Dating in Your 20s
This is part one of a four-part series, “Conscious Courtship,” in which we chat with professional matchmaker, Amy Stevens, and marriage and family therapist Alisa Snell. In this post, we’ll examine the trials and tricks to dating as a 20-something in the LDS world. This is a supplementary discussion from a Mormon Channel Daily interview.
What challenges do Latter-day Saint singles in their 20s face when it comes to dating and marriage today?
Stevens: We live in a world where there are so many choices and so much technology. Marriage has become much more of a choice, and some people wrestle with whether or not it’s a choice they want to make in their 20s. Also, people often go from dating in groups as teenagers to being told, post-mission, that it’s time to find a spouse. So some people just find anyone and get married, which can lead to issues in the marriage. Or they go the other way and feel so frustrated that they decide they don’t care about marriage.
Snell: In addition, dating as an art form still matters, but a lot of singles in their 20s are not dating. If men don’t pursue women, women don’t feel safe and secure, and if they don’t feel safe and secure, they’re not going to act more feminine—something men look for. We can’t just ignore those realities. People are hanging out, and in the process they’re not making the male or female feel fulfilled. Hanging out is a huge problem. Fear is a huge problem. Perfectionism is a huge problem.
Stevens: It does take a certain amount of vulnerability and faith. A lot of people want to play it safe in the dating game because they want the other person to make the first move. Therefore, no one makes a move; it just becomes kind of vanilla and stagnant.
What myths about dating in our 20s would you like to dispel?
Snell: That it’s just going to happen; it is just going to be easy and natural without any work. And that if they do have to work at it, there must be something wrong. I also see people use a lot of “should” statements. For example, a man looks at the perfect woman for him and says, “I should like her and I should want to call her more.” The moment you say “should,” the more unattractive it is. The reverse also happens: The person you shouldn’t be with becomes the person you really want to be with. If you’re not feeling a connection with the kind of person that really would be best for you, chances are you’re “should-ing” yourself, and that’s part of the problem.
Stevens: I think those in their 20s feels like they have so many options, so how would they ever choose one? They become paralyzed. People imagine this sea of singles within the LDS community, so there’s no urgency. It seems like they can hold out and look for perfection. Sometimes they look at the prophet and his wife and think, “That’s the kind of marriage that I want,” but they don’t consider the process it takes to become that kind of couple—a lot of trial, change, and self-improvement.
What do you feel men and women in their 20s are looking for in a spouse?
Snell: Everything starts with the physical. From there, men are really looking for a woman who makes them feel great, that’s what flirting is for. Men are also looking for women who are kind, positive, spiritual, and confident. On the flip side, the first thing women are looking for beyond the physical is strength and confidence. Unfortunately, there are a lot of really nice guys who don’t let those qualities show. Ultimately, a woman wants to make sure he makes her feel great as well.
Stevens: Men bond through activities, where women bond more through talking. The activities men enjoy and want to share with women are often physical and outdoorsy, so they want a woman who is fit.
Snell: Intellectual connection is very important. And everyone wants someone with social skills, drive, and ambition.
Stevens: Education is important to a lot of people. For some that means just being able to talk about a variety of things. Many want someone with at least a bachelor’s degree. A focus on family is also high on the list for men and women. Because we’re LDS, we usually want a family and children.
Why is non-committal physical affection in a relationship so damaging?
Stevens: That happens a lot because people are afraid of being vulnerable and making the first move, as we talked about. So they’re friends with people and then one day someone decides to make that type of move, but then they don’t follow it up with actual dates. Often, the woman becomes more emotionally attached in that process. The she gets frustrated and feels used, which the man might not even realize.
Snell: The more deeply a man sacrifices the more deeply he loves. And non-committal affection requires no sacrifice, so of course there isn’t going to be any love. So women really set themselves up for unrealistic outcomes when they engage in that. Those who engage in that are more likely to be rejected than loved and protected. I refer to something I call the “Three- to Six-Week Drop-Off Curve.” If you’re passionately kissing in the first three to six weeks, you’re much more likely to see the relationship end within that time. It is counterproductive to creating a deeper connection.
Stevens: Alisa always says, “I don’t give the best of me to people who don’t invest in me.”
Don’t miss next week’s post in this series, where Stevens and Snell offer similar advice and insights to singles in their 30s and above who are hoping to date and marry.