And with the world becoming more and more chaotic, life will become more challenging for everyone. Singles will feel those challenges more poignantly. It’s one thing to have a companion to share your burdens and support you. It’s quite another when you don’t. To all my single LDS friends, here’s all the more reason why you need to shore up your spiritual foundation by including the temple more in your life.
Strengthen your spiritual foundation
President Nelson began his remarks by sharing some progress made in strengthening the foundation of the Salt Lake Temple. I love how he draws a ready metaphor for establishing a foundation for our own spiritual lives. To that I would add the need for each of us to establish a solid foundation in every part of our lives: the emotional/social, the mental/intellectual, and the physical.
But clearly the spiritual foundation is the most important. The spiritual aspect of life contains the beliefs, values, and ethics that drive behavior in every other life aspect. We need to ensure the spiritual area of life is firmly founded.
President Nelson understood as much when, speaking of the Salt Lake Temple, he shared
President Nelson then shared the perfect place to build that solid spiritual foundation we all need — inside the temple. In reality, it’s living inside temple covenants that lays the actual bricks of our spiritual foundation. But all of that comes together in the temple. President Nelson taught
Look to the temple
All the blessings LDS singles look to receive are connected with the temple. Indeed, many of these blessings are the same blessings Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob sought and obtained — blessings available to all who make and keep the sacred covenants available only in the House of the Lord.
Those blessings came to those early fathers not all at once but incrementally. Likewise, the blessings LDS singles seek to obtain in their lives will not come all at once but “here a little, and there a little” (Isaiah 28:10). President Nelson extended that idea to the great blessing of the Restoration:
If something as important to our Heavenly Father’s plan as the Restoration is still ongoing, His plan for each of us is surely ongoing as well. That thought prompts patience in LDS singles who yearn to have desired blessings now.
Embrace faith over fear
Including the temple at the center of our spiritual foundation can provide the faith needed to choose not only patience but also perseverance. Within the temple we learn of Christ and His Atonement, our Heavenly Father’s plan, and the connections He intends to forge across generations of the human family.
The temple also helps us navigate the road of life to as yet unrealized blessings. As chaos in the world grows, we can have the peace that surpasses all understanding, a quiet confidence God will support us when we feel all is lost. The temple and living inside the covenants made there can fill us with that faith.
That faith can help us resist fear. President Nelson counseled,
How many LDS singles live in fear the blessings they desire will not come to them? The temple and temple covenants provide the solid spiritual foundation from which we can each take needed action in the other aspects of our lives. We can trust Christ and His power to change us so we can more easily receive the blessings we seek.
So include the temple more in your spiritual foundation. The unprecedented times President Nelson foresees will call for unprecedented measures in the attention we give to our foundation and the renewal we provide daily to it. In so doing, we can live with greater confidence and optimism as our fears become memories of a distant past. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
The problem LDS singles have comes when they give too much prominence to what they want. Then dating becomes all about satisfying their demands to the exclusion of what they have to offer. As we discussed last week, taking your dating focus off of what you bring takes you out of alignment with the fundamentals of the dating journey. That’s why you need balance to find the right place for what you want in dating.
Be the best complement
As we’ve discussed more times than I can count, your focus determines your reality. So you won’t truly enjoy your dating journey with the wrong focus. Enjoying your dating journey requires a focus leading to that reality.
What’s that focus? There’s a huge clue in the definition of happiness we’ve discussed so many times on this program. Happiness is giving your all to all the right things for you. That definition applies just as much to dating as it does to any other part of life.
Being the best complement to your eternal companion, whether or not that person is now in your life, is one of those right things for you. And happiness comes when you give your all to that and every other right thing for you. That’s why truly enjoyable dating is about what you bring.
Yet too often LDS singles focus solely on themselves. They think of their dating journey as the search for what they want, so much so they think little if at all about what they bring to a potential relationship. As we discussed last week, it’s not about what you want. When you align yourself with the fundamentals of what you’re trying to do, you find your path to success easier.
Reject the natural mindset
Notice I said easier, not easy. The propensity to approach dating with the focus of what you want is rooted mainly in the natural mindset, which will dominate you if you don’t dominate it. And that fight for domination isn’t always easy.
That’s because the natural mindset always prioritizes self-gratification over all else. The natural mindset also always leads to misery. What else do you expect from a constant focus on taking in order to satiate one’s own desires? We’ve all been around people who constantly take and give little if anything in return. No one wants to be around those people.
We all want to be around those who constantly give and take little if anything in return. So your dating focus should be on being that person. Be the complement your companion needs, and you’ll more easily find the complement you need in a companion.
Stop chasing after complication
This isn’t to say that what you want plays no role in dating. You’ll of course make choices in who you decide to date, both casually and exclusively. In these two stages of the dating journey, you have many opportunities to express what you want and the individual uniqueness underlying those inclinations.
But ultimately what you want from your dating journey is a thriving, enriching relationship. What you want is a complement. Yet too many chase complication by focusing their efforts too much on what they want to receive and too little on what they have to give. When you adjust your focus to align with the fundamentals of the dating journey, you’ll stop embracing complication in your dating life because you’ll quit chasing after it.
Balancing what you want in a companion and what you should be in a companion isn’t easy. But LDS singles who strive to strike that balance center their efforts around complementation. They focus on being a better complement for the person they want in their life. This is the right place for what you want in dating. When you embrace it, dating really will become more about what you bring. You’ll find it easier to make you a better you and make your life more interesting, thereby making you more agreeable to a potential partner. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Why wanting doesn’t work
On the surface, that may sound counterintuitive. How can dating not be about what you want? How could dating even pretend to bring any semblance of happiness without accounting for individual preference? Am I suggesting we’re all interchangeable parts or that we should embrace arranged marriages?
No, we’re not interchangeable parts. And although there have been days I wished I could have an arranged marriage just so the frustrations of my dating life would end, those days are far behind me. Now I approach dating differently, and my approach comes from more effective thinking which aligns better with the fundamentals of the dating journey.
We’ve discussed countless times in previous broadcasts about one such fundamental: To progress to any stage of the dating journey, you must have the requisite agreement. And how do you secure that agreement? How do you secure any agreement? You do it by being agreeable enough. So if you aren’t progressing in your journey, you need to become more agreeable.
This is why dating isn’t about what you want. You can want all you want, but no amount of wanting will compensate for not meeting the other person’s definition of agreeable enough. It’s easy to focus on how the other person’s standards are unrealistically high. But even if they really are, you still won’t progress in your dating journey if you aren’t agreeable enough. That’s why it’s called a fundamental.
Why bringing works better
Yet many LDS singles approach dating with the assumption it’s about what they want. And many LDS singles experience great frustration with dating. That’s not a coincidence. The one follows the other like night follows day.
Instead of approaching dating with the idea it’s about what you want, focus instead on what you bring. Think about it. The ideal marriage is the union of two imperfect people who help each other achieve perfection. That last part — “help each other achieve perfection” — isn’t based in either partner taking. It comes from each partner giving. It’s about what you bring, not what you want.
Of course, to give, you must have something to give. That’s where working on yourself and having a personal ministry take center stage. When you improve upon yourself and devote yourself to making your own unique combination of goodness to the world, you build an interesting life that others find more inviting. Fundamentally, you become more agreeable.
Bring on the real
I’m not saying what you want doesn’t factor into dating at all. There is a place for expressing and acting on personal preferences. It’s just not behind the driver’s seat of the most effective approach.
And you do have the option of finding someone whose standards of acceptance are low enough to admit you just as you are, but that’s not the more satisfying route. You’ll likely attract only others who want to stay as they are, and a union with such a person is just a mediocre existence. The real relationship is one that leaves you better for being a part of it. That’s one where each partner gives freely to the other, not just exist in the same space.
Dating is not about what you want but about what you bring. Embracing that truth allows you to adopt a more effective approach to dating. You’ll more easily embrace the work needed to make you a better you. You’ll put yourself in service to others. Then you’ll experience the satisfaction of making progress. You’ll piece together your best life and thereby increase your probability of finding the companion who will with you make an truly real and ennobling relationship. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Let me say it again. No matter who you choose, your partner will never be perfect. Everyone on this planet has shortcomings, failings, inabilities, and other assorted nuances separating each one of us from perfection.
Why then do so many LDS singles look for perfection when dating? It’s understandable no one wants to be miserable for eternity. But many also don’t want to do the work to become more attractive to that “perfect” someone. They believe they should be loved just as they are.
Many also believe they shouldn’t have to settle. As the belief goes, only perfection can offer eternal bliss. “Settling” by accepting anything less simply means condemning oneself to eternal misery. And again, no one wants to be miserable forever.
But these assumptions lead to the results many LDS singles have of living year after year without the companion they desire. If you want different results, you need different action, and that comes when you think differently. But thinking differently means questioning (among other things) assumptions. So LDS singles who want to turn their lives around should start by questioning their assumptions.
Let’s start by questioning the assumption your companion should love you as you are. That sounds reasonable on its surface. After all, God loves you just as you are, so anyone who doesn’t isn’t trying to be like God and so isn’t marriage material.
But that assumption neglects this truth: God doesn’t want you to stay as you are. He sees what you can become. Because where you’re going is much more important than where you are, aligning your focus with that eternal truth changes your thinking from insisting on being loved as you are to owning your life and doing what you can to move your life in a favorable direction. Different thinking leads to different action which leads to different results.
Likewise for the idea that “settling” for anything but the best leads to eternal misery. It presents a false dichotomy. Either you’re happy forever, or you’re miserable forever. There’s no other option. And it seems reasonable, especially if you judge by your emotions.
But this assumption rests on another assumption that we know what the best is. The truth is we often don’t. Feelings aren’t knowledge, so however something feels, reality can be (and often is) quite different. When you accept that assumption, it’s easier to believe someone you think might not be good for you actually could be. That belief opens the door to accepting opportunities you might otherwise reject. And those actions lead to different results.
Really it all comes down to what we’ve discussed here before. The perfect companion for you is not a perfect person nor a perfect match with your ideal candidate. Rather the perfect companion for you is the imperfect person with whom you align in values and life direction and who will give freely as you help each other become perfect together.
That’s the essential meaning behind helpmeet — someone who helps you meet your potential. Again, everyone is imperfect. But when you align yourself with true principles such as prioritizing an alignment of values and life direction and valuing making and keeping sacred covenants above all else, you can better find the imperfect person who can be the perfect helpmeet for you.
Although never the best, your imperfect companion, when you choose wisely, can help you become the happiest you can possibly be. So question your assumptions so you can align them with eternal truth. Then your assumptions will drive more effective thinking, which will lead to more effective actions, which in turn will produce more effective results. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
That said, the deal breaker lists many LDS singles have align more with worldly values than eternal ones and are anything but short. For all the talk in church about being spiritual, evidence that LDS singles are influenced by the dating culture of the world abounds in the choices LDS singles make when dating. But when you understand their effect, it’s easy to see we need to scrap dating checklists.
Dating is not shopping
For anything in life, some approaches are simply more effective than others. Part of what makes an approach more effective is the joy it can provide throughout your journey and not just how quickly it can get you to the end. Case in point: The shopping list I mentioned earlier. Here’s a ready example of how we should not approach dating.
Although every relationship has a transactional aspect, romantic relationships are not as fulfilling and ennobling if they’re entirely transactional. In fact, purely transactional relationships always eventually break down. That’s because a tit-for-tat approach never produces the best relationships. They develop as each partner freely gives to the other without expecting anything in return.
Approaching dating with a shopping attitude promotes just the opposite. The relationship you have with the worker at the checkout stand is purely transactional. You’re not looking for anything long-term or complicated. You’re looking for a quick way to exchange the value you have (your money) for the value you want (the items in your cart) and then to walk away.
It’s not hard to see how that approach to dating isn’t all that effective, and yet our language betrays us. Language always reveals thinking, and when we talk about people who are no longer available to date as “off the market,” we’re clearly thinking of dating like shopping.
It’s how you think
That’s not the only way we approach dating like shopping. We talk about potential dating candidates in terms of their “market value,” with top shelf candidates having high market value and others having low market value. We scroll through dating apps and online dating profiles the same way we shop for something online. And we constantly think of dating as the search for someone with qualities we want, very much like the way we think of shopping as the search for something with qualities we want.
That thinking of dating as shopping naturally drives us to make a list. As I said previously, lists aren’t necessarily bad. If it’s short and contains only deal breakers aligned with eternal values, a dating list can be very effective. That said, the lists many LDS singles have are anything but short and often contain few if any items aligned with eternal values. For example, your partner’s height has nothing to do with eternal progression, and yet how many singles insist on dating only those who meet a minimum height requirement?
Proper lists for dating
As I said before, the best relationships come from each partner freely giving to the other without expecting anything in return. That doesn’t mean we’re interchangeable parts. Dating does have a transactional aspect, and using a few essential items to build a foundation for your relationship can satisfy that transactional aspect. That’s where the short list I mentioned earlier can prove effective.
The problem comes when that list isn’t short. We don’t want just anyone, so we add deal breakers to a list to qualify candidates. But every item we add reduces our dating pool and with it our probability of success. In this way, long lists of deal breakers assure singles stay single.
That’s why we need to scrap dating checklists. They represent a less effective approach that decreases the probability of success. In their place, we should embrace a new dating attitude, one less focused on finding perfection and more focused on supporting others to become more perfected. We could even extend that to ourselves focusing more on what we bring to a potential relationship than what we want to have. Making these changes in our thinking will produce more effective actions which in turn will yield more effective results. 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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