Monday, January 28, 2013

What your mission DIDN'T teach you about dating

"Yes President, I will go home and I will use everything I learned on the mission to get dates and get married." You say it and you mean it. After a final embrace with a man you have looked to as a father, you walk out of the mission office with your head (and its perfectly parted hair) held high. You are ready to move on, out, and up. Time to find my new companion, you think.

Soon you find yourself in a place like Rexburg, Idaho, where meetings about marriage are as common as conversations about the cold climate. And why shouldn't they be? I mean, to the outside observer, this place should be the Valhalla of dating right? 

It's a simple recipe:
Place some 13,000 ripe young single adults into a small mixing bowl.
Pepper them heavily with discourses and lectures about marriage
Let the mix sit in the freezer for 7 months
The result: (almost) instant wedding, and a lot of it!

Voila! It's a concoction that not even an elder can wind up burning..... or can he? Is it possible? Could Elder Superstar, the district leader to end all district leaders, the one who single-handedly taught 100 lessons in one week, the one who led 40 investigators to church through a blizzard, the greatest missionary since Paul, could he, this missionary of missionaries, mess up dating? The overwhelming response from the girls we talk to is "Yes! Very yes!"

But how? Haven't you applied everything you learned on the mission? Haven't you gone forward, armed with confidence, faith, and pristine polished shoes to find that one special girl, "the elect lady" with whom you can spend the rest of eternity? Haven't you done enough? Haven't you given it your all?

Here is something you might want to consider before taking someone out: not everything you learned on the mission translates to dating. Whaaaaaaaat? Buh buh buh, but my mission president said... I know what your mission president said. Mine said almost the same thing, but I don't think either of our presidents intended for us to date exactly like we preached. Certainly there are some timeless principles that can always be applied, but for the sake of your own salvation you must refrain from treating every sister like a potential investigator and every date like a discussion. Sisters if this is not a real problem then I invite you to chime in.

Now Elder,  I know you're used to a rigid structure and a tedious schedule, but things are a little more casual on This Side of Heaven. There is no "Date My Daughter" manual to tell you the perfect formula for dating success. There are, however, a few things that will help you NOT make your dating life a mission impossible. So loosen up the necktie and meditate upon these things:

  • Unlike investigators, you don't need daily contact with the girl you're interested in. It's okay to let the savor of your last encounter sink in for a couple days. I know too many guys who have scared away girls because they insist on daily dates, phone calls, (not-so-pleasant) surprises, etc. Give her room to breathe and think. Don't go overboard. Take it easy and be natural.
  • Hug. It's okay. Save the handshake for Sunday. Don't be afraid to wrap those farmer's tanned arms around a girl when you say goodnight. For anyone needing to re-learn how to hug, Bryan will be giving classes at 2 pm on Thursdays. Don't be embarrassed, we all need help sometimes.
No more companion. Time to fly solo.

  • Not every situation is an opportunity to find someone to date. ie: the 2nd floor of the library, a family reunion, and the testing center, to name a few. 
  • Don't invite others (especially your roommates) to participate in a date unless it's a group date. 

  • After the date, do not ask for referrals.  
  • Street contacts are even less effective here than they were there. Unless it's Ryan Gosling, most girls don't like being asked out by a total stranger. (Don't try to argue girls. I've heard too many complaints and too many verses of "Don't Fear the Creeper" to believe that you actually like it. You know the difference between cute and creep is attractiveness, and frankly, most of us aren't attractive enough).
  • Tracting= Unattracting. It doesn't work. You can make friends that way (friends can then become more than friends) but don't knock doors with the intent of finding The One. 
  • Don't fill your day with as many dates as possible. There are a few terms to describe that kind of guy, and none of them are nice.
  • Don't schedule an appointment in a planner. Ask for her number and put it in your phone, then call her some time when she's probably not very busy.
  • You are not on a date to teach or promote a cause. You are there to get to know her. So ask some questions, build that relationship of trust, and have some fun! 
  • Old habits are hard to break but try to avoid referring to yourself as "we," or your roommate as "my companion." And for heaven's sake, don't point to where your tag used to be when you tell someone your name.

  • Stop expecting people to make you food. Women want a provider not a parasite ------------------>

  • You can only set the date with one person. There can only be one "progressing investigator."
  • Observe curfew, but you don't have to be home at 9:30. On the other hand, don't feel like a date has to go all night either! 
  • Don't walk so fast. Your greenie hated it when you walked so fast and your date will too. Slow down and enjoy her company. Remember, the activity isn't important; she is. 
  • Avoid falling into missionary jargon. "I know that I will be a very good husband to you, and that if you date me, and pray about it, you will too." Besides the fact that the Lord doesn't have to back up every promise you make, that approach also tends to scare people away.

If you have any other advice to offer these brethren, please feel free to post it below.



  1. AMEN!! :D Perhaps you should offer free seminars throughout the surrounding states, you never know who you might help.

  2. Tanner, loved the advice! haha

    We LOVE hearing about your missions and awesome stories, but I find that with some guys they shy away from talking about it because they don't want to come off as annoying. I love hearing about it! Don't be afraid to get a little sentimental:)

    I'd also just like to point out how great it is to date return missionaries. The maturity (spiritually, physically, emotionally) is apparent. Give yourself some slack and a pat on the back for readjusting and getting back into dating. Most do a great job and being willing to put yourself out there is an accomplishment in itself. We understand the little quirks that come along with it at times;)

  3. I enjoyed this post directed to the Elders, however, what about those returned Sisters? Do you have any advice for them?

  4. Dear Anonymous,
    I'm glad you enjoyed our advice to the elders. Now I have to confess something to you: I don't know a returned sister missionary who isn't incredible. Truthfully. None of the sisters that I know are awkward or overbearing. Now, that doesn't mean they aren't out there. I just haven't met them, thus I haven't thought about them. Ergo, I have nothing really to say about them. Sorry about that. :/

  5. Oh Tanner, this is so great! And an AMEN on the parasite part- I dislike very much man-food-moochers. But you're great, I like that part about "the activity isn't important, she is" see that's you right there, a good guy! You'll find a very lucky lady one of these days.
    p.s. when Bryan gets back you'll have to tell him I'm reading your guys' blog now...he bugged me about it all last semester and now here I am.
    p.p.s. pretend I'm giving both of you one of our signature know, the ones that get people to question if they should save me.