Pairing Off: Decisions, decisions

Published: Thursday, March 3 2011 6:00 a.m. MST

Your mom’s on the phone, and, as usual, she wants to know the soonest possible date you could morally supply her a grandchild.

For once, though, you have a satisfactory response to her routine awkward questions. You’ve gone on a few dates with a really great guy, and you enthusiastically report to her how he held your hand for the first time, or how the bishop commented on how great you two look together, or how you two dropped by his parents’ place for dinner.

Your baby-hungry mother’s delight tangibly overflows from the phone’s receiver, “So, that probably means things are getting pretty serious with this one,” she says. And suddenly your mind goes numb. Serious? Is that what recent developments meant? Is that what he thinks? Is that what you want?

We Latter-day Saints receive a lot of counsel about making dating a priority and actively pursuing marriage. This is a good thing, of course. The bad thing, though, is knowing your date heard the exact same counsel and not knowing if his definition of actively pursuing marriage follows a different timeline than yours.

Luckily, we’ve received more counsel to address this issue! According to Elder Dallin H. Oaks, we could remove a lot of the stress from dating if we were to arrive at a mutual understanding that a date doesn’t imply a lasting commitment.

It’s common to go on a few dates without being quite sure how much you like the other person. You proceed based on the little knowledge you gained from the last date, sort of hoping the other person enjoyed spending time with you, but not yet sure how far you’d like this thing to progress.

You might feel fine about slowly testing the waters until your date starts acting a little more affectionate, or somebody asks how things are going, or your suddenly realize how much money this person has spent on you.

Fight the insane urge to feel horrified that things are progressing faster than you’re ready — that you’ve given your date reason to believe that your feelings are stronger than they are — that you’re just going to mercilessly string this person along until their tortured heart dies an agonizing, love-starved death.

First, realize that if your date’s heart is really so vulnerable after three dates, they’ve probably had it shattered scores of times before, and they should at least be expecting it.

Next, ask yourself the following questions:

Have I basically enjoyed my interactions with this person, so far? Would I like to spend more time with him or her? Do I care about this person’s well-being?

If the answer to all of those questions is, “Yes” or even “I think so,” you can try your hand at another date with a clear conscience.

Early in a relationship, just enjoying the person’s company is all that really matters. You will, of course, reach a point where commitment and decisions and all that hard stuff will come into play. But that point might not be as soon as your grandchild-craving mother would like it to be.

For the first few weeks of dating, you have every right to take your time gathering information — without expecting or implying excess commitment — and to simply enjoy getting to know each other.

 

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