At long last, it is finished! Welcome back to the second half of the Biggest Mistake Made by Single Mormons survey results. This article contains a breakdown of the top five most popular results to the questions “what is the biggest mistake made by single Mormon men?” and “what is the biggest mistake made by single Mormon women?” If you haven’t seen the first half, with the tenth through sixth most popular results, click here first. Otherwise, read on.
Top 10 Responses: Numbers 5 Through 1
5. Looking Too Far Ahead/Reading Too Much In
Nearly 15% of the responses held that the biggest mistake made by single Mormons was “looking beyond the mark” by attempting to plan out their eternity before they’ve actually managed to complete a first date. Of those who mentioned it, 90% ascribed this mistake to women, while only 30% saw it in men (and 20% saw it as a problem for both sexes).
This mistake came in a couple of flavors. The standard one went something like this single woman’s response: “(Women) jump from ‘A’ to ‘Z’ in one date, or before. We’re taught all growing up in YW that we have to be on the lookout for Mr. Right and we’re even asked to make lists of the characteristics of said Mr. Right. So, often, instead of going out on a date just to have fun and get to know a person better, many women are trying to figure out if they can see themselves w/ that person for eternity. That’s too much stress for pre- or first dates. Yikes!” Another single woman applied the same answer to both men and women: “Thinking too much too soon. Most guys are afraid a girl will be thinking of marriage on the first date, and here’s no surprise, girls think guys are thinking the same thing and it freaks both sides out. No one wants to consider a first date an actual commitment. The first date, heck, the first few dates are just to get to know one another and see if you’re even compatible. So chill out and just get to know as many potentials as possible.”
There seemed to be a subset of this jump from A to Z problem that stuck more to the notion of “over-analyzing.” One single woman described it like this: “(Women) over analyze too much – always looking at things the way we hope they are.” Another single woman put it like this: “Over-analyzing every little detail of interaction with men and creating a relationship (in our mind) after one date, conversation, etc.”
When you over-analyze, it doesn’t mean you’re thinking too much. It means that at some point in your thinking you have allowed some logical flaw or mistaken assumption to enter in, and that your conclusions have therefore become faulty. I think that when you meet someone, you’re very prone to start adding assumptions about them to your thinking. You don’t know everything about them, so you fill in the blanks from imagination. You can get into a problem when you learn things about the person that don’t align well with what you’ve imagined. If you like the fantasy version more than the reality, you might be tempted to believe the fantasy over the reality. With some deft mental gymnastics, you can over-analyze your way into convincing yourself of just about anything.
This becomes a problem when the person you are interested in is attempting to live in reality, and would prefer if you liked them instead of the imaginary version in your mind. I think the solution to this problem is similar to the one I suggested for Desperation: reality checks. The difference between the two might be that desperation comes from not analyzing enough. So to avoid desperation, you have to ask yourself the hard questions. To avoid over-analyzing, you have to make sure you come up with accurate answers. Perhaps the trick to making sure your reality check analysis comes out right was stated in one of the above quotes. A single woman ended her comment by saying to “just chill out.” Perhaps if we can separate ourselves from our tempestuous emotions when we ask ourselves those hard questions, we’re more likely to come up with correct answers.
17% of the responses had complacency, apathy, and being insufficiently proactive as the biggest mistake made by Mormon singles. This one appears to be a problem for both sexes, as 72% of those who mentioned it attributed it to men and 64% attributed it to women (with about 36% attributing it to both).
The general consensus among these respondents was that single Mormons become too comfortable in their state of singleness and stop making efforts to bring it to a happy conclusion. One single woman empathized with her sex: “It’s hard to balance career and keeping the marriage option open while waiting for it to happen. After a while it is easier to be involved in my own life rather than attending single LDS functions.” A married male was a bit more verbose: “In an apparent effort to fill time not spent raising a family or dating potential partners, they fill their time with ancillary (though well meaning) commitments which they are not willing to change/modify in light of prospective mating opportunities. Sometimes these ancillary activities are work related, but more often seem to be callings or hobbies or – quite often – girl friends that require massive (and non-flexible) time commitments which invariably stand in the way of potential dating/mating opportunities. However, this seems to be subliminally intentional – since it hides any appearance of having “nothing to do” or extra time (ie – no “home on a Friday night syndrome.”) Coupled with this, little to no enticing men to ask them out – thereby avoiding the rejecting of not getting asked out, but therein giving men no tangible reason to believe they are actually open to anything if propositioned.” I think the take home message here is make sure you’re not using your “ancillary activities” as an excuse to avoid the sometimes daunting and pain-inducing world of dating.
Another single woman said “(Women) wrongly sit back and wait for prince charming to ride up on his horse.” A married male went so far as to recommend solutions: “Get involved with church groups, and if you’re still not getting the action you crave, ASK A GUY OUT YOURSELF. If that doesn’t work, ask a group of people out, and make sure it includes guys. You are a daughter of God, a princess, and if you keep putting yourself in the room with princes, sooner or later one of them will notice you.”
The attitudes of another group of respondents directly opposed these. A little under 8% of the respondents mentioned that the biggest mistake made by women related in some way to being too aggressive. You may remember the single male from the number 7 problem of “Desperation” section who said, “Asking guys out on dates” was a “big no, no.” A single woman paired her answer on women’s over-aggression with one on men’s complacency. For men she said, “They don’t learn to, or opt not to, “hunt” or acquire any game (which is their job) and instead become choosy.” Then for women she said ,”Instead of sitting back and choosing men (which is their job) they try and hunt them.” A number of respondents specifically brought up the mistake of baking goodies for men in whom they were interested, as not only was it too aggressive, but tended to lead to male complacency (why buy the bakery when the cookies are free?).
I hope that the women reading these biggest mistakes articles aren’t overwhelmed by exasperation when they see contradictions like this. On the one side, they’re blamed for being too passive in attracting males, and on the other they’re said to be too aggressive (and might even be branded as desperate). I don’t think there are any rules or pat answers for how they should behave. So if you feel it’s best for you to sit back and be choosy, great. If you want to go out and ask a guy out, also great. And if you want to bake someone some cookies, awesome. I’m allergic to nuts.
For those of you planning to become aggressive and to start asking guys out, here are a couple of warnings. Whereas some of us don’t think there’s anything wrong with a girl doing the asking, there is still a conservative bias especially prevalent among Mormons that says it’s a “big no-no.” And even if you don’t run into that bias, your chances for success (having a first date, starting a relationship, whatever) are much lower than when he asks you, because presumably if he was interested in you, he would have asked you out already. Nevertheless, there are “shy guys,” and the guy who just never realized how great you are, and open-minded guys. So it’s not as if you have no chance at all, it’s just that you might get rejected.
Now thus far I’ve been writing predominantly about this mistake as done by women. Worry you not: there were plenty of responses about men’s complacency.
Regarding men, some respondents kept it simple, labeling it “apathy” or “procrastination.” A single woman invoked video games: “They get stuck in the singles ward vortex and forget what a family looks like and that they want that and not excessive amounts of xbox.” More than one respondent brought up the notion of that men fail to be hunters, or as one single woman put it, “Allowing the woman to take the role of pursuer and thinking there is always something better available. There might be someone better but men take a risk thinking that better person would want to date them.” This woman was not the only one to tie the idea of complacency with the idea that there is always something better. One respondent called it the “‘grass is always greener’ syndrome.”
One single woman described it like this: “Thinking that they don’t have to do anything. It’s glaringly apparent that there are many more single LDS women than men. I’ve found that a lot of the men have the mindset that they can just play the field their whole lives because there will always be at least one girl interested in them. They pass up great opportunities because they think that something better will come along- then they become the 40-year-old trying to hit on the Mia Maids. Ew. They don’t put any time or effort into it. Kind of a ‘if she likes me, she’ll do something about it first’ attitude. Then they get upset if the girl makes it too easy because the thrill of the chase is gone! I think we’re all getting too old for these games and the boys just need to grow a pair and actually ask a girl out on a real date if they’re interested.”
There seems to be a good deal of frustration in this response. The woman who gave it seems to be stymied whether she behaves passively or aggressively. No matter what she does, she’s still stuck waiting for the men to do their part, and they just don’t seem to be doing it. I think she’s right in that the men who have gotten into the habit of playing the field instead of trying to identify the one woman with whom they want to spend the rest of their lives need to adjust their thinking. On the other hand, I fear that there really aren’t that many boys out there who are failing to ask out girls in whom they are interested. Whereas there are certainly some overly shy men, I think the much more prevalent problem is not the lack of courage, but the lack of interest in some girls. I’ll have more to say on this problem in the sections that follow.
Another single woman put it this way: “From my observations, most (men) don’t know how to date. I’m not saying spend millions of dollars on a girl but talk to any woman who’s been on a date w/ a non-member recently and ask her what was different? Conversation, manners, planning. To non-members Mormon girls are unique & almost unattainable. To Mormon guys, the single Mormon girls are a dime a dozen and they don’t have to expend any effort when looking for female attention. Girls are more then willing to have you over for dinner or bake you cookies or something to catch your eye. It makes it too easy and the guys become complacent.”
I was recently talking with a non-member friend of mine about dating. He had an interesting take. He believes the whole thing can be viewed in economic terms. In other words, he sees dating and romantic relationships in general as being basically a system of trade. Each party tries to get out of it as much as they can while spending as little as possible. I think the woman above has a complaint with the men who are figurative cheapskates. I say “figurative” because like her, I don’t just mean men who don’t spend much on dates. Rather, I’m talking about men who are trying to get a whole lot out of the woman while spending very little of their own effort. If my friend’s economic model is accurate, the man’s efforts are a direct indication of what he thinks the woman is worth.
On the other hand, I talked to another non-member friend of mine, and told him about this specific response to the survey that compared how non-member men treat dates versus how members do. He immediately laughed and shook his head. To his thinking, the reason non-member men put so much effort into dates is not that they think Mormon girls, or girls in general, are so fabulous and special. Rather, it’s because of what they’re trying to get out of the date. Since non-members don’t have the same moral compunctions about sex, the stereotypical non-member male is dating in an effort to acquire sex. If this is right, then indeed Mormon girls are unattainable (assuming they keep their covenants). Going back to the idea of romance as economics, I think few women, regardless of religion or moral values, are likely to give sex to a man who takes them to McDonald’s and then asks if they can go dutch. So it could be (at least in some cases) that the lack of this sexual instant gratification is one of the things that drives Mormon men to complacency, and the hope for such instant gratification is what makes non-member men such good dates.
Whatever the case, perhaps it would be best for men not to think of love in economic terms, as we might be disillusioned enough with it already. A married male said this: “(Men) get comfortable in singledom – losing sight of practical, doctrinal or spiritual incentives to actually get married. Once having lost this drive, the urge or necessity to date falters. Then as time passes, they find it hard to see any ‘excitement’ that would push them into marriage, because they’re seeing marriage through more practical eyes. Oh but more to the point – as time passes, they give up on their viability as a mate and stop asking people out because they’ve messed it up and failed enough times that the prospect of doing it ‘again’ seems sooooo uninviting.”
Perhaps in the end the thing that makes both sexes fall into complacency is motivation. Maybe, in fact, the grass doesn’t look any greener, and so we all just end up staying on our current lawn. I always love to hear when a church leader addresses the singles and talks about how much he loves his wife, or how much she loves her husband. My favorite cure for complacency is the sight of happy married people.
17% of the responses chose shallowness, or superficiality as the biggest mistake made by single Mormons. This mistake was attributed to males far more than to females, with 85% of the respondents saying it was a male problem and only 21% saying it was a female one.
2/3 or the respondents who saw this problem in females were male. I didn’t find that particularly surprising, as I would have expected males to be more critical of females and females to be more critical of males. Interestingly, though, 41.69% of those who saw this problem in males were male. Given that only 36.4% of the total respondents to the survey were male, it means that the respondents who spoke of shallowness skewed male whether they were talking about women or men. I don’t know if that means the women who answered the survey were less critical, or if men are just more sensitive to the problem of superficiality than women. My impression has been (and is confirmed by this survey’s results) that generally superficiality and shallowness are thought of as male problems. I imagine that it has become so embedded in our collective thinking that men have grown far more sensitive to it, and are willing to see it in themselves.
The respondents managed to stick to stereotypes when they discussed the specifics. For example, a single male, speaking of superficial women said they are “looking for sugar daddies.” A married man said, “IMO, women, in general, go for the same type of guy…the clever, good-looking, doesn’t have to try very hard, smooth talking, liar. Then they wonder how they ended up with a cheating, bored, slob that they have to clean up after all the time. Guys who get lots of girls tend to not value who they are with because they know someone else will step up.” He seemed to cover both the stereotypical shallow girl who falls for a player and the stereotypical player himself.
In speaking of shallow men, the responses also stuck to what you might expect. A single male said men’s problem was “using their eyes and not their brains to select dating and marriage candidates.” A married woman called it “focusing on physical attraction and ruling out those who are not a 10 out of 10.” Another single man said it this way: “Being too superficial and basing looks and sex as priority then the rest follows. If being around her doesn’t give us a boner then we’re not interested. We’re looking for a Saint in Church and a whore in bed.” A single woman, and one of the few non-members to take the survey, said that “(men) think with their ‘dumb sticks’ and often forget that they need some blood going to the upper brain in order to find a relationship that makes sense.” So the consensus was that men’s mistake was being too influenced by sexual desire and physical appearance.
Several respondents called attention to a particular paradoxical behavior some men exhibit. A single woman described these men as: “only trying to get girls who are beautiful, even when they themselves are not particularly attractive.” Another single, female realist said men’s mistake was “waiting for that supermodel girl when they are below average themselves. Like attracts like unless you have money.” A few respondents called it dating “out of their league.” A married man described the mistake this way: “Pursuing girls out of their league. Being frank, some girls are out of some guys’ leagues, whether it be way too young (a 35 year old guy shouldn’t be going for any girl younger than 27), and some girls just have a totally different background. A single guy shouldn’t find the best looking girl in the ward and say ‘I want her.’ He needs to be open to everyone. A lot of LDS guys need a reality check.” Finally, a single woman singled out men in Los Angeles: “In LA, I would say it’s that single Mormon men date ‘out of their league.’ If you’re a 4 on a rating scale, ask out a 4-6, not a 10.”
I think we should be careful with this “out of league” concept. On the one hand, certainly there are people with whom each of us shares common attributes and with whom we have preferences, desires, and goals in common. I think we are designed to gravitate naturally towards such people. There was a wonderful article in the October 1994 issue of Ensign by Marlin K. Jensen entitled “A Union of Love and Understanding” that discussed this idea, and even backed it up with scripture. In it, Jensen suggests that the attribute that makes us most lovable is our ability to give love, and recommends that “we should begin our search for an eternal companion with greater concern about our ability to give love than about our need to receive it.” He then goes on to explain how virtue cleaves to virtue:
“A very natural and wonderful consequence of becoming a person capable of great love is described in this passage: “For intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light” (D&C 88:40).
“If we pursue the goal of an eternal marriage with purity and with both our hearts and our minds, I believe in most cases we will eventually be rewarded with a companion who is at least our spiritual equal and who will cleave unto intelligence and light as we do, who will receive wisdom as we receive it, who will embrace truth as we embrace it, and who will love virtue as we love it. To spend the eternities with a companion who shares the most important fundamental values with us and who will discuss them, live them, and join in teaching them to children is among the most soul-satisfying experiences of true romantic love. To know that there will be someone who walks a parallel path of goodness and growth with us and yearns for the same eternal values and happiness is of great comfort.”
So certainly, finding someone with things in common with us is great. However, the notion of ranking us into various leagues and considering some people to be too beautiful/rich/smart/whatever for some others is wrongheaded and potentially detrimental. You’ll notice that Jensen doesn’t say “hotness cleaveth unto hotness and wealth embraceth wealth.” I believe this is because these temporal attributes have little, if anything, to do with a person’s real value or their ability to give love. To be sure, beauty can bring pleasure and wealth can bring temporal comfort, but these things are very temporary and unreliable. Beauty will fade, and wealth can’t prevent you from getting stomach cancer, being hit by a bus, having your dog die, or learning that your child is taking heroin and wants to leave the church.
This is precisely the reason we call it shallow to want these things: because we know they only lead to immediate pleasure or temporary security, and not to lasting or profound happiness. Furthermore, the classing of people into different “leagues,” or ranking them on some sort of 1 to 10 scale can lead to some very inaccurate beliefs about what people are worth. To be sure, there are attributes that can be ranked and compared. Some people have more money, some people are smarter, some are prettier, etc. But their actual value is not based on these attributes, but on their eternal potential–and everyone’s eternal potential is infinite. So perhaps you rank as a 7 in attractiveness, a 3 in wealth and a 5 in intelligence. Whatever. Your true value is 8 (that’s the mathematical symbol for infinity, for those who didn’t know).
For those who have a 10 in all the temporal attributes and think you’re better than everyone else, consider two things: first, since everyone is an infinity, we’re all equal, and no one is better than anyone else. Second, you’re an infinity too, so thinking that you’re only a 10 is actually selling yourself very short. Pride isn’t thinking you’re great, it’s thinking you’re greater than someone else (remember President Benson’s take that pride is essentially competitive in nature or the C.S. Lewis quote that “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man.”). You might therefore find it surprising that you can humble yourself while simultaneously acknowledging that you’re substantially more valuable than you thought you were.
With all that said, I think the idea of dating within one’s league is only useful so long as it means seeking people with common interests and values. If you want to play baseball, you should play in baseball leagues, and if football is your thing, play in football leagues. That makes sense. But if you are a minor league baseball player, I don’t see anything wrong with aspiring to go to the majors. It might not work out, of course. You might end up playing your whole career in the minors. The crux of the matter is that you must keep playing. Someone who refuses to join the game until he can play in the majors is prone to never play at all. In other words, if you’re the single guy who wants the best looking girl in the ward, but she doesn’t want you back, keep looking for someone else to fall in love with. It doesn’t mean you can’t try to ask that one girl out. But it does mean that she’s not the only girl with whom you could possibly be deliriously happy (and indeed, if the only reason you’re interested in her is her hotness, it’s very unlikely that you could be happy with her anyway). So keep playing, even if it’s not in the majors, and remember no matter what league you’re in, you’re just as valuable a player as anyone else.
Lest the men feel overly vilified by the comments in this section, I’d like to say something more in their defense. As a starting off point, here is how one more single woman described their mistake: “They concentrate on the ‘physical’ too much at first, before getting to know the women. Then after a couple dates, they always seem to disappear to what one would guess, would be for someone better & more ‘perfect.'” A man could feel like there’s no winning with a criticism like this. Before he starts going out on dates with a woman, how is he to know anything about her other than the “physical”? He can’t look inside her mind or see her personality. He could try hanging out with her in a non-dating situation to find out about her personality, but doing that will incur that wrath of Elder Oaks and the church leadership who are commanding him to “man up” and ask girls out on proper dates. Whatever the case, the only thing he really knows about her at the outset is how she looks. So it isn’t necessarily his superficial focus on looks that makes him choose whom to ask. It could just be the reality that there isn’t any other information to go on.
Furthermore, when he does ask a girl out, if he finds after a couple of dates that she’s simply not the one for him, he’s prone to be criticized for choosing to go after someone else (the “better & more perfect” one), no matter whether he’s choosing to move on for shallow reasons or more profound ones. If he doesn’t immediately move on, but continues to date the girl and give the relationship every possible chance, but still finds that she’s not the one for him, he’s prone to be criticized for stringing her along. The only way he can escape all criticism and bitterness is to guess right on the first girl he asks out and marry her. Either that, or she has to be the one to break it off. With these things in mind, I would recommend that the ladies give the gents the benefit of the doubt.
On the other hand, to the gents: don’t be shallow.
2. Not Asking Out Enough
20.45% of the respondents said that not asking girls out enough was the biggest mistake made by single Mormons. This mistake was attributed, in all cases, to males. The group of respondents who identified this as the biggest mistake skewed heavily female. Whereas 63.6% of the total respondents were female, 83.33% of those giving this answer were from that sex. This seems logical since in our culture women generally have to wait for men to ask them before any dating can occur, and would therefore be more sensitive to the problem.
Some of the responses kept it simple: “ask us out already,” said a single woman. Others gave explanations for the problem. For example, several people noted that hanging out too much prevented men from asking women out. A single woman blamed the problem on “being lazy… not really trying when it comes to dating.” Another single woman, sensitive to the male plight, said, “they are frustrated with being turned down and so they don’t ask girls out.” Another saw it as a matter of irrational fear: “Worrying that the woman they ask on a date will expect a proposal a month later, so they don’t date.”
Two single women gave answers that appeared a little self-contradictory. One of them said men “are afraid to ask girls for dates or they ask girls who are out of their league.” The other (whom, incidentally, I have quoted before in this article) was more verbose but expressed the same ideas: “There are two answers to this. In LA, I would say it’s that single Mormon men date “out of their league.” If you’re a 4 on a rating scale, ask out a 4-6, not a 10. But for Mormon single men everywhere, a lot of them never ask women out. Diversify, it’s really okay, people.” On the one side, these responses criticized men for being too cowardly and not asking girls out. On the other, they hit men for being too bold and asking the wrong girls out.
Given, once again, that men are expected to do the asking in our culture, they enjoy a very large advantage: they get to choose who they will ask out. As such, they don’t have to worry about telling someone no that they’re not interested in, or deciding whether to accept a date from someone they’re not particularly interested in. But for this advantage, they do pay some fines. They have to be confident and proactive, and have to stay that way despite sometimes being rejected.
Women suffer the major disadvantage of having to wait for a man to ask them out. What’s more, they don’t get to choose who will ask them out. So they are left to hope that one of the men they find interesting will approach them. They can subtly communicate interest to a man they like, but generally that’s all they can do to affect who asks them out. The advantage that women get to balance this out is that they don’t have to be proactive. They don’t have to work up their courage, make themselves vulnerable, and ask someone out. They don’t have to suffer the direct rejection that men go through when told no. Of course, sitting at home weekend after weekend with no date is a type of rejection too, but it’s not as sharp or as self-inflicted as what a man brings on himself by asking a girl who replies that she is washing her hair every night for the next three years.
I think the disadvantages suffered by both sexes over this asking out issue are what lead to the bitterness both sides feel. On the women’s side, as evidenced by their responses in the survey, they can become exasperated with the men for never asking. The men can feel it’s unfair to receive such criticism from people who never have to suffer the pains of having one’s dating proposals rejected. In the end, though, both parties might be worrying about the wrong issue.
The Santa Monica 3rd Ward (a young single adult ward) recently conducted its own, much more scientific and thorough survey about its members’ dating habits. One of the questions they wanted answered was whether the men were actually asking the women out on dates regularly. The results showed that for the most part, the men were indeed asking women out. Unfortunately, they were asking out the same small minority of women, while the majority of women got asked out very little if at all. The knee jerk assumption that I would make to explain these results is that the SM3 men were not so much afraid to ask girls out as they were prone to ask out girls based on superficial and outwardly visible qualities. I’m guessing that the small minority of girls who received the majority of the invitations on dates were the ones that our friends up there in Section 3 on shallowness would refer to as 9s and 10s.
It should be noted that the SM3 Ward is not representative of all single Mormons everywhere. They probably run a little older, more educated, and more liberal than the kids back in Utah singles wards. What’s more, the SM3 Ward’s leadership has been pushing its male members to go out on at least one date a month for some time, and that could have led them to be more active daters than the average LDS single male.
Nevertheless, if their survey results are at all indicative of the trends among Mormon singles in general, it may be that our trying to push men to “man up” and ask more girls out is poorly spent effort. It may be that we don’t need the men to ask out more, but rather that we need them to ask out more wisely and broadly.
And that brings us to the number 1 error made by single Mormons:
A whopping 55.68% of the respondents said the biggest mistake made by Mormon singles, in one form or another, was being too picky. Not all of these respondents ascribed the mistake to both sexes. Nevertheless, about 27% of the total responses to the survey concerning females made some mention of their being too picky, while about 41% of the total responses about males in some way attributed the mistake to them.
The respondents did not always use the word “picky.” Very often, the problem was described as wanting someone who is “perfect.” Speaking of men, one single woman said their mistake was simply “wanting a perfect woman.” Another single woman expounded a bit: “(Men) set unrealistic expectations. There’s no way we’re perfect in all categories on a checklist, but we might just be perfect for you. Give us a chance.” Yet another single woman saw a relationship between the desire for perfection and the failure to ask girls out: “Expecting perfection. Not asking enough girls out on dates, i.e., feeling like they need to be in love or that they will marry a girl before they even ask a girl to ice cream.” Males mentioned the search for perfection in their comments on females too. One single man called it “Wanting him to be perfect the day they meet.” Another single male described it as: “Looking for perfection and not the potential to grow to perfection together. They want the finished product, but he’s in Heaven so she’s gonna have to die to get him. Literally wanting a man to die for.”
Another common phrase that came up in these responses was “unrealistic expectations.” A single female said the members of her own sex “set unrealistic expectations. Love him or don’t, but don’t expect him to live up to the fairy tale standard. That’s fiction, folks.” Another single woman, again talking about women, suggested a reason for their expectations: “They are too picky and have too high of expectations of men. It has been bred in them their whole life.” A couple of respondents appeared to think expectations changed over time. A single female said “perhaps we expect too much to begin with,” while conversely a married male said women “(have) too of high of expectations as they get older.” Another single woman felt that women should expect only what they are willing to provide when she described them as “having too high expectations. It’s ridiculous to think that someone who sits and eats ice cream and pizza while watching ‘The Bachelor’ will only date men who work out at least 4 times a week and have less than 5% body fat. Let’s meet in the middle folks. Don’t ask for something that you’re not willing to do yourselves!”
My favorite response about expectations came from a single woman. She attributed the same mistake to both men and women: “Having an unrealistic list of requirements. Consider the list you’ve made. The person who would fill all those requirements will probably not want to date you, because they’re just that amazing and you hardly compare. We’re all a bunch of 6’s searching for a 10. The truth is two 6’s make 20. We become that better person when we meet that person who motivates us to be better. If we were 10’s in the beginning we wouldn’t really need our other half.” As stated in the section on Shallowness, I think the 10-point scale is misleading. Nevertheless, the idea that we can become more than the sum of our parts when married seems very wise to me. A single male seemed to agree when he said, “women don’t realize the effect that they have on men. They underestimate themselves, because they want the man to come fully equipped with the 100k job or the 100k personality. We get that way because of the women in our lives as result of a healthy marriage. They pass up a good relationship because of this.”
A few respondents seemed to echo the thoughts of one of the respondents above who entreated the opposite sex to “give us a chance.” They seemed to feel they were being looked past because of unfair comparisons. A single woman, speaking of men, put it this way: “It seems they always think something better will come along instead of seeing if they might like what’s right in front of them.” Another single woman felt the male mistake was “focusing only on the ‘fresh meat’. Women come, and women go. However, there are some women that always stay around, but because they didn’t make the ‘right’ first impression you didn’t ask them out when you first met them. Now you’ve relegated them to ‘friend’ territory, have either ignored them or started confiding in them whom you actually like, and it turns out they’re your perfect match all along! What a waste of your time… (and relocation costs).” A single man felt women compare men unfairly by “expecting guys to be as great as their fathers and brothers and not looking under the hood, kicking the tires and racing their suitors around the track a few times.”
A similar trend in these responses had Mormon singles overly focused on a specific “ideal” or “type.” A single male called men out for “believing that women have to fit a certain ‘ideal,’ predominately a physical ideal (certain height, hair color, weight, etc.), otherwise women are not dateable, no matter how many women there are in the area.” A single woman said “I think most single men are preoccupied with looking for a woman who is their ultimate ‘type.’ Maybe you should keep an open mind, try branching outside your type. So far…chasing your ‘type’ hasn’t gotten you married.” You may remember the married male who got after women this way: “IMO, women, in general, go for the same type of guy…the clever, good-looking, doesn’t have to try very hard, smooth talking, liar. Then they wonder how they ended up with a cheating, bored, slob that they have to clean up after all the time. Guys who get lots of girls tend to not value who they are with because they know someone else will step up.” A married female described it as “Chasing the wrong kind of women. This includes chasing only a certain type of women, only chasing after the same few women as a collective, which statistically must ensure that that most of them will fail, and chasing after women for the wrong reasons. There’s a saying that comes to mind: ‘No matter how hot she is, somebody’s tired of her sh*t.’ This also includes chasing after women who are not interested and ignoring the ones who are. Men are not too dense to read the signs; they just choose to ignore them because of all the foolish business noted above.”
This last response struck me when it got to the part about chasing after women who are not interested and ignoring the ones who are. The reason it struck me is because it seemed to address only one side of a two-way street. The reason a man (one who is not too dense to read the signs, no less) ignores a woman who is interested in him is because he is not interested in her. So why is it that he must give up on the women who are not interested in him and settle for the women he is not interested in? Going back to the respondent’s answers, it turns out she actually did address the other side of the street. In her answer about women’s biggest mistake, she noted this: “Girls do the same stuff that I said guys do, but they’re not nearly as stupid about it as the men. Women are more likely to settle.”
Whether you agree that men are more stupid about this than women (and the stereotype does seem to point that direction) or not, hopefully you can still see an important point. If you’ve turned down the advances of someone, or have ignored the interest of someone, does that mean you were being too picky? Were you guilty of some foolishness, like closed-mindedness about your ultimate type, or being overly caught up with interest in “fresh meat,” or some other thing that caused you to chase after the wrong members of the opposite sex for the wrong reasons? Or, conversely, are they the ones who are interested in you for the wrong reasons? In either case, should either one of you have to settle?
There appeared to be a telling bias on the part of the respondents who spoke of pickiness. Of those who said that men were in some way or other too picky, 86.11% were female. Now this statistic may seem more skewed than it really is. Remember that 63.6% of the total respondents were female. Still, those who saw the problem in men skewed very female. On the other side, while only 36.4% of the respondents were male, 41.67% of the respondents who saw this mistake in women were male. What that means is that being too picky, wanting perfection, having unrealistic expectations and the like were all mistakes made, as far as the majority was concerned, by the opposite sex.
With that in mind, I start to wonder whether people were really answering the question “what is the biggest mistake made by single Mormons?” or whether they were in fact identifying the thing other people need to change so they could stop being single. Whatever the case, I don’t think pickiness is always a mistake. Sometimes it’s just healthy self-preservation. I think the key is that it’s not a matter of being picky so much as a matter of being honest with oneself, and perhaps being clear on what really matters and what doesn’t.
A Few Honorable Mentions
There were a couple of responses that was not at all common, but I think ought to be mentioned here. The first may have been ignored for the most part by the respondents simply because it’s such a no-brainer.
Not Being Good
Two respondents mentioned personal righteousness. One single female suggested that one of the big mistakes made by single Mormon males was “not staying active and strong in church. (Priesthood holders are attractive.)” The other respondent, also a single woman, said the mistake was “creating addictions through lazy/bad choices: video games, gambling, pornography, alcohol, prescription drugs, illicit drugs. Addictions prevent emotional growth, self awareness and development of relationships.” I suppose my non-member friends might find this a bit ridiculous, but I think that if any single Mormon is in the grips of some form of sin, that is automatically the biggest mistake they are making. Not only will it affect their emotional growth, self-awareness and their capacity to develop relationships, but it will wreck their chances for happiness now and in the eternities. So perhaps it’s obvious, but it seems important enough that it ought to be mentioned.
Maybe We’re Not Doing Anything Wrong
In the way I introduced the original survey and phrased the question, I admit to manipulating my respondents to a certain degree. The questions I asked required that people come up with mistakes Mormon singles are making. A very few respondents saw my trap and avoided it. Their responses propose that perhaps we’re not really making any mistake at all, or if we are, then the only mistake is worrying that we are making a mistake.
In regards to men, a single woman said, “my general philosophy is the biggest mistake you can make is to worry that you will make a mistake. Single men (and women) seem to preoccupy their minds a lot with being afraid of making the mistake of marrying the wrong person. However, maybe that’s rightly so because we’ve all seen plenty of bad marriages where definitely, there were big, huge red flags of warning while dating that she was a pyscho-hose-beast.” She then continued in her section on women: “If I knew the BIGGEST mistake made by single Mormon women, I’d probably already be married. Maybe that’s it, there’s a tendency to think that it’s a ‘mistake’ to be single but I like to think that if I’m alone for a season, maybe there’s a good reason. Perhaps, our biggest mistake as men and women is just this propensity to believe if we are single or divorced we are living in a mistake rather than there’s a reason and purpose to what we’re experiencing in life. Maybe our biggest mistake is just that we only see our self worth through the acceptance of another person and not God’s declaration of our infinite worth.”
Another single woman seemed to have seen the same pattern when she said the biggest mistake for men was “obsessing over being single” while the biggest mistake for women was “feeling flawed for being single.”
A single male corroborated the thinking of these women and suggested some possible negative results: “I don’t know if there is a single biggest mistake made by either Mormon men or women, especially as this seems to imply that by being single we have done something wrong causing us to be somehow spiritually lacking compared to our married brothers and sisters. If there is a biggest mistake, I think it would be the lamenting of our single state and losing sight of our place in God’s kingdom both now and in the eternities just because we haven’t yet found a spouse. I have seen men & women both turn down good personal development opportunities and/or lose sight of the eternal plan by dating outside the church or going inactive because their singleness was ‘more than they could bear.’ Ten, twenty, thirty, or even a hundred years is but a brief moment compared to the eternities we stand to lose if we let our eternal focus hang on our marital status. We are one of the most blessed generations to have ever lived on the earth. We should act like it, single or not, married or not.”
And One Last Idea from the Peanut Gallery
I have a personal theory on what the biggest mistake made by single Mormons is. It’s far less concrete than hanging out or failing to ask girls out enough. It’s a bit more subconscious than pickiness, complacency, or having a negative attitude. It has to do with our motives. I think our biggest mistake is to make our dating decisions and goals based on a desire for validation.
What I mean by validation is ego food. We want to feel better about ourselves. A very obvious (and traditional) way to do that is to get someone to love us, or at least appear to want us. The desire for this ego food, I think, can blur our vision as we go looking for the person with whom we could really be happy.
It can manifest itself in all sorts of ways. For example, the stereotypical player gets a buzz to his pride every time he makes a new conquest. The problem is that he might enjoy that temporary high so much that he never involves himself deeply with anyone or seeks any sort of permanent relationship, because to do so would prevent him from moving on to the next buzz. I don’t imagine this example is all that common, as presumably to be successful as a player, one would have to be exceptionally attractive (and not just physically). In any case, the “grass is always greener” problem spoken of by the respondents could have its roots in this.
Perhaps a more common manifestation is the person who always has to be in a relationship because it makes them feel like a loser to be alone. I think there are people who end up dating someone exclusively, or calling themselves boyfriend and girlfriend who aren’t really all that “into” each other (or at least where one party is less into the other) who are like this. When I see a relationship that’s years old, but where at least one of the two people has no or very little intention of progressing on to marriage, my guess is that it’s because deep down one or both of them knows that they’re not really right for each other. I think people often linger in such relationships because even though they don’t really love the other person, they do still get some pleasure from the other person wanting (or appearing to want). Worse yet, perhaps all they get out of it is that they don’t have to undergo societal criticism for being single. Whatever the specific reasons, their being in a relationship for the sake of validation ties both people up. They’re not with the person they ought to be, and they’re not available to go looking for that person.
It’s not just the people who are achieving the pleasurable feedback for their ego who have this problem. Lots of us might be choosing to ask people out who are wrong for us simply so we don’t have to feel alone, or perhaps we’re accepting dates from people we don’t really like for the same reason. Perhaps we’re choosing potential partners more on pride than on what makes them good for us, and that’s where the notion of “dating out of your league” comes from.
Much of the emotional pain that goes with dating seems to be fed by this problem. I think quite often the pain of break ups or rejections comes from our hurt ego, or mistaken belief that it somehow refutes our self-worth, rather than from the disappointment and loss. The feeling that there is something wrong with us if we are single is fed by this belief that it somehow validates us when we are in a relationship. I think that a lot of the desperation, hopelessness, and resignation that we feel as singles comes from this desire for (and the lack of) validation.
Putting It All Together
I wonder what responses I would have gotten if I had asked different questions in this survey. Instead of asking for the biggest mistake made by single Mormons, what if I had asked for the biggest reason that single Mormons are still single? Perhaps the responses would have been about the same. But I think there might have been one more response that would have complimented the idea that single Mormons might not be doing anything wrong at all. I think many people would have said the reason the singles are still single is simply because it’s not the right time, or because they just haven’t yet met the right person.
I remember a meeting in the LA 1st singles ward years ago where the woman who was speaking asked the assembled members to raise their hand if they thought they were currently ready to be married. She was surprised to see that nearly everyone raised their hand. Those singles hadn’t yet achieved perfection, of course, but I really believe that each of them were being honest with themselves when they indicated they were personally ready. Perhaps they could have improved their chances of attracting that one right person by trying to fix some of the mistakes identified in this survey, but for the most part, I think for all of them it just wasn’t their time.
Nevertheless, here’s a break down of all the mistakes that the survey turned up in the order of how commonly they were given:
2. Not asking out enough
5. Looking too far ahead/reading too much in
6. Negative attitudes, vomplaining
8. Hanging out
9. Not having a life
10. Unclear signals
11. Too aggressive
12. Lacking confidence, Fear
13. Thinking you’re doing something wrong
14. Not picky enough
14. Moving too fast
16. Poorly behaved, don’t know how to date
17. Trying to change partner
17. Not listening/understanding
17. Being dowdy, shabby
21. Enabling Laziness
21. Trying to date out of one’s league
23. Falling for games
23. Getting to caught up in single life
23. Thinking other sex is desperate
23. Sins, not staying in church
23. Thinking a partner must be Mormon
23. Rationalizing bad relationships
30. Not accepting when asked out
30. Motivated by sex
30. Bailing out prematurely
30. Preconceived notions
30. Being indiscreet (gossip)
30. Missing clues
30. Not praying about it
30. Not wanting to get married
30. Not realizing how much work kids are
The most common bit of advice for singles arising from the survey seems to have been that we should be open-minded about who we date. If there is one thing that might be screwing up our chances of finding our special someone, it seems to be that our preconceived attitudes (pickiness, shallowness, unrealistic expectations) are blinding us from noticing them. On the other hand, I think that beating ourselves up and questioning ourselves and our self-worth because we’re single is just a needless exercise in self-torture. I think that we should be as wise as we can about our dating attitudes and motives, certainly. But in the end, I think that we really just haven’t met the right person, and it’s just not the right time. I conclude with this highly unscientific graph: