Long Distance Relationship Tips
Dating: two people coming together to learn about themselves, what they like, another person and trying to decide if this could be a forever-together. It’s a beautiful and ever-changing process that has unique challenges. Throw in the added element of physically not being able to be together, and you have a whole new level of challenges added into the mix. Many people wonder if it’s possible to do it and do it well?
The answer is yes and yes! By the time this article is published, we will be sharing the same last name and laying on the beach on our honeymoon. Our entire relationship has been done long distance...really long distance. Abram lived in California and Michelle lived in Switzerland. We didn’t say it was easy, but when you’ve found the right person, it is worth it. We’d love to share some tips we’ve learned along the way from our experience and from our friends.
Acknowledge Cultures and Timelines
Dating in person has a specific set of expectations on it. In his culture you do coffee on the first date, something fun and active for the second, something more romantic for the third, then you have a serious conversation about being more committed. In her culture - coffee is just coffee and you don’t go out one-on-one unless you’re really interested. When you’re not geographically close, you can’t do most of these things. You have to be much more intentional in communicating what level of interest and commitment you have.
It’s also important to note that a normal “getting to know you” period, “serious dating” period, and “engagement” period may be very different for both of you. Long distance relationships have much more intentionality, communication, and obstacles to overcome - so don’t stress if you feel your timeline doesn’t match up with normal timelines. Keep people involved in your process and help clearly communicate to the other person where you are.
Communication Is Key... OVER-Communicate When Necessary
As we already mentioned, you have to be honest with where you are. Your Facetime and Emoji flirting game can be strong, but you’ll also need to use your words to let them know. A lot can be lost when body language and touch isn’t seen or felt. We do recommend Facetiming as much as possible. So much more is captured in your face and tone than you could imagine.
Even so, a lot of the subtle, nonverbal communication that people usually have gets lost over text and FaceTime. You may need to over communicate. This helps you avoid misunderstandings and false assumptions. Asking lots of clarifying questions like, “That’s interesting. Why do you do it that way?” and “What did you mean when you said _______.” - this will help you understand the other person as well.
Plan To Visit Often & Plan Your Visit
If it seems impossible, pray and ask God to provide resources and opportunities to visit. You’ll be surprised at how He comes through in these moments. The longer you can visit together - the better. There’s only so much you can know of someone through a screen.
When you get there, expect an emotional rollercoaster. You haven’t seen each other for weeks or months and are so excited, then suddenly there’s something like a sugar crash - your emotions bottom out and you suddenly feel nothing. Take a deep breath. There’s a lot of emotions and unexpected expectations crashing into both of you. Give yourself grace the first day or two to just get used to being physically together, especially if jet lag is at play. We would plan an activity with friends or family members in the first day or two. This helps to make life feel normal, and the relationship doesn’t go from zero-time together to intense-one-on-one time together.
Although you want to soak up as MUCH precious time as possible, it’s still perfectly acceptable to take some time for yourself. At the beginning of our relationship, we even had a scheduled time to Skype with our friends and mentors back home - just to process all of what was going on and help keep our boundaries in check.
Yes, you still need boundaries even though you don’t see each other often. Before we visited we would talk about where we were in the relationship and what we were okay with. We continued to check in with each other as to how we were doing. You’ll have to fight the scarcity-mindset of “we only have 2 days left” and the desire to push past physical boundaries. The goal is still to let physical intimacy confirm your level of commitment. If you feel your commitment and desire for physical intimacy continuing to rise, be kind to yourself and don’t make your engagement period a long one. If possible, try to be in the same location towards the end of the engagement. Especially since one person will be moving, it’s a lot of sacrifice to do that alone. Being present will help you both feel more connected and safe as you move into your new life together.
Find Ways To Do Life Together
It feels like you can basically only talk, but you can find other ways to include the person with you. You can play online games together, start movies at the same time and watch together, play question games, cook the same meal at the same time, make plans to do the same activity that day then debrief afterwards, do an online couples class, or read a book together or to each other. It’s important to plan and keep a regular date night. It gives you something to look forward to that will subdue the longing feeling.
Apps like Marco Polo or Voxer allow you to send video or voice messages randomly throughout your day. Sharing little tidbits of life helps the other person feel like they’re involved and you get the benefit of hearing their voice and seeing their face. It also gives you a cool virtual history together. We found Bond Touch bracelets that allow you to send a little touch via Bluetooth across the planet to each other. Amazon Prime and the CashApp (for coffee or flowers) allows you to drop a little surprise “I thought you might like this” gift on their doorstep as well.
Get To Know Their Community, Not Just Them
This has a few great benefits to it. One - you get a much more accurate picture of who they really are and not just who they are showing you on the screen. Two - their community gets to know you and can help you both navigate tough issues as they arise - rather than only seeing one side. It helps to get outside perspective and see if you are actually a good fit for each other. This will also help them feel safe as things get more serious and someone begins to move. We became friends and texting buddies with some of each other’s closest friends. It helps you understand the person, who they are, and gives you a great team of people to help pull off a surprise.
In the end, it’s quite an amazing world where we can find and get to know someone so far away. We bless your ability to know what you want and to be able to communicate it well. Although relationships can be scary, we celebrate the fact that you’re willing to go for it - especially when it’s not as easy. We pray that you find someone who’s willing to work as hard as you are, and someone who is worth the effort whether they are geographically close or distant.