dating lessons revisited
As Valentine’s Day approaches, I couldn’t help but notice that the New Era had dedicated several pages of the February issue to dating concerns. As I thumbed through the articles I began to reflect on things I had been taught as a youth that were useless or incorrect. Considering how much of my time in Seminary and Young Women’s was spent discussing dating, I’m very surprised at how little of the information was actually useful, encouraging, and uplifting to me. Prompted by this, I have written my own revisions and add on’s to what the LDS church is teaching the youth about dating– things that I wish I had been taught.
Respect is important.
Of all of the things I was taught to look for in a potential partner, “respect” was never uttered by a single leader. Through my own experiences, as well as those of my friends, I have learned that respect is one of the single most important things to have in any relationship. A person who respects you listens to you when you speak, honors your personal boundaries and beliefs, and is honest and considerate.
When I was newly 16 my mother brought home a highly recommended book about dating, written by an LDS author. Having not read the book herself, she assumed that it would be filled with excellent advice. When I told her what the book actually contained she was as mortified as I was. The lesson that the book taught me? Don’t expect respect.
This book, authored by a man, taught me that the most important thing to every man in every relationship ever was sex. The corresponding desire for women was respect – the highest, most intimate wish of every woman was to merely be respected. The author presented that because in dating relationships men cannot have sexual intimacy, women cannot have respect and they should not expect it.
No. Every human being deserves to be respected in their relationships. Anytime that is missing, something is wrong. Any person who suggests that a person needs to be physically intimate with another to be treated with respect is very mistaken.
There are people who want to date you for more than sexual reasons
The author mentioned above is not the only person who suggested to me that men are only in the dating game for sex. Young Women leaders and seminary teachers were also quick to jump on that bandwagon. For a while, my own personal experiences led me to believe that this was true. Until something magical happened: I started dating someone who actually was interested in me. This was a mind-blowing experience for me at the time. I had internalized and accepted that I would have to put up with harassment because boys just can’t help themselves.
We have got to stop teaching youths that males are sex obsessed and incapable of human relationships. This is a harmful stereotype that teaches both genders that such behavior is not only acceptable, but expected.
Following every standard isn’t going to protect you from heartbreak
Confessions of a Steady Dater is the warning that appeared in this month’s New Era which cautioned readers against the dangers of dating before 18/ missions/ ready to marry. As the article is place surrounded by other dating advice, it seems to imply that the devastating consequence of heartbreak surely await anyone who ventures down this path.
I find that counseling teens against “steady dating” in high school to prevent heartbreak is misguided. Save from never dating, you cannot eliminate the possibility of heartbreak. Even if you don’t date someone repeatedly in high school, they can still hurt your feelings and let you down. There isn’t a magical age where suddenly you know everything you need to know about relationships and you become immune from heartbreak. No amount of standards can save any person from sadness and hardship.
The only dating rules that really matter are yours
At the end of the day, no one knows your needs, wants, and capabilities like you do. When entering relationships it is important to establish your own boundaries and rules. What works for one couple may not work for another, and the only people who can make that call are the individuals involved. While the guidelines and rules set forth by the For The Strength of Youth pamphlet may be excellent guidelines for some people and some relationships, they shouldn’t be put forth as the end-all to all relationship guidance. There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to dating. It’s okay to be different and set your own rules.
2 Responses to “dating lessons revisited”
I suppose I should first begin by saying none of this is said in a sarcastic or rude or condescending or angry tone whatsoever. Unfortunately, comments via the Internet can sometimes come off that way.
Thanks for your comments on this months New Era and particularly the article entitled “Confessions of a Steady Dater.” While I recognize that me saying that I’m the author of the article may not hold much merit since the article is listed as “Name Withheld” (which admittedly is more for the sake of the guy I dated, not so much myself), I would like to respond to your comments. It is true that being heartbroken does not only happen to those who date (and at some later point break up) during high school. I know this because I know how deeply heart broken my mother was (and perhaps still is) over her divorce with her first husband. As well as countless other non-teenage friends (ysa and older adults) who have also experienced such heartbreak.
My intention with sharing was my story was to do just that. Share it. Because steady dating has become so common these days, many people do not really consider the emotional consequences that occur when you become so intimately involved (even on a purely emotional level) with someone. And perhaps if you had ready the story a little more in depth, you would have noticed the mistakes I made besides simply dating him (i.e. valuing him over my friendships and cultivating better relationships within my own family). And here’s the problem: you may *think* you know what’s best for you, especially when you’re a teenager and you think you know everything (I certainly did, haha), but simply put, we don’t. Even now as an “adult” (which I still feel so far from), I don’t. Of course there are successful stories of high school sweethearts (which I am SO happy for those couples! I would never ever ever want anyone to go through the pain I went through after that experience).
I’m sorry if you felt it was overdramatic. While that was not my intention, I can see how one might perceive it to be that way. My experience dating that young man was truly very, very heartbreaking for me, and not an experience I would wish on my worst enemy. Maybe that sounds dumb and overdramatic, but it’s honest.
I know it’s easy to mock a nameless article about an overdramatic situation (heck, who knows that the New Era didn’t just create this article out of thin air, right?), but I promise there are good intentions behind it and I believe good intentions in the Strength For Youth/LDS Church about dating. Chat with my anytime about it. I obviously have a lot to say, and I could tell you so much more than what’s written in that article. 😉 You can find me on Facebook at Elyse Alexandria Holmes or via email at email@example.com.
Elyse, thanks for your comment. I have to confess that I thought the post was written as a fictional warning tale for the issue by the New Era, and not an actual account of any individual’s experiences (although it is certainly a common experience) so I thought I was safe. I really hope that you didn’t feel like your story was being mocked or invalidated, as that definitely wasn’t my attempt– I was hoping to frame a common warning given to teens. Regardless of what I hoped to accomplish, I definitely have a different take after knowing that there is an actual human being behind it. I revised the wording in that section in hopes of correcting that. Please accept my apology for using your tale as an example, and I apologize if I hurt or offended you.