If you’re reading this, you are probably in a long-distance relationship, entering into a long-distance relationship, or foreseeably dating someone that might move away for career, family or personal reasons. You may also be reading this simply because you are curious how Jeremy and I successfully endured a three-year long distance relationship, that resulted in marriage.
It has been on my heart to share with you some of the things we’ve learned from living 878 miles away form each other for our ENTIRE dating relationship. I would like to state a couple disclaimers before you continue reading. The first, this post is advice on how we navigated through our long-distance relationship, but I understand that your circumstances are unique, and not everything in this post will pertain to you. Secondly, this is written for those of you that are in a long-distance relationship with a light at the end of the tunnel. Circumstances may have geographically separated you for a period of time, but you are committed to being together indefinitely once you are able. If this is the case, remember: “Distance means so little when they mean so much.” – Jeremy Roloff
You are not in a normal relationship. So you can’t have the same expectations as a normal relationship. Keep in mind that you are basically just friends that talk on the phone… so don’t expect your relationship to progress in the same way it would if you lived in the same city. You need to come to terms with the fact that a long-distance relationship won’t give you what a real relationship will give you. So don’t get down on yourself when you see your friends two-month relationship progressing faster than your two-year relationship. This will spare you so much frustration, and prevent a lot of unnecessary doubts from creeping into your relationship. If you are in a long-distance relationship you are basically committing to be faithful to one another for a period of time, until you can be in a relationship where you are living life in tandem. This may seem harsh, but a long-distance relationship is a guaranteed heartache without a finish line in sight.
Over-communicate intentionally, but don’t excessively communicate relentlessly. It’s better to over communicate but talk less frequently, than to under communicate but talk excessively. Say wha?? Meaning, if you’re talking about your day…. all day every day…. chances are the feelings of “inloveless” will be lost in the mundane. We found that it was actually better to go a few days without talking, but then have a more significant conversation where we set aside time to talk to each other without multitasking. These conversations allowed us to go beyond how each others days went. Overtime you will feel more connected by less frequent deeper conversations, than consistent surface level conversations.
Set Expectations. Laying out our expectations was how Jeremy and I began our relationship. We started dating 10 days before Jeremy moved away for school. We wanted to set an expectation for what our communication, or relationship (if we chose to go that route) would look like while living so far away form each other. This was also Jeremy’s way of asking me to be his girlfriend because he said and I quote: “when I’m away at school I want to be able to call you mine.” A conversation that started by laying out each others expectations for communication, became a commitment to court each other, and seek to pursue each other, in a long-distance relationship. If we had not laid out our expectations, someone would have ended up getting hurt. If you you foresee yourself entering into a long-distance relationship, talk about the expectations you have for one another before you have a cosmic geographical barrier.
Unhindered time. You need to have time together that is not constrained by your to-do list, calendar appointments and commitments to other people. Jeremy and I had a full summer of unhindered time before we started dating. Jeremy and I started dating 10 days before he moved to Santa Barbara for film and photography school, so our entire three-year dating relationship was long-distance. Creating time and space for unhindered time together during your long-distance relationship is vital. You must prioritize this when you are able to be together for short periods of time. Jeremy and I would set aside a full weekend to spend with one another when we would visit each other. You learn to never take each other for granted. Be encouraged that this will continue to remain true when you are living life together post long-distance
Keep something consistent. Long-distance relationships make it very difficult to adopt consistencies in your relationship. For example, long-distance makes it much harder to have a “date night” once a week, kiss each other goodnight, go to Church together on Sunday’s, or ride your bikes together on the weekends. These things can still be duplicated in some form in a long-distance relationship. Pick something simple that’s easy to repeat, and commit to maintaining it. One way of doing this might be the simple good night/good morning texts. It might seem pointless and lack genuineness over time, but it’s still something that you can rely on and expect from one another, and that is something you will find yourself needing over time. So don’t skip on the “sweet dreams” texts, and break the habit of it always being a text message! Call to say goodnight every now and then, just to hear their voice.
Purity. This will only apply to you if you are seeking to follow the Bible’s instructions for purity and sex. My advice on purity is for those of you that are choosing to save themselves for marriage. If that does apply to you, this is HUGE. You need to set boundaries, and you need to have accountability. You may think that since you are hundreds of miles away, that you won’t have to worry about struggling with purity. Chances are, when you are together, it will be the biggest struggle. If you haven’t physically touched each other in any way in the last three months, when you get the chance to see each other for a weekend you won’t be able to keep your hands off each other. Plus, it will seem like the easiest way to feel connected after feeling disconnected for so long. I am not saying that physical touch is a bad thing. I am saying that I held myself to a standard of purity that suppressed sexual temptations. I understand that this is different for everyone. For Jeremy and I, we knew what situations would cause us to be tempted, and we knew what kind of physical touch would tempt us to progress in a way that sexual aroused each other. This is not to say that we were perfect saints, but here are a few boundaries and accountability measures that we found helpful.
Fighting for our purity:
•Don’t be along together in a private place at night
•Set an alarm for when you are going to go home or say goodbye for the night
•Don’t sleep on the floor in his/her room where you are visiting
•Pick a friend or mentor that will hold you accountable and know when you are visiting him/her
•Make the people in your life aware of your desire to wait for marriage
•Don’t lay down when your watching movies together and don’t watch movies with nudity scenes together
•Leave the door open
•Be conscious of how you are dressed
•Know where you are going to sleep/stay when you visit him/her BEFOREHAND
•Trust the opinion and wisdom of people who have “been there done that”
Build trust. Don’t be alone with the opposite sex, ever. This just saves you a lottttt of stress and issues. It’s just easier to avoid than it is to deal with. Another way to build trust when you are not together is by over-communicating potential issues before they become issues. This may seem like a petty thing at the time, but if you find yourself hanging out with a girl/boy of the opposite sex often, let your boyfriend/girlfriend know about it. Even if you absolutely have ZERO feelings for your friend of the opposite sex, understand that it will still be difficult for your boyfriend/girlfriend to watch you become “besties” with someone of the opposite sex that’s not you. It will make it more difficult to feel like you boyfriend/girlfriend isyour “best friend,” when you already have a best friend of the opposite sex that you get to see everyday. Not being able to live life together is one of the most frustrating things about long-distance relationships, so be sensitive to the fact that even if you are just studying on a consistent basis with a friend of the opposite sex, your boyfriend/girlfriend may feel bummed that they will never get the chance to experience that with you.
Know each others family and friends. Even if it’s not possible to meet them during a visit (or not possible to visit), have a time each week to update each other on family members, and friends. Remind each other about things going on in their lives, not just yours. If your parents get divorced, your best friend just went through a break up, your roommates dad dies, or someone gets in a car accident, it will be a HUGE relief to be able to vent or talk with your boyfriend/girlfriend about it and not have to explain the entire situation because they will have seen it coming. It can be hurtful to have to explain context over and over again to your boyfriend/girlfriend, so write down names of friends, family members, teachers that they hate, coaches that they love, bosses that they are frustrated with ect. so that you can be the one they talk to when something comes up.
Sacrifice things in your life in order to visit each other. Don’t go more than a month. We went three months, and that was the longest…. too long. If you are able to see each other once a month, do it! Make sure both sides are sacrificing their time and travel expenses equally. Trade off. When you do see each other for the first time in a few months bring each other a gift. Since you aren’t able to buy each other dinners, flowers, coffee, ect. make up for it by surprising your boyfriend/girlfriend with a gift. Jeremy would sometimes bring me a souvenir from his favorite antique shop in Santa Barbara. It’s also fun to send each other surprise packages, gifts or letters. I know writing letters isn’t for everyone, but we consistently wrote letters to each other and it is so special to be able to go back and reread them now that we are married.
Be Present. Don’t skimp on family, roommates, co-workers, and friends. Don’t be that person that is alwayssss on the phone or skype with their boyfriend/girlfriend. Your overall well being is important to your boyfriend/girlfriend. It also helps to have experiences to talk about with each other! If you never go to the football game, drinks with the roommates, or on a weekend trip with your co-workers, chances are you won’t have much to talk to your boyfriend/girlfriend about on the phone. Take advantage of the time you are able to spend with other people in your life that you love!
Write down each others schedules. Continually reminding your boyfriend/girlfriend of a repeating commitment that you have each week can get tiresome. Neither one of you will want to re-explain what you’re doing when you don’t answer the phone all day on Tuesday’s. Know each others schedules. Knowing each others schedules shows effort and intentionality. It will also aid in designating time to talk to each other, and knowing the best time to spontaneously call.
See the light at the end of the tunnel. There needs to be an end date. Usually long-distance relationships result from someone’s career, or education taking precedence. It will come down to a test of your priorities. If he or she is worth it, someone will have to move.
Here is a list of some creative ideas for connecting, communicating, and pursuing each other in a long-distance relationship:
•Read a book together
•Do homework together (if you’re in school) on skype
•Play the chess app against each other
•Have your boyfriend/girlfriend’s roommates or friends deliverer a surprise from you
•Watch documentaries or listen to podcasts at the same time
•Facetime when possible
•Plan times for them to meet your friends family when they are visiting
•Pray for each other on the phone
•Have a night where you tell each other stories from your past
•Call each other when you are commuting to work, walking home from school ect.
•Ask each other random questions back and forth
•Send photos of your self, your life, and the people in it
•Listen to the same music playlist
•Share an online calendar and keep it updated
•Send them your scent (a piece of clothing, paper with your cologne or perfume ect.)
•Watch a webinar together
•Write them a poem
• http://www.yourfonts.com/ allows you to create a font form your own handwriting, send handwritten texts!
•Cook the same meal
•Go to the grocery store together and put the same things in your basket
• Don’t stop saying I love you
These are lessons that we learned throughout our long-distance relationship. We did not always abide by all of them because we learned them over time. Be conscious of what your long-distance relationship is teaching you, and take active steps to implement your own ideas, boundaries, and expectations for your relationship. However, all this to be said, Jeremy and I don’t recommend long-distance….