Dating Culture + BYU-I = Messy

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We've got a messy situation on our hands with the dating culture at BYU-Idaho (and pretty much everywhere else for that matter). I describe many of these problems in this video. A student of ours also summarized some of the major points in the video and provided many of her own insights on her blog www.mackenziecasper.com (she's got a lot of other dating insights on her blog, so check it out). We share her comments below. Also, if you are fed up with the dating culture and actually want to do something about it, share this article publicly on your Facebook page. There is no point in complaining if we are not going to do something about it!


As a student at BYU-Idaho, I have noticed habits and patterns in the dating culture at my university that not are only lame, but are very dangerous and concerning. I want to address the problems, the consequences, and maybe what we could do to change the culture. Professor Cole Ratcliffe describes many of these problems in the video above.

PROBLEMS:

There is a perceived rush to marry.

Since we are members of the LDS faith and marriage is of high importance to us, students are confusing this as you need to hurry and find someone and get married, hence the name BYU-I-Do. "Get married within a semester or your money back."

However, the prophets have never once said that you should rush into marrying someone. 

Because of this false perception, many times returned missionaries will ask girls on dates and girls will automatically think "Wow, he wants to marry me or become exclusive." When, no! A date is #justadate. I think many girls need to stop assuming that every guy that asks them out want to marry them. Not only is that false, but it will cause a lot of miscommunication and problems later on. 

This also leads "older" men and women who are 25 and beyond to think "I'm never going to get married if I haven't found someone by now." And what a sad way to think and live life! Do you realize that most people in the world don't get married until they are almost thirty and some even beyond that? I do understand that there are consequences for marrying later in life if you want to start a family and things like that. But we should never look down on "older" single students. (Which by the way, 25 is still so young.) It absolutely makes no sense. Maybe they haven't found someone who they want to share their life with and maybe they don't want to rush marrying someone who isn't right for them. Everyone's timing is different. 

I think many students think the dating process needs to be quick and fast, or it's not happening at all. This will lead to people not taking thoughtful consideration in their dating relationships.


"So what is your track?"

How many times have you been on a date and your date asks "What is your track?" I can attest to this. It doesn't affect me that much, because I am a local and I live here year round. 

So at BYU-Idaho, we run on a 3-track system: Winter/Spring/Fall. You go to school on two of these tracks out of the year. Typically on your "off-track," you go home or work somewhere.

So on a lot of dates at BYU-Idaho, the topic of the track system comes up. If you aren't on the same track and the person is going to go home the next semester, what happens a lot is it will get in students' heads. It will make them think "Should I stay in contact with this person? They are great and I'd like to continue dating them, but our tracks aren't the same, so it could be hard."

But if you let circumstances dictate your dating life, you are getting rid of a large dating pool and potentially a great dating partner. 

If you like someone but they are going home on their off-track, why not keep in contact? Not meaning you will be exclusive, but just stay in touch and when they get back, maybe you could continue dating them. And if not, that's okay. But don't let circumstances dictate your dating life. You do get a full say in who you want to date. 

Some people will avoid dating at the end of semesters as well, so they can avoid meeting someone they might like and find out that they are going home next semester, and they figure it's not worth the hassle.

"What ifs" will kill any relationship. 


Making decisions based on feelings:

Since BYU-Idaho is a church school, we are told to follow the spirit and divine inspiration. Which is great!

But there comes confusion. If the spirit confirms that you should continue dating someone, people sometimes take that as "They are perfect. I know them." Once you receive some kind of confirmation or strong feelings, people tend to assume that they don't need to really "know" their partner. They figure they already do. They can also take it as an "okay" to get married within two weeks of meeting them. 

People will stop trying to get to know their partner. Even if you are engaged, you need to be actively getting to know your partner. I don't care if you know 100% they are who you want to marry. You need to be proactive and continue getting to know them by going on actual dates. 

Cutting people out too soon: 

Some people will break up because the "sparks" or "feelings" just aren't there anymore or they just aren't there to begin with. Now, I do think having some "sparks" are important and I think anyone wants to feel excited about who they are dating, but we need to realize that in any relationship we have and whoever we end up marrying, those sparks may fade at times. They may come and go. There will be times you just don't think the "chemistry" is  there.   

So what do we do? We lose chemistry with someone, we get rid of them. We don't even have the chemistry to begin with, we halt the relationship. 

What will matter in the long-lasting relationships that work out are the person's character, qualities, and things along those lines. For sure, let chemistry be a factor in the initial stages of dating. But don't be dependent on that or let it rule your decision to break up with someone. Eventually, that chemistry will probably not be there at times.

The issue at BYU-Idaho is that it is easy to cut people off because we have so many options. We know that if this relationship doesn't work, no worries. There's plenty of more people to date. But the problem with this thinking is that you can't keep cutting out great options and expect the supply to be endless. To be frank, if you keep giving relationships up so easily, you may have missed out on the only opportunities you had that could've been absolutely right for you.

And if I am completely being honest, I've done this far too many times and it's a really hard habit to break, but it is important. 

Thinking with your brain and heart:

Most people make decisions with their heart. They may know that their partner isn't the best for them or their standards aren't exactly in line, but it doesn't matter because you love them with all your heart. But this is damaging because you aren't using your brain to think rationally.

Satan will often times use feelings to deceive us. If you "just aren't feeling it," but can't think of a good reason why or you are confused and so you break things off with someone, what a tragic thing.

Satan's main focal point of attack is on family and marriage. The center of God's plan is the family and if Satan can destroy that, he can destroy everything else and he knows this. Satan knows how important and vital family & marriage are. Why else would he try to stop good relationships from happening?

Heavenly Father has said He will tell you in your mind and in your heart the things you should do. If your mind is not coming into play at all in your dating life, I am strongly concerned. I'm not exempt from this at all. I definitely have let my emotions and feelings rule my dating life and it's not okay. 

Physical touch as the focal point of a relationship

I mentioned a little about this in some of my other posts, but when people are engaging in some physical touch, it becomes harder to think rationally. Men and women also view different physical touches differently. 

So for one man, holding hands may not mean much. Maybe he does that with every date he goes on. But maybe the girl he's on a date with holds his hand and thinks "Oh wow, we must be exclusive." 

And even between genders, one man may think holding hands isn't a big deal while another man may think he will only hold hands with a girl he is exclusively dating. And different women can think the same way. 

The problem is that physical touch means different things between each individual person. One person may kiss someone because they genuinely like them. One person may kiss someone because "it feels good." 

I am not suggesting that you shouldn't kiss on the first, second, or third date (although byuido.org suggests this may not be the best timing for this contact) or hold hands when you want to. This issue is when those kisses or physical touches become the primary focus of your relationship. If you don't go on actual dates, that's a problem. The temptation to fill your time together with physical stuff will become an issue, guaranteed. If you expect that every date you go on needs to end with lots of kissing and a make-out session, you are blurring the lines between truly getting to know someone and "feeling" like you know someone. 

The reality is, you won't truly know someone unless you use your brain and step aside from the physical aspects. For all you know, maybe that person is married, maybe they are a sex-offender, and maybe it's not even that extreme. Chances are they could just have habits that you can't stand or standards you don't necessarily agree with.

This is why people are discussing marriage within only two weeks of dating. This is why people marry people and find out they aren't who they thought they were.

WHAT WE CAN DO:

Be aware:

The first place to start is recognizing which of these bad habits and other poor dating behaviors we are exhibiting. You can't change something you aren't aware of.

Come up with a plan:

Once you recognize what needs to change, we need to come up with specific ways to change our habits. For example, if you make a big deal out of first or second dates, tell yourself "It's just a date. Nothing more." You can stop putting unnecessary pressures on your date and yourself. Go on short dates and not prolonged dates when you are first dating someone. 

If the relationships you've had in the past have been focused completely on the physical aspect, make a goal for your next relationship to plan dates and get to know them and appreciate who they are without the physical contact. And when you do engage in some physical contact, ask yourself "Do I genuinely care about this person or do I just like kissing?" 

Whatever you want to fix, make the plan accordingly. 

Implement the plan:

If you have a plan, it's even more important to follow it through. A plan without taking any action isn't going to do any good. Along with your plan, think of reasons why you are doing it. Are you wanting to build a deep connection with someone and not purely lust? Are you tired of dating and want to get it right this time around? 

Whatever it is, your reason will help you remember why you are doing what you are doing.

Conclusion:

Dating is frustrating and hard on its own. The culture at BYU-Idaho is not helping it and I think people are getting more frustrated than ever. They simply say "I give up trying to date. It's too hard. There's too many games. I don't want to get hurt. It's easier not worrying or thinking about it at all." 

If you do have that mindset, then of course your dating experiences will be poor! I'm not saying have false optimism or simply just be positive. But be honest with yourself and say "I feel discouraged because I am not getting the results I want from dating, but I want to build a connection with someone and even if it may be hard, I know that it will be worth it." You will be far better off with this kind of thinking. 

I love BYU-Idaho and think it's a great university. Our leaders and faculty members are not the ones who are pushing students to get married fast or create unhealthy habits. It really is a culture we have created ourselves as students and I know that we have the ability to change this culture.

What are some other issues you have seen? What other solutions do you have?

Thanks for reading,
Kenzie 

*Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on www.mackenziecasper.com and has been reprinted with the author’s permission. Kenzie maintains a very insightful blog about dating, check out her blog for other great insights!

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