Lots of things in life come in pairs, especially food. Apples and oranges. Peanut butter and jelly. Biscuits and gravy. Bacon and eggs. Grilled ham and cheese. On that note, my favorite pair is probably vanilla and chocolate. Yeah, in true Brigham Young tradition, we’re talking ice cream.
Of course, there’s more flavors of ice cream. But these two staples provide the foundation for the rest of the ice cream pantheon. As good as many other flavors are, it’s hard to appreciate fully other flavors without the two foundational flavors vanilla and chocolate.
In like manner, dating has two foundational “flavors.” And you can’t appreciate fully what dating is or how it’s done without the foundation.
Last week I described how dating is easy when you understand the fundamentals. Understanding the two “flavors” of dating is one of those fundamentals. After all, how can you successfully navigate the terrain when you don’t have clear markers along your path?
And no, the two “flavors” aren’t celestial dating and worldly dating. I’m talking about casual dating and committed dating.
Keep the start casual
Too many LDS singles place too much commitment at the start of the journey. They treat an invitation to go out like a marriage proposal. And the confusion they create obstructs their journey towards an essential ordinance.
Casual dating is just that — casual — so the commitment level is really low. Once the date ends, so does any commitment. And a date is just an agreement to participate in a specified activity at a specified time with a specified person.
What would happen if all LDS singles approached casual dating for the casual activity it is? There would be a lot more dating and a lot more fun.
Yes, dating leads to marriage. But filtering every dating decision through that lense places high levels of seriousness at the start of the journey that make it hard both to be ourselves and to enjoy the ride. We need stage-specific filters for our journey.
Good decisions usually require good data. It’s easier to differentiate when you can make good comparisons. That’s why casual dating is so important. If singles give each other the liberty to date other people early in the journey, they can get the data they need to make their best decisions regarding committed dating.
Commit to inquire well
The transition between any two consecutive stages of the dating journey is an agreement. When you agree to date one person who in turn agrees to date only you, you’ve left casual dating and entered committed dating. In contrast with casual dating, where all commitment ends with the date activity, in committed dating you’ve made a commitment that extends beyond any one date activity.
Casual dating is about narrowing your field of options down to one. It involves multiple experiences with multiple people in order to identify which one you most want to know better.
But committed dating is about evaluating the one option you’ve selected for the role of spouse and parent. Committed dating is about having multiple experiences with just one person in order to identify whether you want to share lives with that one person. You’ll share your life with your spouse who will in turn share his or her life with you.
Committed dating is a time for deep questioning. Elder Dallin H. Oaks has taught, “If you want to marry well, inquire well.” Committed dating is the time for that inquiry. Is this person traveling in an agreeable direction? Will this person’s priorities support who you want to become?
Be where you are
Dating is easier and more fun once you understand the terrain of each stage of the journey. That understanding allows you to practice this dating fundamental: Be in the place where you are.
If you’re in the early part of the journey, don’t act like there’s some huge commitment with what you do. There’s no huge commitment in the early stages. Likewise, if you’re in the later part of the journey, you should act in accordance with the higher level of commitments found there.
When everyone has the same map that matches the terrain of the journey, there’s no need for DTR. We know exactly where we are because we know what agreements we have and haven’t made. And we know what next step we need to take to progress in our journey.
We also free ourselves from worry over what someone else will think or feel. We can just be ourselves and enjoy the experience dating should provide. And that will bring 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 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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