On Tuesday, I posted part 1 of my waiting on a missionary series. The next few questions and responses are about the distraction aspect of writing missionaries.
Purple = Waiter. Red = Waited for. Green = Mission Leadership.
Question: Was writing distracting to the missionary work?
"For me, at least it was hard on my mission because it was a distraction (some elders with girls did great though) and now it's just hard because I don't want to be that distraction for the girl who is out now so I try to encourage and not distract. But that's a lot of effort to wait for something for 18 months when it isn't a guarantee."
"Definitely a distraction. It took a really good missionary and a really good boyfriend/girlfriend to make it work. But when it worked it was great"
"Yes [for] the sisters. [It wasn't] as often as elders, but when it was a problem it was usually worse. They had to be REALLY dedicated to being a missionary. Because sometimes they didn't feel that same commitment to having to be out there if that makes sense"
"Totally. I am just going to be completely honest with you... I know [hearing about my dates] affected him even if he lies and says it didn't. It bothered him and he spent time and energy on things he couldn't control. He was good about not letting it bug him bad but it had a negative affect over all, I think."
"Oh 100% I believe it was distracting. Actually no 110%. When things started going downhill I actually just wrote like a goodbye letter and then didn't reply to a few months worth of letters afterward because I knew his mind and heart were not focused on the work at all. Which obviously was our fault. But the only thing I could do at that point was to remove myself from the equation. Once we stopped writing and he picked himself back up (and I was married) he seemed to do much much better from the little I gathered."
"Yes very much."
"Well somewhat, yeah, but not the letters it was more I couldn't ever get her off my mind and didn't want to."
"There were times that he would write and say things like we need to write less. But then he would write me the next week and tell me that it wasn't more or less distracting. Part of me thinks that any girlfriend is some sort of distraction for missionaries."
"I think it is a great distraction if the girl is writing too much or [writing] too mushy."
"For sure. There have been periods where I had to stop talking to him for a little while because he was thinking too much about home or just having a hard time. Or I was struggling with something. That is hard sometimes, because I surely don't want to make things harder for him. And I've always kind of struggled with thinking about me distracting him. I worry about it a lot. So I try to be uplifting rather than a burden. He does the same for me. He tells me all the time to make sure I'm not missing any opportunities and to have as much fun as I can. And I appreciate that."
"There have been times where I have felt like I have taken him off focus by sharing things that he doesn't really need to hear. I've been a lot more careful after we fought a little bit and realized that those things don't really matter for him right now. He made a commitment to the Lord and he should not be distracted by the worldly things. His parents have given me advice too directly and indirectly that have helped me know what to say."
Question: How did it affect you when it ended (if it did end)?
"When he got home we fell in love and I wanted to marry him. I just didn't feel ready or like it was right or something. It was so hard... [I would only change] the time that we dated. Writing him was a good experience. I loved seeing him grow."
"It was hard for a while because I really did love him and I thought that was supposed to work. I [had] always thought that was how my life was supposed to go. He wanted to get married right away and I thought we needed to get to know each other again. And he started to treat me bad and I realized that it wasn't the best thing for me to do. And now looking back I'm so thankful it didn't work because I would be unhappy."
"It was hard writing him off because I was sad but I knew it was the right thing to do. So really it was positive because I learned to trust in the Lord."
"Honestly, once it was over.. it was over for me. And I was able to just kind of walk away no strings attached and I honestly never thought about it again. I did feel bad though, because I know it wasn't the same for him. I would say that it not working out was for the best for the both of us, and after it 'not working out' I was just able to grow up in ways that I probably wouldn't have had I kept my life completely on hold the way I thought I was going to... Honestly, I NEVER look back and think 'man I wasted all those years having steady boyfriends' just because I know that I am who I am today because of all the mistakes and all the good choices that I made. The only regret I do have is just maybe how it negatively affected them.. you know? I know it was hard for [him], and that is the only thing I truly would feel bad about, but he is married to a super cute girl now and we have chatted and are civil and so in the end everyone got to where they needed to be...
I feel like a jerk saying this, but I don't know. It didn't really affect me.. I mean the reason I wrote him off was mostly because I missed his mom all the time and didn't miss him at all. #1 red flag right there. So like I said, I just kind of walked away and moved on. Which wasn't hard because once he was gone, it was all gone. I didn't really feel like I was walking away from anything. He is an amazing person, but we just weren't meant for each other. I don't mean to talk him down, I am not taking him down, just our relationship. You know?"
"[It was] 4 weeks that I didn't feel like I could push myself as much as the work, the people, or my companion deserved."
"It was hard... Especially because she just completely stopped talking to me. The hard thing about it was that I felt like my best friend abandoned me..."
"Well I wrote him regularly for about the first year and I didn't date anyone else. I thought that's what he wanted. It's kinda funny because before he left he really wanted me to wait for him and I was really hesitant, but then once he left our roles reversed. At least that's what it seems like. Then on the second year, he kinda wrote me off, so after that I just didn't care anymore, so I dated other people. And I realized that I had a lot more fun that second year, cause I felt like I wasn't tied down anymore. And honestly our conversations weren't that great so I didn't feel like I was missing out on much."
"Well she kinda did a bad job writing me off. She said she wanted to be friends and wrote me a couple times after and it just made the process really long and awful. But once it was clear that it was over it got it a lot easier after a few days. But also we're still friends. So it was kinda good that she didn't cut it off all the way? I don't know..."
[Talking about his companion] "Well from my perspective it seemed like it was almost harder for him the last couple weeks they were together. That time when you can kinda tell something is off. But once she broke up with him he was sad for like a day or two. Then he was totally fine."
"When they were written off they were sad for about a month and then they were grateful they didn't have to stress about it anymore."
"When they were written off it was sad for a while, but it made better missionaries out of them."
"It was easier to walk away when I knew it wasn't right. It was way easier to break up with them when they weren't here. I don't know if it was easier for him, but it was definitely easier for me."
Question: Was there anything the person writing you could have done to NOT be a distraction or was it mainly something you had to deal with yourself?
"If she had just not been so lovey and just been my friend and supported me it would have been easier."
"No, not really. It was mostly stuff I had to deal with myself because of the situation I had put myself in."
"Not really. It was distracting thinking about what they were doing that week or waiting for Mondays to read and write letters."
"She could [have] been more blunt about her decisions to put space between us. She was trying too hard not to hurt my feelings, but it weakened her resolve and made it hard to understand what she was trying to tell me."
"So honestly that just comes down to something that you teach while a missionary. Agency is a key to God's plan. Everyone has their own choice to keep being hurt. I'm not saying it doesn't hurt being written off, but it's your choice to stay hurt. I saw a bunch of missionaries that took them a long time to get over it.."
"No because it's not like she could stop me thinking about her."
As I've talked to lots of different people for this series of posts, I've thought a lot about distractions. I think that for the most part it is something that the missionary has to overcome. But I definitely still think that the person writing can have a huge influence on the way things will go. As I've reflected on my own letters that I received as a missionary, I've tried to think of subjects that did and didn't distract me. And I've decided to share:
- too little information: distracting. I made up so many scenarios to fill in the gaps.
- gossip: distracting. I worried about things that were petty and dumb.
- family happenings: NOT distracting. I soaked that up. I lived for any news my family and friends had to share.
- gospel & missionary experiences: NOT distracting. I felt preachy in some of my letters, but when I heard my family was trying to be better missionaries, my whole day was made.
- everyday life stuff: NOT distracting. I didn't want to hear about every detail of every day (my family was good about not doing that) but I did love hearing about the little things that happened through the week. It made me feel like home wasn't 1500 miles away.
I've also thought about the things I lived for on p-days... or any other day of the week.
- PICTURES: I could have received an email with pictures only and been completely satisfied. People change SO much in 18 months-- especially when you haven't seen them for that long. I wanted to see my loved ones so much. I begged for pictures all of the time. (You missionary moms-- YOU want pictures from your missionary, but the street goes two ways. They want pictures from you too... For a while I stopped sending pictures because I didn't receive any pictures.)
- emails from my friends: I loved getting emails from my family, don't get me wrong, but I also loved hearing from my friends. Being a missionary can be awfully lonely sometimes. And getting an email from my best friend from home helped me remember that I did have friends and people that loved me.
- Answered questions: I often asked questions in my emails and something that REALLY bothered me (and was also quite distracting) was unanswered questions from the week before. When my questions were answered I felt like the emails that were written to me were more of a conversation rather than a part of the weekly to-do list.
- Actual letters: Like snail mail letters. There is N O T H I N G more depressing than going to the mailbox day in and day out and having it be empty. Or worse. Having all the mail be for your companion. Physical letters made me feel incredibly loved and thought of. Especially when they came from people that thought it was weird to send them. (I had a lady from my ward who wrote me a few times-- she said it was out of her comfort zone but she felt she needed to write the missionaries in the ward and those letters helped me so much. She still has no idea the impact her letters made on me. Don't underestimate yourself or simple acts of kindness.)
The final post for this series will be coming shortly. Keep an eye out! :)