Choose Your Love, Love your Choice; No Matter The Result

ChristWalkingOnWater

Recently, I was asked to be one of the men “The Bachelorette” gets to choose from this upcoming spring 2015 season. While I was flattered, I didn’t exactly see myself finding love through reality TV and I chose to decline last minute. It has, however, been a cool experience getting to know the casting process over the past 6 months. Their questions made me reflect on how fortunate I am to know what it takes to find love. I’ve learned through trial and error what works.

A recent report said that over 70,000 LDS young single adults (ages 24-35) slipped out of church activity in 2014. Many reported they left for feelings of loneliness and depression. I see thousands of frustrated singles of all beliefs in my travels and I’ve gathered that many don’t know how to progress a relationship. Some seem distracted by the plethora of options, careers, and hobbies. Others feel hopeless as the gray hairs creep in or fall out, without caress. A common theme I see is the Fear of making the wrong choice. The following is a formula to help dissipate those Fears using Agency, Faith, and Prayer.

Choose your Love; Love your Choice.” Words that sunk deep into my heart when I heard LDS President Thomas S. Monson say them in the April 2011 Priesthood session. I recommend listening to his advice before proceeding (8:43 to the end he addresses Singles specifically).

 

 

As a 20-something LDS guy, who has paid for that first date hundreds of times, had a handful of girlfriends, been engaged once, and even been married, ending in agreement to annul; my experience has allowed me to understand what it takes to get married. Simply put, what it takes is Faith in Choice or Agency, the greatest gift Heavenly Father has given us. In fine, if you’re worried about choosing the wrong person, you’re focused on the wrong thing. The right choice is to MAKE A CHOICE. The wrong choice is to sit by and let opportunities to love and grow pass you by.

Here is my Guide to Making Marriage Happen:

  1. Make a list of people you’re interested in. Prayerfully whittle the list down to one.
  2. Go to the Lord with a Choice of one you’ve chosen to date: Humbly ask “Father, I choose this person! I love this Choice. Please help me take this relationship as far as I can. I won’t quit until it isn’t the best choice if it be Thy will.” Pay attention to your feelings and listen for approval.
  3. Trust Him that He will stop something before it goes too far if it isn’t what is best for you both.
  4. Take action! Get the number, ask them out, be creative, have an open heart. Love fully!
  5. Don’t give up. Unless you get a “No,” trust in your agency. If it is to end, make sure it isn’t you going back on your choice. Take it as far down the road as you can.

Here’s how that formula has blessed my life, or essentially my love-life in a nutshell. It has proven to bring me happiness and many great, healthy friendships and relationships with members of the opposite sex over the years:

While preparing to finish my mission in Brazil, I was weighing out going to SUU or BYU at the beginning of 2008. I prayed about SUU (where my best dating option at the time was in school) and didn’t feel good about it. I then prayed about BYU and got a “Yes” answer. Obviously, returned missionaries are focused on getting married the second they touch down so it was a faithful leap to follow that “Yes” away from the girl. I started classes at BYU and tried to maintain a long distance relationship with that girl of my choice. After a couple of months I went to the temple about her and I certainly got a “Yes” that I could marry her and be happy.

However, SHE chose to end things just weeks after that revelation at the tail end of a wonderful night. I was puzzled! How in the world?! THE LORD SAID YES TO ME! I spent the next few months trying to figure out how to maybe impress her into getting back with me or whatever but she was on a whole different level than I was. She went on to marry a guy at SUU and has achieved a beautiful young family.

Broken hearted, I tried my best to get those butterflies with other girls. It took a while before I felt anything, and I broke some hearts along the way myself. There were certainly great options, and I definitely passed up on some absolute gems. I helped 3 of those gems go on missions, rather than pursuing something serious with them. Almost selfishly, I wanted time to heal, rather than diving in on that “choice” again. I was afraid to be vulnerable.

Then there was the night I met my ex-whatever-we-aren’t (annulments are a strange anomaly where there needs to be a word between ex-fiancé and ex-wife/hubby created to define it). Finally I felt butterflies again, but chickened out on getting her number. In fact, it took me TWO YEARS to get up the courage to ask for her number.

During those two years, she had moved away to Arizona and only become more beautiful, which I witnessed over Facebook as my roommates and friends of the time can attest. I continued to date around, kisses and mistakes a plenty. Again I passed on numerous opportunities “waiting for the right person” or “waiting for the right timing.” What I now realize is that had I “Chosen” any one of those girls, I would have been just as happy. Let me explain:

2011: President Monson’s advice above, “Choose your Love, Love your Choice.” I became determined to make a list of “Choices” and to go to the Lord with the name of ONE who I would faithfully pursue as far as it could go. I assembled quite the roster of prospects that year, each of whom is now happily married to another lucky guy! September came, and to my surprise Arizona girl moved back just a few buildings away from my Belmont apartment. I was much more mature and courageous, however I still felt she was out of my league. I certainly inserted her into the top of my list. We played the “Facebook Like” dance and played the “Oh hey” game at social events for the next couple of months.

Then it hit me. Man Up! It’s time to “CHOOSE!” I took a good hard look at my options and determined, without even going on a first date with her yet, that I would go to the Lord and ask him to help me make it happen.

“Father, I choose her! I love this choice. Please help me take this relationship as far as I can. I won’t quit until it isn’t the best choice for us if it be Thy will.”

With His approval of my righteous desire, I had confidence that I could “Do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me.” It turns out, she was having similar prayers at the time. She had recently experienced heartbreak of her own and was asking for divine guidance. She was blessed with a vivid dream during a Falltime Sunday nap at her parent’s house and saw my face. She woke up, definitively told her parents she was going to find me, and we locked eyes at a dessert party that night. It was amazing how quickly things progressed from there! We both had a certain confidence about us, because we were following God’s advice and had Chosen to follow it. I finally manned up and asked her out around Thanksgiving and we dated all of December. I quickly gained parental favor by being there to help her move in the snow (think Ammon and Lamoni). To that point, it was the best first 5 dates of my life, best first kiss of my life; it all seemed so magical!

Just as all couples do, we had our first tests. She had options and things she wanted to do before getting serious and seemed to lose interest. In the meantime, I kept dating around but I was determined to make it work and waited that month out. Enter February, the time for both of us! We both felt it. I was “the best friend [she’d] ever had” (her words). She was all I’d ever wanted. The marriage discussion came soon and I went to the temple, again. Instead of a “Yes” the Lord gave me a “Keep Going” answer. Remember, I had ALREADY made a choice and He had ALREADY signed off on that before my first date with her. I was my Bishop’s executive secretary at the time and he guided me to where I needed to be personally to prepare for marriage. My stake president, a longtime friend of her dad, offered his blessing, gave me specific guidance and challenged me to bless that family’s life with my faith.

I did just that! Full of excitement, we were engaged, married and sealed just 6 months after our first date. The highest honor of my life was kneeling across the altar and pledging my forever to my best friend. That was a very emotional day! I blubbered like a baby through the entire ceremony. She and the members of her family who attended were probably thinking “This dude is a wreck!” After the ceremony I went into the dressing room, knelt down and felt the most surreal hug as I gave thanks to God for blessing me with my choice. He was proud of me! “You did it!” I heard Him say. It all started with that CHOICE.

Believe it or not, I loved being married! To that point, I had never been happier in my life. There’s a certain peace that comes to your mind as you make a home with someone else. The advantage of being sealed in the temple is that you can envision the eternities with your spouse. I was very proud to have a wife and very proud of her work, her job, her family, her interests. For proof, ask me about peonies and designer brands like Kate Spade or Tory Burch. I was extremely motivated in ways that I’d never felt before. I’d say 95% of the time was enjoyable, the other 5% was work. That’s just how life is! I echo Elder Scott’s sentiments on marriage (click for the full discourse, its worth it!):

“It is so rewarding to be married. Marriage is wonderful. In time you begin to think alike and have the same ideas and impressions. You have times when you are extremely happy, times of testing, and times of trial, but the Lord guides you through all of those growth experiences together.”

Like every newlywed couple, she and I had our eye-opening differences. Nothing was irreconcilable but it wasn’t long before we each realized we hadn’t married into what we had hoped. Our goals were universes apart which numbered our days; the marriage didn’t last long. No matter how much I desired to do so and tried, expectations went unfulfilled and her agency led her to want a different life than I could offer her. I would have done anything to “Keep Going” but just like that first girl from when I came home from my mission, I had learned to respect Agency. Abruptly, that cold, dark winter night we agreed to part ways and to be friendly, knowing we would be going back to the same group of mutual single friends as before. I helped her to her car with her things and with tears in our eyes we hugged for the last time, and said our final goodbyes, agreeing that we would work together to get things annulled. After all, she was my best friend! She drove away and strangely enough I felt a weight lift off of my shoulders. I still did my best to hold to my marriage covenant with her until everything was finalized. I had Chosen My Love, and Loved My Choice… all the way to the end of that relationship. Although truly heartbroken, I was noticeably optimistic about it because I understood the power of Choice!

As a former husband (my best definition of “annulee”), I get asked questions all the time:
“So do you feel like you married the wrong person?”
“Do you hate her?”
“What went wrong?”
“What’s the real story?”
“Are the rumors true?” (I’ve heard everything under the sun about us both, “NO!” They’re not!)

The fact of the matter is that I married the person I CHOSE. I made the right choice, TO CHOOSE!
I love that CHOICE and I still cherish the fact that we, together, had the courage to make that jump! To be honest I’ll never stop loving that former best friend and hoping the best for her and those around her. A Breakup is not a failure. A Breakup proves that you have Hope and Courage. It proves you know how to be Open, Vulnerable and how to Love someone else. It proves you have the guts to care for someone else no matter the circumstance. It means you’ve learned Patience and Charity for someone else in their weakness, and you’re Humble, Meek, and Willing to Work to perfect your own weaknesses. All those capitalized words above are Beattitudes, not vices.

To paraphrase the late inspirational ESPN anchor Stuart Scott:

“When you die, it doesn’t mean you lose… You [win] by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live. So live! Live! Fight like hell!”

I would say the same of Love. When it ends, you have not lost. If your heart aches, you know that the love was real. If you loved fully, made someone else your “why”, gave everything you had to make them happy and lived to ensure their comfort, then you can go to bed at night, rest assured, that you gave it everything you had. The last 2 years, as those around me have noticed, I’ve had no trouble sleeping at night. “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” as the saying goes.

The end of a relationship doesn’t have to be ugly. In fact, it can open new doors to greater opportunities! I’ve been able to maintain close friendships with almost everyone I’ve ever courted AND their families AND their friends. I believe in Strength of Schedule, like in college football. If my exes are dating great guys, they are making me look great! I hope everyone I’ve been close with is better for it and that they are able to make positive choices and remain faithful. My cousin divorced one of my best friends and they are still close friends. It is a beautiful thing to see two people who love beyond their pride. It has made things easier for everyone around them. They realize they’re best as friends and support each other in their endeavors to remarry, rather than tear each other down and spread falsehoods about each other with the small-minded perspective that if an ex-lover is a failure, they’re somehow vindicated; exonerated from blame. But why blame? Absolutely, the relationships and experiences I’ve gained since my annulment are some of the most cherished of my life. I could never question God’s purpose for me being single again. I’ve been too blessed with too many new friendships and opportunities to “blame.”

I have to chuckle when people who have never tried or been through the above complain, judge, spread rumors, or look down on those who have stepped up to the plate and become vulnerable. I feel like Robin William’s character Sean McGwire in Good Will Hunting at those times (End it at 3:03, language warning after that).

 

 

So with all that explanation, here’s the Guide to Making Marriage Happen, again:

  1. Make a list of people you’re interested in. Prayerfully whittle the list down to one.
  2. Go to the Lord with a Choice of one you’ve chosen to date: Humbly ask “Father, I choose this person! I love this Choice. Please help me take this relationship as far as I can. I won’t quit until it isn’t the best choice if it be Thy will.” Pay attention to your feelings and listen for approval.
  3. Trust Him that He will stop something before it goes too far if it isn’t what is best for you both.
  4. Take action! Get the number, ask them out, be creative, have an open heart. Love fully!
  5. Don’t give up. Unless you get a “No,” trust in your agency. If it is to end, make sure it isn’t you going back on your choice. Take it as far down the road as you can.

I promise that this process yields results. Whether it simply ends after your first date (as it most often does), or things end just before your attempts to have kids (like me), or you end up with kids and things end years into the marriage (wow, that must be hard), or of course you’ve found the Happy Ever After that we all desire; there are blessings to be had along the way if you will simply Choose your Love, and Love your Choice.

 

 


 

Original Article can be read HERE! (Reprinted with author’s permission.)

 

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