(Source: Mormon BuzzzBy: Arianna Rees)

You’re an elder or a sister missionary who has just stepped foot off of the plane ride home. The end of your mission is before you, and suddenly, there are looming decisions on your mind. What am I going to do for school? Where am I going to live? What am I going to study? You wonder. But, maybe most of all, your mind is stuck on what everyone told you was the next big step, the one you’re equally terrified and excited for: dating, then marriage.

Who are you going to marry?

The next months and maybe years of your life will be filled with an awkward stumble to figure that out. You’ll go on great dates that never turn into anything, bad dates that you never want to repeat, or maybe no dates, because frankly, you either don’t want to or are terrified to go on them. It may be smooth sailing, but, as it is for most of us, it will probably be rough. Mistakes will be made, feelings will be hurt, and hearts will be broken. Such is dating. It’s a learning process for all of us, and, unfortunately, it sometimes takes a while to learn how to do it right or admit we’re doing it wrong.

That being said, there are five pieces of advice I’ve used in my own life that I think every RM, and really, every single adult, could use to vastly improve their dating experience and make it more enjoyable for all involved. You might try them yourself.

1. Even though marriage is definitely the end goal, you need to put in time to get there.

When I graduated from high school and was starting college, I was immediately overwhelmed by neighbors and ward members who told me, “Now you’ve got to get married!” It influenced my dating life so much that it made me miserable. I took every date seriously, and when it didn’t work out, my confidence took a major hit. I naively expected that marriage would be handed to me if I simply went on dates, and because I expected that, I made marriage far more important than getting to know the guys I dated. I ended up dating guys who were in no way compatible or right for me.

As an RM, you’ve probably had similar experiences. Some of you probably expected (or expect) marriage to just happen once you started dating, and you’ve likely found that that’s not how it works. Others of you have perhaps jumped into serious relationships that did not end well because you were more concerned with getting married than actually loving the person you dated. In this instance, you have to think of dating in terms of teaching the gospel. As member missionaries (and I’m sure as sisters/elders), we are taught that the most inefficient and, in many instances, uncaring thing we can do for those not of our faith is to confront them with why they need to join the church before we even get to know them. You don’t lead people to enjoy the blessings of the gospel simply by telling them they need to be baptized. You do it by expressing love and compassion, by getting to know who they are and learning to love them. Dating, my friends, is a similar experience. You simply cannot expect marriage without being willing to put a lot of time into getting to know and love someone.

If being married is more important to you than the actual person you choose to spend eternity with, you’re building up to disaster. Seek out your desire to marry, but most importantly, concern yourself with getting to know and perhaps love those you date. All good things take time.

Read the rest at Mormon Buzzz