I have no idea how you got here—school, job change, a friend of a friend, the Internet, God—but whatever happened, you are definitely here and she/he is definitely there and it feels like years until you’ll see each other again. The long distance relationship is often weird and without a doubt hard, but not hopeless. You can survive and even enjoy being apart, but you’ll have to play the dating game with a different set of rules.
[MAKE YOUR COMMITMENT CLEAR] Go into the relationship with a clear understanding of what you both want and where you think you’ll be in the future. You don’t have to end your dreams on marriage, but be clear on how serious the relationship is. This will determine how much effort and time you put in and will also combat misconceptions or unhealthy expectations.
[BE CREATIVE IN HOW YOU COMMUNICATE] The health of your relationship is not in direct relation with the number of hours you spend on the phone. Communication is absolutely essential, but spending three hours a night on the phone is like locking yourself in an isolation cell with a huge phone bill. The phone is not your only source of communicating and relating to each other. Instead, work on sharing your interests, experiences, fears and passions in different ways. I made my boyfriend’s birthday a month-long event sending him little gifts and handmade cards each week, and he has a reputation for sending me origami love letters. It’s worth it to go a little crazy and have fun. Be thoughtful knowing you are going to make his/her day.
[SHARE THE RELATIONSHIP WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS] If you isolate your relationship from the rest of your life and the people involved you’ll miss out on their encouragement and support. Long distance relationships are hard to understand if you aren’t in one. At first, people gave my boyfriend and me strange looks when we explained our circumstance (I live in Iowa, he lives in Oregon) and couldn’t understand how we were dating. Don’t overwhelm your friends and family with facts and photos, but let them know about the person you are dating and how the relationship is going. If they know what’s going on they can be excited if things go well and help you when it’s rough.
[IT DOESN’T EVEN COMPARE] This is not a normal relationship, but it’s not without benefits. After lots of practice you will be great at communicating with each other. You’ll also have a strong relationship and commitment without dealing with constant physical temptation. There are benefits to not being down the street from your boyfriend or girlfriend. With that said, stop looking at couples as they flirt or hold hands, wishing you had that in your relationship. You will someday, but for now the comparisons don’t help. You have to think about things differently. Your relationship doesn’t work like that and it’s—deep breath—okay.
[GROUND YOURSELF IN GOD] As abnormal as a long distance relationship might be, it does not digress from the daily need to make God your first priority, before the relationship. “If I was going to stay the course of a cross-cultural long distance relationship, I would need God’s help,” said Howard Johnson, who met his wife, Jannie, in her home in Holland while he was in the U.S. Army. For two years before their marriage in 1976, their long distance relationship was cross-cultural and happened when phone calls were outrageously expensive and letters took weeks to arrive. “If that relationship was going to fall apart and break my heart, I was going to need God’s help,” Johnson said. “So, whether it was good news or bad, I would need to grow deeper in God.” Pouring time into your own relationship with Christ will not only be an encouragement in your own life, but it will also build a foundation for both of you.
[BRING GOD INTO THE RELATIONSHIP] Not only do you need God’s strength and presence in your relationship, but your faith is also the most important thing you share as a couple. This goes for any relationship, although you won’t be able to hold hands while you pray or attend the same church regularly. Be open with each other about what God is doing in your lives, what you are learning and what you are struggling with. Also, share prayer requests with each other and try praying with each other over the phone.
[FOCUS ON THE PRESENT] If you’ve put God in control of your relationship, trust that He has a purpose for it even when you are apart. If God thought it would be best for you to be together right now, you would be. There is something He is teaching or showing you while you are apart. Instead of focusing on the day when you’ll be together forever, enjoy being in love right now and how the relationship is blessing your life.
[BE PATIENT] Although it will seem impossible at moments, you can make this work, but it will take time. Things will develop, but like any relationship it will come together slowly. You’ll get better at communicating the longer you are together. Pace yourself. Don’t put everything about yourself out there trying to make him feel closer to you when you are apart. Take another deep breath and enjoy where you’re at now. The long distance relationship can be a beautiful thing.
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