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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Separating the Relationship from the Project

Dear Bro Jo,

Recently I have come across your blog and have been reading it like CRAZY!

Growing up in an LDS culture with the standards we have, dating can be a tricky thing to go through. I just want to start by saying thank you for doing what you are doing by helping thousands of people with their relationship problems. You are an amazing man!

So. There is this boy. (I know, by this point that must be your favorite phrase). And he's wonderful. (Also must be another one of your favorite phrases at this point).

I've known him since the seventh grade back when he was a very awkward, albeit very intriguing, boy.

Sophomore year in high school I started going through some rough patches and he began to morph from "acquaintance" into my closest confidant.

I know you're views on boys and girls being best friends, and I am with you all the way!

I knew when he started gravitating closer to me that he was crushing hard.

We went on a few Casual Dates and I grew to like him, too.

Fast forwarding to senior year in high school.

That year was rough on me, Bro Jo, I'm not gonna lie.

I started to develop serious health problems that left me in bed clutching a heating pad all day long.

After I went through surgery, this boy (We shall call him Tim), was so amazing!

We are talking Jamba-Juice-runs-holding-my-hair-when-I'm-throwing-up amazing.

I know, that's a bit gross, but he was willing to do all of it without me even asking.

We still dated other people (I dated a lot of people because apparently lots of boys like me :P), but always came back to each other every three or so dates.

Then that same year, my mom passed away.

She had had cancer for the last seven years and went downhill very quickly once chemo stopped being effective.

When I say that I wouldn't have made it without Tim, I'm being quite literal.

I started having very serious suicidal and self-harm thoughts. (I later learned through therapy that my problems go back before my mom died).

Tim was there for me when I didn't want to be there for myself.

I stopped dating because I stopped trusting people.

I shrank back into my shell and dissolved into my pain.

But Tim was the one who kept me alive when all I wanted was to die.

He brought me back to my Heavenly Father by sharing scriptures and encouraged me to go to the temple as often as I could.

He was my rock.

I know I probably should have turned to my family, but all of them were all lost in their own pain to be of any help to me. I couldn't stand to be in my house where she died, so Tim took me to get ice cream and set up movie parties with our mutual friends.

I know that Tim needs to go on a mission, and I fully support that.

In fact, I'm the reason he is going on a mission.

Very recently he told me that he has been struggling with a masturbation and pornography addiction that began when he was only ten years old.

He told me that falling in love with me motivated him to go see his bishop about this problem and he has been working extremely hard to fix his problem ever since.

I set a standard for myself waaaay back when I was twelve that I would marry a returned missionary.

I understand that some people can't go for legitimate reasons and I could accept that. But I know that Tim can become worthy before the cutoff date.

I believe in him and I believe in a future with him. I don't think most couples go through such trials before they are even engaged, and I know that it's made us closer.

I have since moved three hours away to college and am learning to trust people again and begin dating.

I get to see Tim whenever I come back home for breaks and we email and talk on the phone occasionally.

My question I guess is:  what is your advice is for me to encourage Tim in his efforts to break his serious addiction?

He hasn't told his parents about it, and his Bishop believes that this is best for the situation.

That being said, I'm the only one helping him through this besides God and the Bishop.

Is there anything I can do to help him in this addiction?

How can I show him that I am not abandoning him because of his addiction when I date other guys?

If he can't go on a mission because of his addiction is it still okay to date him?

Should I date him exclusively after that time?

Any advice on learning how to trust people again and begin dating?

Thanks for all of your help!

- Supportive but Concerned

Dear Concerned,

I've been thinking about your email a lot ...

First off, I've never said that Guys and Girls can't or shouldn't be Best Friends.  Sister Jo is my Best Friend!

What I've said is that Guys and Girls can't stay Best Friends without it either ending up in romance or them seriously scaling back the friendship because they're in a relationship with someone else who, like Sister Jo is for me, will become that person's New Best Friend.

For you, I think the best way to learn to trust people again is to be around people you can trust.

Tim sounds like a great guy!  I appreciate all he's done for you!

But I stand by my previous and oft repeated advice:  don't marry, stay or even get in a serious relationship with a "not yet repentant and recovered addict".

Further, you shouldn't be Serious Single Dating someone that just isn't marriage material at this time.

I think it's great that you've inspired Tim to fight this, and I join you in praying for his success, but he is neither your child nor your project.

Tim will need to stand on his own feet as he seeks to make things right.

You can't run if you won't at some point set the crutch aside.

Be supportive with prayer and genuine concern. But stop dating him.

If the hope of missionary service or the realization that things are over with you until he gets his act together aren't enough to get him to finally change his habits, then he'll need to dig deeper and find something else, and that dear Sister, is the Love of the Savior.

Suggest to "Tim" that he begin attending the Church's Addiction Recovery Program in his Stake.  (Honestly, the program is so informative and insightful that I think All Of Us should go through it at some point.)

Continue to listen to him, to be his friend, and to let him know that you love an appreciate him.

But never base a relationship on someone's need for serious help or your need to "change their life".

- Bro Jo

1 comment:

Emily said...

I loved this. So many girls/women go into relationships wanting to "save" the guy. I see it in so many of my girlfriends.