‘Are you seeing someone?’
‘How’s your love life going?’
These questions are asked on a regular basis for all those still navigating relationship leading to marriage. I like that description better than the word single. I was never a fan of anything that included the word singles (single’s ministry, single’s connect, single and looking). I don’t know why, I’ve just never been a fan. Maybe it’s just the stigma, so I’ve steered away. As a result, I like to describe it in other ways. But sometimes you just have to use that word.
Now, more often than not, the answer to the above questions is ‘I’m dating someone. They actually live in (insert other state, city, country or continent).’
With one in three relationships now beginning online, the ease of airport travel, and people connecting in every way imaginable these days; distance seems to have taken a back seat to love. Being geographically undesirable no longer really makes it to the top of the list of deal breakers. This is unless you have extenuating circumstances that would lead to the inability to travel. This can be a bit challenging if you’re a single parent or have an insanely demanding job. The sky really is the limit though now with connection across the globe.
I recently received a request from a male blog reader that I address navigating long distance relationships, and I was reminded that my now husband and I journeyed that road and made it through to the avenue of happily ever after. Although long distance may not be anyone’s first choice for a dating relationship, it can definitely lead to a happy life-long marriage connection.
The notion of long distance relationship sounds so romantic in songs like Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Years”.
Making my way downtown
And I’m home bound
Staring blankly ahead
Just making my way
Making a way
Through the crowd
And I need you
And I miss you
And now I wonder….
If I could fall
Into the sky
Do you think time
Would pass me by
‘Cause you know I’d walk
A thousand miles
If I could
Just see you
It’s always times like these
When I think of you
And I wonder
If you ever
Think of me..
Amazing how music and great lyrics can make almost any activity or life situation seem exciting and mysterious. Songs can even make breaking up sound romantic and intriguing. Weird. It is SO not. Back to the subject of long distance, though.
Navigating long distance has a set of challenges, but it also contains some positives. Thankfulness brings increase, so here it goes.
The Long Distance Relationship Benefits Package
Benefit # 1: Deep, authentic communication
Day after day, night after night; email, text, phone call, facetime, skype, email, text, phone call, facetime, skype, REPEAT. What else can you do? You can’t go to the movies, go on regular dates, or attend church together.
You must communicate.
I’m almost convinced that if you’re bad at communication, it’s nearly impossible to have a successful long distance relationship. A great benefit to dating this way is that you’ll find out what both parties communication skills or lack thereof are quickly! Or you’ll learn to be an excellent communicator. I can’t remember in the 6 months that my husband and I dated long distance, a day that passed without us communicating. He is an excellent communicator, and I always knew where we were at in the relationship.
If communication isn’t a strength, focus on it. Grow in that area; learn from others that are good communicators and read books. Learn how to ask good questions. Talk to God more; ask Him questions. Let Him ask you questions and converse. Sit under people who communicate well in life and marriage. Learn how to communicate your needs and wants. I did all of these and more, and I’m so incredibly thankful now that I did. I wouldn’t say that I was a stellar communicator by any stretch of the imagination four years ago. I can now say that I think I’m a pretty good communicator. This didn’t just happen naturally; it happened with focus, learning and application. Studies show that poor communication skills and the inability to resolve conflict are the leading causes of divorce. Great communication usually leads to great relationships. It’s worth the investment of time, focus and implementation.
Benefit #2: Distraction free dating
Guess what? Being around a person that you’re extremely attracted to can cause some concrete distractions to getting to know who they really are.
Of course it’s possible to have a really healthy relationships with someone that lives next door to you, but this blog is about celebrating long distance relationships. Thus this benefit; the absence of physical distractions or temptations day in and out. Sometimes attraction can cause us to make some interesting and sometimes negative choices for our relationship at inappropriate times or prematurely before a committed marriage relationship. When you’re not sitting next to this person on the couch day after day, night after night, smelling their amazing perfume, seeing their gorgeous face…Well, you get the picture.
Enjoy the benefit of being able to get to know who someone really is–distraction free. Ask compelling questions about each other. Reach deeper. Ask emotionally inviting questions to really get to know someone. Use distraction free dating to your advantage. You could also rename it as part of your purity plan. Hey, we’re looking for positives here.
I actually really was thankful for this with my husband and I. It helped us develop an incredibly good foundation and our communication has always been strong. Go deeper at the right pace in the relationship to build a good foundation that can grow into intimacy if it’s meant to. While we were dating, my husband asked a lot of questions. It was helpful and engaging. I would respond and ask him as well. This keeps things interesting. I asked him why he did it later and he said, “I knew what I wanted and what I was looking for. I wasn’t going to waste any time.” Another reason why I just love him!
If you don’t know good questions to ask, google can help.
One of the reasons my dad blessed our quick union of marriage after 6 months of dating long distance and then a 3 month engagement where we lived around each other, was the depth of communication we had. He said he believed we had gotten to know each other more than most people who had been dating over a year because of the amount of communication. It was true.
Benefit #3: Fun and exciting trips to visit each other.
My husband lived in Maui and I lived in California before he moved to California and we got engaged and then married. It was tough to go spend 2 weeks visiting him in Hawaii while we were dating, but I somehow managed…
Getting to know his world and staying with some of the people at the church that knew him was a great experience. Going to his church, hanging with his friends, romantic dinner cruises, walks on the beach all helped us gain a greater idea of how each person would interact with us and others. Vary the interactions with people the person knows when you visit. This will give you a well rounded perspective. Ask good questions of the person’s friends. Normally, red flags will pop up during this process.
Benefit #4: Decision for sustainability of relationship is expedited.
The above benefit kind of sounds like a business transaction, but let’s face it, no one wants to spend a bunch of their valuable time on a relationship that isn’t going anywhere. The reality is that one of the members of the relationship will have to move to the others said location if things are really going to move forward. If things progress, this decision will need to be made. I say sooner than later. It causes questions to come up and decisions to be made.
My husband moved to live around me 6 months after we started dating. People that are marriage minded and ready for commitment won’t be too afraid to move forward in making a geographic move for a special someone. We were both open to the possibility, but we both felt God direct Shane to move to where I was. Every situation is different, but this is a benefit because it requires significant commitment and normally doesn’t allow for a relationship to be stagnant.
How do you keep long distance relationships moving forward and engaging for both parties?
#1–Keep communication rolling.
The man should be the driving force behind this. If either party just isn’t that into it, let the other party know. Don’t just stop communicating. Communicate why. That’s just common courtesy, even in the beginning stages. And yes, even in online dating.
The online dating world almost excuses people from kindness, manners and common courtesy in this area; I don’t believe that’s right. Simply state that you’re not interested in pursuing the relationship further due to distance or connection. That’s what adults do, they communicate how they feel honestly. The other party will appreciate it even if it stings a little at first.
If you’re into it, keep communication strong and frequent. Games are for children. There is no rule about time to respond. When my husband and I first started communicating, it was email only for a month because I was traveling through Europe and couldn’t talk on the phone. He emailed me like clockwork daily and I would respond back. It was fun. We scheduled our first phone chat for when I got back, and he bought his plane ticket to visit me the same night as that call. Keep the ball rolling if there’s interest. Did I mention that he knew what he wanted? Yep.
#2–Spice it up.
Talking on the phone, skype and text can get boring. Keep it interesting. Mix it up. Send gifts. Have trips scheduled in advance to visit each other and for something to look forward to in the relationship. Plan a date dinner over skype. While my husband was visiting me the first time, we got my plane ticket to visit him. It’s important to keep the ball rolling in long distance. Otherwise parties lose interest and disappear.
#3–Do your homework.
Don’t visit someone that you know little about or don’t have peace. Get to know them, check out their facebook, find out if you have any mutual friends. Yes, dig a little. Be smart about it. Ask your friends and mentors for wisdom and advice. OnDaySix has a great screening process to make sure that members are safe. That is helpful. Other sites may not have the same, so do your homework.
#4–Enjoy the stages of dating–attraction, uncertainty, exclusivity, intimacy, engagement then marriage.
Each stage holds its own set of joy and growth opportunities. Embrace the process of relationship. It’s much easier than fighting against it.
Cheers to long distance relationships leading to marriage. You’re the leading lady or man of your own love story partnered with a God who is backing you to move into a lasting marriage relationship—even if it does begin long distance.
Wendee Mannon, OnDaySix Staff Writer, Relationship Coach, Wendee’s Bio