Ask Mormon Girl: I’m in a missionary love quandary. Help?

 

Two letters this week, both about love and missionaries.  What a topic.  It’s true–I once promised myself to a soon-to-be missionary after a tram ride to the top of Bridal Veil Falls in Provo Canyon.  (All Mormon girls do at one time or another.)  And it’s true, I failed miserably, miserably, to wait for that missionary.  You can read the whole saga in The Book of Mormon Girl.  Every painful detail.

This week’s two questions come to us from young women who are also thinking about “their” missionaries. And, yes, well, there are some painful details here too.

Letter the first:

I’m not a Mormon, and I’ve met a Mormon guy on mission that I’m interested in.  From what little I’ve read it seems Mormons on mission aren’t allowed to have any kind of dating interaction with females.  So I get that, but are they allowed to be friends?  If so, how do I go about letting him know I’d like to be friends without seeming like I’m coming on to him?  I don’t want to be inappropriate or offend him or get him into trouble.

And here’s the super-easy answer.  No, I’m really sorry, but you can’t be friends with the missionary.  Make him a lasagna, drop it off at a neutral third party location, and then say sayonara.  Really.  It’s the most merciful thing you can do.  He’s supposed to be 100% focused on finding people to teach and serving the community.  He’s supposed to be 100% celibate.  Like a eunuch.  He can’t do that with you as his friend.  Because you’re cute.  You smell like Bath and Body Works. When you laugh, the way your head tilts–it’s irresistible. And he’s 20.  Big boundaries.  No “friendship.” End of story. Sorry.

Letter the second:

For the past 7 years, I have been best friends with an amazing guy. We were both LDS. He’s always had a huge crush on me and I’ve known that, and he continues to feel that way while on his mission currently. The problem is that since he has left, I am a completely different person. No longer go to church, have a boyfriend that I live with, etc. 

The man I am with is amazing. I do love him and enjoy everything about him. The problem is that my friend is coming home in August and suddenly I am having these thoughts for him and the church and I’m freaking out because for so long I thought that I didn’t believe in the church, but I miss it and I miss the people and now I am torn between two worlds. 

I’m afraid…afraid of changing my mind about what I’m doing. The man I’m with does in no way believe in any religion. I don’t know how to go forward or how to make a decision. I love him. And thinking about leaving him for (pretty much) another guy/lifestyle feels like I’m betraying him and that hurts. 

If you were me, what would you do? 

You know what worries me about this letter, love?  You tell me all about these two “amazing” guys in your life.  You ponder the possible betrayal of their feelings. But I hear nothing about you.  As if you are a pile of iron filings that can be magnetically drawn this way and that by the influence of the men who love you.  But what about you?  If both your missionary and your lover (*poof*) magically disappeared from the face of the earth tomorrow, what kind of a conversation would you have with God? If all men–every last sweet handsome one of them–(*POOF*) magically disappeared from the face of the earth tomorrow–all the grandfathers, fathers, priesthood leaders, bishops, brothers, husbands, boyfriends, used-to-be-boyfriends, friends–what would you do with yourself?  Or, in the words of the great poet Mary Oliver:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Notice that she does not ask what you think someone else would like you to do with your one wild and precious life.  It’s yours, honey–all yours.  It’s sacred.  And it’s scary.   And in that power to choose, that is where you meet God.

Send your query to askmormongirl@gmail.com, or follow @askmormongirl on Twitter.

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16 Comments

Filed under feminism, missionaries

16 responses to “Ask Mormon Girl: I’m in a missionary love quandary. Help?

  1. Rachel Doyle

    Fabulous advice. As a therapist, I read that second letter and thought the same thing that you did. What about her? Why is she wrapping her world around two men? What is it that she ultimately wants in life? Kuddos!

  2. Turth No 2

    I wanted to respond to the second letter, because it was somewhat familiar to me.
    My experience: more than just being friends with my missionary, we were very seriously dating, and very stupidly talked of marriage when he got home. (I was about to start my Senior year of high school when he left.) He had brought me into the church, baptized me, had been much of my support in living the gospel. But not the ONLY support I had, and most definitely not the reason I joined the church. He left and I went on my merry way, dated casually, had fun, graduated high school, and then went off to college.
    And that is when things changed for me. I became a different person. I stopped going to church, not for the sake of being inactive or living in opposition to church teachings, but I stopped believing.
    We wrote throughout his mission, but he was always very focused on the work and in general did not like reminders of home. When I lost my faith I wrote him an honest and upfront letter, because I didn’t want there to be expectations when he returned. I still had very strong feelings for him but figured I had changed too much and he wouldn’t be interested.
    about 6 months went by and he came home. I saw him right away and it was so hard. It took a few visits but we finally talked about the new state of my life a bit. A while later we went on a date.
    I still don’t know what the experience was like for him, but for me it was hell. I wanted him to still love me and want me, but I knew he wouldn’t want the new me. I slowly started changing back, but tried being honest saying I didn’t know that I would return to church. Then one day he showed up fresh from a trip to the temple and told me he would wait as long as it took, but he was going to marry me in the temple. My heart broke a little then because it seemed that would be the only way he’d have me. I was a naive 19 year old girl who loved this great guy and just wanted to be with him. And so I changed, I put my doubts high up on a shelf and prayed like hell that it would be ok, that maybe I could believe again, that the life I’d been living and enjoying for the last few months would not taunt me from my memories.
    We married in the temple 6 months to the day after he returned from his mission. It was wonderful, of course, and as happy as I was it was hard.
    Not one month after we married my doubts came screaming back out. And for the next 6 years I fought them. He didn’t like hearing about them, nor understood them, he was a very true believer and I made it hard for him to live his faith. The first year of marriage was hell because I realized all I had given up in making this choice because I was scared to loose him, never realizing that if he didn’t want the real me that I was, lose of faith and all then I shouldn’t have given myself to him.
    After 6 years of a very roller coaster ride with my faith, with church activity, and endless amounts of guilt and doubt and fear about church and my marriage I finally let that shelf of doubts come tumbling down and dealt with it. And guess what 6 years later he still didn’t want to know a thing.
    2 years later, I have not been to church once. He finally came to accept it, and he made some big changes in himself. And I FINALLY feel like I am 100% ME in our relationship. I am very happy with my life and very happy with my marriage (he is still such a great guy, and I love him so very much, but he too has changed GREATLY from that naive little RM who thought it was all so simple), but I think I could have been just as happy had I made another choice back then even though it would have hurt had I lost him.

    Time did not stand still for your missionary – he lived his life and has changed and grown just as you have. It may suck to loose him, but like you said, you have something great already. You made those choices (hopefully) because they were true to you. Don’t turn around and go back for fear or because you miss it. Only go back because it is TRUE TO YOU.

  3. Evelyn

    Ooooh! Oooh! I have SO been that “pile of iron fillings” in my process of life & love. Great visual.. I love this response and perspective on choice. I’m in the middle of tweezing out MY relationship to God without the myriad voices telling me what it should be. Fun stuff. ;-)

  4. First time I have read your blog. I saw you on Jon Stewart and thought I want to learn more about this smart Mormon who has courage and kindness all wrapped up in a bow. I like the advice you have offered and will continue to read your page. I am Mormon and have a theraputic coaching practice. Looks like I will be able to learn from you. Thank you! Kandee

  5. NOTE – not all Mormon girls promise themselves to a missionary ontop of Bridal Veil Falls. :)

  6. vicki

    Excellent responses, Joanna. i’m embarrassed to say that i was too much like the women in the second letter. Wish i’d read your words to her when i was 14.

  7. It works both ways. You say a guy changes on his mission, but in my experience, a young woman changes a lot too.

    I baptised a young woman prior to my mission in the 1970’s. To me, she was a friend and a girl I dated, but in no way was I thinking about “love” before my mission. I was naive, innocent etc, so I suprised when she volunteered to wait for me, and I told her not to. So I went to Japan, and she moved to Wyoming and ended up moving in and living with a guy there.

    After I came home, I was still completely naive about women, and she called me and told me she’d decided to change her life and wanted to come back tto Michigan to see me. I just didn’t have words to say to her… and I could hardly even think about what it would be like to be with an experienced woman. So I told her not to come. And I knew she looked at it as rejection and looking back, I worry that I didn’t handle the situation with any compassion. But if you could have understood the naivite at the time… I think you might have a better understanding. I was still the innocent lad of 18 – even after my mission. The young woman was way, way ahead of me in understanding the things of the world. You just can’t go back in time and pretend that each of us hadn’t experienced what we had in the previous two years.

  8. “for so long I thought that I didn’t believe in the church”
    This is the line that wrenched my heart. She’s not even sure she didn’t believe. It’s hard to make a decision when there is so much uncertainty. I hope she finds something to be certain about and can build from there.

    Your image being a “pile of iron filings” is spot-on. There’s a line at the end of St. Elmo’s Fire where Ally Sheedy’s character expresses the idea that, in order for her to give her entire self to someone else in a relationship, she has to have a self to give. I worry for so many young women who try to give their entire selves over to someone before having a self to give.

  9. Meg R

    As a 20 something Mormon girl with tons of decision to make, this is exactly what I needed to hear today. Thank you, Joanna

  10. G

    I can´t imagine other way but telling the true about your lifenow.But at the same time, Ithink if u are doing that (living with this man) because you love him, but still have faith in the Church… good lucky!
    (I´ve a real, treuly, deeply trouble to going over an relationship after two years of dreams, hopes and so much support of my part… I wish I´d your lucky, ´cause i heard from this man that I wasn´t woman enough to marry in Temple and that it would never happen to me. And I was active and normal mormon girl, just with a terrible depression… strange…I feel you lucky)

  11. Steve in Millcreek

    The girl in the second letter represents many of us. More personalized, she represents me trying to deflect a decision awash with unknowns that, frankly, I am better suited to understand than anyone else could be. (Insert your name there if you can relate.) I am reminded of a super-cute, super-active LDS girl in my singles ward who could not get interested in any of many LDS male suitors. Time passed. At 37, she dated a non-LDS guy with qualities that she liked. She asked her bishop if she should accept his marriage proposal. “That’s your decision to make, not mine.”, the bishop said, “I will pray for you but I cannot make a decision that belongs to you.”

    I think that’s good advice; do you agree? We each must own our own lives and situations.

  12. anwar

    Joanna,i do really appreciate and admire the role you are doing as well as your patience.through my reading to your responses to the many seekers
    for your advice,i found that you are so considerate and always stake to the point.this show that you have a wide range of data in different topics.sometimes you act as a therapist,and other times you show that you are a psychologist.what amaze me about you is that your commitment to your faith and this in itself is good.
    concerning the topic of love. the first letter shows that woman showing some respect for both her face and the other’s faith.she does not want
    to come to him and say high i wanna be your friend.i like the way you advised her through a third party.
    for the second letter i think she enslaved herself for her lust.i think this is due to her weak faith.you know what i felt sympathy with her husband.i do respect him for being patient with her.
    finally i would like to forgive me for my poor English,thanks

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