Long-Distance Dating

Long-Distance Dating

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One year ago, on Easter, I went to the home of a couple from my church for a potluck dinner. I ended up sitting next to a guy named Andrew, who was in town visiting a friend who attended my church. Andrew and I started talking about our favorite TV shows, and I told him that he had to start watching Friday Night Lights. (I am also telling you — if you haven't already watched it — you have to start watching Friday Night Lights.)  We talked about all kinds of things, but most importantly, we laughed. We chatted for a long time that day, and ended up being at the same gathering again that night. Andrew asked if I might want to hang out a couple of days later, and we spent the day getting brunch, going to Target, watching Friday Night Lights, and going to the park. The next morning, we went out for breakfast again. It was great. I had never connected with a guy so quickly or easily. He was so funny, and we had a ton in common. It seemed meant to be.

Then he went back to Canada.

Yes, this great guy I'd met and connected with and loved getting to know, was Canadian. We had a fun couple of days, but I figured I'd never hear from him again. But then he sent me a Facebook message. And a few texts. Then he called, and we began Skyping. Pretty soon, he told me he wanted to come visit me during the summer. Last July, we became "official" (on Facebook and everything), and we have spent the past eight and a half months dating long-distance.

In case you're considering a long-distance relationship, here are some things that I've learned or noticed along the way:

Long-distance dating isn't ideal. But it is possible. Andrew and I both had our hesitations about committing to a long-distance relationship. It seemed challenging, and neither of us knew how things would work out. But when we decided to date last summer, we both agreed that we would take things one step at a time. We didn't have to have everything figured out to move forward. We planned out the next few times we would see each other, we talked about how often we wanted to communicate, and we went from there.

Be grateful for modern technology. This past year, I've often thought about people who used to communicate solely through letters. I don't know if I could have done it! Andrew and I live in the same time zone, which I have been so grateful for. I spent part of last summer in Israel, and that time difference made communication such a challenge. We try to connect almost every day by either talking on the phone or video chatting. I've never been a huge phone person, so I wasn't too excited about that aspect of the relationship. But I've gotten used to it, and it's worth it in order to connect with someone you care about. I like FaceTime the best because it's nice to be able to see one another — it feels more like you're actually spending time together.

See each other when you can. Andrew and I have actually been really blessed with the amount of time we've been able to spend together. We spent three weeks together last summer, and then connected for Canadian Thanksgiving (it's in October!), American Thanksgiving, Christmas, a quick, surprise visit in March, and then a couple of weeks ago at Easter. We've both spent a lot of money on plane tickets this year, which is tough, but it's been worth it to have time together. I always have a bit of an adjustment period before, during and after each visit. In the time in between visits, I get pretty used to life on my own. Then we see each other and adjust to being together. Then he leaves or I leave, and I get sad and miss him. Then eventually I get used to life on my own again. It's a bit of a vicious cycle, but after the first couple of visits, I knew what to expect.

Take things at your own pace. It's easy to feel pressure to know exactly what's going on or to have everything figured out — long-distance or not. But there's a bit of added pressure when dating long-distance, because at some point, someone has to move or something has to change. But I've learned that it's so important to communicate and to go with the flow. Our relationship has grown so much in the past year, even though we've been apart. We are figuring things out together, and it's been a really cool process.

Don't be long-distance forever. Andrew and I both knew that this past year would be spent apart. He teaches high school, and I was finishing my last year of grad school. I'll be graduating in May, and I'm planning to spend the summer in Canada. It's a great next step for us, and I'm really excited for us to have some "normal" life together. (We've gotten really good at holidays together.) I'm sure there will be new things to navigate this summer, but I'm grateful that we've built such a strong foundation through our long-distance time this past year.

Ultimately, I have known, since the day I met Andrew, that the Lord has been deeply involved in this process. There's still stuff to figure out, but we both trust that God is good. And this experience has grown both of us in our trust in the Lord and the things that He is doing.

Have any of you dated long-distance? What was your experience? What did you learn?

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  • I've long distance dated before w/ this girl for about a year.  First it was messages via the Internet, then phone calls, then finally in person.  Once we met in person, we found things about each other which would not be make us a good married couple (but still remained good friends).

    The point is there is only so much that can be gleaned from any interaction which is not face-to-face and for an extended period of time.  It's just too easy to put up a facade or to sound less diabolical, to put your best foot forward highlighting your strengths and downplaying your weaknesses.  The sooner and more often you can meet face to face, the better.

  • I am marrying a wonderful man in 9 weeks (!!!!) and we were long distance for our first 7 months.  I think its doable...however, like you said, not ideal.  On the other hand, it has some REAL benefits!  The pluses of long distance dating is (1) communication; (2) fun flirting -- nothing makes your day quite like a sweet miss you or "skip work and come see me please" type of text -- I find we have to try harder to flirt now that we are in the same city; (3) MOST IMPORTANTLY -- long distance dating makes you think longterm early on.  sometimes, without meaning to, people take time figuring things out.  I am not saying thats wrong but with long distance dating, it takes effort so you don't keep up the effort of daily calls and visits if you don't see the relationship having a future.  By a couple months in, I was pretty certain we would get married, so was he...I think its because we had to be intentional.

    Oh and one more thing thats a plus about long distance dating is that we were able to learn to fight quickly and move on.  If you only have a 3 day wkd together and you bicker (as all couples do), you need to address the issue and move on or you'll ruin your whole weekend.  We didn't have the luxury of pouting so we had to fight quickly and forgive quickly.  I think it was a good lesson as I can tend to be a grudge holder at times.

    Long distance dating tips:

    (1) both parties initiate.  I am not disagreeing that there are roles in dating and marriage, but I think if you are the type of person that believes a man should always pay or always suggest plans or always make the effort then long distance dating is not for you because it takes two people looking at their schedules and their bank accounts and saying "I have 4 days off in july...can I come see you?" etc....  This comes will simple things like phone calls too.  Early on, I learned that I couldn't always expect him to figure out when we would both be free to chat that week.  I had to help out some.  I think this is good though.  

    (2) show affection and flirt! I think this is important.  There's a normal part of affection that you get daily in a relationship. Someone reaches for your hand during prayer or hugs you when you're upset. or kisses your cheek.  You also don't even see eachother daily to say, wow you look nice today....SO We were both very good about using affectionate words and saying how we missed eachother or "can't wait to hold your hand on our date this weekend" etc.   It was nice to know I was missed, cared for and he found me attractive.  Although you have to keep your words appropriate, you want to make sure your relationship doesnt just consist of "how was your day" and also has the fun stages of a new relationship.

    (3) Give eachother slack.  Sometimes visits can't happen or someone falls asleep and misses a planned call.  Show some grace!

    (4) PLAN!! (but allow for a few surprises!) You can't be a let life happen to you type of person when it comes to long distance dating.  It takes planning ahead -- but at the same time be flexible enough that if your significant other has a conference nearby you last minute, you drive to see her....or in my case, it was court near him and we made plans to meet up!

    (5) prioritize -- obviously I couldn't be there for every birthday, every party, every friend's wedding, so be able to discuss what things are very important to you.  Do you really want to spend valentines togetehr or would you rather make a birthday visit?

    (6) begin and end on a good note.  You have to have some hard discussions during visits but end it positively.  Don't end the visit still upset.

    (7) set traditions --- what sometimes feels missing in long distance dating is traditions and normalcy and daily activities together.  You can't plan for lunch after church each week.  You don't have Saturday date nights or tuesday taco nights etc.  Make some traditions.  We always texted good morning and good night.  We had a countdown til we saw eachother.We'd always call on sundays and talk about the sermons.  It felt like our own version of normalcy.

    (8) Have an end plan.  From fairly early on, know that there will be a point where long distance ends.  My fiance was moving to my city for school (before we even met) so I knew we only had to be long distance 7 months.  You can do anything for a certain amount of time plus it gives you something to look forward to!

    Ok hope that helps, those are my tips.  Not all of long distance is bad.  We are now long distance for the last 2 months as school is ending for him and hes moving home and I moved to my parents house,,,,,and I am honestly a little excited.  Its fun to have long talks and flirty texts and be excited to see him each wkd.....and, I know it will make me even more excited to commit to forever soon!  It's not a way to date forever, but for a time period, its doable and can even have some advantages!

  • Contgratulations Clair! :D

  • My husband and I dated long distance for 9 months and then we were engaged long distance for 9 months. We never lived in the same city until we exchanged vows. (We had visited each other, of course!)  

    Not only is it totally doable, but I agree with Clair that there are advantages.

    When you are together in the same place, there are things to do (shopping, watching movies, hiking, hanging out with friends, etc.). When you are not in the same place, the only thing you can do “together” is communicate (phone, Skype, email, etc.). We took advantage of this to learn how to communicate well.

    We discussed everything from current events and theology to childrearing philosophies and pet peeves! There really haven’t been many surprises since we got married because we had so much time to talk that we touched on every imaginable topic. Thanks to lists of “icebreaker” questions found on the web and books like “101 Questions to Ask Before You Get Engaged,” we never ran out of things to discuss.

    When you communicate with someone face-to-face, body language plays a huge role in your interpretation of what is said. You don’t have body language when you communicate by email or phone (this is true to some extent even with video calls over Skype). This meant that we had to be very intentional about expressing ourselves clearly. Sometimes this required us to use a greater variety of words to explain how we felt. Sometimes we had to elaborate. Sometimes we had to repeat back to one another our personal understanding of what was said. Now that we are married, these skills benefit us.

    In terms of tips, I would add this: Be intentional about getting to know your significant other’s family and friends. I learned a lot about my husband when I met his family (and got to hear some of the stories that are often repeated and passed down). It was also fun and informative to see him interact with his buddies. It’s really hard to get these opportunities when you live far away from one another. Put concerted effort into finding ways to spend time with his (or her) family and friends.

  • Oh, Denise, how I wish I had been as faithful, reflective and mature as you seem to have been while I was dating my husband! We went from 'Hi' to 'I do' in  fourteen months. All but the last 3 were long distance (as in five time zones.)  I know that sounds like it happened so quickly, but I felt like the whole process was an absolute eternity. Every day I was sure that I could not possibly go another day without being with him. If I could go back, I would hope that I would have more peace and trust in God and my husband's judgement for the pace of our relationship. We are happily married for five years now. I love this country and have no regrets!

  • This is a very timely post for me.  Thank you!  I appreciate each and every long-distance tip that anyone can give me, having recently started a long-distance relationship myself.

    It was a huge hesitation, the distance.  Like your story, Denise, he and I met;  we hit it off instantly, and then stayed in touch once I was back in Canada.  I prayed a LOT before I saw him for the second time in person - I knew there was something special there and I knew that to see him again would be opening the door to something that could change my life.  Who knew that a second date could be so scary?!

    (I spent a week angsting over seeing him again.  All kinds of black thoughts crept into my mind - I liken it to a spiritual attack - and my life could have simply continued on without seeing him again.  It certainly would have been easier, but so much less amazing.)  

    That's what long-distance brings: clarity and focus early on.  It's not just a casual date; it's the both of you showing how much you like each other and are hoping this can work.  I know that there are huge barriers to our relationship but by discussing the potential complications early on, it's just been downhill since then.  

    e.g. Discussions like, "If this continues, one of us has to move." and, "I always envisioned raising kids living near my mom."  There are no answers or promises just yet, but a clear understanding of what we both hope for.  

    Clair - are you the same Clair who used to post a lot on the old site?  Congratulations on your upcoming wedding!!!  I'm so happy for you!  (Even if you're not the same Clair, I'm still so happy for you!)  

    Clair said: "someone falls asleep and misses a planned call."

    Yup, I got to experience that for the first time last week, and I was so sad that I didn't get to talk to him!

    In terms of long-distance tips: I have done long-distance before, so I know that regular contact is paramount.  Good-morning texts and good-night Skype calls (we're in that stage where we GET NO SLEEP because we cannot bear to end the call!) and lots of emails throughout the day.  

    I'm a huge planner/scheduler, so when we first started dating, my weekends were all booked out.  I am learning to leave free weekends for him and that is a huge change for me, but it's totally worth it.  

    The downside is that I am less available now, on weekends, for my local friends.  I will be gone a lot.  And that makes me sad because my friendships are very important to me.  QUESTION FOR EVERYONE:  How have your friends handled this?  Have your friendships suffered?

  • Yes, Kelly-1, I am the same Clair. Ha, life got busy and I quit posting, but didnt quit reading.  Also I knew I had to set up an acount to post.  I think I thought this would take awhile but it didn't....so I am back! and thanks for the congrats! We are thrilled!

    The problem with long distance dating is that you are often gone on many wkds or have someone in town on wkds....so friend time can suffer.  So, help eachother out and give yourselves "time off"

    What I mean by give people time off is if you are close enough that you see eachother a few times a month, then sometimes let the other one off the hook --IE, if you can tell he really wants to go camping with his buddies, but also wants to see you because weekends or every other wkd is y'alls time, cut him some slack and tell him he should go! I think its important to kindof help eachother maintain friendships.  This is also just helpeful because likely all that busyness has you exhausted and behind on personal errands -- so it gives you time to see others and catch up and REST.

    also, if you are long distance, your weekends are likely busy BUT you're week nights don't entail a BF or GF....other than a phone call, skype, etc.  So fill your weeknights up with friends! PARTICULARLY, be the one that initiates.  I have a lot of sensitivity to single friends bc I have been one so many times before...and singles get a bad rep of being "jealous" or unsupportive, but truth is, many times those who are dating or married kindof drop their single friends...and it hurts.  Many times, i was HAPPY for my friend but still missed them or felt dropped or left behind.  I often felt like I had to make the effort to see them, so I loved when those friends sought out time with me....thats how I try to be -- I try to organize girls nights and call friends for a walk or lunch!  

    The fallback with staying busy with friends during the week and your boyfriend on the weekend is that you often time don't have alone time.  And while I do think thats important and you sometimes have to take a night in, I think at this stage, you may just have to overcommit.  You'll eventually find a balance....maybe you can manage one lunch and one weeknight with friends during the week.  But, its important to keep up relationships!

    Oh, and once you are out of that newly dating phase, you can spend part of your wkds with friends.  If he is town, spend a lot of it with him and maybe plan a bowling night or dinner out with friends. This way yall see eachother and spend time with eachothers' friends.  I found it so much easier to squeeze in both friends and my BF after we had been dating a few months.

    I recently heard a wednesday night series at our church that talked about marriage. One of the things the marriage counselor talked about was how its actually good for marriages for the partners to have friends...we can't get all of our community from one person, thats not how the church works.  And that is so true, I get a lot of my community from my fiance.  but there are just some times I want to hang out with my sisters or friends.  It's unfair to expect him to meet all those needs.  ALSO, I am still a huge part of my single friends community.  I don't want to drop them because I am with someone....they were more than just spot fillers for a husband.

    I know its so hard, but I truly do think if you give your friends quality time, although not as much of it, you should be fine. I always loved when married/dating friends gave me a night together, even if it was only once a month. My mom said to me -- now that you are in a relationship means another slice is added to the pie-- each slice gets a bit smaller to accomodate that, but no slice has to dissapear!  ALSO since you are asking about how to keep your friendships from suffering, you are probably already doing a better job than most.  It just involves a little grace-- from both parties!

    PS Make sure your friends know you chose a night with them.  I hate when people make you feel like their BF is out of town this wkd so they want to see you....I know that part of the truth is that may be how it worked out, but I don't want to feel like the backup plan!!  

  • Yeah, I am feeling VERY over-committed right now.  My personal admin task list is getting out of control.  We did have a weekend apart (theoretically to give us both time to 'catch up' on life) but in reality, I went to all of my scheduled events and spent the nights on Skype with him anyway, so I still didn't get anything done.  

    I need to learn balance...and I need to get some sleep!  :/  

    So thank you for the good advice about resting.  (And so glad to see you posting here again.  :) )

    As for friendships - you're right, I need to be careful about making sure they never seem like the back-up plan.  Which they are not.  But it could easily seem like that!  

  • Long distance relationships can work. I was separated by 4 timezones so that made us have to work in time to communicate around that and out jobs. Being long distance made us really master communications over IM and phone calls, and appreciate the little time we had together. It also tests your level of commitment, and made us stronger We went from dating to married in 1 year with only 3 weeks in the same timezone. We have found that the work we spent on learning how to communicate has really helped us avoid misunderstandings in our marriage.

  • I wonder if someone would be able to post a follow up on long distance relationships AFTER you're married...what if work takes him away M-F for six months (or possibly more)?  I plan to quit my job in about four months so that I'm more free to occasionally join him but work won't pay for me to stay at the hotel with him all that time (he is on a crew and they go in pairs so they share a room).  We can afford me to go some of the time but it's just not something we can actually MOVE wherever together.  What then?  We have only been married since March and done a couple of days here and there apart, but today is day two of a four day stretch (he will be home Friday night and leave again Monday morning for a few more days) and I'm already frustrated with the whole situation.  :(

  • Great post and great tips. My husband and I dated long distance for 9 months, then had a 5 month engagement. I moved to his town 3 months before our wedding, and though we were already committed and much in love, those 3 months in the same town doing everyday life together were priceless and we learned a lot about each other. I doubted if I wanted to move early and move in with strangers (one of his couple friends), but his pastor recommended it and it helped me get comfortable and get to know a new community before marriage.

    I agree with Clair that the distance encouraged us to think long term early and be intentional. And I definitely relate to Denise- making the adjustment to normal life on your own, then getting super excited to see someone, and super sad when they leave can be such a roller coaster!

    Also- having mutual friends is huge! I would have been much more hesitant without our mutual friends who could vouch for his faith and character and nudge me along to make the drive and give him a chance. :)

  • My boyfriend and I dated for 4 months and then became long-distance for a 1 year--he was in Japan, I in the U.S. The time difference was tough! Now I realize according to some people, we might still be long-distance...we live in different cities about 2.5 hours apart, and both work so we only see each other on weekends. However since it's not overseas is doesn't feel like long-distance to me! Haha.

    Some things we learned in that year apart:

    -The deeper sides of ourselves. Somehow it's easier to open up over the phone. We also started doing Skype Bible studies and what a blessing that foundation has been to us.

    - What did we have together besides "chemistry" or hormones? How can we express affection without physical touch? Why did we want to date each other in the first place?

    -Technology is amazing, but it can also be a nice way to see how patient you are when one or both have technical difficulties!

    -Talking is helpful and communication is good but sometimes it isn't. 3-hour phone calls can't happen every day. We now set a limit at 1 hour.

    -You end up thinking about the future a lot, but it's important to take things one week, one month at a time with each other.

    -It's hard to care for someone when you're not there seeing their life--especially if you both live in a place the other has never visited before. You have a story to tell of something that happened, you want him to react a certain way but he doesn't because he didn't see it or the context it was in. You need to have grace and be genuinely interested when you say "how was your day?" and he talks for 20 minutes.

    Long-distance was very beneficial for us actually. It tore away some of the superfluities and selfishnesses of our early relationship, and challenged us to think deeper, to trust God and each other more.

  • My husband and I were long-distance (200 miles) nearly our whole dating relationship.  We met online and it took some time to get to know each other because of the distance.  We spent about 5 months getting to know each other with seeing each other every 4-6 weeks and daily emails before we actually started "dating."  And then we saw each other every other weekend with lots of phone calls.  He proposed about a year after we started dating, and I was able to move to him after a few months when I graduated from college (and got married 3 months later).

    One thing I would recommend is being engaged before moving to be with your significant other.  I have known a couple of people (women) who moved to be with their boyfriends, only to break up and suddenly they were living in a place they had no desire to stay in...and both times they moved back to where they lived before.

  • I am currently starting out with a long distance relationship. We're a several thousands of miles away actually so the "I'll visit you every other weekend" is very hard and spendy. My biggest concern is, how do couples decide who would leave their home, friends, job, family if they're in the area? We both live near our families, have jobs we love, friends, a good church community, houses, the works basically. This has been on my mind a lot lately and any advice/stories would be extremely helpful. This man is an amazing man of God, but it would be so hard to leave everything.

  • There's a lot of great advice on this site! I've been in a long distance relationship for almost a year now (May 1 makes the year!). My boyfriend and I had been friends for about 3 years in the same college and started dating a few days before he graduated. For about the first 8 months, we were 5 hours away, and he would visit at the school nearly every weekend. For the past four months I have been in Thailand serving as a missionary. I felt very called to come and my time here has been a blessing, but it has been very hard to be apart for so long with no visits.  We'll be five hours apart again next month until I start graduate school in California and he will stay working in Alabama. So the distance continues. Skype has been our best friend. We'll talk about four days a week, usually for 30 minutes and another day will be two plus hours. Today we talked for seven! We do schedule in talk time but are pretty flexible and understanding if plans change. We've both expressed what we expect in terms of communication. We've grown really close. Our conservations always end with prayer (now we've added prayer to the beginning, too), we spend time "painting pictures" of our days with words, being silly, talking of what we'll do when we reunite in person, singing at times, sharing some worship though (this could definitely be more frequent), looking at pictures when we were together via screen sharing, ect. We have had Bible studies over Skype but need to be more consistent with this. Throughout the week, we'll email, send messages, and Oovoo videos.

    I have found that spending time in prayer is very uniting. We have a prayer list.  And yes, even on Skype, we sometimes get into conflicts, but always work to resolve them and end our conversation on a giddy note.

    You can still have dates despite the distance. We had a special Valentine's adventure via Skype. We dressed up and ate dinner together and had a blast! One just needs to get really creative.

    Originally, I said I wanted to finish graduate school before we get married. We are very certain we want to get married. But I think as time passes, I think it may be sooner than that.

    My biggest advice is pray together and alone, always asking for God's guidance.

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