Dating is easy when you understand the fundamentals. It becomes difficult when you don’t. Today I’m addressing a common difficulty among LDS singles — the dreaded friend zone.
We all want to belong. In the context of LDS subculture, that means experiencing the cultural rite of passage we call temple marriage. Accordingly, many LDS singles focus their efforts on securing that cultural rite of passage so they can belong.
It’s therefore discouraging to hear, “Let’s just be friends.” What we really hear is “You won’t belong.” After all, we’re not accepted within LDS subculture for having lots of friends. We’re accepted for having an eternal companion.
What’s more, friend doesn’t mean friend. Friend really means acquaintance. Most if not all interaction between you and this other person essentially ends. It’s an effective banishment from one’s social circle. No wonder the friend zone is despised.
Do we even know what friendship is anymore? Here’s a good definition: Friendship means accepting people for who they choose to be and leaving them better than when you found them. Correctly understood, the friend zone should be embraced.
We’re not interchangeable parts. Yes, I know President Kimball said any righteous man and woman can make a celestial marriage. But in that same discourse he also acknowledged the role of preferences in selecting a spouse.
The price to make a marriage work depends on how well aligned the couple is. There’s always a price to pay no matter who you choose to marry. Any two people can make it work if they’re willing to pay the price. But you won’t pay as high a price if you don’t have to work as much to align yourself with your chosen companion.
Some compatibility is desirable. Thus, those you casually date might not make the agreement with you to enter committed dating. Not being interchangeable parts means sometimes you don’t fit.
But it shouldn’t also mean being complete strangers. Being true friends with those you decide won’t go further with you in your dating journey reaffirms a special truth. The differences between you might mean they won’t be your partner, but those same differences don’t mean you reject them as people, as sons and daughters of the same Heavenly Father.
When we decide someone won’t go further with us in our dating journey, we should keep in touch. Doing so affirms their eternal worth doesn’t depend on their progress in their dating journey.
We need that continued contact for the second part of friendship — leaving people better than we found them. Often that means lending needed support. How can you do that unless you interact with others?
Yes, the time you spend with friends will diminish as you progress in your dating journey. You’ve decided to advance with one person, so you’ll rightly spend more and more time with that significant other.
But that doesn’t mean spending zero time with anyone else. True friends support each other. They know what’s happening in each other’s lives so they can give that support. And often the needed support comes in very small and seemingly insignificant ways.
I once had a relationship with someone we’ll call Brenda. After losing that relationship, I struggled emotionally. In that struggle I received an unexpected visit from another woman I had casually dated before choosing to enter committed dating with Brenda.
It was a chance crossing of paths. Our conversation lasted no more than ten minutes. But that helped me to feel my worth didn’t depend on having a certain relationship. As broken as I was at the time, I needed to feel that. But the good accomplished in that moment would’ve never happened had someone I once dated not been that true friend.
Be where you are
Our culture will never change unless we change. If we want a different reality, we must change the way we think so we then change the way we act.
Our focus always determines our reality. If we keep focusing on the end of the dating journey even though we’re still in the midst of it, we’ll be living where we aren’t. That creates confusion obstructing us from achieving our righteous desires.
We need to be where we are. Whether that’s casual dating or committed dating, being a true friend to whoever we decide won’t journey further with us can provide them with the self-worth and support they need to continue their own journey.
We should embrace the friend zone. And we can when we embrace true friendship as part of our character. Being that true friend with everyone will make us a more attractive and better companion to the one we do decide to journey on with. 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 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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