The secret to a perfect long distance relationship is telepathy. You never have to worry about knowing what the other person is thinking because you can just read their mind. There are never any trust issues because you have a link to their brain at all times. The next best thing is teleportation, because you can just see that person whenever you want. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) no one has invented either of those yet. So here are some tips that we found helpful to having a good long distance relationship.
Jesus at the center
As believers in Jesus Christ, we believe that Jesus came and died for our sins and by his resurrection gives us the ability to strive for living a more wholesome life. In our relationship we put Christ as central, which led us to orientate it in a non-standard way. More than just reading the Bible and praying together, we thought about who we were in Christ, and how our lives and our relationship showed that we are the children of God. We showed each other respect and affection, knowing that we were made in the image of God, and our identity is in Him.
Our experience: From the very beginning, we decided that we would pray every night over the phone and start reading a psalm a night. We also felt comfortable to ask each other’s prayer requests or things that we were thankful for that day. It was a good time to reflect on the day and encourage one another in our walk with Christ.
In times of old, if you lived 450 miles away from your loved one, you could expect a two week delay in your communication via letters. Thankfully that is no longer the case, and even though life may cause you to be apart, we have every availability to talk as often as we want to. Good communication, however, is more than just talking often. Many couples resort to things like silent treatments, silly mind games, or even toxic manipulation in their communication. Having good communication builds trust in the relationship, and allows the two of you to really see if this is the person that you want to spend the rest of your life with. Honesty, openness, and trust are marks of good communication, and there are many sources of good information on communicating well in a relationship.
Our experience: When we first started dating we mostly talked over text messages and called each other at least 1-2 times a week. As we started to get to know each other more and went on a few dates, we talked a few times a day. We used an app called “Couple” which both of us use to this day. At times when talking over the phone was not enough and when our schedules allowed we used Skype. We even had dates over Skype. It’s fun!
Plan your visits in advance
The pain of separation is often so acute that at times it may seem unbearable. Knowing when you will see each other next will gift you with something to look forward to. Since time is precious, planning what you will do with it helps you use it effectively together, with family and friends. A general idea of the activities you want to do together will also give you an outlet for your daydreams as you wait to see each other.
Our experience: I always looked forward to our visits with great anticipation and delight. We usually saw each other 1-2 times a month, sometimes less. Planning our visits in advance and special trips or gatherings that we wanted to do together, with friends or family, helped us look forward to them. Goodbyes are painful and sometimes I thought I wouldn’t be able to handle another goodbye. Time never stops and after a day or two we were able to start another countdown toward our next visit.
Its one thing to hang out together, which is always fun but it’s a whole different ball game when you make an effort to go on adventures together. You have an opportunity to both step out of your comfort zone, and see each other in a more raw form. You will have a chance to discover each other in a way you wouldn’t otherwise. From seeing sights you’ve never been to before while eating a sandwich you made together, to committing to fill in an entire coloring book, there are many creative little dates you can plan that go outside the realms of the usual.
Our experience: We both love adventure. We made a list of fun date ideas or activities that we could both do and made an effort to do one or two of them every visit. Some of the things that we did together included, training and running a race together, doing the Color Run and dressing up funky, reading children’s books in any bookstore we saw, hiking, exploring an abandoned little town, riding bikes, painting coffee cups for each other at a pottery place, camping trips with friends, coloring in a childrens coloring book, learning to play chess, keeping a journal together, going on a picnic, watching a disney movie together, volunteering together, and going on a drive by flipping a coin to find out whether you’re going to turn left or right. There’s lots more, but you get the idea.
Random ‘thinking about you’ moments
When living miles apart you don’t have the opportunity to surprise each other with a visit to work, or going on an unplanned date. Sending each other creative thinking about you messages in the form of articles you read via email, handwritten letters or poems by snail mail, or little gifts that show the other person that you are thinking about them. Doing these things will help you feel connected and appreciated by each other.
Our experience: I enjoy making hand made crafts and gifts for people. Every month I tried to make something for Alex that would be significant to him or to the both us and mail it to him. The post office sure loved me 😛 Some of the things that I made or sent were a handmade keychain, a box of surprise envlopes with the title of “when you feel_____, open this”, handmade cards with our pictures, a scrapbook of our dating months, his favorite choclate, and more. Alex also surprised me with suprise gifts or letters through the mail that would always make my heart leap.
Boundaries in any relationship are vitally important. Boundaries exist for the purpose of building trust. Knowing that your physical relationship will not go any further than agreed upon allows you to focus on who they are as a person instead of their hormones. Likewise knowing they will not trample you emotionally in disagreements, will give space for your conversations to go deeper, and will allow you to discover more of them. People sometimes assume that if they know someone better they have a greater right to be mean, disrespectful, or unkind to them, but in reality they are just destroying the previously built trust in their relationship.
Our experience: From the very beginning we decided to build trust and respect for each other’s feelings, emotions, and body. We were never afraid to be honest with each other. Whenever we were tempted or one of us was weak, we prayed and encouraged the other. We had a physical gesture of reminding us about our promises by intertwing and squeezing our pinkies together. It was hard at times and there were ups and downs, but we helped each other get back up and keep going.
Reading has a multitude of benefits in our lives. You have an opportunity to taste of the wisdom of those who came before you. Finding out new things will stimulate your conversation into directions it may not have gone before. The amount of knowledge in the world is inexhaustible, and often times we miss valuable cross-gender communication lessons. If you want to learn a different language there are books for that, along with any subject you may wish to know better, and the same applies to learning about how to have a better relationship.
Our experience: We both loved enjoyed reading together. From children’s books to books about dating and marriage, they all were very valuable to our relationship and the topics that we were able to discuss while reading. When we started dating we read a book called ” Dating like Airplanes” by David Breakey. It helped us talk about our boundaries, what we were all about, our goal with our relationship, and much more. Some other books that we read while we were engaged and preparing for the wedding were, ” You and Me Forever” by Francis Chan, ” The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages” by Shaunti Feldhahn, and “The Act of Marriage” by Tim LaHaye. I highly recommend these books! I read a number of books by myself as well. These were “Preparing to be a Help Meet” and “Created to be His Help Meet” by Debi Pearl, “For Women Only” by Shaunti Feldhahn and many other ones. There are also many podcasts out there which you could listen to.
Your story is unique to you, and everyone’s relationship is different and special in its own way. These are some of the things that we found helpful in ours, and perhaps they will inspire you as you build yours.