11 is a very special number to us. In marriage, it represents the synergy that we intentionally create as a couple because 1+1 is not 2 but 11 (our whole is greater than the sum of it's parts).
11 has shown up a lot in our life as a couple...shortly after setting our wedding date for the 11th (because we love the symbolism of that number), we discovered that we are exactly 11 years and 11 months apart in age. It also worked out that Jeff's oldest son got home from his mission on May 11th (2017) the year before we got married on May 11th (2018) and that same son married his sweetheart on May 11th the following year (2019). My first niece was born on the 11th about a year later (2020). The year married my young boys were 7/11 and now that 7-year-old is 11. When picking up birthday food from the grocery store for his festivities (including these 11 candles), the change was $11.11. 💕 How awesome is that!?!
We see divine design in symbolism and such synchronicities as a sign from heaven that we are loved and being watched over.
Jeff and Cathy each hold college degrees in the family science field. The principle of least interest is a prominent theory in this discipline. It simply means that the partner who is least invested in a relationship controls that relationship. This is so because the less interested partner is more willing to walk away rather than compromise or change.
We have seen many manifestations of this, such as a wife who is constantly clamoring for her husband's attention while he works long hours to avoid feeling smothered at home. It could be the husband who is pressing his wife for more couple time while she focuses on the kids and her friends, often to the exclusion of her husband.
In the realm of dating, one person may be very excited about another, while that other may still be dating a lot of other people. That dynamic creates a great deal of frustration for both of them. The one who is dating all of the other people controls the relationship because he or she is prepared to pursue other interests, while the other is willing to make the relationship a priority.
If you are the more interested dating partner, here are a few suggestions to help you deal with a relationship where you have no power:
- Date other people. If your partner does not commit to an exclusive relationship, neither should you. I have coached people who have protested, "But I don't want to date anybody else. I have found the person I want to be with." Don't invest more than your partner is willing to invest. This isn't a matter of playing games but of recognizing where your relationship really is. For commitments to be meaningful they need to be mutual. If you are constantly chasing someone who is chasing other people, you are likely wasting a lot of time and emotional energy, and smothering your partner in the process. Keep dating other people and give your partner a chance to catch up. Be open to meeting someone else.
- Develop other interests. Take a class. Restore an old car. Get together with friends and go to a movie. Do some scrapbooking – whatever you enjoy. Don't overload a relationship with constant demands that the other person "be there" to make you happy. Make yourself happy and accept what the other person is willing to give. Ultimately, if your partner does not get more invested, your relationship is not going to go anywhere and it shouldn't. Occasionally we have seen relationships where the more interested person gave an ultimatum and the less interested person gave into it under pressure. That leads to a marriage to a half-hearted partner. Does anyone want that?
- Don't get married where there is a huge emotional intimacy gap. If you are in a relationship where you find yourself always wanting more of your partner, this may not be the right relationship for you. You may have fundamentally different ideas about the appropriate amount of time together and the balance between relationship and outside interests. You might have great physical chemistry and the ability to connect in conversation. But if your partner is not invested in the relationship at roughly the same level as you, it is going to take a lot of adjustment for you to get comfortable in the relationship. You're probably going to do a lot of grieving. You have to decide whether that is something you are ready to do, or if there might be another person out there that is better suited to you.
Listen to our LILY Pod episode which outlines dating etiquette for mid-singles and for married couples. If in addition to these free materials you would like to consider one-on-one coaching for your own dating and relationships, email us at loveinlateryears.com to schedule a free consult.
Enjoy LILY Pod Episode 7: Dating Etiquette for Mid-Singles and Married Couples
Every year we visit my sister's grave on Memorial Day weekend. It has been fun to see how these cute boys of mine have grown next to her gravestone. She left this world when my oldest was just a baby and now he's taller than me!
Jeff and I both lost a younger sibling when we were in our twenties, long before we ever met each other. This, along with many other similar life experiences, have been a strong connection for us.
We are grateful for our knowledge of eternal families and the opportunity to see our loved ones again. They are angels to us now and part of our future filled with love after this life. That's a whole other dimension of the love available to us in even later years!
Remember our new mid-single friends we met at church a few months ago? We recently attended their wedding and it was such a joyous occasion!
He was widowed and she was divorced, both were single parents. Thankfully, her kids signed her up on a dating site (not something she would have done herself), which is how they met.
We absolutely love witnessing the blending of two previously separate lives! It's wonderful when a new and loving companionship blesses the lives of good people and their families.
After their ceremony, we did the photo booth and got to sit and eat with the bride & groom and make more new friends with their fun guests. We felt grateful to be there celebrating with them. Congratulations RJ and Debra!
HaPpY SaBbAtH DaY from our home to yours. It's so exciting to attend all of church again! We enjoyed a full 2-hour church service with our entire ward this afternoon for the first time in over a year. Since Covid-19 hit Utah in March of 2020, it hasn't been an option to attend most of the time (we did it at home for many months and then started rotating Sundays for 1 hour to keep numbers low and contact limited). It felt very special to be with everyone again and NOT wear masks. The following week we were able to attend for the first time as a family (with the kids).
We have renewed appreciation for what we used to take for granted. So happy to have church back in session!
"Loving someone will never be wasted."
During our mid-single years, we met a lot of amazing people and created many good relationships. They didn't all lead to marriage and that's okay. When a relationship doesn't turn out as we may hope (forever), the opportunity to connect with and love another person is never wasted.
ABOUT GRATITUDE. Yesterday Cathy
and I went to lunch as part of celebrating our third anniversary. I remarked to her that one of the advantages of being a divorcee is that I take our marriage less for granted.
I got married the first time when I was 26 years old. We had a child 11 months later. To some degree, I was going through the motions of what American Latter-day Saints do. I graduated from high school, served a mission, went to college, and got married when I was in graduate school. It's kind of the life plan we all expect to follow. I loved my first wife and my family, but I think I kind of just expected it would always be there for me. I took it too much for granted. Perhaps I thought what I was doing and the way I was living was just normal. But normal isn't special.
Having a lengthy marriage and then getting divorced woke me up to the fact that we are not simply entitled to marriage. Our spouses ALWAYS have choices. Even if you feel really solid with someone, that is partly a result of their devotion and conscious choice to be with you. That is a great blessing and a high honor. We should really never take it for granted. We should celebrate it every day, and not just on anniversaries.
Cathy and I dated for a good chunk of 2016 and were "just friends" for all of 2017. At the end of that year (literally the last day of the year) I wrote her a letter and asked her to date me for marriage. I didn't know it at the time, but she was dating two good men, who both had serious intentions, and trying to decide between them. So I complicated her life. Even with the great options she had and even though we had stopped dating a year prior, Cathy chose me. I don't take that for granted. She could have chosen otherwise. So I consider it a great blessing that she chose me.
Before I even met Cathy, I learned that we can only enjoy something to the extent that we are grateful for it. Our enjoyment is directly proportional to our gratitude. I enjoy my marriage and the love that we share so much because I am deeply grateful for it. I am grateful for another chance at life and happiness in marriage. I am grateful for someone to love everyday in a special way. I am grateful for the kind of family life that I once took for granted as being "just normal." Because I feel abundantly blessed, I feel abundantly happy. That is the secret my friends.
Be grateful for what you have. Be happy for others when good things happen to them. Be enthusiastic and embrace your life for its possibilities. Life is not merely to be endured. It is to be lived. So take chances, have adventures, love deeply, and live it well.
A FEW THOUGHTS ON STEP-PARENTING AND SINGLE PARENTING
We just celebrated Mother's Day and I know it is a bittersweet holiday for many in our community. For some of my mid single friends, the years when they could become mothers by bearing children have already passed them by. For others, they face the task of parenting alone. Still others face the task of parenting someone else's children, for whom another "mother" will always have that singular honor. Some have more than one of these factors going on. For some men in this community, the experience with their own mothers or former wives has not lived up to the hype that is so often associated with the holiday.
Owning and managing our own emotions and expectations about Mother's Day is important. Regardless of her failings, your mother gave you something important. Obviously, she gave you life. Additionally, there are other things to learn. Tony Robbins has often said that he appreciates his abusive mother and that he would not have become the man he is without having her to contend with, and without the desperation of the circumstances he grew up with. We can look with envy at the mothers some other people had and wish it could have been the same in our own lives. But consider that God knew what He was doing when he assigned you to the mother he did. If you did not have the warmth and love you craved, learn from that and create it for yourself, your children, your grandchildren, or your nieces and nephews.
Deseret Book President Sheri Dew has not yet married and never had children of her own. She is 67 years old and beyond the years when becoming a mother is a realistic possibility in this life. She has become a favorite aunt to her nieces and nephews, having them for overnight slumber parties and taking them on trips with her. While I'm sure it has been a painful thing to go through life without a companion and missing out on becoming a mother, she has had a major role in the lives of her nieces and nephews.
For those who find themselves single parenting, whether through death or divorce, remember that joy remains available. It's not only about the bills. It's also about the memories. My grown sons remember our many road trips to cheap vacation destinations like national parks. They remember video parties, making tacos on Friday night, and bedtime. For many single moms, I know it is similar. Even if resources are tight, you can find ways to create a sense of family. Rituals, traditions, and moments working together can help.
For step parents, it is important to relax into the role. I am aware of some stepparent situations in very traditional families where Dad brings home a new wife and effectively says, "This is your new mother and you will call her 'mom'." Not a wise move. The kids need time to adjust. Once in awhile my step-kids slip and call me "dad" and it always makes me smile. But I know they have a dad and I choose to honor that.
At first, most of the discipline should be done by the natural parent, allowing the stepparent to behave more like a friend at first. (There are always exceptions where a step-parent needs to step in, such as when the natural parent isn't present or if the misbehavior is directed at the parent. I step in to correct if my step kids are speaking rudely to their mother.)
I take each of my step-sons on a one-on-one "outing" every few months where I buy him dinner or do an activity he wants to do. (One of them really likes the Lego store.) It is also a chance to talk with them about some of the deeper things. It isn't an interview. I want it to be a lot more informal than that. You don't get the real information in an interview. But when I am out one-on-one with one of the kids, they naturally open up to me a lot more than they would in the family setting or if I pulled one of them aside to talk in their room. I used to do outings with my biological children when they were growing up too. They look forward to it and I think it helps to create a separate bond with each of them. I think step kids need to know that you care about them individually and not just their parent. Step parents run into trouble when they try to make a marriage with the parent and sort of ignore the kids.
If you don't have kids of your own but you marry someone with kids, it may be tempting to be over eager about your chance to be a parent. I know I have a meaningful role in the lives of my step kids. But I wasn't there until they were ages 7 and 11. So I've had to earn it. My youngest stepchild had a hard time at first because he felt replaced by me in the life of his mother. I know there were times when he kind of resented me. Patience and persistence pays off. He has definitely come around and he loves me now. But you need to expect those adjustments to take time and be patient with it. Trying to force a relationship generally has the opposite effect to the one you intend. If you are a step-mom who's only chance to be a mother is with your step kids, a little patience will pay big dividends.
When you have two sets of kids that were partially raised in different households with different rules and customs, it takes a while to integrate those systems and it is complicated. Both parents will tend to prefer the way they did things before. Kids will have certain expectations based on past history. It takes a certain amount of flexibility on the part of everyone involved to make it work. I don't think it is inherently bad for kids. Eventually, they are going to marry and merge their life with someone who grew up in a different system. If they learn to adjust and be flexible as children, that will be good for them even if it makes them a little uncomfortable. And chances are good it will make them a lot uncomfortable. Your own kids will expect you to side with them in disputes with their step brothers or sisters, and you may be naturally inclined to do just that. Being even handed may tug at your heartstrings a little bit. Trying to understand and navigate these complicated emotions will be a growing experience for all of you.
In a larger sense, every family has its issues. Sometimes the idea that things got really complicated because we have a blended family is just a story we are telling ourselves. All families are complicated and have their issues. A blended family requires us to be more intentional about how we do things. It requires us to be flexible and communicate more clearly with our spouses, children, and stepchildren. It requires an intentional effort to create family rituals and customs that provide an identity to our family as a cohesive unit where everyone feels included. But it is worth it!
Remember, however you became a mother, the real important principles are the same. Whether you are a mother, stepmother, or favorite auntie, the underlying principle is love. Love takes time but it is the thing in life that gives meaning to all the rest.
17th century English poet Robert Herrick penned these immortal words about a very mortal subject:
Gather ye rose-buds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
Tomorrow will be dying.
The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
The higher he’s a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he’s to setting.
That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former.
Then be not coy, but use your time,
And while ye may, go marry;
For having lost but once your prime,
You may forever tarry.
(Robert Herrick,To the Virgins to Make Much of Time.) One of the great advantages of middle-age is that you are old enough to know but young enough to do. The great disadvantage of middle-age is being painfully aware of how fleeting it is. Childhood felt like one eternal summer. Youth passed more quickly but still seemed to go on for a good long while. Middle age snuck up on me. I don't believe there was one day when I woke up and just realized, "Okay, I am no longer a young man. I am now middle-aged."
So what rosebuds will you gather while you still have time? What kind of memories will you make with your children if you have them? What contribution will you make to the world?
Will you follow Herrick's advice, "Then be not coy, but use your time, And while ye may, go marry"? (I think a lot of us are pretty "coy" when the subject of marriage arises. Nothing makes a middle aged single feel more vulnerable.) When Cathy and I were married I was 50 years old -- which is three years younger than I am now. I don't lament that I didn't meet her when I was a newly returned missionary. (She was only 9 anyway.) I am glad that we have an eternity because we started a little late. With an eternal perspective, starting at 50 isn't much different from 21.
On the other hand, however old you are today, you are younger than you will ever be again. It is ok if you went through some trauma and don't feel ready to get married yet -- as long as you know what you want long-term, and don't become complacent about it.
We started Love in Later Years in part to encourage you to live the second half of your life with more enthusiasm than the first half. We want you to rediscover the belief that marriage and family life can be joyful and rewarding. So take that trip to Disneyland with your kids, take those art classes you always wanted to take when it never seemed practical, get that college degree, start that business, and pluck up the courage to ask that beautiful or handsome friend to have dinner with you.
We often talk about the trials that inevitably come in every human life. But life is to be lived, not merely endured. So gather your rosebuds and live it well.
The greatest example of God’s love for His children is found in the infinite Atonement of Jesus Christ. Love is a powerful gift that we all came to earth to develop and our Savior is the perfect example. When asked the greatest commandment, Jesus answered: “… Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew 22: 37-39). Loving God, ourselves, and our neighbors is at the root of all other commandments.
“Perfect love casteth out fear” (Moroni 8:16). Mid-singles are no stranger to fear that comes from loss associated with painful breakups, divorce, or death of a spouse. This can lead to self-doubt, self-loathing, and sometimes even self-destructive behaviors. We can also go looking for love outside ourselves, wanting a partner to validate our worth instead of first finding love and compassion for ourselves. Our worth is a constant, no earthly experience can ever change it. All we need to do is remember our divine worth and allow God’s love to help us conquer our fears.
God sent us here with all the love we will ever need inside of us. As we tap into His love, we find an infinite well-spring of heavenly help to support us as spiritual beings in our mortal journey. “God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 John 4:8). As we cultivate love in us, we stand in holy places and our access to the spirit is supported by the high vibrational energy of love where God resides.
“There was no contention because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people” (4 Nephi 1:15). This offers a beautiful vision of what marriage and family life, and even the world around us, has the potential to be in a future filled with love!
“Love in Later Years” involves all of the most important elements of love – love for God, love for ourselves by receiving the love He has bestowed on us, and sharing that love with those around us. Yes, we encourage dating and finding a forever companion, but love in later years is so much more than that. It’s about developing the root of all other commandments, which is love. Life, with all its challenges and blessings, is more joyful as we carry the love of God in our hearts.