Thanks, everyone, for participating in the survey. I have gone through your answers and tried to categorize them. I’m afraid this has been an unscientific and subjective process, but I think the list of most popular responses I’ve produced is generally accurate. Considering how many responses were given and how long the article was getting to write about them, I have created a top 10 list. This article will cover items 10-6 in the list, and 5-1 will come in a follow up. If you’re interested to read about the original survey or to see the actual questions, go here. And now, without further ado: to the results!
There were 88 respondents to the survey, with women, singles, and church members easily outnumbering males, married people, and non-members respectively. Here’s the chart:
The most interesting notable here, I think, is that women seemed so much more prone to answer a survey about what singles are doing wrong than men were. Whereas this phenomenon could be explained in numerous ways, I suspect it may have to do with the fact that women feel more powerless to control whether they get married. The cultural norm where men do the asking means that women just have to wait and hope. As a result, when given an opportunity to voice an opinion and perhaps effect changes in how people meet each other and pair off, it would stand to reason that women would be more likely to chime in. This might seem like the only way they can tell men in general what they need. More on that later. For now, let’s see what everyone had to say.
Top 10 Responses: Numbers 10 Through 6
And now what you’ve all been waiting for: direct from your peers, a list of the top ten things single Mormons are doing wrong.
10. Unclear Signals
8% of the respondents complained that Mormon singles are guilty of putting out unclear signals. The general opinion seems to be that this is a problem more for women, as 88% of these respondents attributed it to them. One single woman described it as “Saying yes when we mean no. Some women were raised with the notion that you cannot say no to a guy who asks you out. Women need to say no if they’re going to complain about it and stand the guy up later.” A single male seemed to echo her notion when he described it as “Saying words in between Yes and No.” Dating can be a bit of a minefield. These respondents seemed to want as clear a map as possible to navigate through it without embarrassing or badly hurting themselves.
On the other hand, some respondents saw dating as more of a treasure hunt than a mine field. They were less concerned about stepping on traps than they were about finding the gold. In any case, they still wanted clear instructions to find their way. One single male described it like this: “Not being direct with men- if they like a guy, they tend to play games. Flirt a little. Give them clear signals. It’s o.k.” A single woman said “Maybe it’s not being able to effectively communicate that they want to be asked out on dates. Maybe they need more tips like knowing when to touch a guy on the arm to signal interest, stuff like that.” Another single woman noted “I was never a very good flirt. I actually don’t know how to flirt and I don’t like playing games. I’ve discovered that all my married female friends seem to have this ability in spades.” I don’t know if she saw this as a deficiency for her or any other woman, but she had noticed that the women who had managed to marry seemed much better at flirting.
I think that this mistake was predominantly attributed to women because once again our culture requires the man to do the asking and the woman to do the waiting around and hoping. As such, women must be rather subtle in their attempts to gain desired male attention and to communicate their own interest.
A problem with the unclear signals concept is that it’s difficult to tell whether the signal is being muddied up by the broadcaster or the receiver. Three respondents to the survey thought that men were insufficiently sensitive or understanding. So whereas unclear signals may be a mistake made by some women, it’s possible that the real problem is poor reception by some men. Perhaps in the end this is just another way that we find the right match. Maybe some women broadcast on one frequency, and some on another, and the right man for each woman is the one who is tuned into her specific frequency.
9. Not Having a Life
9% of the respondents thought the biggest mistake made by Mormon singles was to wait to be married for their lives to begin. Of those who gave this answer, 87.5% said it was women’s biggest mistake, and 37.5% said it was men’s (and the reason those two figures add up to more than 100% is that 25% of the people giving this answer said it for both women and men).
One single woman described it simply as “not making efforts to keep advancing in life on their own.” A married woman spoke of education: “Too many (men) don’t focus on their education and don’t end up with decent jobs and then the wives end up paying for it later.” and “(Women think) that getting married is the end all thing. Focus on your education and don’t be petty and snotty about guys and girls in your ward. If you are doing what you should he will come along eventually and if he doesn’t, you will have the opportunity to be married in the next life.” I wasn’t surprised that the only person who mentioned the notion of being married in the next life was someone who has already done it in this one.
On the other hand, she wasn’t the only one to speak of men’s earning potential. In fact, everyone who ascribed this problem to men mentioned money. One single woman’s answer was identical for men and women at first: “Not living their life. Building a future for themselves whether or not they are married or as if they are married.” but then she added for men: “Pursuing a career that can support a family, buy a house etc.” Even a married man got in on it: “They need to man up in many things. Many women have mentioned that the guys aren’t moving forward with preparing for a wife and family. That is no great job, investments, too much debt, etc. Women want financial security in some form. A lot of LDS guys are still stuck in neutral in that area. A quote I hear recently was he is a great guy but he still lives with his parents and has had the same job for 10 years. When I inquired about the job, I was informed that he had never been promoted or received a good raise, it had been the same for 10 years. My younger sister is single in her mid 30’s and to hear the stories she tells about the guys in her area makes me crazy. They need a good kick in the rear.”
His was perhaps not the most sensitive response (I don’t know that the “kick in the rear” technique would be the best one to try in most situations), but he and the others did introduce a valid point. I know (and am one of) many men who feel a great deal of pressure as to how much they make. Indeed, we can get bitter about it, as it almost seems as if take home pay is for men what physical attractiveness is for women. We think the rich guys with the nice cars are getting all the girls.
But while it may be true that some women are shallow in their desire for physical comforts and the wealthy man who will provide them, I think there are some things to bear in mind. There is a difference between wanting a rich man and simply wanting a man who can provide financial security. Women in the church are asked to give up their careers once they are married, and stay at home to raise children. That means that the sort of life they end up leading, the location they live in, and the opportunities their children will enjoy depend in large part on the man’s ability to provide. So men: be sensitive to women’s need for financial security. Women: be sensitive to the amount of pressure men feel to provide that security (or to just be rich). Hopefully this sensitivity will keep the bitterness levels under control.
And in the meantime, be sure to keep developing yourself while you’re single. If you don’t, there’s this crazy married guy running around who will kick you in the rear.
8. Hanging Out
10% of the respondents agreed with Dallin H. Oaks’ June 2006 Ensign article entitled “Dating versus Hanging Out.” For the most part they blamed males for this phenomenon, as 90% of the time it was attributed to men. One married male pointed out the relationship between the hanging out specter and men’s propensity to be indirect: “(Men) are not direct enough. (Ex: ‘You wanna hang out sometime?’ vs. ‘Can I have your phone number? I would like to take you out sometime. How’s this weekend for you?’).”
Most all respondents noted that hanging out was a symptom of another problem: failing to ask girls out enough (there will be more on that later). Many mentioned the pesky practice of remaining in groups when one-on-one interaction should be the goal. One married female identified a possible consequence of hang-out-itis when she described it as “Not dating, just hanging out with groups and therefore putting off dating and either getting married really late or not at all.”
Interestingly, the group that identified hanging out as the biggest mistake skewed heavily towards the masculine. Whereas only 37% of the total respondents to the survey were male, nearly 56% of those who mentioned hanging out were male. This is especially interesting given that for the most part, they were calling out their own sex as the culprit.
So there you have it. Males see the problem and the solution is clear. Men, if you should find yourself accidentally hanging out, you must immediately ask the nearest woman out and leave the social gathering as quickly as possible with her. If you don’t, you risk never being married, or at least you risk making it so the women are never married.
10% of the respondents chose being desperate as the biggest mistake made by Mormon singles. This mistake was ascribed to women far more than men in a 90%-10% split. Interestingly, 90% of the respondents who chose this answer were female themselves, suggesting this is a problem that women often see in themselves.
The standard answer here went something like this one: “Being too desperate. Focusing all their attention on trying to get married.” A couple of girls noted the relationship between desperation and “chasing men.” One single female advised “Don’t chase men, don’t cook for men, don’t stab girls in the back to get a man.” Another single female said of being outgoing “outgoing is different than overtly available *read* the girls who throw themselves at guys who are blatantly husband hunting and doing whatever they can to be noticed. Don’t be desperate.” Though he didn’t connect it with desperation, one single male seemed very set against the idea of an aggressive woman. He said women’s biggest mistake was “Being forward. Asking guys out on dates…. big no, no.”
While many called desperation the biggest mistake a single Mormon makes, few explained what exactly was so bad about it. One married woman did say of “smelling desperate” that “men would agree that’s a huge turn-off,” but that’s only a consequence of appearing desperate, not of the desperation itself. One sage single female had this insight: “(Women) try too hard to get the guy they like to like them in return. They put way too much time and energy into trying to manipulate a relationship and what it comes down to is that he is just not that into you.”
I think that the problem with desperation is that it muddies or outright replaces one’s original goal. I think getting married is just one part of a larger goal: that of attaining lasting, eternal happiness. Out of desperation, one might make poor choices that increase his or her chances of being married, but decrease his or her chances for happiness.
For example, those suffering from desperation might go out with people who are not really right for them, or people who are plain bad for them. They might attempt to change themselves in some personally detrimental way in order to match the desires of an intended mate. Conversely, they might try to change the intended mate to match their own dreams and desires.
If the opposite sex indeed “smells” desperation, it must mean that they can tell that the desperate person is making those poor choices. They probably avoid the person to avoid the emotional havoc that such choices could produce.
I think the way to escape the pitfall of desperation is rather simple, if not particularly easy: reality checks. If you get an itch in your mind that makes you think you might be getting desperate, you have to have a long hard look at what your goals are and whether what you’re doing will really lead to their fulfillment. If no, you have be ready to swallow the disappointment and move on. Like I said: simple, but not particularly easy.
6. Negative Attitudes, Complaining
11.3% of the respondents saw complaining and negative attitudes as the biggest mistake made by single Mormons. This was another of the mistakes generally ascribed to females, as 100% of those who pointed it out saw it as a problem for that sex, while only one of the respondents mentioned it as a problem for males.
From the responses, there seemed to be spectrum of different kinds of complaining that respondents identified. Being generally negative was summed up by one married male like this: “Complaining. No one wants to marry a complainer.” A married female advised, “Lose the bitter, sarcastic attitude.” One single female described it as a negative attitude about something particular: “Being bitter about not being married.”
Several respondents saw the problem as complaining specifically about males. The married woman who spoke of “smelling desperate” (see previous section) added complaints to her list of turn-offs: “That includes complaining to men about being single and feeling unattractive and unwanted, and coming off as a sour-grapes kind of man-hater.” A single female suggested a solution when she described it thus: “’Men-bashing’ with all their other single girl-friends. Women should celebrate all the great things that men are…you attract what you put out there into the universe.” One single male may have revealed how sensitive men are to this problem when he described it this way: “Complaining!!! It may be true that the ‘guys don’t ask girls out’, but whining about it won’t help matters either.”
Men were indeed more sensitive to this problem than they were, for example, to desperation. 40% of the respondents who identified it were male and 60% were female. Remember that only 36.4% of the total respondents to the survey were male, and 40 is more than 36.4, so that means that those giving this answer actually skewed slightly towards the masculine.
Where We Stand So Far
Most of the items in the bottom half of the top ten biggest mistakes made by Mormon singles were attributed to women. But worry you not, ladies, the men’s comeuppance is coming up. It appears that women were generally on the same page over what men were doing wrong, and since so many more women than men responded to the survey, responses about male mistakes were far more popular than the ones about females. Click here for the second half of the article covering the top 5 biggest mistakes made by single Mormons.