Long-Distance Relationships: We Answer 6 Core Questions
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Now Reading: Long-Distance Relationships: We Answer 6 Core Questions
10 months ago
For five out of the first six months that Renée and I were together, our relationship was long-distance. We lived 600km apart and only spent one weekend every month together in the same city.
Long-distance relationships are tough. Video calls freeze half way through, you miss each other like crazy, and opportunities for cuddles on the couch are few and far between.
However, there are tactics for not only surviving, but thriving in a long-distance relationship. Renée and I wanted to share our experiences, so we each answered six core questions about dating long-distance. We answered the questions separately and with raw honesty.
Here’s what we had to share:
The brief periods when Renee and I weren’t long distance anymore! It bears saying right from the beginning: long-distance relationships are hard. You miscommunicate, misunderstand and most of the time just downright miss each other. But absence definitely makes the heart grow fonder.
There’s something special about being reunited at the airport and finally hugging someone who you’ve been wanting to hug for weeks. When most of the time you spend together is on laptop screens, you appreciate every moment of actually being able to cuddle together on a couch. It makes the hard times worth it.
Even over time, as our visits became more routine, they were never less exciting.
You really appreciate the small details. When we weren’t together and we were waiting on that next visit, the small details are the big details. I have never been so thankful to spend a few hours with someone on Skype, or to receive little messages throughout the day. Those typically casual forms of communication were the core of how we were present with each other on a day-to-day basis.
Never taking those small things for granted is a big reality of long-distance and for me, my favourite part. It was noticeable as well that the more grateful we were, the more joy was present in our relationship.
It sounds cheesy, but when Sam would send me a message telling me all about anything that was going on in his world, or when he sent me a little compliment – that meant the world to me and eased the distance.
Communication was both easier and harder in a long-distance relationship. It’s easier in the sense that over long-distance, communication is all you’ve got. Unlike an ordinary relationship where there are countless different ways to spend time together, the bulk of your time together long-distance will be spent talking to each other. You get a lot better at sharing your thoughts and letting the other person know what’s going on in your life.
It was harder because there was often miscommunication. A lot gets lost in a Facebook message – body language, tone of voice, the emphasis on certain words – and it’s easy to misread what the other person is saying. One of the most valuable realisations we had early in our relationship was recognising that you shouldn’t try to use social media to resolve conflict.
Trying to resolve something over Facebook was like trying to put out a fire with vodka rather than water! When conflict arises (and it will), it’s important to have an actual conversation about it.
Conflict is never a good time, but it can be especially tough in a long-distance relationship for a few reasons. Firstly, conflict can happen just because a message wasn’t sent with a lot of thought, or because it was misinterpreted.
Secondly, when your person is miles away, resolution takes extra intentionality. Not only do you have to literally communicate “hey, _______ hurt me”, but all the emphasis is put on words alone. He/she isn’t right there to pick up on tone, body language and expression, so communicating carefully but honestly is really important.
When it comes to resolution, life is busy, and the reality is you might have to wait awhile until you can talk properly. But be intentional about making time to talk things through when you can.
One thing that I love about our relationship is that we have always done this. Even in the busiest of times, we prioritise each other and make time to talk. Once the hurt is out there, use your words to heal too.
I think most of us in relationships will agree, having a cuddle helps a lot with feeling everything will be okay. You obviously can’t do that with long-distance, so what we learnt is that without physical presence, sometimes it doesn’t immediately “feel” okay after tension is resolved. But words can go a long way in helping. Use them to the best of your ability.
Also, quick pro-tip: don’t fight over messages! Pick up that phone.
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More than anything else, it’s the little things you do every day. Giving a spontaneous compliment, sending your significant other a little gift or making the effort to ask them how their day is going are all great examples. It’s easy to forget that the other person doesn’t know you care unless you show you care.
I’ve definitely been guilty of just assuming that because I know in my head how much I love Renee, she must just know that as well. But she isn’t a mind reader. Unless I communicate how proud I am of something she has achieved at work, she’s not going to know that. Unless I tell her that she looks incredible in a particular dress, she’s going to wonder whether I’ve even noticed.
When in doubt, it never hurts to check that you are letting the other person know you care. Once every couple of weeks, Renee and I would ask each other, “How can I love you better?” For us, this question not only helped us to find new ways to love each other, it reminds us how important it is to be intentional.
Long-distance brings unique challenges with putting in effort and getting creative. A relationship that never stops pursuing is incredibly important to me, so I think if you can nail this effort and connection at a distance, it’s really positive!
Writing letters regularly was my favourite way of letting Sam know I cared – it was an opportunity to speak life and express how I feel. I also sent little surprises when I could.
But I also think the importance of day-to-day effort should never be overlooked. Just one example of how we show that we care is that we committed to saying good morning and goodnight no matter what. It’s such a simple act, but speaks so much in terms of being present and showing we are important to each other, no matter what else was going on.
My first piece of advice would be that you shouldn’t enter into a long-distance relationship lightly. Unlike some Christians, I’m a firm believer that you don’t need to be convinced that someone is your soulmate before you start dating them. You can just be thinking I’d like to get to know this girl better, I should ask her on a date.
However, a long-distance relationship is a bit more serious. You’re making a commitment to the other person that you’re going to put a lot of energy (and probably a lot of travel money!) into making the relationship work.
My advice would be that this commitment shouldn’t be made at the initial “getting to know you better” stage of the relationship. You should already be in a solid relationship with someone and even then, it’s a commitment you should seriously weigh up.
My second piece of advice, for those of you who do pursue a long-distance relationship, would be to communicate about expectations before long-distance begins. When Renee and I were about to begin a long-distance relationship, we made three commitments that have been, without a doubt, the bedrock for the success of that relationship.
The first was that we would have at least one decent video conversation each week. No matter what else was going on, no matter how busy we were, we made that time for each other every week.
The second was that one of us would visit the other at least once a month. We decided this was the best balance between not going too long without seeing each other and other considerations like travel costs.
The final commitment was that by the end of a year of long distance, if we were still together, one of us would move to be with the other. For us, this was about having a clear understanding of what we wanted and where we wanted to be in the future.
In my experience, the single greatest factor in the success of a long-distance relationship is whether there is an end goal. Couples who have this end goal in sight are far more likely to go the distance than those who don’t.
If I could only give one piece of advice, it would be to have an agreed end-date to long-distance. From the very beginning we had discussed a time where we would plan what the next step in our relationship would look like and how that would happen.
The end goal of long-distance is to no longer be long-distance. Someone eventually needs to move, and I don’t think it’s wise to commit to long-distance without talking that through. Be intentional about this commitment because when things get tough (and they will!), having that next step you know you are working towards really helps.
Relationships progressing aren’t a given, but if you’re confident enough to pursue long-distance, I think you should be confident enough to have a plan in mind.
Saying good morning and good night every day. For us, this was a commitment we made before the start of long-distance. It’s a small thing, but when you’re both living busy lives, your relationship is built on small things.
These little messages were the foundation of our communication throughout the day. Even if one of us was upset with the other, we still made the effort to say good morning and good night. These messages were a little reminder that our relationship is built on more than just emotion.
Love is a choice and in the rare moments when we hardly felt “in love” with each other, saying good morning and good night anyway was one small way that we made that choice.
Asking intentional questions. During long-distance, you spend a lot of time talking, and some of the best conversations we had were the ones where we were both asking questions and digging deeper to get to know each other better.
Asking questions is actually quite an art and asking the right ones take a bit of trial and error, because we all open up a little differently.
If I want to know more about Sam, then I need to ask more. And I need to ask in a way that both invites him to share and is comfortable doing so. If I want to know what Sam thinks about something, then I need to ask.
This intentionality also translated incredibly well to the time we did share (and continue to share) together in person. During our visits we really connected and knew how to communicate well.
The biggest benefit of a long-distance relationship has definitely been improving our communication. I’ve learnt that it’s hard to be a bad boyfriend if I’m working to be a good communicator. Why? Because good communication is connected to everything else.
I can tell Renee I miss her, but if I’m trying to be a good communicator, I’ll also tell her what I’m missing. That’s going to require self-awareness and reflection on my part. I can tell Renee I think she’s pretty, but if I’m trying to be a good communicator, I’ll be specific about what I find attractive. That means being attentive. I can tell Renee that I’m upset with her, but if I’m trying to be a good communicator, I need to tell her why I’m upset. That means I need to be vulnerable.
Self-awareness, vulnerability and countless other aspects of what makes up a healthy relationship are all part of good communication. This definitely isn’t a skill that can only be learned over long-distance, but as I mentioned previously, over long-distance you get a lot of practice. Learning how to communicate better has been the biggest challenge of our relationship, but it’s also been the biggest blessing.
Long-distance definitely sharpens communication! We learnt how to communicate effectively and we were (and are) always conscious of doing this better.
To some extent, long-distance does “slow down” the progression of a relationship, because you aren’t experiencing all that life throws at you side-by-side and learning how the other responds.
But getting better at communicating happens faster than it does in a normal relationship. They say lack of communication is a prominent reason why relationships fail, so this is definitely something I appreciate and am so grateful for. Thinking back to when we first started dating, I know we’ve come such a long way.
The original version of this blog post was published by Renée on her blog. If you haven’t already, I’d highly recommend checking it out (and I’m only, like, 78% biased).