It’s time to talk about one of the most frightening, intimidating experiences every returned missionary will have to go through. In spite of two years of intense spiritual and emotional growth, it seems there is little that can adequately prepare you for this: the return to the dating game.
During your two years or eighteen months of missionary service, you are trained to be very formal and careful regarding your interactions with the opposite sex. No physical contact beyond a handshake, and always with your companion safely at your side. Now, in your final interview with your mission president, he has challenged you to start going on dates and find a spouse — and this time you won’t have your companion to help you.
So what are you going to do? If you’re like me, you’ll probably want to wait at least a few weeks after you get home before going out with someone, just so you can already be somewhat adjusted to “normal” life when you go on a date. But, of course, there are so many dilemmas in dating. It can be stressful. It can be absolutely horrifying. But these tips should hopefully make it at least a little easier.
Remember the skills you learned on your mission. While you are probably not going to be applying your teaching skills on your date, there are plenty of other valuable abilities that you developed while serving as a missionary. Think of the friendships and connections you were able to cultivate on your mission. You know how to talk to people and get to know them, and this works for dating as well! As a missionary, you talked to total strangers every day and learned how to form lasting friendships with mission companions, members, and the people you taught and served. These experiences can help give you confidence as you get to know a variety of people in different social situations.
Choose simple dates that allow you to get to know the person. You don’t need to do an elaborate, expensive activity to impress your dates. The best dates I’ve had are the ones that allowed me to talk to the person I was with and really get to know her. These dates can be as simple as doing a picnic lunch, going out for ice cream, building and racing tinfoil boats down a creek, or going on a hike. None of these dates cost very much, but they were fun and helped me get to know the person better. And if you are still struggling on coming up with ideas, ask around! Many of the best date ideas I’ve had have come from friends or roommates.
Be yourself! While it seems simple enough, oftentimes in dating it seems we try to be something we’re not in order to impress a particular girl (or guy). But it’s so much better to be true to who you really are. And being yourself will make it easier to find the right people to date as well. It’s also important to remember that your date wants to get to know you better too while on your date. One problem that many RMs have is that they get nervous on a date and default to only talking about their mission. While your mission is an extremely important part of your life, there is still more to who you are than your mission experience. Talk about what your other interests and hobbies are so your date can get to know you.
Don’t get discouraged. Probably one of the hardest parts of dating is when you get turned down for a date, or go for extended periods of time without getting asked on a date. It is important to not get discouraged. As a missionary, you undoubtedly faced rejection several times while trying to bring people the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. And while it is by no means easy to face rejection in dating, you can still be strengthened by the experiences you had as a missionary. If things get really hard, read your patriarchal blessing or General Conference talks that help to boost your spirits.
Keep an eternal perspective, but still have fun! Before your mission, you were probably mostly dating to have fun and to get to know people better. But after, the focus is to find an eternal companion who you can share the rest of your life (and all eternity) with. Knowing what your end goal is will help you make the right choices while dating. It will help you realize that disappointments and setbacks are only temporary. As you live righteously and do your part, the Lord will bless you and help you achieve your desired goals. At the same time, however, don’t get so caught up in trying to find an eternal companion that you can’t have a good time on your dates. Let yourself have fun! You probably are not going to figure out whether you will marry the person or not on your first date. Look for someone to marry, but relax so you can have fun and actually get to know your date! This will help you to progress in your dating relationships and eventually reach that final goal.
So is dating scary? Yes. Can it be hard? Absolutely. But serving a mission probably was as well, and it has prepared you for this next phase of your life. Trust in the Lord, do your part, and you will succeed.