The first thing I have to say about long distance relationships is that they do work. It's frustrating to me when people speak poorly about them or about the people who are in them. Sometimes we choose it, sometimes we don't. But no one ever wants to be long distance. And at the same time, it doesn't have to destroy what you've built or be the end of the relationship either.
But, and that's a big but. They won't work if you have the wrong attitude about it, if you expect the other person to do all the work, if you aren't willing to make the effort and if you aren't in it for the long haul.
The thing about long distance relationships is that there really is no point of being in one if you aren't planning to be together in the end. And when I say be together, I mean get married. Because, that is the purpose for dating: We date to find our future spouse. Why waste your time on someone who you aren't going to marry? And certainly why waste your time, strength, tears and effort on someone far away from you who you aren't going to marry? [that doesn't just go for long distance relationships, it's true for all dating relationships]
a little bit of our story
Ben and I began dating in high school. Soon after, he left for boot camp. Honestly, I didn't expect to ever see him again. We hadn't dated very long and I wasn't really interested in investing in someone who was going to be away all the time.. or so I thought. When he came home from bootcamp 3 months later, I ran into him while I was working. He called me later that week to get together and I said yes. The rest is, as you say, history.
Just a couple of weeks later, he returned to Southern California and I remained in Las Vegas. This was during my senior year of high school. I still wasn't very serious about him but I left it open. We stayed in touch. He wrote me alot and called whenever he had the chance. And within just a few months he had made his way right into my heart. The next time he was home on leave he told me that he loved me. I, of course, returned the sentiment.
He was soon stationed in Virginia and we made the decision to stay together even though it would be long distance. I was still in high school and he obviously had no choice about where he was going. Over the next year and a half, we continue to date; he in Virginia, I in Las Vegas. He came home every chance he had, usually every 3 months or so. We talked on the phone almost every day. We wrote letters all the time. And one thing was for sure, we knew that we would get married, eventually.
In August 2003, just 3 months after I had graduated from high school, Ben proposed to me. He was still living on the east coast and I was still in Vegas. We planned to get married just 2 or 3 months later because we were ready to be together. But, I was not going to move across the country for a man to whom I wasn't married. That plan changed a bit when Ben was given surprise orders to Iraq for 4 months. He returned in March and we were married in April. And then, lucky for us, he left again, just 2 weeks later on a 6-month deployment to Bahrain.
Why do I tell that long story? 2 reasons:
1. When we decided to date long distance, it was because we knew it was worth it. We agreed on an end goal: marriage. I knew I was going to marry Ben and he knew he was going to marry me. We made a decision and we stuck to it. Simple as that. It doesn't have to be all, "how do you know?" and complicated.
2. We remained long distance until we were married. Moving across the country just to date Ben, even while we were engaged, would not have been a wise decision. Ladies, please listen: you are not called to sacrifice yourself for any man other than Jesus and your husband. Don't ever set aside your life, your goals and your comfort for someone who is not your husband. To be clear, your serious boyfriend and your fiance are not your husband. Once you're married, go for it. But until that ring is on your finger, you belong to the Lord alone. He is the one who will sustain you and care for you. Don't ever expect that from your "almost" husband. Such a decision can easily and quickly lead to disappointment.
what does it take?
Like I said initially, long distance dating takes a lot of work and effort, from both parties. If you are expecting the other person to do all the work, it won't work. And while I know that is true for any relationship, it is especially true for long distance because it's already difficult. You'll miss each other a ton, you'll feel left out quite often, you'll wish it was easier all the time, you'll hope for it to be over soon. But you'll have to set all of that aside and be willing to do some work.
You'll need to initiate conversations often. Communication is the key. You obviously won't be able to spend very much time together in person, so conversation time, whether it's over the phone, facetime or through skype, is golden. Talk about everything. Tell him about your day, in detail. There is a line from an old Dashboard Confessional song that I am always reminded of when this topic comes up: "it seems like nothing's happened until I've shared them with you." I know that's how I felt when Ben and I were dating. I couldn't wait to tell him everything that had happened since the last time we spoke!
Write letters. I'm talking paper and pen letters that have to be sent via snail mail. Send cards, care packages, photo albums, mixed "tapes" or CD's. Be creative. Have fun with it. The goal is for him to open mail from you and know that you were thinking about him and took time out of your day to do something thoughtful.
What it really all comes down to is committment. It takes you being willing to make the committment, to stick to the committment and to see the committment through. There will be miscommunication. You'll fight. There will be hurt feelings. You'll cry. There will be lonely, quiet days. You'll cry some more. But stick it out. Because, if you really truly love him and if you really truly want to marry him, it will all be worth it in the end.
Ben and I will be celebrating 9 years of marriage next month (crazy, right?!) and I am positive that dating long distance played a very major role in the foundation of our relationship. Because of it, we had to really make an effort to tell each other how much we cared for one another. Because of it, we had so much time to talk and talk and talk. We knew each other so well. Because of it, we knew before we were even married that we were both willing to do the hard work and to stand by one another in the thick and thin. Personally, I think it just made our relationship stronger. And now, on this side of it, I could not be more thankful for it.
you can read more of our story here