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John P. is an older YSA born and raised in San Antonio, Texas. He served a mission in Sydney Australia and graduated from BYU with a Bachelors in Accounting. He later earned a law degree from the University of Cincinnati. His post started as an angry rant about how dating sucks and nothing seems to work that turned into a self-reflective voir dire about personal dilemmas and how they affect him.
In Mormon culture you could say I've failed miserably. Here I am 29 years old, RM, BYU graduate and recent Law School graduate, but one thing still eludes me: that special someone to share forever with. With each new weekend, month and year, I feel no closer to the gateway of marital bliss. Why? Why am I still single? Why is dating hard? Why do all my dates end the same way? If I had the answers, I probably would not complain. Looking back I see four issues (there are many more I'm sure):
1) I'm an introvert
I learned through years of trying that I am not social. Being around people makes me feel left out. The larger the group the more left out I feel. The first thing I look for at any party or gathering is an exit, usually multiple routes. (If you really want to freak out an introvert, block the exits) Unless I manufacture a reason to feel included, I leave. You might notice someone like me, who always tries to jump into conversations and knows a little bit about everything, but disappears quickly. Once I can no longer add to the group, I subtract myself from the equation.
Being an introvert makes dating awkward, especially with that Mormon past time: group dating. One of three things happen on a group date for me: I spend the entire time trying to dominate the conversation (trying to be included), I say absolutely nothing (trying to jump in the conversation or trying to leave) or I epically fail at the activity (trying to be included but have no idea what I'm doing). When all is said and done I am exhausted when it is finally over. Dating is supposed to be about getting to know other people. I do not learn anything about someone when I am focusing on trying to be part of the group.
2) I'm shy
Someday I wish I could be like my niece. She walks up to anyone and everyone and says something to the effect of, "Hi, my name is ______, what is your name?" Me? Not so much. I usually take the indirect route. If I find you attractive, I'll find out everything I can about you without directly communicating with you (Facebook, ward lists, mutual friends, listening, etc.). Stalkerish? Absolutely! Creepy? Probably. Safe for me? Definitely! I cannot get hurt by a girl who does not know I like her.
Why do I do this? Because rejection hurts. Good meaning friends tell me, "It hurts now, but you'll get over it, try asking so and so out for next weekend." Some people need a little time to recover from rejection. The sting of a simple no stays with me for weeks. The more effort I put into building a relationship, the longer the sting stays. Much like touching a hot stove, I am reluctant to try again.
3) I'm a perfectionist
I hate failing. Failing makes me angry. Failing makes me feel worthless. If it is not perfect, I failed. If the ultimate outcome of dating someone is marriage, every girl you date and do not marry is a failure. The tallies of girls that did not work out grows and grows. Sometimes, I feel like the only way for me not to lose the dating game is to not play. This a falsehood about dating. Dating is only a failure if you do not grow. But, it hard to keep track of small and simple changes in yourself. The pain of one failure swallows the success of another.
Because bad dates are failure, I try to have as many details planned out as soon as possible. I feel like I cannot ask a girl out unless I have a detailed agenda of what is going to happen where. The effort to plan adds to the sting of being turned down. Minor problems, like getting lost, restaurant is full, become stressful. Stress also builds when the plans are not enough and I have to think on the fly. The stress and effort make me wonder why I don't stay home and play video games all night.
I never want to admit failure. If I have not failed, I must be succeeding. Sometimes this makes it hard to face the truth that this is not going to work out, she not interested anymore, etc. It takes effort to let go of plans you thought were perfect. I spend hours on what could be, not looking at what is. Chasing lost dreams and ideas stops me from looking forward.
4) I don't know what I want
When I was young, my mother used to ask what I wanted for dinner. My answer was anything but this, this, this, and whatever she was making. I have the same problem with dating. I don't know what I want, but I have a pretty good idea what I don't want. I don't want to date a girl that's taken, crazy, or unattractive. But what do I want?
I hear from so many friends that there is someone out there for you and you'll know her when you see her. The only problem about this advice is the only time I hear it is from a girl I like who is not interested in me. Every rejection leaves me more confused about what I should be looking for. What was it about the girl I found attractive? Sometimes it is difficult to remember through the pain of rejection. A friendly smile, a sense of humor, color of hair, a need I can serve, a person to be with. I guess the list can grow for eternity. These are the things I should remember.
I hope my thoughts help you in your dating life. May the Lord help me find the person I'm looking for. May the Lord grant me faith to try and try anew. May the Lord help you too!