Readers’ Forum: Limitations of BYU dating culture

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My running class ended, and my classmates and I grabbed our backpacks and headed for the door. Energized after the day’s workout, I decided to strike up a conversation with one of the guys who had been running with me. After exchanging pleasantries, I dared to ask what he was studying.

“Well, my wife and I . . .”

Most of us have probably had a conversation like this, where a casual get-to-know-you turns into “back off — I’m in a relationship.” For some reason, BYU dating culture has taught us to see flirtation behind every question and romantic intentions behind every kind gesture. Apart from being unhealthy, this dating culture blocks us from valuable opportunities for friendships.

When I was a kid, my church class consisted of myself and 11 boys. These boys pulled me out of my shell, and I valued the energy I felt when spending time with them. At school, I incorporated girls into my group of friends because I also valued the conversations we had together. This group of friends taught me that different genders often have diverse and complementary perspectives that make life interesting and enjoyable, and this motivated me to always seek out friends from both genders throughout the rest of my schooling.

When I got to BYU, however, the dating culture made it nearly impossible to find a good guy friend without him thinking I wanted to date him. I am not against dating; dating is fun and good! The Church encourages young adults to seek out a spouse and continue on the covenant path, so it makes sense that BYU students want to search for their eternal companions while surrounded by others who share their faith. But there is also value in having good friends without the expectation of marriage, and we are limiting ourselves if we only ever perceive friendliness as romantic interest from a portion of the campus population.

As we continue our studies at BYU, let’s not let marriage goggles blind us to opportunities for solid friendships with people on campus, no matter their gender.

Kelsie Westphal
Eagle Mountain, Utah

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