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The Quickie Courtship

by Jennifer James, LCSW

Remember that scene from the movie "The Singles Ward" where they're switching between several conversations, and all the conversations are about people they know who just met and are now engaged or married? Think it was funny? That's probably because humor is all about mimicking reality.

One of the most prevalent problems we face in the LDS singles world is that of rushing off to marry too soon. My website (www.ldsbrokenwings.com) is overwhelmed with emails from couples who connected with "magic" on the first date and within five meetings (especially in long-distance relationships) they're engaged, and another couple months later, married, then tragically divorced within a year. This is not an LDS phenomenon.

This unique issue of "frenzied coupling" currently tempts a non-secular global audience across all socioeconomic and ethnic boundaries. But, for the sake of this article we'll concentrate on our interesting little corner of the world.

Being single is a cross that is difficult to bear in our LDS culture. We're trained from childhood to view marriage and family as the primary objective in a Latter-day Saint life. The pressures resultant from that expectation increase as we grow older and either 1) find ourselves unmarried by age twenty-five, 2) find ourselves widowed through tragic fate, or 3) find ourselves divorced by virtue of an unfulfilled, brutal or dysfunctional marriage. Our single status constantly reminds us of how lonely, rejected, hurt or desperate we are. We yearn for companionship, to find someone we resonate with so we can live that eternal dream. The date-to-mate race begins.

First-date-wonders often go nowhere and weaken our ability to make emotionally appropriate relationship decisions. Isn't there anyone out there who is decent, law-abiding and without a huge emotional warehouse full of issues?

But, then, one magical day, it happens! We meet him/her and it's instantly wonderful! We can actually have a ten-minute conversation about aardvarks and not get bored. He listens to opera, she bakes bread... pure heaven! Our prayers have been answered-spirits beyond the Veil are surely involved in our pairing. It's kismet, karma, and planets align as the combined energies soar and place us in very emotionally vulnerable places. Instant connections are so difficult to come by. This must be the one! Is it?

Here are some ways to find out:
1) Slow it down and take some time to get to know them better. Dream-date connections all too often burn out in a few weeks. As the hymn says "school your emotions" -reign in the urge to couple-at-all-costs, especially the urge to do it too quickly. They may be your "inspiration," but then again, they may be human with all kinds of quirks and issues that will come out as you get to know them better.

2) Do not assign your own perceptions to who this person really is. They may be the partner of a lifetime but, they could also be wearing a "mask" to impress or, even worse, hide their true self from you. With that lack of real knowledge, gained over time, our perceptions will assign the person a role to play. It may not be who they are at all. You might think your potential partner is a wise steward financially and once-married find out they will spend you into oblivion. You may think they'll care for you when you're sick and find out they get angry and resentful when you come down with a cold. Will they be a loving parent? Will they do daily chores? Only time and experience will show you what you need to know.

3) Are your definitions in-sync? The words "I love you" mean different things to different people. To some, love means companionship, affection and attention. To others, love means space and individual pursuits. Do they love you or do they just "want" you for what you can do for them? Love is a long-term, sustained ability to share value, respect, and trust. It's the ability to put your sweetheart's needs above your own, year after year. Exchange definitions on many issues, (child-rearing, love, leisure time, chores, expectations, religious beliefs, intimacy, etc.) and find out if your partner is on the same page. Don't accept their word for it-allow time to actually see how compatible you both are.

4) If they've been divorced or widowed, are they healed enough to couple again? Do they treat you with respect, with consideration and kindness, with love and tenderness over many months together? Or, do they settle into taking you for granted or using you for their own selfish agenda? Often, with time, old behaviors will take the place of the once-euphoric energy that was earlier exchanged between you both. To go from being treated as the adored sweetheart to being dismissed with great indifference, in a couple months time, is devastating.

5) Do their works define them? The Gospel teaches us that we are judged by our works (Mosiah 3:24). Do they talk the talk and walk the walk? Watch closely to see if what they "say" matches what they "do." Dishonest and passive-aggressive people are not healthy partners.

6) What does the Spirit and your instincts tell you? Once the fanfare dies down and you begin the day-to-day mundane experiences, does your relationship grow and edify or does it drain the energy out of you? Be aware of how you feel around your potential partner. Is this person attentive, caring and do they bless your life? Do you bless theirs?

As you can see, even in the best situations with the potential man/woman of your dreams, all relationships take time, experience, patience and consistent behavior to prove whether you are both well-suited for marriage together. If there are doubts, trust them and let time work out the details to insure a successful partnering.

Author Jennifer James, LCSW has written the best-selling book "Latter-day Divorce and Beyond: Surviving Singlehood," (www.cedarfort.com) and is a popular fireside and singles conference speaker, nationwide.

For more information or to contact Jennifer, visit www.ldsbrokenwings.com or email Ldsbrokenwings@yahoo.com.

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