She waited at the Salt Lake City International Airport holding a sign that read “Te amo Brazil.” Her heart raced as she saw newly returned missionary appear at the top of the escalator in a suit, red tie and missionary badge. Although she wasn’t sure before, the moment she saw him again she knew she would marry him.
Marissa Anderson said the day she was reunited with her missionary, Chase Anderson, after two years was the best day of her life — even above her wedding day. “Nothing can surpass it,” she said.
Chase and Marissa Anderson were married four months after he came home. They are now expecting their first baby.
Despite the stigma that missionary relationships are destined to fail, couples like the Andersons have beat the odds. Though they are the exception rather than the rule, those who have made it have much to say about how to make missionary relationships work.
Don’t put your life on hold.
Megan Phillips is a BYU graduate and former Cougarette who married her high school boyfriend after he returned from his mission. She stressed the importance of experiencing new things while waiting for a missionary.
“You don’t want to put your life on a freezing point while they’re gone,” Phillips said. “There’s so much growth in dating other people. You can have all these amazing experiences that you won’t have if you don’t date.”
In fact, at one point Phillips temporarily wrote off her then-missionary, now-husband, while he was away because she was dating other people. However, when they were first reunited after he came home, she said she knew immediately she was going to marry him.
“Even though it looked like we were totally over, we still ended up together,” she said. “Don’t put your life on hold. Do what you want to do with your life, and if it’s supposed to work, it will.”
Consider serving a mission, too.
Anderson served a mission on Temple Square while her missionary was in Brazil. Marissa said she would “100 percent” recommend serving a mission to those waiting for a missionary.
“If you’re of age and you have the desire, do it,” she said.
Anderson said serving a mission is a great way to use one’s time wisely while waiting.
“I didn’t even miss Chase when I was on my mission because I was doing something that I knew I was supposed to be doing. It filled that void,” she said.
Ally Poaletti, a 2D studio art major who is engaged to be married on May 22 to her returned missionary, said patience is a crucial ingredient to making a missionary relationship work in the long run.
“When he gets back, no matter how much you’ve talked about your dreams and your future together, give him time and give him space,” Poaletti said.
Poaletti and her fiancé, Bob McFadden, whom she waited for while he served in the Salt Lake City South Mission, dated for about a year and a half after he came home before they were engaged.
“Patience was a hard thing to learn while he was on the mission, but it was even harder when he got back,” she said. “I think we were able to make it work because we’ve both been so committed to the relationship.”
Don’t be afraid to grow apart.
Claire Garner started dating her now-husband three months before she left to serve a mission in Hong Kong. She said she would sometimes worry that her then-boyfriend, Quinn, would meet someone else while she was away.
“I would get worried sometimes, but I just loved my mission so much that I would forget about it, and I knew that everything would work out if I just put my mind to what I said I was going to do,” Garner said. “I knew that the right decision was to leave and go on my mission first and that everything would fall into place after that.”
Garner said she thought it was important that she and her then-boyfriend allowed each other to do their own things while they were apart.
“We were completely individual. I worked on my goals and he worked on his, and we were supportive of each other. …We allowed each other to grow separately, and that made us closer,” she said.
Claire and Quinn Garner were married four months after she came home. Because they both served missions in Hong Kong, the couple decided to travel to the Hong Kong Temple to be married.
Let the past be the past.
Poaletti said she believes conversations about interim relationships are not beneficial to either the returned missionary or the person who waited.
“I don’t think it’s necessary to talk about how many guys you’ve kissed or how many girls you’ve kissed,” Poaletti said. “It happened in the past; you need to let the past be the past and let it go.”
Above all, follow the mission rules.
“Stay obedient. God isn’t going to bless you if you are breaking rules,” Anderson said. “Always put obedience in front of anything.”