Things to know

Regularly read by 50,000+ readers in over 140 countries around the world, "Dear Bro Jo" is published every Monday, Wednesday and Friday (with occasional additional posts, too).

This is column is just one guy's opinion, and while he does his best to keep what he thinks, says and writes in-line with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Bro Jo is not a spokesman or authority for the LDS Church. (And Sister Jo thinks you should know that he's sometimes wrong, and often way too opinionated for his own good.)

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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

25-year Old Future Sister Missionary is Expecting Her Boyfriend to Wait

Dear Bro Jo,

I'm a 25 year old woman who recently has decided to serve a mission. I have always had a burning desire too and I know I am ready. I spoke with my stake president and he said it will one of the best decisions I have ever made, he said everything will fall into place when I'm done with my mission, etc.

Yet I have an issue.. After two years of waiting and dating, yes I was a missionary gf. It didn't work out. I recently met this wonderful man, he's 25, we started dating about two months ago. He wants to marry me ASAP and plan a wonderful future together

Yet two weeks ago,  I recently informed him of my decision to serve and figurative speaking it's been 'Hell' ever since. we have practically argued everyday of my decision and he claims I'm being selfish and not thinking of him. which is deeply hurting me, ever so much. I have a strong testimony and I wish to share it and I know I'm ready to serve.

I have told him to I'm blue in the face that I love him, etc and when I'm finished with my mission we can marry.

Why can't he see that serving a mission is for the greater good?

Am I being selfish?

What should I do?

I need your advice

Regards,

- Future Sis Mis




Dear Future,

It's hard for me to say that a Mission is selfish ... but I think you serving one at this time may be a huge mistake.

If this guy is the Good Guy you say he is, it's unrealistic, unreasonable and unfair for you to expect that he will be available when you come home.

And, frankly, I hope he's not.

A mission is a break up, regardless of your age.  Should you choose to go you need to understand that.  While you're gone he will likely date,  and kiss, other girls.

And he should.

He will likely pick one of those girls to marry for Time and All Eternity.

And he should.

Because as you well know, Waiting doesn't work most of the time.

Your focus right now should be marriage and family.  That's been made very clear over and over and over again.

Your boyfriend can't agree to your "greater good" argument because ... well ... it's not true.

General Counsel is that even if you had a mission call the right decision would be to cancel that call and get sealed.


Do you understand why?


The Hell you're going through is one you stepped in, so getting out of it will be up to you.

The questions you need to answer are:

1.  Are you okay choosing a Mission now if it not only means not marrying this guy, but not marrying ever?  (Ask some 27-28 year old single sisters how difficult it is to find a good and worthy man to marry.)

2.  If you stay, can you love and marry this man without holding it against him that you didn't serve a mission right now?

3.  Would serving a Mission later in life, as a married couple, with this wonderful man as your companion, be a compromise that would satisfy you?

4.  If it's such a burning desire, why didn't you leave four years ago?  (We often think we REALLY want to do things, but if that were true ... we'd have done them.  Perhaps there's an additional reason, one you haven't shared with me here . . . maybe one you haven't even confessed to yourself . . . that is part of why you feel "mission ready" at 25?)

5.  Can you be happy for the next few years being a Member Missionary?  Sharing the Gospel at home?  Raising your children to be good members of the Church?


Please understand:  I am not saying that there's necessarily something wrong with you wanting to serve a mission.  My goal here is for you to know why you want to serve, to make sure it's for the right reasons, and to help you be at peace with your choice, whatever that might be.

As you consider all of these options, the path that brings you the most peace is the one you should take.


Remember Little Sister, in all things, it's about the Lord's timing, not ours.

Pray.  Fast.

And talk to your boyfriend one more time.


- Bro Jo

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

How to Date a Return Missionary (and Anyone Else, Really . . . )

Dear Bro Jo,

     So this is probably going to sound like a really stupid question...but I've looked on your blog and I haven't seen anything about how to date a return missionary.

     I'm almost 20 and my best friend (21) came home from his mission a little over two months ago. We dated a little before his mission, not too seriously because I was still in high school. I wrote him, emailed, and sent him packages his whole mission but wasn't exactly "waiting for him." I went on dates with other people and had fun. Oh, and I also moved about 45 minutes away from the town we are both from.

     Now that he's home though we are kind of back to dating. And I make the little drive back home a lot more than I did when he was gone. We aren't officially boyfriend/girlfriend but We go on dates and hang out a lot. For a while it was weird because it was almost as though nothing had changed, but then again it was also like we were totally starting over. But it's getting a lot more comfortable. We hold hands and he puts his arm around me and he's kissed me once. (Since he's been home. He had kissed me a few times before his mission)

     Rumors are flying around our home ward about the two of us. I get asked almost daily by different people "How are things with so-and-so" "Is he your boyfriend yet?" "Why don't you two just make it official already?"

     And sometimes I ask myself the same question... and because I don't know how to respond, these questions drive me crazy.

     I've done a lot of praying about this, asking my Father in Heaven if pursuing this relationship is a good idea, and to me it just feels right. He is also the only guy I’ve ever dated that I can see a future with. Is it ridiculous to be impatient because he's taking things so slow? I would love to just be his girlfriend already, but at the same time I also understand that he's only been home just over two months. Am I going to scare him off if the next time we hang out I ask him where he stands? And if not, how exactly should I go about doing this? Is it bad for mw to want to know this early on? Maybe I just need confirmation that I'm not wasting my time. I don't know. And if the answer you're going to give me is to just be patient and let things play out, how to I respond to these questions I get all the time from our mutual friends and church leaders?

     I know, I'm probably totally over thinking this. And I'm still young, I know. But I just need some advice on how to date an RM. If you have any questions feel free to ask. I don't know what info you'll need. Thanks in advance for any advice.

- Potential RM Girlfriend




Dear Girlfriend,

Yes, as I've said often, "Communication is the Key", but sometimes I don't understand why we feel the need to talk about everything instead of just observing what's going on around us.

Is he dating anyone else?

Do you go out at least once a week?  (Remember those dates can be simple and money need not be spent.  What qualifies it as a date is that you a) go out, b) have scheduled the going out, and c) it's just the two of you paired off.  In other words:  Plan, Pickup, and Pay.

Depending on how long this has been going on it may indeed be ridiculous to be impatient.

For your convenience and consideration:

Bro Jo's Guide to Where Your Relationship Probably Is
Phase 1 -  Under 3 months?  You should just relax and enjoy.
Phase 2 - 3 - 6 months and you still have no clue and have not talked about your relationship at all?  You should step back and see if he's being exclusive.
Phase 3 - Over 6 months?  Okay, now you probably should have the "where do we stand and where is this going" talk . . . assuming you don’t already know . . . and you probably should.
(You may also want to check out Bro Jo's Levels of a Relationship.)

As for the questions from your well-meaning friends, family and ward members (parents are the exception, btw - they have a right to know! - in my admittedly very biased opinion), I often repeat what Sister Jo says:  tell them, politely, "our relationship is private, and right now so many people are asking that I just feel like we're being unfairly pressured; I promise that, should anything become official, you'll know shortly after"; smile and leave it at that.

Understand that when we old people ask about your plans and relationships we're usually (the occasional ward busybody being the exception) just trying to show genuine interest and concern in your life.  We have a testimony of the joy that comes from Eternal Companionship and Eternal Families and we're hoping that you'll have that in your life, too.  We ask because we love you, not because we want you to feel bad.

- Bro Jo

Monday, July 10, 2017

Should She Date the Boy Who Self-harms?

Dear Bro Jo,

I recently discovered your blog, and I'm very appreciative of all the advice you give. I know you're busy, but I feel like at least putting my thoughts in words will help me understand them.
I'm a freshman at BYU. Last semester, I met a boy in one of my classes, with whom I got along decently. After a few weeks, he came to class wearing short sleeves, and I noticed that both of his arms were covered in self harm scars, many of which seemed fresh.

As time went on his arms seemed to heal, and we became better friends. I saw him after class at the end of October though, and he was MUCH worse. So I confronted him about it. We talked a lot after that, and I became another therapist to him. His depression was many, many years in the making, as was his harm, but I managed to help him curb it a little.

After a week or so of this, our relationship had become very emotionally attached. As such, we began flirting a little. I was terrified, because I didn't want to date. But I couldn't tell him no, and by mid-November I believed I was very OK with dating too. The weekend after our first date, he called to tell me that he needed to be hospitalized for his safety. His bishop and I took him to the ER. He stayed in a hospital for over a week. It was not his first time. After his release, he did much better, mostly because he knew any more hospitalization would only delay a mission. And he stopped harming for over a month.

During that time period, our relationship escalated. We kissed—I asked my bishop about it, and remained within his guidelines of what was safe, but I admit that kissing made me very uncomfortable, to the point that I would have panic attacks. He helped me deal with it and respected me when I asked that we not do it again. When Christmas break started, he talked to me often of how he missed me. He began to harm again during break, to an extent that he hid from me. I didn't find out until we got back to school, and even then he didn't want me to know. I became very worried. I had been from the beginning, I guess, but it began to culminate. As such, I broke it off.

He began to harm himself more and more, in multiple sessions daily. And after a week, he even admitted that he was closer to a suicidal plan than he had been since the last hospitalization. He didn't mean to, but he alluded to the fact that dying had made him better. I felt (and still do feel) terribly guilty—I think I pushed him to hurt himself. But I also had felt peace and support at the idea of ending our relationship, and so I couldn't bring myself start it again. I tried to help as a friend, but wasn't nearly as effective.

Before you worry too much, he's on a new medication now and is doing much better. He has also continued to express feelings for me, and while I feel less guilty, I know that my actions in turning him away have been less than Christ-like. I recognize that when I sing a Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief these days, I am being dishonest.

I guess after all of that, I just wish to ask: when is it ok to give up? Within marriage, I assume one ought to be supportive forever (that's kind of a big part of marriage), but in dating, and friendship, is it selfish and wrong to want to back out? I don't really know. I want to help, and I ought to help, but I also want to be happy too.

Sincerely,

- Long-Winded




Dear Winded,

Not only is it NOT selfish to stay out of a relationship with this man, I insist on it.

Self-harm is many things, not the least of which is addictive.  Until he conquers that addiction it would be foolish of you to have any kind of romantic relationship with him.

Love him as a friend.  Pray for his recovery.

But don't allow yourself to get sucked into his depression.

His symptoms are real and very serious.  He needs (and it sounds like he's getting) qualified regular therapy.  That's good.

Love and support does not require that you give more than you're able, that you put yourself or your future in jeopardy, or that you must carry his anchor with you all the time.  Jesus IS the Christ; let Him do His job, you do yours.

Yes, care, help, offer concern, but your first spiritual concern is and must always be you.

One of the first rules in lifesaving is that you never put yourself in a situation where there are two victims.

Please understand this:  however he chooses to exercise his demons, it is not your fault nor your responsibility.


And, if I may, even in marriage there's a line where it's better to cut bait than to hang on.


If you haven't yet, take a good look at this post:  The A's of Why NOT to Marry.


It may help.


God bless,

- Bro Jo