Monday, July 19, 2010

How I Got Married and Advice for my Single Friends

This story can also be read, with my friend's commentary, on "A Single Girl's Moments of Clarity and Chaos".

In late July 2001 after a summer of unemployment (I was consulting part time, but that didn't count when I could lay out by the pool, and have the best tan of my adult life), I was asked by the Institute Director in Northern Virginia to teach a Church History class - starting in September. Then he said, "We'll fly you out to Utah for the CES (Church Educational System) conference." I was in, all in.

That week was a defining week. I floated around the campus at BYU in a spiritual high. I was so excited to go forth and teach and inspire. In a fit of independence, I also decided at the ripe old age of 29 to transfer from the very active singles ward to the very isolating Family Ward. I was welcomed by the bishop with open arms as he said, "Are you here because you are too old, or here because you are sick of the games?"

Definitely sick of the games.

The night before I flew to Utah for the conference, I had ended up going on a date with someone that I had dated on and off for six months. Mostly off. Mostly because I was too chicken to stand up for myself and decide how I wanted to be treated. But I was smitten and we all know what smitten, single, 29 year old girls who are worried about ever getting married do - keep quiet.

I eased into my new life - teaching Institute and attending the family ward where I was quickly called to be both a Ward Missionary and the Gospel Principles teacher. The bishop believed in putting single people to work (the Relief Society President was single) quickly. He was a very smart man. Sunday mornings were spent preparing a 90 minute lesson on Church History as well as a 30 minute Gospel Principles lesson. Tuesdays were spent on exchanges with the sister missionaries. Wednesdays were spent teaching Institute. If I had had any concern that my life would be boring, I was quickly humbled.

A few things happened during the 9 months that I was in that ward. First, shortly after I transferred, I started a new job. On September 10, 2001 in Arlington, VA. The next day was a day that shocked the world. I, like most of the world, became more service oriented and less selfish. I can face it now, as a single person I was very selfish, and very self-absorbed. My thoughts were consumed with the fact that I was not married.

I lumped every guy that I dated into one category: Non-committal.

I'm pretty sure that everyone in my family was sick of me and I know my friends were. However, most of them were in the same boat - trying to figure out how to get out of a single state and into a married state as fast as possible. (Even if they claimed that they weren't.)

And I wasn't sick of dating - I was sick of myself. Sick of who I was as a dating person. Sick of the types of guys that I was attracting since they most definitely weren't the guys I wanted to marry. I decided to start changing myself into the type of person I wanted to be as a dating person, and finally as a married person.

One particular afternoon as I complained about it, my roommate handed me a book called "Men Made Easy" by Kara Oh. I laughed and she didn't even crack a smile. She just said, "Read it." So I read it. And I learned and absorbed and was shocked at how little I had understood about men in general. I had been heeding my dad's counsel about dating, "You have to throw a lot of spaghetti against the wall for some of it to stick." I focused even more on turning myself into who I was supposed to be instead of molding myself into whatever type of girl my latest crush wanted.

Somewhere in the middle of all of this transformation, I met my husband. Neither one of us can remember when it was. I say one particular evening, he says another. The point is, we were not attracted to each other. At. All. And that was because we weren't ready to be.

Until Memorial Day Weekend 2002. Dave got coerced by his best friend into helping my roommate and me move for the summer. I had decided to forge ahead in life and build a townhouse, but it wouldn't be ready until August. Our landlord decided to sell the townhouse we were living in, so we had to find temporary housing for the summer.

I hadn't paid attention to Dave until that weekend. In fact, my roommate had at one time been interested in him, so he was off limits. However, her affections had landed on Dave's best friend so a few weeks later after it was clear that I had the hots for him, she gave me her blessing. During that time, I practiced the methods I learned in the book on Dave. Actually, I still use them and he knows it and thinks it is funny and loves it. I also read the book "1000 Questions for Couples" and started asking Dave a QOTD (Question of the Day). It helped me get to know him in a way I never would have just "hanging out". It made him think. It made me think. It made me more and more attracted to him because I liked his answers. And, fortunately, one day his best friend said to him, "If Heidi liked me as much as she likes you, I would be dating her." Sometimes it takes a hammer to the head.

On July 7, 2002 after a weekend in Utah visiting family for Independence Day, Dave picked me up at the airport. On the way home he said, "I like you. I like spending time with you. I want to date you. I just am not ready to date you exclusively." Or something equally romantic. I said, "Okay." But you see - I had made it clear to him that I wanted to be with someone who could be direct and honest rather than play games. So he was respecting that. I set the boundaries for how I wanted to be treated. And I did not deviate from them. I was fine with giving him the opportunity to figure things out, because I knew he needed to, and it would do me no good to either pout or be pushy about it.

July 19, 2002, eight years ago yesterday, we opted out of going to a free Orioles game. I gave the tickets to some friends who were in town from Virginia Beach. We planned to go to a party that a friend was having, but instead sat on the couch and talked.

He said, "Where do you see this going?"

I said, "I think this is it."

He said, "Me, too. Does this mean we are getting married?"

I said, "I think it does."

And that was that. We got married November 2, 2002 in the Mt. Timpanogos Temple in Utah surrounded by family and friends. Our engagement period was dramatic with outside stuff - moving, illness, etc., but we had laid the foundation for our relationship. For the first time, I could actually say, "That's not ok with me." And not panic that he would run away and break up with me. Seriously - a first.

A year after we got married, I was asked to give a seminar for the singles ward on Dating. They wanted advice on what to do or not do. I laughed hysterically for an hour and then went to work.

1. Get your house in order. Get out of debt. Prepare yourself financially.
2. "Partaking of the bitter cup without becoming bitter is part of the emulation of Jesus." - Elder Neal A. Maxwell. Just because a past relationship failed, don't assume that every relationship will fail. Men are not all lumped into one category. They are different. Don't treat them all like they are the same and they just might surprise you.
3. Be your best self. Take the high road. But, don't be someone you are not.
4. Decide how you want to be treated in a relationship and stick to it. Treat the person you are dating with respect, and be a GIRL. Don't be a buddy unless you WANT to just be a buddy.
5. Don't stalk boys. Don't plan movie nights to get them over to your house so that they can "notice" you. Boys aren't idiots. If they haven't asked you out, they aren't interested. If you have had them over to dinner and flirted with them for two months at ward activities or parties and they haven't asked you out, they aren't interested.

I have now been happily married for 8 years and I still follow these rules. You don't stop dating when you get married. Men still want to be flirted with even if you have spaghetti sauce all over your shirt. In fact, that might just be an aphrodisiac for them.

And in the words of Kristen Oaks, who is the wife of Elder Dallin H. Oaks, "Being single doesn't mean you have to put off being happy." After all, she married an apostle in her 50s.

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