Lessons Learned From Dating

I recently ran across an interesting blog article about dating which has some good ideas to it. I particularly enjoyed this person’s comments. They reminded me of my own dating experiences. As this week is a celebration of the Proclamation on the Family, I thought I’d pontificate on the topic a little.

I’ve always wanted to have a family. I’ve always wanted to be a dad. I honestly don’t remember not wanting a family. This has always been an important goal for me.

I’ve also always been fairly socially backwards. I’m a geek. In my early twenties I was enjoying life pretty well. I was home from my mission attending BYU. I enjoyed sitting in my bat cave of a bedroom (living at home) and playing on my computer. Or working on model trains. Or playing legos.

…you get the idea.

There was one problem that kept coming up. I was lonely. I wasn’t that much of a loner–I had my group of friends and we got together and did fun things. I wasn’t entirely introverted, to my knowledge.

But I was still lonely. I knew I wanted to get married. I wanted to cuddle with someone. I wanted to experience physical relationships (there, I said it). I wanted to have kids and show them how to build model trains and play legos with them. I knew that where I was currently at (single, going to college) was a transitional period to help me get to where I both needed and wanted to be eventually.

I didn’t want to date.

I didn’t mind dating per-se, but I quickly found out that it was a lot of work. And frankly, for me it was rather hard work. I attended the local singles ward (congregation) and had plenty of friends, but…

Well, some guys are handsome. Some are really big and buff even if they aren’t handsome. Some guys naturally know how to talk to women. Some guys naturally know how to talk. I didn’t fit into any of those categories. Even on the talking front.

That sounds funny, but honestly, I often struggled with just talking, and never more than when I was trying to strike up and/or keep up a conversation with a woman who I thought I’d like to date. I was pretty darn good at quoting movies (still am), but most people don’t really count that as talking.

Now people that knew me then would say, “Oh, you weren’t that bad.” Those that knew me well say, “Yeah, that’s about right.” Whether that description really is accurate, it is how I viewed myself, particularly at that time.

In any case, it was hard for me to get a date. First off, I quickly found that everyone’s schedule filled up really fast. If I didn’t have a social engagement of some kind set up by Monday, then everyone was already doing something else. And I really didn’t want to think about what that seemed to imply.

If someone accepted my typically awkward invite, then I had to figure out what in the world we were going to do together for four whole hours. Movie and a date worked for a while, but then I was sure I couldn’t or shouldn’t keep doing that, so then I was trying to figure out other fun things, and for some reason, I never could think of something that I thought was interesting/fun and that I thought my date would enjoy. There never seemed to be enjoyable date activities on the weekend in my college town…

Suffice it to say that I often would only make a token effort to get a date (or no effort at all), and just spend the weekend in my room (which was still fun, although lonely). I still had fun dates and met some nice women, but on the whole I found the whole experience to be stressful and occasionally depressing.

Looking back, I can see how… downright silly I was, and how much I was over-thinking things, and making life a lot more difficult for myself than I really needed to. But at the time I really couldn’t see that.

I did try to make an effort. Sometimes. But it would be so much more convenient if she would just magically appear in my life and sweep me off my feet. Sadly, I rather wished for this kind of a scenario to happen… a lot…

Now, there’s nothing wrong with a woman sweeping a man off his feet. But in my case I think God knew that there were some things I really needed to learn regardless of who, when, or how I found my bride-to-be. Like how to talk.

It took work on my part. And I mean work. Conscious effort. A lot of it. I had at least a couple rather serious “We love you son, but you really need to be more social” talks from my parents. I had lots of sisters with no shortage of advice (using the term loosely–“You’re not going on a date wearing that”).

Now those are all things that I could (and to some extent did) get offended at. Why are you getting after me? I am trying. The woman I marry will love me for who I am, why do I need to act like I’m someone else? No, I’m not going to wear that, it’s really not my style.

I had to realize that the advice I was being given was being given with good intentions (even if the delivery was sometimes lacking). They weren’t getting after me, they were trying to help me get to where I myself was trying to get to. Yes, of course the woman of my dreams will love me for who I am. And of course I should not try to be someone else. The other side of that, however, is simply that I do need to try to be my best self, and whether single or married, I should be putting forth an effort to improve myself in various ways (This is a rather major theme in the LDS faith). And dressing up a little bit for a date is not a bad idea.

I had to keep at it. When I said it took a lot of work I meant it. Not a lot of work for two weeks or 4 months. I was single for a good number of years. And I had to keep on trying to meet new people, put myself out there. Talk. Get out of my comfort zone. Do it again. And again. And again. And again.

Over time, I like to think I got better at it. I got to where what used to be outside of my comfort zone wasn’t really outside of my comfort zone anymore. In fact, dating began to be more fun and less of a chore. I met a lot of people and had a number of (sometimes very) different experiences. Some of those experiences weren’t good, but most of them were. Sometimes I dated someone for a long time, often it was only a date or two.

I actually got to the point where I didn’t mind being single that much. And I think that was important. I even enjoyed it. I enjoyed being where I was at. And that didn’t mean I wasn’t trying to find a special someone–in fact, it was the opposite. I knew where I wanted to go and I was working on getting there rather than spending my time bemoaning the fact that I wasn’t there yet.

Surprisingly enough, continued steps toward your goals tends to get you there. There’s one more thing that I learned, at least about my search for my future bride. I had often heard people talking about their internal and/or eternal struggles trying to figure out if this particular person was “the one.” Just to add some context, in the LDS temple, couples are married for time and all eternity, so yeah, it is kind of a big deal.

I was fully expecting to have similar struggles, but it wasn’t like that at all. Instead, dating Rosanne was like meeting my long lost friend. “Hey, there you are! I’ve been looking for you.” She was and is my best friend. She does love me for who I am (I knew I was in love when I was tempted to quote something during Sunday School but restrained myself,  and she turned to me and quoted the very line I was thinking of). But we both work to improve ourselves and help each other be the best that we can.

Was it a lot of work for me? Yes it was. Again, this is my own experience I’m talking about. For many people, social skills are not the bane of their existence.

Did I have to actually listen to my parents’ advice and counsel? Yep. They were the ones constantly steering me towards trying to enjoy where I was at and not get too worked up or melodramatic. Without consciously acting on that advice, I do not think I would have been the kind of person that my wife (or anyone) would want to spend their life with.

Was it worth it? Every second.

Do we cuddle? You bet. And the other stuff too. And it’s awesome. And worth waiting and working for. But more than that–we enjoy doing lots of things together. We enjoy games, working on projects, going places, reading books, watching movies.

Is our marriage and family complete peace and bliss? Of course it isn’t. It’s still work, and lots of it. And patience, and lots of it.

But I’m not lonely.

And I play legos with my kids.

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