Thirty years ago when I attended Brigham Young University people teased me mercilessly, claiming I was only going there to get my MRS degree. I claimed my motive was more academic: BYU offered the best scholarship, and it was the only university with the major that interested me. However, in reality, I did want to become a Mrs. and I wanted a decent Mr. who lived the gospel standards and loved the Lord. I figured I could increase the odds I would find such a man in a place where such men might venture.
Some who ridiculed my choice spent their child bearing years single. Others married non gospel-living spouses and are subsequently single. In retrospect I’m glad I didn’t succumb to the ridicule. Young people need not feel the least embarrassed to admit they want to put themselves in a place where like-minded saints gather. Today when I meet young adults seeking the company of like-minded saints, specifically with the purpose of marriage, I applaud them.
Marriage is a joyful institution. One of our purposes in life is to bring children into this world and rear them in righteousness. Old age can be a lonely place without a spouse or children. It is natural and good to want to find someone ideal to marry. Naturally, single adults will want to put themselves in situations to find that person.
Still there are those who ridicule institute, or single-adult wards, claiming each is simply a “meet” market or even a “meat” market. Such short-sightedness should be thoroughly ignored. In addition to the gospel learning that takes place at institute or at church, it is entirely appropriate that church and church-sponsored activities be a place where singles meet other faithful saints.
Thus the Bad Rap
The reason church, or a church school might be the subject of ridicule is because some choose to attend a certain college, or a certain ward only because they want to find a mate. They may have no interest in education, secular or spiritual. Attending a certain ward when your only purpose is to find a mate is not a lot different than logging onto to a specific dating website with the sole purpose of finding a mate.
Sometimes folks who hang out where singles go to meet other singles, find that the only thing they have in common with the people they meet is they are both single and neither wants to be.
Marriages based only on a mutual aversion to loneliness don’t fare especially well. The best marriages are based on common interests, common goals, common hobbies, common beliefs, common values. Both being single is not enough to have in common. Ideally, those who attend the same ward or the same institute class will find they have far more in common than being single.
The best singles hang-out becomes the one where like-minded people meet. While singles might find a like-minded saint in a religious setting, it could just as easily occur in a class, at a volunteer organization, on a co-ed athletic team, or at work. Singles will want to find someone that has even more in common with them than goals and values. They will want to find someone with common interests and hobbies. Your interests are what make you interesting as a person. And mutual interests are what keep a marriage interesting for a lifetime.
One of my sons loves to sing. He invited everybody in his ward to carol with him one evening. He wasn’t looking for a mate. He wanted someone to sing with. One young lady showed up who also loved to sing. They discovered they had all kinds of things in common, in addition to their love for the gospel, their love for singing, they were both artists, both outdoorsmen, both health conscious, etc. They now have three children and a very compatible relationship.
Another son loved rock climbing. He invited people in his ward to go rock climbing. Several came, among them a young lady, who caught his eye. He invited ward members to go hiking. The same young lady came. He invited ward members to go mountain biking. She showed up again. Clearly they had a lot in common. Two children later, they still spend as much time outdoors as they can.
I recently read about a couple who both answered an ad to learn to play the piano. She was 71 years old. He was 87. Neither was looking for companionship. They were looking for piano instruction. However, it became evident they were highly compatible in a variety of ways, so they married.
Compatible companionships begin with common interests. Therefore, a single person who wants to marry will have greater success finding companionship if he or she first pursues his or her own interests. Pursuing our own interests will inevitably lead to meeting somebody with the same interests. Those who like reading need to join reading groups, writers need to join writing groups, singers, singing groups, artists should join artist groups, musicians concert clubs, etc. Singles with a variety of interests will generate attention to a greater degree than singles with no interests. A delightful example of this is found in the movie, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. He’s a boring guy until he gets a life. Once he starts living life, and not merely longing for a relationship, a relationship becomes a real possibility.
There is an aphorism that says, “When you chase a butterfly, it will try to elude you, but if you sit still it will land on your shoulder.” This proves especially true with relationships. Singles will want to put themselves in situations where those of like mind gather, but not solely to meet a mate. Singles who put themselves in places that interest them will become interesting, and that’s when the butterfly lands.
JeaNette Smith is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Jacksonville, Florida and the author of Unsteady Dating: Resisting the Rush to Romance. Learn more on her website, www.smithfamilytherapy.org.