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My first serious relationship turned into my first long-distance relationship. As you all know, it didn't end so well. But even though long-distance relationships have a reputation for not working, they can work if you know how to navigate it.
Some of you reading this might be in the same situation I was in when I graduated. You met someone at college, and now you're both going back home for the summer. You might live in the same state or even across the country from each other, and you might be wondering how to jump successfully over this sudden hurdle.
My ex-boyfriend and I lived about four hours away from each other, and even though that wasn't much of a distance, I learned a few things about what it takes to keep long-distance relationships healthy.
1. Set expectations for communication.
When you are able to spend time with your significant other, you might not think too much about communication styles. Some people are satisfied with communicating primarily through text messages and social media. Others might rely more on phone conversations or Skype.
It will greatly benefit your relationship if you set clear expectations for how and how often you will communicate. Some couples flourish on a few phone calls a week whereas others need to communicate more often. It is important to talk about this early in the relationship instead of when communication starts becoming a problem. If you don't share the same communication style, compromise. Once you know what your significant other expects, at least try.
2. Make time for date nights.
This can be the hardest concept to understand. You and your significant other are unable to go on real dates very often because of the distance, but it is important to set aside time for dates. Instead of always spending Friday night with your friends, set aside an hour or two every now and then to spend with your significant other. Watch a movie at the same time and talk about it through text messages. Share a coffee date by taking your computers to a coffee shop and talking over Skype.
If you were in the same city, making time for dates would be a no-brainer. Even when you aren't in the same city, you still have to do it if you want the relationship to work. It requires extra effort and planning ahead, but it is important to give the other person your time and let them know they are a priority.
3. Have a clear vision for the future of the relationship.
Long-distance relationships can be difficult if both people are not on the same page. Dating without a vision, especially over distance, is like walking through a pitch-black tunnel with no light at the end. How often should you visit each other based on how serious the relationship is? How long will you date over distance? Who will move when the time comes? Are you even willing to relocate?
These questions are vital. Make a plan together for the relationship so you both know where it is headed. Maybe you plan on dating for a few years before thinking about engagement. Maybe you don't intend to move for someone who isn't your fiancé(e). Be clear with your significant other about your expectations.
I didn't realize these things until it was too late. What have you learned from long-distance relationships that you wish you had known earlier? Or what are some things you learned from a successful long-distance relationship?
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3. is the most important. And 2 is not as important as 1 or 3. I'd also add 4. Find unique ways to utilize the long-distance format to make your boyfriend/girlfriend feel special. During out long-distance time, Mr.A(tof) and I both watched the entire series of Scrubs on our shared netflix account, but we didn't "set time aside" to do it together. I'd never seen the show before, so I'd watch a new episode at the gym, and he'd watch it behind me later in the evening. We'd text back and forth about it. We also texted or chatted nearly every. day. Occasionally we'd skype or talk on the phone, but not very often. But we sent greeting cards. Like silly, cheesy "miss you" or "love you" greeting cards. The ones in the "love" or "romance" section that you think no one ever actually buys? We sent those ;) We would write letters inside them and send them. We sent small gifts in the mail, too. We also traveled. a LOT. the longest time we were apart was about three months in the summer. Was it tough? You bet it was. And expensive. But we loved each other and we were committed to making it work. And that, really, is the important ingredient. I had been in long distrance relationships before where the fellow wasn't committed or interested in making the medium work -- and both of us putting in the effort changed the situation entirely. Long distance relationships don't always fail because of the distance, distance just adds stress. Being able to navigate that stress will make a good relationship stronger, not weaker.
Good thoughts. Long-distance is a big test for any relationship and it's played a significant role in ending two relationships for me that may have continued longer if we lived in the same location.
My advice: don't ever get into a long-distance relationship if you are still in the "honeymoon" phase of a dating relationship. (Ie the first year for most couples, some a bit shorter some longer.) Early in relationships, couples are on their best behavior in front of each other and you don't really get to see the real them come out until later on when trust is built and challenges face you both. Distance communication makes it even easier to forget that you only interact with a limited dimension of the other person while you still may be growing deeply attached emotionally to who you hope they are. Dangerous.This usually leads to pain, disappointment and confusion. Build a strong foundation first with boundaries, good communication and clear expectations or give it time and space.
My husband and long-distance from the very beginning and we were in driving distance from each other (3 hours), The hard part was getting to know each other (prior to actually dating), but once we were actually dating, we saw each other every other weekend (each of us would drive once a month) and talk on the phone just about every day. We also went on a week-long mission trip together and spent most holidays together. We also have always been pretty real with each other and had good communication with each other from the beginning, which I think helped things. Long-distance isn't ideal, but the right person is worth it!
I think there are two types of long distance relationship: Those that start long-distance, and those that become long-distance. The advice here is much more applicable to the second type because it's unlikely that you've thought about those things until you're suddenly faced with separation.
If the relationship starts out as long-distance, you'll naturally be doing all of these things. (1) Because you actively WANT to talk to each other as much as possible (it's new and exciting!) and (2) Why would you even bother starting unless you thought it could be serious, i.e. heading towards marriage.
Regarding the 'are you willing to relocate' question, that's the one I'm facing right now. For years, I said: "Of course I would go anywhere in the world for a husband!" Then God taught me that a husband was not the be-all and end-all of everything, and that I could be equally valuable on my own, anywhere for Him. I felt called back to my home community. That's exactly when I met someone. :p So now I'm in the process of re-evaluating all over again!
Not only can couples survive long-distance relationships, but they can thrive in them. My husband and I never lived in the same city until we exchanged vows. (We dated long distance for 9 months and were engaged long distance for 9 months.)
Being geographically distant from one another can hone your communication skills. Embrace this opportunity to grow in your ability to communicate well.
I agree with MrsAshleyTOF that the third recommendation is critical. Get on the same page with your boyfriend about things like how often you should visit each other and who will move if/when the time comes. Although it might be awkward, I recommend having conversations with one another about these questions. (If one or both of you is unwilling to discuss these questions, then I’d say that’s a red flag.) Even though you’re dealing with unknown outcomes, both of your responses to these questions will provide great insight. They could indicate a need to break off the relationship and save you from great heartache down the road…or they may build your confidence and encourage you in your relationship!
I asked my husband, who is here with me, if he has any recommendations for how to survive a long-distance relationship. His answer: “Patience.”
My husband and I were together 3 1/2 years before we got married of which time we were able to spend one summer, one Christmas and the four months before our actual wedding together. Nine kids and nearly thirty years of marriage and I would say the thing that brought us together and has kept us together is that we have genuinely always wanted what was best for each other,. Before we were married, that meant that we didn't assume we had to have each other. We prayed for the other person to follow God, to grow in his/her faith, and to become the person God was calling them to be. After marriage, it meant being grateful every day to be together again and going to bed each night thankful we didn't have to say good-bye. I could tell you about his love language being time and mine being service and how neither need was met while we were dating. I could tell you that although we "knew" each other through letters, we had no knowledge about each other's personal habits. But the truth is, our personal relationships with God is what ultimately enabled us to make and keep a long distant relationship alive ~ and it's what keeps our marriage together now.
My advice is this.
Communication every single day until you put your life's together in marriage.
My friend did that. His girl lived in Thailand, whom he had casually met while visiting one of the local
Gator Parks. She worked in the one he visited.
He got her phone number before he returned to the states,
and then from Florida every single day, he phoned her.
By the time they finished talking, he went back and asked for her from her dad, they got married and live happily ever after.
She asked him one question.. Why didn't you tell me from the beginning you only had one leg.
He replied and said, If I had told you right from the beginning, would you have decided to marry me?
She said, No, Now, she said, I am happy you didn't.
I hope that helps.
If you are not committed to marry, my own personal opinion on that , is top wasting each others time.
All my relationships were failed relationships. No communications, no relationships.
No worries mate. Don't waste that girls time, nor your own. Either be true to a life commitment to start, or don't start at all.
Before you go Andropausal and Menopausal, get yourselves together into an HRT Program.
Stop the Physical and Mental Madness with good medicine, before you divorce each other.
Re: Love languages - my BF and I both did that quiz and scored pretty much the same on everything. Our top-two were Quality Time and Physical Touch. Just perfect for long-distance, right? :p (We're managing. Lots and lots of talking on Skype!)
I don't have any personal experience, but I greatly admire how my good friend (who asked me to be his best man this Fall) handled his relationship. One thing that has concerned me about long-distance relationships is the detachment that the couple may have from each other's friends and social circles. My friend would often put his woman on speakerphone when he and I would hang out, so I could get to know her that way. I took a liking to her pretty quickly.
After he visited her (in the South of the US) she came and visited (we're in the Northwest) and stayed at my family's house. He proposed to her in the fellowship hall of our church, and since she's planning on relocating, it was good preparation for us as a congregation getting to know and welcome her.
I'm currently in a long-distance relationship and yes, it's an incredible blessing but it is hard work and a lot of commitment (not necessarily bad things!). My main advice would be, in this day of technology and instant communication, don't let it swallow up your life in where you are - it can be very easy to be always texting/IMing and so neglecting your 'life'. It's taken work for me to balance it. Also that it will look different for every couple because we're all in different situations with unique people.
Long-distance for one year was great for my boyfriend and me, and we didn't do 1, 2, OR 3, haha!
1. I like Skype/some kind of voice/face-time, but he likes writing long texts. I can't be bothered :x emails, yes, but I hate the tiny keypad on my phone.
2. we never did "dates" over Skype or anything. I guess because our relationship wasn't really romantic like roses and chocolate to start with? Also the only place with fast enough internet for Skype was my college's library, so we skyped in a tiny individual study room where I couldn't bring in food/drink and had to keep my voice down. I guess we did other special things. Hand-written letters.
3. We had no idea going into long-distance what was going to happen to us, not even when we would meet again! 6 months in he started dropping the "m" word but before that it was all up in the air.
The reason long-distance worked for us was because we'd been doing an unhealthy (and unholy, I'm not proud to admit) amount of physical touch. Long-distance, we were able to well, look at each other from a distance, and see if we had anything together besides a lot of hormones. We prayed more than we ever did while together, and guess what, God brought us extra helpings of guidance and peace. We learned patience (when your guy doesn't lose his cool even though he got up at the screech of dawn to Skype but due to technical difficulties, we get cut off every 30 seconds, you know you've got a keeper. I was the one wanting to toss my computer across the room. He never did. "don't worry about it, we can just IM" ) and better communication.
I think the one thing we realized was we were dating as fellow Christians. If it was meant to work out, it would. We held onto each other tightly but loosely at the same time. If that makes sense. And we trusted each other a lot. My non-Christian friends made comments like, "what if he cheats, you'd never know!" but that was far from both our minds. We just had this desire to grow up in our faith together and have a Christ-centered relationship, and we both talked about how the long-distance was a golden opportunity to do just that. That vision together helped a lot.
--I've found that the only way long term relationships work is if there is an end in sight for the long distance part of the relationship. Of course, even with an end in sight, you still need to keep your bond. You can't just talk about how you miss one another, but have to keep the connection alive by thinking outside the box. Try to have fun date nights over Skype or meet each other halfway for a weekend away.
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