Years ago, Ana met Mr. Wonderful, a travelling salesman. They fell in love but he had to keep travelling with his job. To remind her of his constant love, he wrote her letters—one each day, in fact. The postman would deliver them to her door each morning and she would snatch the letter out of his hand, eager to see what her love had written. Mr. Wonderful continued writing for many months. And the following year, Ana married—the postman.
My aunt told me a story like this many years ago and it’s always stuck with me—and made me leery of long-distance relationships. But, lo and behold, I soon found myself in a long-distance relationship. There was just no getting around the distance.
Because of our global society, long-distance relationships are becoming more and more prevalent. But they aren’t all destined to fail like Ana’s. In fact, with the right handling, a long-distance relationship can be a positive experience that results in a lasting relationship.
My friend, for example, met her husband at a wedding. He was stationed in Texas and she was living in Florida. They corresponded by texting, calling, and skyping, and they visited in-person every few months. Six months later they were engaged, and eleven months later they were happily married. When they returned to base after their honeymoon, it was the first time they had lived in the same city. Having a cross-country relationship wasn’t easy, but they made it work. And so can you!
Here are some keys to keeping your relationship strong when you’re apart:
In order to flourish, long-distance relationships must be intentional and defined. There is nothing worse than being in a relationship and fearing that he/she will forget you and dump you for someone local. Reassure your girlfriend of your commitment by making him a priority. Share with her why you love her and let her know that you miss her.
Set a date.
No, I don’t mean the wedding! Always try to set the date of your next visit as soon as possible, so when you say “goodbye” you’ll know when you’re going to see each other again. It gives you a tangible date to look forward to and makes it easier to be apart. Setting a date far in advance also helps you arrange your activities/work schedule around that person’s visit. For example, when my boyfriend would visit, I put all my commitments “on hold” if I could. Since we would only have a few days together, I wanted to make the most of every minute.
Get in the zone.
When you’re in different time zones, one person may be eating dinner when the other one is getting ready for bed. Or one will call at 6 a.m. for a little “chat” because it’s already 9 a.m. in their time. This can get old quickly—especially if you’re not a morning person. My boyfriend and I learned to calculate the distance and also created a Gmail calendar with our weekly schedules that we could easily reference from our email accounts. We scheduled “talking dates” several times a week so we could talk without interruption. Scheduling “talking dates” really helped us communicate more effectively. Without them, we played phone tag for hours or ended up talking when one of us was half asleep. We quickly discovered that 1:00 a.m. conversations are not exactly quality time.
Believe it or not, there are things to be thankful for regarding long-distance relationships. One of the biggest highlights is that, because of the distance, you have to talk. Many times dating/courting revolves around activities, like dinner, movies, family gatherings, and church events. But long distance doesn’t give you that luxury; you have nothing to do but talk. As a result, you will not only learn a lot about the person and how she thinks, but also about how to communicate effectively with her. So, rather than dwelling on the negative, take a minute to think of something you are grateful for.
Do things together when apart.
You don’t have to be sitting side by side to enjoy experiencing something together. My best friend and her boyfriend watched an entire golf tournament together one weekend. They made it fun by “betting” on who would win. The loser had to bake the winner brownies and express mail them. With Skype, the possibilities are endless. You can watch a movie, listen to music, and even eat dinner together—just be sure to keep your computer at a safe distance from your meal!
When you finally do have the opportunity to be together, be careful. Both of you will have a lot of pent-up emotions. Make sure that you don’t let hormones get the best of you. Pray beforehand and, as a safeguard, meet in well-populated areas. Stay accountable by remaining in settings that include family and friends. It may take more work and planning, but remember the old saying, “It’s better to be safe than sorry.”
Send thoughtful packages.
E-cards, e-mails, and texts are wonderful, but there is just something special about holding a tangible gift from the one you love. It doesn’t have to be expensive; it just has to be a thoughtful object from you. For example, for his graduation, I made my boyfriend a giant candy gram; he arranged to have flowers delivered on my birthday. T-shirts, homemade cards, stuffed animals, baked goods… Send them something, and you’ll be sure to make his day—and week!
Learn about your boyfriend/girlfriend’s interests.
When you learn about her hobby, it does several things:
- Makes you feel connected to her
- Provides another topic of discussion
- Gives you a new activity to do together
- Builds a deeper sense of appreciation for her hobby/work
Build the spiritual side of your relationship.
As a Christian, God should be the center of your relationship. Whether you’ve been together two weeks or two years, it’s never too early to start building each other up in the Lord. You may not be able to attend church or Bible studies together, but you can do a Bible study on your own using either the phone or e-mail. You can also listen to sermons online and discuss them. One of the things I treasure is the prayer routine my boyfriend and I established. It started when we were separate coasts and continues today. Every night we end our phone conversations with prayer, and I couldn’t be more grateful for that blessing. “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful” (Colossians 4:2).