We all know the LDS single who’s so eager to be married that he or she instantly gravitates towards anyone who appears to promise a blessed end to single status. Maybe you’ve even been that single yourself.
I was once all about finding that eternal companion but never actually finding her. I felt like that hamster down at the pet store, always just spinning my wheels and never getting anywhere. And I felt miserable.
I thought I was doing the right thing. After all, our leaders have talked endlessly about the importance of marriage and family. Our LDS culture is centered around family. It made sense to go after it directly.
But that’s exactly the problem. It doesn’t come when you pursue it directly. It comes when you let it come to you.
Understand how it works
We’re all hard wired to operate out of habit. And what we do determines what we get. So if we entertain less effective habits, we’ll keep getting less effective results. And it won’t end until we replace the less effective habit with a more effective one.
Many LDS singles have the less effective habit of making a beeline for anyone appearing to promise hope for marriage. But when you understand how everything works, you’ll realize you need to ditch the beeline.
Here’s how it works. Marriage means the agency of another person is involved. You can’t choose for others. Someone else has to choose you. That means the most you can do is influence that choice.
That’s why you keep hearing platitudes like “Just be yourself” or “Keep working on yourself.” They’re all true up to a point. Doing these things will influence the right person to choose you.
But beyond that point lies the reality where we all live. This most important choice has many influences in addition to the one you exert. And these other considerations outside your control can drown any hope of acquiring desired blessings. Your challenge, then, is to exert your best influence, trusting the Lord to cross your path with someone who will choose you. Are you up to it?
Rise to the challenge
You can best rise to the challenge by letting go of pursuing marriage directly and adopting a personal ministry. This really is your best approach for exerting your best influence.
Here’s why. When you pursue marriage directly, you broadcast to everyone around you you’re all about marriage. No one really wants to marry someone who’s more interested in some personal agenda. So you come off appearing desperate.
When you drop the beeline and adopt a personal ministry, you’re about something bigger than yourself. You let your best self shine while serving others. Devoting yourself to your own personal ministry shakes off the scales of desperation so that others see you as someone interesting, someone worth getting to know better, maybe even share a life with.
Guess what? Now you’re influencing others to decide in your favor.
Other powerful influences exist, yes, but that’s where walking by faith comes in. When you partner with the Lord, He’ll lead you to those with whom your best influence will be more than good enough. That’s because they’ll hearken to the voice of the Spirit when He says, “Give this one a chance.”
Embrace your best self
Many LDS singles live in fear that their desired blessings won’t come. But that’s no way to live. It’s much more joyful to let go of directly pursuing marriage and instead pursue what will influence others to choose in your favor.
Devoting yourself to your own personal ministry can make the waiting more joyful, however long that waiting lasts. Do you want just to endure to the end? Or do you want to thrive?
Of course, you should keep looking for and pursuing opportunities that arise. But your universe won’t be rotating around them. So let go of directly pursuing marriage. Let it come to you. When you devote yourself to your personal ministry, you can embrace your best self. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
We’ve discussed ways LDS singles can overcome the challenges of LDS singles life. Dating becomes more simple and fun when we act out a proper understanding of the dating journey. Learning to forgive others along the way can lighten the load on our journey. Partnering with the Lord can help us understand our gifts and fulfill our own personal ministry. And holding fast to our covenants while being industrious can help create our happiest time.
Yet all this assumes we assume ownership of our lives. No one will create your best life for you. You must create it.
Fortunately the Lord wants you to have your best life and is willing to help you create it. But first you must accept responsibility for however your life turns out. You must own every part of your life.
You have the power
Owning your life must precede living your best life. Failing to accept responsibility for how your life turns out means assigning that responsibility elsewhere. And that leaves you playing the victim.
Confident people never play the victim. Victimization isn’t a position of power. Victims are victims because they’re powerless. Playing the victim means giving away your power to someone else. And yes, you had power over your life before you gave it away. It’s called agency.
The Lord has declared, “For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward” (D&C 58:28). We make our lives by the choices we make for ourselves. Inasmuch as we choose well, we’ll not lose our reward.
That’s the law of the harvest. We reap what we sow. Any other result would place the universe out of balance, and God would cease to be God.
It is your fault
I know what some of you are thinking. “It’s not my fault no one ever married me.” “It’s not my fault I got divorced.” “It’s not my fault I’m widowed.” In short, “It’s not my fault I’m single.”
Actually, it is. And the sooner you own all of your life by accepting your part in the events that have brought you to where you are, the sooner you can move past your challenges and live life with confidence and satisfaction.
Sure, other people make decisions that directly impact your life. But your decisions — the ones you make for yourself — also impact your life. Those decisions are the only ones you can control. You empower yourself by placing your focus there.
I’m sorry if you’ve never married. But you chose how to present yourself, what attitude to broadcast, and what direction to take in life. You can’t convince me those factors didn’t influence others when they decided against you.
I’m sorry if you’re divorced. But if you’re completely honest, you’ll admit you contributed to your failed marriage. Even if (and given how imperfect everyone is, that’s a really BIG if) you did everything right, who decided to get married? Yes, you married a jerk, but who chose that? You chose to enter a marriage that ended how it ended.
I’m sorry if you’re widowed. But again, who decided to marry your spouse? You chose to marry someone who died before you do. Had you known that would come, you might have chosen differently. But you couldn’t see then all the consequences your choice would have today. We often make such choices in life. And now you have the consequences from your choice.
You can be free
This approach may feel incredibly harsh, but it’s also incredibly empowering and liberating. Having once tasted it, you’ll never want to go back.
Why is owning every part of your life empowering and liberating? If your choices can make an undesirable life, then your choices can also make a desirable one. Your past doesn’t determine your future. Your choices in the present determine your future. You can make better choices and get better results.
Again, the choices of others do affect the course of our lives. But placing any focus there is unproductive because you decide only for yourself. Your choices brought you the life you have today. You must accept that truth to move forward.
Accepting that truth doesn’t mean wallowing in self-pity or punishing yourself constantly for choosing poorly. Just accept your choices had their consequences, learn from the experience, and move on. It’s really no more complicated than that.
Own every part of your life. Don’t allow failure to take responsibility for anything in your life hold you back from having your best life. When you take that attitude, you can move forward with confidence towards that best life. And that will bring more joy in your journey.
Dating doesn’t have to be so challenging for LDS singles. Once you have a good map of the landscape and know how to use it, your journey improves substantially.
Many LDS singles who lack that understanding often prove to be their own worst obstacle. Too often they put the cart before the horse by insisting that potential dates meet their standards for marriage. This practice fosters a culture in which dating is viewed as synonymous with marriage. Dating then becomes warped in LDS singles life.
That’s not the only way many LDS singles put the cart before the horse. When considering whether to date someone, they often look at potential candidates and assume they’ll always be just as they are right at that moment. If someone is found to be undesirable, it’s then easy to say, “I don’t want to spend eternity with that” and walk away.
In so doing, LDS singles often walk away from the very blessings they seek. In considering dating opportunities, we should consider not just position but also direction. We need to see others as they may become.
Direction is more than position
We came to this mortal existence to grow and become like our Heavenly Father. Traveling on this path towards perfection means that none of us are perfect as we are now.
Yet our Heavenly Father doesn’t condemn us for not having yet completed our journey. He knows we’ll eventually arrive at our celestial destination if we maintain the proper direction. And He knows we can always change our direction.
“Judge not, that ye be not judged” is the Savior’s teaching (Matthew 7:1). Yet how often do LDS singles fail to apply that teaching to their dating considerations? We confuse position and direction, thinking that person will always be just as we find them now.
For example, most aren’t attracted to overweight suitors. Yet being overweight is merely position. What consideration do we give direction? There’s a world of difference between the overweight person trying to lose weight through diet and exercise and the overweight person doing nothing about it except crying over why no one wants to love them as they are.
The Atonement by its very existence signals the potential for change. Truly believing in that potential means affording more weight towards direction than position when considering dating options.
Potential to change is not change
According more weight to direction doesn’t mean ignoring position. For example, perpetrators of physical abuse can change, but that doesn’t mean you should trust them just because they can change. Potential for changing direction is not the same as actually changing direction.
Our actions determine our direction. What we do every day determines whether we end in one destination or in another. And small changes today can result in large differences tomorrow.
A truly reformed physical abuser will refrain from physical abuse. Repeat offenders are not reformed. They still have the potential to change, but their actions show they haven’t actually changed. Their direction is askew, and in the interest of personal safety, you’d be justified not dating such a character.
On the other hand, a physical abuser who has refrained from physical abuse has a better direction. That person’s actions demonstrate a change in direction has taken place. Both always had the potential to change. But the difference here is one’s actions evidence a change in direction and the other’s don’t.
Embrace multiple experiences
That’s why you should experience multiple casual dates with someone before deciding on the potential for a committed dating relationship with said person. For most aspects of an individual, you can’t judge appropriately with just one date. You need multiple experiences.
Allowing that can help you give that greater weight to direction over position. Without that, it’s much easier to see only position and use that alone as the basis for dating considerations.
No one’s perfect in this life. We’ll all miss the mark somewhere. But that doesn’t mean we always will. Our actions today can add to a body of evidence showing a more positive change in direction. And with time that body of evidence can demonstrate a more positive direction, which will make you more attractive to potential dating partners.
Learning to see the potential in others can reveal doors of opportunity you didn’t before realize existed. Because no one’s perfect, the eternal companion you’re seeking isn’t perfect. Learning to value others for what they may become because of their direction may help you see that the person who you thought would never do as a companion actually fulfills your needs more than you could imagine.
Tolerating imperfection can actually help you find your true love. And that will bring more joy in your journey.
Lately I’ve been talking about the fundamentals of dating because so many don’t understand them. Today I’m addressing one fundamental in particular.
But first we need to consider what we’re trying to accomplish. Because dating involves the agency of another person, success in that journey is correlative, not causal. That means we get better results by making ourselves more attractive rather than campaigning directly for it.
I’ve tried the direct route before. After years of effort, I can say it just doesn’t work.
So now I’m where every LDS single should be — on the correlative train. Instead of pursuing marriage directly, we should live our lives such that others will want to share them with us. We get that kind of life by making ourselves more attractive — physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
Each of these aspects is intertwined with the other three. Take losing weight, for instance. Losing weight of course has physical aspects, but it also has emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects as well. Those who ignore those other three aspects are essentially taking a proverbial knife to a gun fight.
Include the physical
I believe the best solutions are holistic; they consider the whole as well as the individual parts. Losing weight is no different, though I confess it’s been really hard. Losing weight is the Holy Grail of modern life — forever beckoning, and forever elusive. But that just means I don’t understand the fundamentals!
For years I tried increasing my understanding of biology. Much of my knowledge here is hard won through research in books and testing in the laboratory of trial and error.
That’s how I know if I don’t keep myself fully hydrated, I won’t lose weight. I now drink mostly water whenever I drink anything, starting with a full glass of water when I get out of bed in the morning.
Good nutrition is also important. I’ve seen better results with a daily regimen of vitamins and supplements. Yes, it’s better when they come from food, but I haven’t the time to track how much of each vitamin every food I consume contains. It’s much easier to pop a pill and be done with it. You need to find what works for you.
Don’t neglect the emotional and mental
Because weight loss is interconnected in its aspects, we can’t focus on just biology. The emotional aspect is of especial concern for LDS singles.
Acceptance in LDS subculture depends greatly on whether or not we get married. Thus, failure in our dating journey can easily leave us feeling unaccepted.
That’s what makes eating extra food — and especially the foods we shouldn’t eat all the time — so very tempting. They never say no. They never turn us away. And they always make us feel good.
At least they do in the moment. Emotional eating always comes back to bite you (pun intended). We’re not likely to lose weight without addressing the underlying emotional issues driving unhealthy eating habits.
And let’s not forget the mental aspect of losing weight. If we believe we’re “big-boned” or genetically disposed to carry fat, we’re setting ourselves up for failure. We’ll never put forth the effort as intensely and for as long as we need if we believe any of that. We have to believe before we receive.
Emphasize the spiritual
Of all the aspects to consider, the spiritual is the most important. We need to articulate clearly and precisely why we want to lose weight. And that why needs to be powerful enough to carry us through the hard times.
The most powerful spiritual drivers are faith-based. We activate that faith when we understand the doctrines and principles behind our objectives.
So what’s the gospel doctrine behind losing weight? Certainly the Word of Wisdom comes to mind. And how about the doctrine that our body is a temple? If you considered just that one idea every time you put something in your mouth, what changes would you make to your eating habits?
What’s the biggest reason why I’ve struggled with losing weight for so many years? I’ve been approaching it backwards. Even with the holistic nature of my approach, I wasn’t starting with the spiritual aspect. I started with the application — give me the fix I need to make my fat melt away — rather than with the doctrines and principles behind the application.
Recently, I’ve picked the torch back up. I’m trying again. So can you. But this time, let’s start our holistic approach with the spiritual. That will bring us better results. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
I’ve been thinking about the Church’s new videos regarding diversity. Although they spoke in more general terms, last week I praised the Brethren for highlighting an issue challenging many LDS singles. We should all be one in Christ.
Those musings have played in my mind. Just as the Brethren have generalized their message that applies to LDS singles fitting into the culture of the Church, so I have generalized my thinking to applications in my own life and that of the average LDS single.
I use that word average loosely. The LDS singles demographic is wildly diverse. Yet for all our differences, we’re considerably similar. We’re all children of a Heavenly Father Who loves us. We’ve all made covenants to keep His commandments. And most of us want to keep those covenants.
Most of us also want to make an additional covenant binding us eternally to a very special someone. Nevertheless, many of us decrease the likelihood of that event by not dedicating ourselves and our time appropriately.
A wake up call
We LDS singles often say we’ve prioritized making that next essential covenant. But have we really? What does what we do say? That’s the real determinant.
It’s so very easy for life to carry us along, but those who live their best life don’t just collide with the waves. They make waves of their own. A wave maker is far more attractive than a wave taker.
Yet too often we’re so absorbed in the moment we don’t see the forest from the trees. We need an occasional reminder to step back and re-calibrate. This is my wake up call. Let it be yours too.
Examining my life, I have to conclude marriage really isn’t my top priority. My top priority right now is my job. It has been since this summer. I completely understand how that happened, and I freely forgive myself for those choices. But now I need to choose differently to adopt my desired priorities.
The consumption problem
Work isn’t the only inordinate consumer of time. Many LDS singles fill their time with sports or games or media. These activities aren’t bad in and of themselves. In fact, in the proper context, these activities can be very good. The problem comes when we allow consumption to swallow too much of our time.
Modern society promotes consumption. Ours is a world of information overload delivered through a multitude of multimedia platforms. Social media and more traditional media outlets beckon us away from our normal worlds into a place promising ease and pleasure. And considering how hard we all work in that “normal world,” it’s hard to reject the siren song of consumption.
Yet how is the world better when everyone spends the bulk of their personal time consuming content? How much better are our lives because we’ve been absorbed with social media and playing games and watching movies and all the rest?
And for LDS singles, how much more attractive are you because you’ve spent all this time in consumption? Will that special someone really want to share your life filled with so many hours consuming content?
A personal ministry
No one’s really that attracted to someone doing little else than consume. Consumers spend their time taking, and constantly taking doesn’t build a strong foundation for any relationship, romantic or otherwise.
Conversely, producers spend their time making. They make the world a different place, if only in a small way. And if what they bring into the world adds to its goodness, that difference is a positive one. Someone actively bringing goodness into the world is far more attractive than someone actively bringing gratification to oneself. That first life appeals far more.
That’s what adopting a personal ministry can do for LDS singles. Find your own way to bring goodness into the world, an outlet through which you can release passionate creativity and make a positive difference in the lives of others. Consumers take, but producers make.
I could rationalize my job as an educator into my personal ministry. Education makes a positive difference in the lives of students. Yet I know my real personal ministry is developing this forum into a community where LDS singles can feel the support they need to journey on.
A personal ministry can do that for all of us. Consistently bringing goodness into the world will make us more attractive to the eternal companion we really need than anything else so oriented.
Like I said, this is my wake up call. Don’t be a consumer. Be a producer. Adopt a personal ministry today, or recommit yourself to yours if you already have one. We’ll have much more joy in our journey when we do.
You must make conscious choices to own your life. The reality you construct for yourself is one of the most important of those conscious choices.
In Episode 1 of the Star Wars movie series (yes, I’m an enginerd), Jedi master Qui-Gon Jin wants to train young Anakin Skywalker in the Jedi arts but is forbidden to do so. So he tells Anakin to watch him closely. “Always remember,” he then says, “your focus determines your reality.” That’s some really great advice for all of us, even if you don’t aspire to be a Jedi knight.
An experience with the principle
During sacrament meeting in a former ward, I shared a pew with a young couple and their two very rambunctious and obnoxious boys. When the tray reached our pew, the young father made sure his family received the sacrament. He then passed the tray back to the Aaronic Priesthood holder.
At first I couldn’t believe he had denied me the sacrament. Never have I ever imagined that happening to me. I thought to myself, Does he not know that I am here?
Yet I observed the great effort required to keep one of his sons somewhat settled. His wife was obviously exasperated just as much with the other one. I then realized that I really was oblivious to him.
It wasn’t because he didn’t care. It wasn’t because he was married and I was single. It was because he focused so much on his son that someone sitting not two feet away was outside of his world. His focus had determined his reality.
LDS singles don't need to feel dissatisfied with their lives
Many singles who focus on the eternal companion they don’t have can enter a serious depression. They can become so focused on what they don’t have that they can’t see anything but a dissatisfying condition. They feel forgotten and lost in a sea of people living lives they want but don’t have.
I once felt like that, but not any more. You don’t have to feel that way either. If you want to be a part of your ward’s reality, then get inside their focus. Make meaningful contributions to the lives of other ward members.
You don’t need a calling to make that happen. You need only to recognize a need and then work to fill it. With that focus, your reality will be much more enjoyable.
Your problem is not that you're single
If you think your solution to a dissatisfying life is getting married, think again. And then change the way you think. Your focus determines your reality.
No, changing the way you think won’t make your eternal companion magically appear. I’m not talking about a magic lamp with a genie inside.
And yet I am. When I was incredibly focused on what I didn’t have, that way of thinking wasn’t making me a happy me. And an unhappy me is an unattractive me.
Changing the way I think didn't make me instantly married. My physical circumstances did not change. No attractive woman in a belly dancer costume appeared. I was just as single as I’ve always been.
But changing the way I think did make me instantly more marriageable. The way I perceived my circumstances changed. I felt much better about myself and my future prospects. That change made me a much happier me.
And that happier me translated into a much more attractive me. Why? Because most people don’t want to spend twenty minutes let alone eternity with someone who isn't happy.
Being that happier me means that someone will more likely want to share my life with me, whether or not she wears a belly dancer costume. If all I see in my life is a collection of negative emotion, then how can my reality be anything different? And who would want to share that with me? There is no greatness or glory in darkness.
So what's your reality? Do you like your reality? If you answered no, then what's your focus? Your focus determines your reality. If you want to change your reality, then change your focus to one designed to produce the reality you want.
Howdy! I'm Lance, host of Joy in the Journey Radio. I've been blogging about LDS singles life since 2012, and now I produce a weekly radio show 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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