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.