Long-Distance Relationships #M4MVoices
1. How do you stay intentional in spending time with each other?
Meaningful conversations: One of the best things about being in two different places is that we have to make the most of the time we do spend together. Knowing that we only have little windows of time to connect over the phone and in person forces us to engage in deeper conversations that help us to get to know each other from the inside out. Because of the distance, we have to talk. Many times dating revolves around activities, like dinner and a movie, church events and family outings, but in a long distance relationship, most of your time is spent talking. As a result, you learn a lot about the person and how to communicate effectively.
Keep something consistent: We picked something simple that’s easy to repeat, and committed to it. For us this means a simple good morning morning text and a goodnight phone call. It might seem pointless but even after 16 months of being with Steve, it’s still something I look forward to daily. We also established a prayer routine. Every night we end our phone conversations with prayer, and I couldn’t be more grateful for that blessing.
Unhindered Time: Long-distance makes it much harder to have date night every weekend, to go to Church together on Sundays, or go for a evening walk. When Steve visits, I put all my commitments “on hold” since we only have a few days together, I want to make the most of every minute.
Love Reminders: To stay intentional, we write letters and cards, send little gifts to remind each other that we are thinking of the other. I know writing letters isn’t for everyone, but we write cards to each other and I know it will be special to re-read them once we are married!
When I was in my early-twenties I struggled with feelings of despair and loneliness frequently because I felt like there was no way to resolve the issue of distance. It felt like the day when we could live in at least the same city would never happen. This got easier as the years went by. Now, the distance is more of a nuisance. There are a lot of struggles that do not occur in regular dating, but ultimately it can really be a wonderful gift that teaches the couple how to grow in patience and perseverance.
So, with many years of a long distance relationship under my belt, here are my thoughts on how to stay intentional in spending time. First of all, it really becomes a matter of scheduling, especially if you live in different time zones. By the time my boyfriend gets home from work, I’m usually sleepy and want to go to bed. This is frustrating, especially if you planned to talk on that specific night. You not only have to be realistic in your expectations, you also have to be willing to compromise and make sacrifices. In the aforementioned case, if my boyfriend sees that I am tired and knows I need to get up early the next morning, we will have a brief, five minute conversation before letting each other go. Texting, while not always ideal, is great for keeping in touch during the day. Whenever we have an interesting thought, something funny to share, or something happened that reminds us of each other, we text each other. This helps both of us to feel connected and in the loop about each others lives while we are apart.
While we generally schedule time to talk during the weekdays, during the weekends we can be more spontaneous. You learn interesting skills when you are hundreds of miles apart, such as mastering the art of hitting play on a movie in sync. We both love to read and usually pick a short story we can read and talk about. But the best thing that a couple can do is just to talk. There are a lot of things I dislike about being in a long distance relationship, but I am grateful for how much it emphasizes the importance of communication. That aspect transferred over when we were able to actually spend time together; it felt effortless to ease into our usual discussions about life, faith, etc.
2. What are the biggest struggles of being apart and how do you overcome that?
Communication: Communicating is harder when you are long distance since you can't see facial expressions or have face-to-face time when you have a disagreement. Being open and honest rather than allowing things to bottle up helps foster open dialogue.
Purity: It may seem that since we are hundreds of kilometers away, that we don't have to worry about staying pure. If you haven’t been physically present or touched each other in any way for a few weeks or months, when you get the chance to see each other for a weekend, it will seem like the easiest way to feel connected. We had to establish a few boundaries and accountability tactics that we find helpful.
There comes a point where one realizes that their significant other does not just fit into one category. They become more than just a girlfriend/boyfriend, they also become your best friend. Discussing this post with my boyfriend, we both agreed that the biggest burden is to not be able to fully share your day with the person you love, no matter how much effort you put into staying in touch. Technology cannot replace the joy of simply being in the presence of the one you love. We all long for a deep, intimate connection, with our family, friends, spouses, and of course with God.
One of the greatest lessons I have learned from my long distance relationship is how to communicate with God. My placement on Earth in some sense puts me in a long distance relationship with God, who is able to reach out and communicate with me through many different means, but He and I are not yet face to face. There is joy in being in His presence through the limited means we have on Earth, but nothing will compare to being in His physical presence.