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Monday, October 5, 2015

What Does a Girl Do When All the Guys She Meets are Eager to Get Married?

Dear Bro Jo,

First of all your blog is probably the coolest thing ever. I spent way to long reading it. (I just discovered it.)

Second, I'm a first semester freshman at BYU-I.

I grew up in Rexburg so coming to school here I had an idea as to what it would be like.

But, I've been extremely surprised.

People told me that everyone is marriage hungry. However, I underestimated how much. It seems like all the 'older' (old by LDS standards) guys aren't following the spirit when trying to find a companion.

Instead, they pick a girl they like and make her a project. A project to get married.

There's been numerous times this has happened to me and my roommates. I've been in school almost 2 months.

In early October I met a guy and we became friends and hung out a 2 days in a row. After those 2 days, not dates, he asked me to be his girlfriend.


I don't understand it.

I graduated from high school in June, like 4-ish months ago.

In high school you aren't supposed to date to get married right???

More to get to know what you like and don't like.

But, now that I'm in college it seems to magically make me older.

I know I'm not ready to get married. I'm 18!

The school stresses marriage so much, it comes up all the time. And it drives me nuts because I feel like a bad person not wanting to get married right now.

I know I'm not mature enough, I'm still in the stage of figuring it out.

How do I (and my roommates) handle the guys that are hunting for marriage?

And how do I not fall under the pressure to get married?

Thanks so much,

- New Girl

PS: My Bishop said the reluctant ones get married first. Is it really so?

PSS:  Sorry for being so long winded!

Dear NG,

If I ever publish your letter, I promise to keep you anonymous. 

Working backwards . . . Your email wasn't that long winded. (Wait 'til you see the response!) 

Sometimes yes, sometimes no.  There is some truth to the notion that being reluctant draws attention and makes you a challenge . . . but I wouldn't worry about it.

I'm sure your Bishop was, on some level, teasing you.

I think the best thing you and your roommates can do is to not do anything special.

Typically the guys at BYU-I are pretty good guys. You need to remember that they're under as much pressure as you feel . . . if not more.

See, when a guy has his last meeting with his Mission President the MP will encourage him to go home and find a great girl to marry for Time and All Eternity.

Then, when he has his release meeting with the Stake President he's told the same thing.

Plus he's got the added pressure of being the one who's supposed to do the finding (as opposed to being the one who's hoping to be found).

Take all of that and put him at a school with great girls, many of whom want to get married just as much as he does . . . and Viola!

You get what you got.

Even I don't think (generally speaking) that 18-year old girls should get married. (Though I have no problem - breathe - with 19 . . . assuming of course everyone is being smart and making good decisions.)

So there's no need for you to be "ready to be married"; not now; not yet.

So you don't have to do anything different.

If a dopey guy wants to turn you into something you're not or push you to do something you're not ready to do or starts with the "it has been revealed to me that we are meant to be together forever" bull . . . just let it go.

Or stand up for yourself.

Tell him you're not his project!

You, your roommates, and most of the other girls out there are going to have to Train some of these guys how to woo women. 

And one of the biggest things y'all need to do is STOP HANGING OUT!

You need to stop treating every date, or request for a date, like it means anything more than "hey, you seem interesting, I'd like to get to know you a little better" because That's All It's Supposed to Be! 

Trust me, despite the pressure, and regardless of their age, many of them aren't any more ready to get married than you are.

You should be flattered that guys have shown an interest in you.

You won't believe how many emails I get from girls at Church schools, who are just a couple years older than you, complaining that they "never get asked out".

That's a much harder problem to fix.

So I say "RELAX".

Enjoy the attention. 

Let these guys who are interested in you take you out to dinners, movies, fro-yo, walks in the park, bowling, sporting events, concerts, hikes, picnics . . . whatever!

(And tell your roommates, please, that this is my advice to them, too.)

If a guy wants commitment before you're ready, simply tell him that. "I'm not ready to be exclusive with you."

You want to be sure to add the "with you" because, who knows, you might be ready when the next guy comes along.

And remember this: simply becoming someone's "girlfriend" does not mean that you're obligated for life. Nor does it mean that marriage is going to happen in the next year.

At your age, even if you really like someone, it could easily take a year before you know them well enough for a proposal and an acceptance to be smart on either person's part.

Yes, sometimes it can happen sooner.

But not always.

In fact, not often.

Once an intelligent proposal is offered and accepted, then yes, I think a wedding (Sealing, of course, is preferred) should happen in under 6 months (I think three or less is best, but I can't seem to get too many people to agree with me on that).

But you're not even close to that right now.

So, again, Relax and Enjoy.

Thank you for the kind words!


- Bro Jo

[Dear Readers,

Since answering this email, two years ago I think, Sister Jo and I have observed what we feel is a disturbing shift in LDS culture:  many of our Sisters seem to be afraid of, and unprepared for, marriage.  Not just the 18-year olds, but even those in their young to mid 20's.

We don't know if this is a lack of training, worldliness, parents who aren't ready to deal with what it means to have adult children, a belief that pornography exposed Young Men will have frightening expectations of their wives . . . or something else we still haven't discerned.

For so many years we've focused on our Young Single Adult Men not being prepared.  That lack of readiness now seems to have shifted to the Sisters.

Some Young Women are indeed Called to Serve, and they come home from their Missions prepared for Temple Marriage.  We have no idea why so many of the Single Men of the Church seem to be so unaware of these Wonderful Sisters.

Some Sisters are using a Mission to dodge adulthood, go on an adventure, and avoid Temple Marriage.  Not all.  But too many.

I absolutely believe that no one should get married if they are not ready.

And I believe with all of my heart that anyone who works with all of their heart, might, mind and strength will reap wonderful spiritual blessings from missionary service and bless the lives of those whom they serve and serve with.  Men and Women.

My concern is that our young people are not at all ready for Eternal Marriage when they should be.

Wedding bells need not sound in that first year (after high school for girls; after a mission for guys) but both should be reaching that point in their lives . . . PREPARED . . .  should the opportunity arise.

And I am deeply concerned that so many of you are not prepared, even when you come home from your mission.

What do you think can be done?  What should be done?  Am I totally off base?

I invite your comments and questions.

God bless you all,

- Bro Jo]


Anonymous said...

Well, I definitely know that I didn't feel terribly great about the thought of getting married when I was 18 and 19, though my parents would have been fine with it...because I had way more enormous pressure than I had ever imagined existed (even with having been told about it when I was younger) from everyone else around me.

My young women leaders gathered all the Laurels around them and said "now you know, you might get some ideas from somewhere that what you should do out of high school is be ready to marry and do it when you have the chance, but we're here to tell you that you should spend a few years doing other things first." I was appalled after being taught the opposite my whole life, but I was the only one who was indignant at all. And when I went to college, I was surrounded by people my age dating and marrying, but I did live in a ward full of people who were in their mid-20s and not anxious to be married, and between everyone of all ages and their attitudes, if I had ever met a guy who I wasn't totally intimidated by, and thought about wanting to get married, I'd have been too nervous to do it, I think; announcing it to people would have killed me at that age. But I didn't ever find a guy in college anyway.

This was before the mission age changed. And I'm now in my mid-20s with 1 date in the last 5 years, and I know how it feels to be 18 and have a strong testimony of what you're supposed to do in life when you can, yet not be able to do it, or even imagine yourself doing it.

Furthermore, if I had to give advice, it would be to inform girls (and guys) that this pressure from "everyone around you" is a trap that happens at that age just like drugs and alcohol is mainly a trap for middle- and high-schoolers. After you get to a certain age, not too old, drugs and alcohol are just so rarely even put in front of you if you're doing what you're supposed to be doing. And although I didn't know it would be so at the time, the pressure to not marry before beginning to age much is not a problem that sticks around for very long, so people shouldn't let it derail them.

Bro Jo said...

Dear Anon,

It sounds to me not like you felt pressure, but that you were (and perhaps still are) afraid.

You write about being totally intimidated by every guy around you, that although your parents were fine (or perhaps indifferent) about you marrying in your early 20's that your YW leaders told you (and the other YW) not to get married during that time . . .

(I suspect their point of view resulted in more fear and less training and less spiritual and emotional growth.)

And are you equating marriage in your young 20's with drugs and alcohol???

Perhaps I am misunderstanding you . . .

But I think your comment is exactly what I'm talking about: what is happening in the LDS culture where a girl in her mid-20's has only had 1 date in the last five years, finds all of the guys around her intimidating, and she's totally afraid of and unprepared for Eternal Marriage?

I agree with you that the "pressure" should not exist . . . that it should be ignored . . . that it primarily comes from within . . .

But I feel like we've failed to help you recognize your value . . . failed to empower you as a woman . . . failed to help you realize how awesome you are and that not only do you have the potential to be a great companion and mom, but that any guy would be lucky to marry you.

Not that you're less valuable in anyway if you don't get married soon . . . or even at all . . . but I'd love it if you were prepared to receive the blessings of marriage and motherhood should the right opportunity come into your life.

- Bro Jo

Anonymous said...

As a YSA in her 20's, going on a date once and while, how do I know if I'm ready for marriage?
Is being prepared just being open to getting married if someone great comes along?
Also, How does one prepare for marriage when they are not in a relationship or in my case have never been in a relationship?

Laura said...

If you focus too much on what the people around you expect and want (and a LOT of that is often perceived and not actually true), you are putting less focus on yourself and what really matters most - preparing yourself to be a compatible person with someone you will want to fall in love with and spend eternity with. That does take time and energy and focus. So don't take it so heavily when the pressure is put in front of you. Pray regularly, make sure you're doing what you need to be doing in the eyes of the Lord, seek counsel when you need it, and when you keep being "nagged," you can respond "I am doing the best I can, the rest is Heavenly Father's timing." People will generally respect that.

Anonymous said...

I meant to say that the pressure at that particular age not to get married is the same as the crazy pressure people feel when they're tempted by others to use drugs or alcohol, but no one ever told me that it would happen like that. When I was so pressured about not getting married, I thought that particular pressure would go on forever, but it stopped after I turned 20. Other young people probably think that once you've started getting asked to participate in drugs and alcohol that you face it the rest of your life, and you usually don't.

I did date in college, but never found anyone who I would marry who would also marry me. And now that I've been out of college for some years, the dates don't come much anymore. Those are just two facts, neither of which I think is related to how I feel about any guy of any age, or how well anyone prepared me before college.

However, I have not been intimidated by guys in general ever, and I wouldn't be intimidated to be asked out by "older" guys now, but at 18 and 19 I was intimidated to be asked out by guys in their mid- and late 20s. (I went anyway) The men my age have never asked me out. Now that I'm older the men I have most association with in the way of possible dating has been early or mid- 30s. If there's anything about this that is related to how I was prepared by parents and leaders, it's only that though we always knew this could be the situation, we all basically thought it would be different, with more opportunities to date people closer to my age. But it still has seemed less of a problem relating to sisters than it is a problem related to brethren.

Bro Jo said...

Dear Anon,

I'm sorry.

I went to a "very worldly" high school. I saw people buying, selling, and using. I had friends who drank, smoked, and did other stuff . . . and I never felt pressured by them.

Pressure comes from within.

I really wanted to get married, but not because anyone was pressuring me.

Not disagreeing with your point about "less pressure" once we're adults, but I wonder if it has more to do with us . . . who surround ourselves with, growing in maturity and confidence with our standards . . . that changes?

I certainly have a different group of associates and people I spend my time around now than I did then, but more than that . . . I have changed.

Does that make sense?

I appreciate the clarification. So what you're saying is not that guys your age intimidated you, but guys who are older than you? And that those seem to be the guys showing interest in you?

And that you wish they guys your age were more interested in you.

Is that right?

You use the phrase "relating to" . . . do you mean that you don't feel comfortable talking to guys your age? Do they strike you as immature?

Do you expect to be able to understand what they say, do and think? And just don't feel that you can?

What is it that all of you thought would be different?

What expectations did you have that weren't met?

Thank you for helping me understand,

- Bro Jo

Anonymous said...

I can agree with your thought that things others might do and say matter less the more mature we get, but your original post asked what could be done about young people, perhaps who aren't mature, or perhaps aren't prepared, and I wrote to say that in my experience a big thing that should be done is for those of us who are mature to teach these young people that all the pressure they're hearing and feeling, whether from outside or inside, isn't really going to hang around as long as they probably think, (whether because they really are bothered by others less, as in my case, or because they'll keep maturing themselves). And I told my personal experience that the adults who are supposed to help with stuff actually give the opposite of help many times. So anyway, a thanks goes to you for trying to give real help. There aren't enough like you.

And yes, another thing that the adults could possibly have given me a heads up about is the possibility that no guys my age would have any more to do with me after I was out of high school than they had had while I was in it. When I finished high school, I did know that often men marry women who are younger and that if a girl gets married soon after high school, to a returned missionary, then the odds of all that mean that the guy will be older. But I went on 5 dates in high school, and all my dating since I got out of high school has been with men who are at least 6 years older, which means they were never even in high school at the same time I was--not really what I thought of as my peer group at age 19. I did use to feel that if I were to get serious with anyone like that when I was that young, that would only add to the ammunition people would have used, to tell me that I couldn't possibly think of getting married then. I suppose everyone thought surely I would only ever date people my same age, so they only talked realistically about that scenario, and they would have been extra horrified if they had heard that I was marrying someone out of that age range. When I talk to younger girls now, I don't say things that would only apply if they only date their own closest peers in age. It would have been helpful if the adults in my life had been more open that way.

As far as your comment that maybe some women think men their own age are immature, I don't think of it that way. If I had to make some sort of classification, I might say that perhaps men of any age who haven't dated as much are less mature than men of any age who have.

Bro Jo said...

Thank you.

The point that you make that keeps getting my focus is when you write "would only add to the ammunition people would have use to tell me that I couldn't possibly think of getting married then".

This is what I'm getting at.

Sure there's no way to be completely prepared for marriage; yes, too many of us put it off for worldly things and this notion that there are things we have to do (Sister Jo keeps hearing Young Single Sisters talk about their "bucket list" of things to do before they consider marriage - something she believes has grown out of mothers and leaders trying to recapture their youth through the YW they know - and as such is a HUGE mistake), or need to accomplish, or whatever . . .

And yes, there are Women who ARE NOT prepared for marriage at 19, my point is that SHOULD a Good Guy come along, and SHOULD they be suited to be Great Eternal Companions for each other, Most Young Women SHOULD be emotionally, mentally and spiritually ready for marriage.

If we expect them to be ready for a mission at 19, then they should also be ready for marriage.

AND . . .

What deeply concerns me is the people in our culture who give our Sisters grief for getting married, or even wanting or hoping to get married, at 19.

Shame on them!

- Bro Jo

Anonymous said...

Yes. At first your questions below the post made me think you or others think that it's all the fault of young women who aren't learning whatever it is their leaders are trying to teach, but my experience is that it's all the adults' fault, so I commented to say that I doubt young women who end up with fear or non-education, etc., are much at fault.

And some of them, like me, are probably fighting huge internal battles because they know and believe many things and they are right, but their beliefs are not appreciated, and are actively belittled and discouraged. And when that discouragement is combined with the low rates of dating and marriage prospects for some of these same young women, it's just harder if the consensus becomes that "these young women just don't know what they should know, and they aren't making the right decisions." Because many of these young women do know, only society and church culture are effectively hampering their ability to show how much they know in ways that would be appreciated by these people who judge them.

I suppose I can see how many young women are trying to keep from regressing, and they do whatever they can see to do to show the Lord what they believe, such as going on a mission, because their efforts to move forward in the marriage direction aren't bringing any fruit for now, and I believe that as much as that's a problem, and we should try to fix things, the Lord has probably been happy to take these sisters who are willing to serve Him at this point in their lives, and that's part of why the mission age was lowered.