Confession: I have been on more dates with guys in my wards than I could ever count. I confess it not to gloat or complain but to prove a point. I’ve dated long-distance style, and I’ve dated across-the-street style. I’ve noticed that for many, dating within the ward means unwanted gossip and ruined chances for later happiness—"peeing in the pool," as they call it. Then again, there are many intra-ward happily ever after stories . . . just not mine.
From these experiences and observations, I have concluded this: If you think the relationship will have short shelf-life or be too dramatic for the ward, date someone who lives in a land far, far away, because the road to being friends after an intra-ward break-up is sure to be a rocky one.
If the heartache doesn’t get you, I promise that the awkward stares will.
From first-hand experience, I know that it is a thousand times easier to get over someone who doesn’t live down the road, attend my Sunday School class, or pass me the Sacrament. When such a person leaves my life, it’s as if they never existed. If you end things with someone who lives in another ward or even another stake, then count your many blessings because you just won the break-up lottery.
Of course, there are distinct benefits of dating someone in the ward as well. It’s obviously easier to get to know people in our wards and therefore date them because we see them all the time. We have mutual friends and enjoy ward activities together. We can even see their level of commitment to the Church when we hear them speak up in our weekly meetings. I always knew that I would see guys that I had been out with at home evening, ward prayer, and sometimes in ward council. It was a good chance for us to get to know each other under less formal circumstances.
But all of those benefits quickly turn into stumbling blocks if we’re trying to move on with our post-break-up life. Our relationship had a beginning, a middle, and an end. And suddenly the things we loved about our ward are sources of anxiety because our ex might be there: at home evening, at ward prayer, in ward council. And then of course, there are those concerned ward members who notice that you and a certain someone aren’t sitting together anymore. Oh dear. How tragic.
Since when did the best place for singles to meet turn into the worst place for exes to get over one another?
Lest you think this a bitter diatribe against intra-ward dating, I have one more confession: Despite how difficult it was for my ex and me to become friends again, I tell you that it can be done. Ours is a success story, but it was riddled with many awkward moments. Until you sit down with them and discuss how you want to proceed as friends, it just won’t happen. Determining the friendship may be just as important as determining the relationship.
So as you scan your ward for possible dates, keep in mind that the easiest road might not always be the best road. Don’t head down it unless you know that if it ends, you and your ex will be ready to take on the challenge of being friends—awkward hugs included.