THOUGHTS FROM A CHINESE DISH
In late 2017, I went to China with a delegation of Utah business leaders. At least twice a day during the two weeks we were there, business and political leaders threw huge banquet lunches and dinners for us with the finest foods China has to offer. I have never experienced the "red carpet" treatment like this in any other setting.
At one of these dinners, I saw this orange fish shaped thing coming around the table. It looked made of gelatin. I had no idea what it was and hesitated about trying it. After all, it could be made of fish guts or something. But, as often happens in China, the Chinese business man sitting next to me grabbed the serving spoon and plopped a big helping of this fish shaped thing on my plate. He said, "You will like." Not wanting to be rude, I took a bite . . . and smiled. My host said, "mango pudding." It was delicious.
I was single at the time I took this trip to China. I think trying the fish shaped dish was a little like dating someone new. I saw something unfamiliar and I was leery of it. It could be anything. It could be something unappealing. What if it made me sick? But it didn't. It was mango pudding and it was amazing.
Dating a new person can be a little scary. Jon Harris
has kept us updated on his budding relationship. Remember how nervous he was about getting together and having the first kiss? It seems like that turned out to be mango pudding too. The thing is, you don't know until you pick up a spoon and give it a try.
has compared dating to Bertie Bott's every flavor beans in the Harry Potter novels. You don't know what you have until you try it. Occasionally she got a vomit flavored "date" experience, but most of the time they turned out to be pleasant.
We all tend to gravitate to what is familiar. Our brains tell us it is safer than something unknown. But this doesn't always serve us. It's what keeps people stuck in abusive marriages. It often causes them to find a similar partner the next time. I'm not suggesting that you seek different for difference sake. But be open to trying out a lot of different flavors until you find your favorite. Don't pre-judge it or be too vigilant for "red flags." (I promise, your brain knows how to invent them and conjure up fear from the most innocuous things.)
When you a dating opportunity arises that feels unfamiliar, think "mango pudding."
TALKING TO KIDS ABOUT SEX
In a recent lesson from "Come Follow Me," we discussed "lust" and its potentially damaging influence, particularly with regard to pornography. We also talked about how sex between a married couple who love each other is a beautiful thing. We encouraged my two stepsons to come to us if they had questions about sex, rather than going to friends who probably don't really know anything or to pornography, which does not give an accurate picture.
Well, this morning, my 11 year-old stepson came to me and asked, "have you guys ever had sex?" I said, "me and your mom?" He replied, "yeah." I said, "yes, we have it often, usually about two or three times a week." He asked, "Is it only when we aren't here?" (They are at their dad's half of the time.) I replied, "We keep it private, but it is sometimes when you guys are here."
I tried not to chuckle at these sincere questions. But I am glad he came to me instead of asking school friends or finding heaven knows what on the internet.
The truth is, I WANT him to know that his mom and I have a sexual relationship and that we enjoy our sexual relationship. I want him to know that his mom is a whole person and not just a provider of services for him. I want him to know that Barney Stinson and Jerry Seinfeld are not having all the fun. He doesn't need to know the details of our sex life course. We wouldn't expose him to that in any way. He wouldn't be allowed to ask every day whether something happened the night before. Those details are more private. But I don't want the kids growing up thinking there is something shameful about lovemaking between married people who love each other deeply or believing that this is a dangerous or evil part of their natures. I want them to understand that sex is a bonding experience and an important and even a sacred sacrament of the marital relationship.
Friends, especially you who are single parents, you have a sacred responsibility to teach this subject. Many of us, in an effort to discourage our kids from getting involved in sex too early, unwittingly teach them that it is dangerous and evil, and it causes problems in a lot of marriages later on because people are taught to think of it as carnal, sensual, and devilish. Compared to that point of view, Jerry Seinfeld's TV personality seems to be a lot more fun. Single parents who are trying to live the law of chastity are limited in how much they can model the fruits of a satisfying and exclusive sexual relationship. However, you can teach and be an example of someone who keeps the law of chastity, while longing for that kind of love that you can only give and receive in marriage.
There are literally millions of voices talking about sex to our kids everyday. They are exposed to a variety of different beliefs and ideas from casual sex on TV sitcoms to violent pornography. The exposure of latter-day Saint children to pornography before the age of 18, is 100%. So they need a perspective from you that is uplifting and grounded in creating a future marriage that is united and loving. They need to know that dating and sex is not a competitive sport. It is a way of expressing feelings so powerful that words are not enough. It is also an important way of smoothing out some of the rough spots in marriage. Our children are not going to get these positive messages from the world. They are not going to get them on the Internet, on television, or in movies. If they are to get them, it has to come from you. Please, let it come from you.
We LOVE taking walks together. It's such a great way to unwind from our busy work days. We have this cute path nearby to enjoy as we connect with each other outdoors on our daily walks.
Spring weather is so delightful. The new life and renewal that comes after winter reminds us that there is always peace and warmth available after personal storms, providing hope and reassurance as we move through the seasons of life.
During my mid-single years, I often heard the phrase "I hate dating." I even heard it from people who were actively making an effort to date -- maybe even especially from those people. If I asked the reasons, I heard disparaging comments about the opposite sex, feelings about having hearts broken in the past, negative comments about "playing games," and comments about how "phony" and "contrived" the process is.
In one way or another, all of these comments come down to fear. These include fear of rejection, fear of embarrassment, fear of emotional pain, fear of invalidation, fear of being deceived by a partner and hurt, or fear of not being able to "play the game" right and win the prize. Inevitably, dating is an emotional risk and it feels unsafe. (It's also exciting for the same reasons.)
How do we confront these fears and make dating more joyful and less fearful?
1. The Apostle John wrote, "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love." (1 John 4:18.) Isn't this true? It may have been written 2000 years ago, but it is true in 21st century dating that "fear hath torment." I am suggesting that the primary remedy for fear and torment is to love your dating partners. You might be thinking, "I don't know her yet. How can I love someone I just met?" I'm not suggesting getting carried away with romantic feelings and making commitments when you have barely met someone. I'm talking about genuine, Christlike love. Care about him or her as a person. Ask authentic questions about his or her life. Focus on the other person instead of your own fears. Focus on getting to know him or her and discovering what is special about that other person. Focus on finding genuine ways to build him or her up. Focusing your attention on the other person's gifts and goodness is the way to love him or her, even early in a relationship.
2. Focus on authenticity and be vulnerable. For some of you, this will trigger thoughts like, "but my ex-husband was a narcissist," or "I can fall in love easily and I need to remain suspicious to protect myself." No, you don't. That is fear talking. It is a fear of being vulnerable. You can never build high enough walls to protect you from getting hurt again. The best way to see who the other person really is, is to cultivate an authentic relationship, not a guarded or contrived one. As Paul wrote, "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal." (1 Corinthians 13:1.) Do you know any "sounding brass or tinkling cymbal" people -- who are very impressive talkers but void of real love? Such hearts are exposed in an authentic relationship. If you are only playing games and keeping your own defenses up, the other person will do the same thing and you will have a superficial dating relationship and not really get to know the person at a deeper level. That's how you get fooled. Take the lead in creating an authentic and vulnerable relationship. That is your best defense against marrying a narcissist. Focus on love and the fear of being fooled will dissipate.
3. Drop the excuses. If you think the dating process is "phony" and "contrived" change it. There is not some big governing body that sets the rules for dating. "How it works" is determined by the two people involved. Our social customs are not so rigid as to prevent authenticity and vulnerability. When you are dating, you and your partner make the rules. If it ends up being phony, it is because you made it that way. Honestly, it is such a relief to drop the pretense and stop trying to impress, and just have a real conversation with another real person.
I've heard every excuse in the book for why people don't date, and I know it's not for me to judge any individual. I only encourage you to seek for the things you really want. For most Latter-Day Saints who understand the plan of salvation, I think an eternal marriage is our highest aspiration -- second only to our relationship with God. As President Kimball said, "Honorable, happy, and successful marriage is surely the principal goal of every normal person." So why do many of us pretend we don't want something that we fervently do want? Fear. We do it in many areas of life. If you don't get that job you really wanted, you might be inclined to tell people, "I didn't really want it that much anyway” to make it okay. Any other time we are not chosen for something we really want, we make it okay by saying "I didn't really want it." For many of us, we tell ourselves that we don't want to get married because that's safer than getting our hopes up and being disappointed or embarrassed. So we make excuses instead. As Jesus said:
"Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God. Then said he unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come." (Luke 14:15-20.)
"I have to focus on my kids right now."
"I have to get my business up and running first."
"My church calling takes all of my spare time."
"I am not good at marriage."
Instead of making excuses, admit what you really want. Be authentic and real. If you are afraid of getting hurt, say so. It will feel a lot better than pretending you aren't interested, playing hard to get, or telling people you are apathetic or don't care Of course you care. You are talking about your eternal destiny. Confront your fears with love and not with walls.
I've posted content from Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife before in this group. But, we are trying to undo a lot of damage that has been done by the way our culture almost always pairs sexuality with sin in our common discourse. For many of us, that even played a part in our divorces. This particular episode is about navigating sexuality as a single Latter-day Saint.
This subject is central to marriage. If your sexual relationship was not what you might have hoped during a prior marriage, your single years are a time for some deeper self-examination. Don't shy away from this topic because it is controversial. It is essential to a healthy marriage to get this issue right.
Three years ago today, Cathy
and I were married! Despite all of the fear and trauma that comes from broken marriages in the past, we chose each other and promised to be together forever. Getting married is a tremendous act of faith in God and in another person.
I can say, without hesitation, that I am grateful she said "yes" and I would do it again. I chose someone with whom I could build an intentional marriage at mid-life, and that's a beautiful thing. I want the same joy for every one of you that is willing to try again!
I love you Cathy! Thanks for saying YES!
"Once in awhile, right in the middle of an ordinary life, love comes along and brings you a fairytale."
We were living ordinary lives as single parents until we finally found each other. And even then, it wasn't a typical fairy tale but we love our love story anyway. What we felt was missing before is even better than we imagined now that we are creating it together.
Wishing all the best to our mid-single friends who are busy living ordinary lives while diligently seeking and patiently waiting for their own special love story to come along.
HaPpY SaiNt PaTriCkS DaY!!!
Here's a fun little story about luck in finding love. This photo was taken 5 years ago, when Cathy was a mid single, actively looking for her "lucky charm."
I vividly remember the moment when I took this selfie on March 17, 2016. Intending to share it on singles pages, I thought it would be a cute way to attract potential dating partners. At the time, I was feeling discouraged by all the effort I was putting into dating. I was meeting great guys, but that one special person I could really see myself with long term had not shown up yet. I remember thinking, "this will not likely attract my future spouse." I also remember thinking, "oh well, I'll just keep trying anyway until I do!"
That day, Jeff and I became Facebook friends. I made absolutely no connection to that fateful selfie. It wasn't until two years later, when we were engaged in 2018, that we were reminded by Facebook that St Patrick's 2016 was our "Friendiversary." It turns out my future forever spouse did come into my life that day! It just took us a while to figure it out.
Happy searching and best of Irish luck to all our single friends out there!