanted to quickly say Thank You.  I hope that as you've read "Dear Bro Jo", and shared it with your family and friends, that you've been helped or found inspiration here and there, that your confidence, testimony, and relationships have grown stronger, and that perhaps you've found a little entertainment, too.

I've loved getting to know some of you, been inspired by your testimonies of the Savior and His Atonement, and encouraged by your . . . well, courage . . . as you face the ups, downs, twists and turns that is this road we're all on.

I hope that if I've offended you (and I realize that may be a very big number of people) that you've been able to dismiss and forgive the offense.  I know my bluntness and helicopter-parent like concern can come across harshly . . . I don't mean to excuse that, but I do figure that you'll know that's how I am, flawed that I may be, and accept at least that "harshness" is delivered with love and genuine concern.

As I've said often, even Sister Jo doesn't agree with everything I say and write, but at least you know that I'll never lie to you, talk down to you, or treat you like you're incapable of handling the truth as I see it.

I appreciate that you allow me to do what I do, and have helped me gain in readership as you share the existence of this column with those that you care about.

Thank you for putting up with my misspellings, grammatical errors, and writing style oddities as I've tried through this medium to convey tone and emotion.

Lastly, I'd like to say how much I've enjoyed meeting those of you've I've been lucky enough to meet.  At firesides . . . airports . . . Church events . . . restaurants . . . you've always been kind, and it has increased my testimony that people are basically good, and we're all in this together, each of us just wanting to find Joy and Eternal Happiness.


May the Lord bless you all that Love and Joy,

- Bro Jo