Serial dating is the new monogamy

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Blonde hair, blue eyes, attractive, successful, Clint Pulver is missing nothing in his life. The 29-year-old is the perfect example of an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The motivational speaker and role model for youth is sitting in a tiny plane he is controlling. Next to him sits a beautiful woman named Karlie. They are flying over the canyons of Provo, Utah, exchanging glances and talking about each other. He lets her fly the plane; the atmosphere is romantic. But not romantic enough. In three days, there will be a new girl sitting in the seat next to Clint.
Pulver is still searching for the perfect match. He is dating two to three women a week. “I love dating. It´s fun to get to know new people,“ he says. But the purpose of dating is a different one. “You marry who you date. I look for somebody who shines, a girl who knows what she wants. I am not picky, I do not request anything of anybody that I do not ask of myself. I know what moves me in my life.” Marriage is the goal of any member of LDS Church. “In the family, there is no bigger, better, best. Just together,” says Pulver. For him, family is the center of the gospel. Family is his goal, and it includes marrying the perfect woman. But where to find her? How to find the one that fulfills all the expectations of a man who succeeds in everything he starts? Maybe a man who will belong to those 19 percent of Members of the LDS church in 2014 who never marry.  Clint found the solutions: Dating multiple women a week to increase the chances of finding the right one.
“Multiple dating does just not seem right to me,” says Trevor Frazier who is not an active member of the LDS church anymore. “You can never be 100 percent sure, if they want to continue dating or move on to date another one.” The 20-year-old does not date girls from the LDS church. “I feel like most of them go to school, wait for some missionary to come back, date for a few months and marry him.” According to the Religious Landscape Study, 21 percent of adults who were raised LDS leave the church. “I still go to church sometimes. I just feel like I don’t fit in that picture,” says Frazier.
The solar power designer thinks that the LDS church is very strict and puts a lot of pressure on young members to get married. “When I was 18 I broke the law of chastity,” says Frazier. “For months, I felt guilty, and what scared me the most, the girl I had sex with wanted to confess. I was so afraid of disappointing my parents.” He says he has never told his parents or his ward bishop.
Steve Goodwin is the bishop of the 38th Ward in Orem, Utah. “Some people make bad decisions and want to move forward. I am a father figure for those,” said Goodwin. Even though the law of chastity is important for the LDS church, Goodwin would never judge a member who broke the rule.  “We can always figure it out together,” says Goodwin. “The most important thing is repentance.” He knows that it is not easy for young members to wait until marriage to have sex. “Still, it is important, because sex creates life and the core of life is family.”
One result of this creation of life is named Olivia. She is only four weeks old, the child of Brigham and Tiffani Berthold, both 29. They had the classic romance story: dating for six months, engaged for 10 months, and now married for four years. But marrying at 25 is not the normal case for members of LDS church. “We value family very highly. Anyhow, people here get married too early. They don’t know how to be in a relationship and how to handle conflicts,” says Brigham, the proud father. Tiffani agrees: “It is more important that life happens first. Everybody feels confident when they are in love, but maturity is important!” “Utah is a great place to raise children, but it is a bubble,” says Brigham. “People are born and raised here by people who were born and raised here and they are taught by people who were born and raised here. We want to get out of this to get other experiences, even though it is hard.“
Bishop Goodwin disagrees: “This will surprise you. I´d say 21 or 22 is the perfect age to get married. I think when we grow up, we become more selfish in terms of education and accumulation. We want a nice place to live and good education. That´s what we think as adults.” The U.S. Census Bureau lists Utah as the state with the lowest teen pregnancy rate and lowest abortion rate. Women in Utah give birth to an average of 2.3 children, the national average is 1.8.
Britnee Bromley-Nuehring, 24, has been married for three years and expects her first child in early December. The blonde public relations senior at Utah Valley University does not regret her early marriage, but it took her some time to find the right man. “I did multiple dating. It is good in the beginning to get to know people. But at some point, you need to focus and find out what that person is to you.” With 15 million members of LDS church worldwide, of which almost an eighth lives in Utah, it was never necessary for Britnee to look outside the bubble for the perfect future husband. “Here in Utah, I have so many great choices, so why should I date someone outside the LDS church? I could not imagine someone from the outside anyway, because for us getting sealed in the temple, to be with our family and your husband forever, is so important.”
“I believe we can find love with more than one person,” says Bishop Goodwin. “It is a myth in LDS that there is a soulmate. Love is hard and difficult, but it is a journey that has to be done.”
Bromley-Nuehring thinks the LDS church puts pressure on youth to find the right match as soon as possible. “It plays a big role; you are encouraged to start dating at a certain age. I had a great, positive experience with it. Because of the culture, most people are ready and excited for the next step. I think that is why people get married so fast.”
“If I had to do it all over again, I would probably marry in the age between 26 and 29,” says Stefan Gardener. The 29-year-old got divorced last summer. “I did not want to get divorced, but after three months of praying and talking to my family, my ex-wife and I did not see another way,” says Stefan. The salesman stares at his hands as he speaks, uncomfortable discussing his divorce. “I had an addiction and I made some stupid choices.”
The LDS church discourages divorce, however, the church expresses acceptance to divorce in some cases. One of them is addiction. “The problem is not the governmental divorce, but the temple divorce. It goes through the leadership in Salt Lake City and they have to approve it,” said Bishop Goodwin. “We believe that marriage is going to last for eternity, so it should be the last resort,” he adds. Stefan’s temple divorce proceedings started only a few weeks ago.
Census data show that in Utah 40 to 50 percent of all first marriages will end in a divorce or permanent separation. The rate is slightly higher than the average in the United States. However, Alan Hawkins, a family studies professor at Brigham Young University presumes it is even higher: “Utah residents get married earlier than the rest of the nation. Because of that, it has a slew of young divorcees, who are then far more likely to remarry than someone whose marriage falls apart later in life.” I want to marry again. I need someone I can start fresh with,” says Gardner. “My mom says, I should date more. She already has 25 grandchildren from my seven siblings, but she wants more.”
Even though Stefan feels a little pressured, he does not want to rush into something. “People move too fast. My ex-wife and I had been dating for six months before we got married. It was not enough time to build trust.” He folds his hands. “I do not think that I will do multiple dating. People get exhausted. They get so picky that they can’t make a commitment. Instead of establishing an emotional connection, they keep looking for something better. I feel like, for some people, the grass is never going to be green enough.”