In my last post I tried to articulate the pain. I tried to identify some of what makes long distance romance so incredibly tough. These were the reasons that a lot of people don’t even attempt to date long distance. The reasons they think it will be too hard or too risky. They are very real problems and this post is not intended to laugh them off. But I AM saying that most of the difficulties that come up in long distance relationships CAN be faced and defeated. You CAN make it work. Here’s what worked for Jammie and I:
1) Be Consistent – Jammie and I LOVED to talk. Whether on Skype, on the phone or via email, we talked and talked and talked. Hardly a day passed in which we did not at least have a conversation. Often the conversations were at least an hour long. For us this was essential. This may be too much for some but I am pretty convinced that anything less would have eventually led to the relationship fizzling. You can’t keep a relationship going by sheer force of will unless you are very intentional about communicating. This meant Jammie begging to borrow friends’ laptops so we could Skype and me leaving things early so I could be available at the time that she could talk in between her English teaching when she was in Korea. Whatever it took we tried hard to be very consistent about staying in contact. This may seem like an obvious point but it is not at all easy to put into practice.
2) FOCUS - We talked in the last post about the myriad of things that come in as distractions when you are trying to make a long distance relationship work. You have GOT to stay focused. Your thoughts can make or break you in a relationship and never is this more true than when you are in a long distance relationship. Focus on the the positive qualities of the other person and how much they mean to you. Everyone has got a whole mess of negative things about them. Your boyfriend does, you do, I do – no point spending too much time focusing on them. ESPECIALLY when you are dating long distance.. if you focus on them, these negative traits will only swell in your imagination. Also, refuse to get distracted by other people or by a busy schedule. Eyes on the prize! Which brings me on to my next point…
Sometimes you just have to hang in there and make things work even if you are tired, irritated or feel like giving up. Think back to good times. Think ahead to what you are dreaming of. Realize that tough times come and go and that you just have to stay with the relationship even if you are discouraged or feel that you have hit a dry patch. If you stay with it and refuse to give up, chances are you will be able to weather most relational storms. Decide to fight for what you’ve got – come what may. It is worth it.
3) Be Brave and Set Some Parameters!! - Long distance cannot go on forever without some kind of a timetable. It is unfair to both of you. If it isn’t going to work and you have no intention of making it work long term then drop it right away. On the other hand, if you see yourself with this person long term, put some limits around how long you are going to do long distance for. Do not be afraid of some commitment. It was actually through long distance that Jammie and I realized that we wanted to get married. That realization and some general talk about what we both felt sounded reasonable as a timeline, really helped us stay focused and motivated to make it all work. It takes courage to keep taking steps towards a permanent relationship but each step is rewarding and worth it. Be brave and go forward!
4) Forgiveness and Generosity – Having a forgiving spirit is pretty fundamental in any relationship but it takes on stratospheric importance when it comes to long distance relationships. If you hold grudges, insist on being petty and are not giving, you are going to hurt yourself and the person you are with. Be generous, give the benefit of the doubt even when it is hard. Resist the temptation to blow off steam. Ask yourself “Will this matter three years from now?” If not, don’t make a scene about it. Long distance is hard enough without the stamping of little feet. Set the other person up for success by thinking the best of him or her. Long distance takes a unique measure of faith and positivity, make it a point not to lack in either department.
5) Travel – The beauty of living in the 21st century is that travel has never been easier. You may live far from your boyfriend or girlfriend but flying over to see them can help immensely. It is something to look forward to and a reunion after a long time apart can be just the spark and source of energy that you need to power you through to when you can live in the same place. I am really glad Jammie and I made the trips to see each other – whether it meant crisscrossing California or flying overseas. Trips were part of what made the difference and they helped us see the light at the end of the tunnel. Of course, this will cost you time and money but few investments are more important than your relational well being so this is not one that you need to over-think. Do it!
Finally, remember that there are advantages to temporary long distance relationships. A lot of good reflection that would probably not happen if you were together, can take place when you are alone and get some time to think. It is good to have a clear head and pursue a relationship with your eyes open rather than running on infatuation alone. Take advantage of your long distance relationship to strengthen your communication, to reflect on the relationship and to grow into the person that you want to be for the other person. Good luck guys. Some day this will be three years ago!
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