Imagine that — a quality so essential that nearly everyone has it on their dating deal breaker list, and yet not everyone understands it to be the same thing. And that’s a problem, because you could be your own worst obstacle if you don’t know what compatibility really is.
What it’s not
Success comes more easily to those who conform to true principles. When your approach deviates from those, you make it harder on yourself. And compatibility really is essential in building a successful long-term relationship.
But first let’s talk about what compatibility is not. Compatibility is not liking the same things. Many LDS singles believe this, including myself in my younger days. But as I gained experience I began to see the error in this thinking. Liking the same things won’t get you through the challenging times. And challenging times come into every marriage.
Perhaps more common these days is the misconception that compatibility is matching some idea of perfection. The more a candidate matches your ideal companion — or what you think is your ideal — the more compatible you two are. This idea assumes a perfect match will bring you a successful long-term relationship. And why wouldn’t it if the candidate is perfect? Because what you think is perfect probably isn’t.
It’s natural to think you know what your perfect match is. But so often what we think and what actually is aren’t quite the same. And even if they were, perfect would bore you to tears. Joy in life comes in the journey, meaning you need to be changing, improving, progressing. There’s nowhere to go with perfect.
What it is
So if these things aren’t compatibility, then what is? Compatibility is an alignment in values and life purpose. The more alignment you have with someone, the more compatible you are.
Why is this true compatibility? It’s the alignment of values and life direction that’ll pull you through the difficulties that come into every relationship. We all make decisions consistent with our values, so sharing similar values means naturally agreeing to the same decisions more easily more often.
Moreover, traveling in different directions will make it harder to stay together because the desire to move in different directions creates tension in your relationship. If you and your companion persist in not aligning, you’ll eventually relieve the tension through separation. How much easier it is to stay together if you want to take your lives in the same direction!
Get on it
The alignment of values and life direction is true compatibility. And it’s essential for quality long-term relationships. But it rarely just comes without work. Marriage is hard work because it requires you to work not so much on your relationship as on yourself. The work is in aligning yourselves to a shared set of values and life direction.
That doesn’t mean all your values are identical or that you have the exact same vision of what to make of your life together. But it does mean you’re aligned enough in those areas that you fit together like a hand in a glove. Because values and life direction can change as we age, spouses must continue to work at alignment as they grow old together. It’s in this way they thrive in their relationship as they help each other become more and more perfect.
When you know what compatibility really is, you can then focus your dating approach towards what really matters most. You can emphasize eternal values in your relationships. You can begin to see others for where they’re going and not just where they are. Instead of looking for what’s wrong with potential candidates, you can savor more of the good they have to offer. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
A brief tutorial
Elder Gilbert used some simple math to illustrate the Parable of the Slope. Some of you think the words simple and math don’t really go together, but I assure you they do. Elder Gilbert briefly explained his math, but let me offer a different explanation that may help with understanding both the simple math concept and the lesson Elder Gilbert draws from it.
Mathematically, we represent lines on a plot with two reference lines, one horizontal and the other vertical. We commonly call the point where your line crosses the vertical reference line the intercept. It effectively measures how far above (or below) your line is from the horizontal reference line at the position of the vertical reference line. Elder Gilbert’s parable compares your path in life to a line drawn on a Cartesian plane, taking the intercept as a starting position.
As you proceed on your path of life, you’re line can go up or down. Mathematically, we measure that direction with slope. A positive slope indicates an upward direction, and a negative slope indicates a downward direction. Which way it goes depends not on the intercept but on the slope. Likewise in life, whether or not you achieve your potential depends not on your starting position but on your direction.
The parable expanded
I’ve previously visited this idea of direction being more important than position. LDS singles often evaluate potential dating candidates solely on their position, judging those with less than desired positions as disagreeable, irrespective of their direction. But direction matters more in the end, because the person you marry isn’t the person you get today but the person you’ll get years down the road.
The importance of direction over position also gives hope to those judged as disagreeable. You can turn any life situation around when you own your life and focus more on direction than position. By doing what you can with what you have, you give your life a positive direction that, if maintained, will take your life into more and more agreeable territory. As Elder Gilbert taught,
Your focus always determines your reality. Too many LDS singles focus on what they lack — the looks, the body, the money, the talent, the whatever they think they absolutely must have to succeed — and wallowing in that discouragement, their reality is one of lack, disempowerment, and hopelessness. Focus instead on what you have and can do, and you’ll find a reality of abundance, empowerment, and hope.
Elder Gilbert then continued with
How many times have we talked about partnering with the Lord? He sees what we don’t see, knows what we don’t know, and loves us more than we can possibly imagine. When you partner with Him, He’ll guide you to whatever you need to take the next step in your journey towards the enjoyment of every righteous blessing.
Some final words
I’ll go more in depth in the program today and show how LDS singles can apply these ideas to their lives to have more joy every day starting today. Even though he didn’t address singles specifically, Elder Gilbert did provide LDS singles with essential information to support the journey towards one’s best life. I’ve found that to be true for most if not all Conference addresses.
So let’s not wait to apply the Parable of the Slope to our lives. Let’s start today to place more value on direction than position. Let’s focus more on what we have, what we can do, and where we’re going. And let’s partner with the Lord for our lives. When we do, He’ll guide us along the path leading to our best life. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
Sister Newbold acknowledges a common singles attitude: Identifying yourself by what you don’t have. When you do that, you’ll live in a space where you’re deficient. Sister Newbold’s response is an effective one: Live in a space where you see yourself as you’ll be, because that’s how God sees you. By living “as though” God’s promises are fulfilled, you can be joyful now.
Understand the challenge
Sister Newbold recognizes the difficulty of reconciling as yet unfulfilled promises with the reality of LDS singles life. Her answer is to live “as though” those promises have been fulfilled, though she admits that’s challenging. She writes, “Given that God is a God of promises, it becomes hard at times for me to reconcile why certain promises have not yet been fulfilled in my life.”
I’m sure many singles can relate. I myself felt that challenge a few months ago. In the midst of my most challenging semester of school ever, questions about my patriarchal blessing began to feel more demanding. And given my age, I began to wonder how my promised blessings will ever come to me.
Sure, it’s easy to say, “Well, sometimes patriarchal blessings get fulfilled in eternity.” But that doesn’t apply to the married life the Lord promised me. Very clear and unambiguous language speaks of my temple marriage in this life and actions my children and posterity will take in this life. These and other blessings are promised to me in this life, not the next.
Given I’m in my late 40s and not getting any younger, questions of how those promises would be fulfilled troubled me. At the time, I really struggled with those questions. Now I simply feel a quiet confidence somehow it’ll all happen.
Consider three solutions
Sister Newbold’s answer to that challenge, as mentioned earlier, is to live “as though” promised blessings have arrived. How do we do that? Sister Newbold shares three suggestions.
First, she suggests considering a variety of promises. LDS singles tend to fixate on the marriage they by definition don’t have right now. That focus blinds them from seeing other promised blessings they already have, many of which they take for granted. Recognizing these less appreciated but bountiful blessings invites gratitude and trust God will keep all His promises.
Second, she suggests recognizing God’s hand in our lives. Many in today’s world focus on what they lack, and as long-time audience members will tell you, your focus becomes your reality. Focusing on lack creates a reality of scarcity, which inhibits the ability to feel joy. But focusing on what you have creates a reality of abundance. I really like how Sister Newbold extends that idea to the sacrament.
Third, Sister Newbold suggests helping the Lord keep His promises to others through Spirit-directed service. When you follow the Spirit’s promptings to help others, you can help answer their prayers. You can find joy in being the Lord’s hands.
Trust in Him
Honestly, I appreciate a perspective centered on our focus rather than the traditional and highly unhelpful ”Just hold faithful, and everything will be right in the next life.” Additionally, Sister Newbold readily admits that “trusting in His promises is not always an easy choice.”
She also says “living ‘as though’ will look different for everyone.” I suspect that’s only true in the particulars. I could summarize what that looks like for her as making and keeping as many covenants as she can, in essence living all of the gospel she can. I think that would describe living “as though” for any LDS single.
God will keep every promise made to every one of us. He has thousands of years of experience doing just that for the generations that came before us. And the Spirit can remind us of moments when He’s kept promises in our own lives. So we can trust He’ll keep every as yet unfulfilled promise. When we live“as though” by walking with faith He’ll do just that, we can be instruments in fulfilling His purposes, all the while experiencing the quiet confidence that somehow it’ll all happen for us. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
See the situation
The story begins with Phil Connors, the weatherman for Channel 9 News in Pittsburgh. The man is clearly full of himself, so it’s no surprise no one really likes him, not even himself. He’s a rather disgruntled man who thinks covering the Groundhog Day Festival is beneath him.
So imagine his shock when he wakes up thinking it’s February 3rd only to find out it’s February 2nd again. The bewilderment continues as each morning he wakes up to find that somehow in his sleep he went back in time by one day. He keeps living the same day over and over again.
His first reaction is denial. This can’t be happening to me! Denial drives resistance, but no matter how he fights against his situation, the next morning is always February 2nd again. His denial then turns into despair. This report he gives at the festival summarizes his condition rather well.
That day ended in suicide, but it doesn’t end him. In despair, Phil keeps trying to kill himself in different ways trying unsuccessfully to escape his never-ending cycle.
Note the pivot
And then one of those February 2nd days becomes a pivot day when everything changes. Phil doesn’t escape the never-ending cycle, but he does find a new perspective on his situation. And what changed everything was Rita.
Rita is Phil’s producer. She’s also the apple of his eye. Previously he spent God knows how many successive February 2nd days trying to get into her pants. But on his pivot day, Phil approaches Rita with a different agenda. Instead of trying to satiate his lust, he sincerely cries for help. (Why do I have a Rick Astley song in my head right now?) Rita helps him and in the process begins to fall for him.
Of course, that disappears when everything resets the next morning. But Phil remains changed, and he starts spending his February 2nd days improving upon himself, working to become a better, more quality person. He takes up reading all kinds of books. He learns to play the piano. He takes up ice sculpting! Not only do his efforts make him a better person, they make his life more interesting.
And the proof is in this report. It’s the same day, same festival, but a completely different Phil.
Once he stopped trying to escape his situation and embraced it, Phil was able to tap into the joy life has to offer every single day. In the end, he escapes the cycle and gets the girl.
Take a lesson
The allegory here to LDS singles is so clear I wonder why I didn’t see it earlier. How many of us singles are in denial? No, I can’t be single. This can’t be happening to me! And no matter what we do to fight it, we seem caught in a never-ending cycle of singleness from which we cannot escape.
But if we’d stop trying to escape from it and start embracing it, we could turn everything around. We could start looking inside ourselves and working to become better, more quality people. We can do things to make our lives more interesting. We could tap into the joy God wants us to have every single day.
And we could help other singles to have their pivot day. Just as Rita helped turn things around for Phil, we can reach out to one another. Instead of looking only to satiate our own agendas when we interact with each other, we could help each other live better lives.
When we take a lesson from Groundhog Day, we can make the most of what seems to be a never-ending cycle of singleness. By embracing our situation instead of trying to escape from it, we can live our best life and help others to do the same. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
Howdy! I'm Lance, host of Joy in the Journey Radio. I've been blogging about LDS singles life since 2012, and since 2018 I've been producing a weekly Internet radio show and podcast to help LDS singles have more joy in their journey and bring all Latter-day Saints together. Let's engage a conversation that will increase the faith of LDS singles and bring singles and marrieds together in a true unity of the faith.
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