The dating game within the Mormon culture can seem a bit broken at times. The guy is supposed to ask the girl, but the guy doesn’t ask at all. The girl is supposed to remain calm and unassuming when asked, but the girl is so rarely asked that she automatically jumps to the conclusion that the guy must REALLY be interested. Which in turn keeps the guy from asking out any other girl for fear that by doing so his simple invitation to get ice cream will be misinterpreted as a marriage proposal. Its a vicious cycle that can be easily avoided by understanding the 5 Stages of Dating. Yes. Five. Can you guess what they are?
Stage 1: Hanging Out
LDS singles have this concept down cold. This is the phase where you get together in large or small groups of both males and females, and you casually get to know people. In this stage you may not have any real ties to anyone (except for maybe your “wing-man”) and so you look to see if there is anyone who seems to have that certain charisma you’ve been looking for that you can add to your list of “potentials”.
Stage 2: Dating
Now this is the phase where the dating game becomes broken, because it is so easily misunderstood…or forgotten altogether. Dating is the stage where you review your list of “potentials” that you made from the hangout phase and you go with one person off that list to breakfast in the morning and then perhaps, you accompany a different “potential” out to dinner the next night. Some may call that being a “player”, a term that has such a negative connotation to it; defining someone as callous and insensitive to the feelings of others, and purely in the dating game for their own selfish purposes. But, if you think about it, aren’t we all in the dating game for “selfish” purposes. The ultimate goal is to find someone to call our own, right? While in the dating stage being a “player” in the game is exactly what you want to be! Dating is the phase where you pair off and get to know someone better one-on-one. When you’re dating your commitment to a person lasts for the duration of the date, and as soon as you’ve both gone your separate ways at the doorstep, that commitment is void until plans for a future date have been made. There is no reason to define the relationship in the beginning of the dating phase. There technically isn’t a relationship to define at this point. Just relax, and let things happen. There is also no need to be offended if you see your morning date on a date with someone else later that night. And there is no reason to feel guilty if your morning date sees you out with someone else at dinner either. You are DATING, you are doing exactly what you should be doing. Dating is supposed to be fun and varied, because the whole point is to narrow down your potentials.
(The physical aspects of dating can complicate this, but that’s a conversation for another time. Mind your manners, people. Mind your manners. If you do, you shouldn’t have a problem.)
Stage 3: Courtship
It may seem a little old fashioned, but courting is, in fact, still a thing. The problem is that it gets confused with dating. Because people call courting “dating” which is why the dating phase gets
forgotten. Courting is NOT dating. Courting is two people who have agreed to date exclusively so that they can get to know one another on a deeper level. This is the part of the game where you really start to invest quality time and sincere effort to see if this person is someone you are truly compatible with. If you find they aren’t, please refer back to Stage 1. But if you find yourself wanting to use the “L” word frequently and they are reciprocating that love, then you will find yourself progressing to Stage 4.
Stage 4: Engagement
You put a ring on it, congratulations! This is the stage where you have committed to see if this can last for eternity. This phase is where you get down to the nitty-gritty, you ask the tough questions and you answer even tougher questions. You see if you can love them for who they really are and they see if they can handle you through all the good, the bad, and the ugly. However, If you find that there are some crucial things missing in your relationship, you can still revert back to Stage 1, even if the invitations are out. It may be a tad embarrassing, there may be a lost deposit or two, there may even be some hard conversations to have, but engagement is not a binding contract of forever, and therefore, if needs be, you can still call it off. Engagement is the like the final leg of the dating game, if there is a reason you shouldn’t cross the finish line, don’t. It’s okay. It’s all part of the game. On the other hand, if everything is coming up daisies, and your love has gone beyond just mere twitterpation, and the road ahead of you looks like the best life you could possibly imagine…You graduate to Stage 5.
Stage 5: Marriage
Stage 5 is the highest level of commitment; his and her towels, joint bank accounts, and happily ever afters. Where you have promised everything to your spouse and to God. All the other stages lead up to this. You have gotten to know a lot of different people. You’ve seen what is out there and you are confident in the choice you have made! You have conquered the dating game and you have found someone to call yours forever, and ever, and no matter what. Marriage is a beautiful thing, and although it can be incredibly scary while you’re in the dating phase, (because you aren’t ready to get married in the dating phase) by the time you’ve gone through courting and engagement it should be one of the easiest decisions you will ever make! It will make you feel complete and euphorically happy.
The very nature of dating makes it a rough sport. It can have you feeling like you’re walking on air one minute, and the next you will be in the depths of despair. Sometimes you may take a few hits to the head, and other times you’ll be the MVP. Someone once said “Wear a helmet.” when referring to the dating game. That is sound advice.
The truth is, dating doesn’t have to be as hard as we make it out to be. If you play the game the way it’s meant to be played, it can be quite fun, and you might eventually win! Don’t go straight from hanging out to engagement. It doesn’t work that way, and you can’t expect it to. Remember the stages, and implement them into your game plan. By the time you hit Stage 5 it will be all worth it. Promise.
Kandace Hatch is a snake person with over 8 years experience in the Mormon dating game before her game ended in 2009 when she married her wonderful husband, Chad. They now have two beautiful children and while she sometimes contemplates eating her young they bring her the most joy and fulfillment she could imagine. Yes, you could say that the family life suits her just fine and she is a firm believer that it suits everyone else as well.