There’s this complicated thing called “dating.”
If you’re like me, you’ve had days where you wish it were nonexistent — like the time you stayed up late waiting for a text that never came, or when the first kiss went seriously wrong, or when you were so confused about whether or not you were willing to marry this person that you kind of just wanted to move to another country and start the whole process over again.
It’s on days like these that arranged marriage begins to look pretty appealing.
Wouldn’t it be great if God would send down an angel from heaven to tell you exactly who your significant other is, what type of personality he or she has, and what you need to do to find this person who is supposed to complete you and provide the rest of your life and for all eternity?
We wish… And then we think about it a little and realize that dating, even though it hasn’t been around forever, is actually a brilliant part of God’s plan. The type of dating that helps us best accomplish His purposes is called rotational dating.
Rotational dating is also referred to as non-exclusively dating. It means there is no boyfriend/girlfriend in the vocabulary. It allows us to get to know lots of people; it provides us with the kind of education and knowledge that you really can’t get any other way before getting to the engagement stage of the relationship.
There are a ton of reasons I could give for why rotational dating is the way to go, but I’d like to focus on the following three.
The Search for an Eternal Companion
Firstly, rotational dating is a great way to find an eternal companion. When we date several people simultaneously, we increase our chances of finding the best candidate for the position.
Take this bowl of candy for example. It’s okay to take a few seconds to admire the glittering goodness. Let your mouth water.
Now pretend that each candy in there is a person with a distinct personality, different hobbies, different hair color, different sense of humor, different parents, different smell, different style, different laugh . . . You get the idea. And unfortunately, it’s a super lame Halloween and you only get to choose one type of candy to fill your bag with this year. (Remember, we’re comparing this to marriage and that is a giant commitment).
Now you have a really important choice on your hands. To figure out which candy you want to overload on, you need to know which one you like the best, which one you never get sick of. How can you know that if you haven’t tried all of the candy in the bowl? We can be realistic and say that it’s impossible to date every kind of person and from there and light-years down the road, decide that option #22,519 is the best option; but we should also be realistic and agree that choosing to exclusively date one person for several months until it just stops “working” is going to limit us extremely when it comes to finding our favorite flavor.
Rotational dating allows us to figure out what we like, what kind of personality we enjoy being around, and also what kind of person inspires us to be the best possible version of ourselves. When we find that person, committing isn’t such a difficult decision and we can feel optimistic about an eternal future with this person because we made a wise choice based on experience and understanding.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gave a great talk on dating in 2005 as he spoke to young single adults at a fireside in Oakland California. He first redefines dating as “pairing off to experience the kind of one-on-one association and temporary commitment that can lead to marriage in some rare and treasured cases.” Here’s a small excerpt that you might find enlightening: “Simple and more frequent dates allow both men and women to ‘shop around’ in a way that allows extensive evaluation of the prospects.”
What does “shop around” mean?
He elaborates with this as he addresses the men: “Gather your courage and look for someone to pair off with. Start with a variety of dates with a variety of young women, and when that phase yields a good prospect, proceed to courtship. It’s marriage time. That is what the Lord intends for His young adult sons and daughters.” So before we get into a steady relationship, we should date a variety of individuals until “that phase yields a good prospect,” and then it’s okay to get into what we call an exclusive relationship.
Physical and Emotional Boundaries
Another marvelous thing about non-exclusively dating is that it keeps us from focusing all our emotional attention on one person and forces us, psychologically, to put reasonable limits on the kind of physical relationship we have with each of them. In other words, it prevents things from moving on too quickly with one (or more than one) individual–action that could lead to feelings of guilt and dislike.
A member of the Seventy, Bruce C. Hafen, stated in a BYU Fireside in 1983, “Be friends first and sweethearts second. Lowell Bennion once said that relationships between young men and young women should be built like a pyramid. The base of the pyramid is friendship.
And the ascending layers are built of things like time, understanding, respect, and restraint. Right at the top of the pyramid is a glittering little mystery called romance. And when weary travelers in the desert see that glitter on top of the pyramid from far off, they don’t see what underlies the jewel to give it such prominence and hold it so high.”
Third, dating is just fun! It’s a learning experience, and in dating and pairing off, there are small things we get to practice that can apply in a future marriage. We learn how to get along with others, how to be tolerant, patient, accepting, romantic, charitable, selfless, and honest. We learn how to balance our life and how to share our time and our talents. We can come to love and cherish the people we date.
Obviously, we can’t and shouldn’t marry every person we date, but considering the fact that we are all literally spiritual brothers and sisters, there’s no doubt that God wants us to arrive at a certain knowledge and love and understanding of the many family members that surround us.
I remember one guy I was friends with for a year and then semi-dated for a year and it never went anywhere, but we got to know each other so well! I consider him one of my best friends, and even though it’s been four years, we still talk on the phone every once in a while and catch each other up. A guy I’m currently dating is teaching me about how to better manage my time, how to show affection, how to just enjoy spending time together and how to be myself.
Now a disclaimer: you should have fun dating other people, but remember the words of President Spencer W. Kimball when he said, “A person generally marries someone from among those with whom he associates . . . Therefore, this warning comes with great emphasis. Do not take the chance of dating nonmembers, or members who are untrained and faithless. A girl may say, ‘Oh I do not intend to marry this person. It is just a “fun” date.’ But one cannot afford to take a chance on falling in love with someone who may never accept the gospel” (The Miracle of Forgiveness, 241-42). So date people who share your beliefs and your testimony. An eternal marriage is not something worth taking a great risk for because it means risking your exaltation.
This Is For You
It would be sad to live in a world full of wonderful people and never get to know them because you’re too caught up in looking for Mr. Perfect or Cinderella, with her petite foot fitting into a glamorous glass slipper; and then you realize how few Mr. Awesomes and Miss Adorables you really got to know because you thought dating was more like browsing through an expensive catalog than sampling at Costco.
To clarify, sampling does not mean that just because the food doesn’t wow you the first bite you won’t buy it or you won’t give it another bite, and it definitely doesn’t mean that you’re going to act like one of those nuts who goes to Costco just to try the samples. Freeloaders are not appreciated in the dating world.
It does mean that you establish real friendships and relationships with different types of people and keep in mind that eventually, you’ll have to make a decision based on potential, not perfection, and you need to keep in mind that it’s okay to try something, try something else and then go back later. And remember that unlike samples at Costco, people have feelings, and they’ll rightly expect you to respect those feelings.
So enjoy dating while it lasts. Keep in mind your eternal goals and allow yourself to open up and get to know different people before you take a relationship to the next level. I promise it’s worth it.
Here are some great articles you can read:
Bruce A. Chadwick “Hanging Out Hooking Up and Celestial Marriage”
Jeffrey R. Holland “Of Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments”
David Wygant “5 Reasons to Date Multiple Men at Once”
Katarina Phang “Why Rotational Dating Actually Heightens Your Attractiveness”
Sami Wonder “What Rotational Dating Is And What It’s Not“