Long-Distance Love

9 singles share their experience with geographically challenged
relationships.

I’m two months away from marrying a woman who lives 135 miles away. We met on
eHarmony 18 months ago and have gotten together probably 90 percent of the
weekends since our first in-person meeting, with extended times at holidays and
vacations.

The time commitment is substantial, and I’m really looking forward to when
the driving will end. Having an extra five hours a week taken up by driving (of
which I’ve done the majority) on top of the normal time a relationship requires
has made the schedule a challenge. We also have a standing two-hour phone
conversation in the middle of the week (we’re grateful for unlimited
long-distance plans!). We live close enough that getting together every week has
been practical; we’d each set our limit at 150 miles when searching because we
wanted to be able to spend time together regularly, and this has worked out. I
know others who lived much farther apart and made it work with far less time
together in person, but personally I wouldn’t have been satisfied with that.

Housing is an important issue. We feel it’s important to avoid the
appearance—and temptation—of evil, so we don’t stay in each other’s home when
visiting overnight. Her parents live in the same city, so I stay with them—which
has afforded me the side benefit of building a relationship with my future
in-laws. She has stayed with several different friends of mine, who have been
more than willing to open their homes (an indication, I think, of how eager they
are to see me married!).

A major question that arises with a long-distance relationship is who’s going
to move? Until three weeks ago, we were all set for her to move. Then a major
change in my employment situation caused us to completely flip our plans, and
now I’m preparing to move to her city. Neither of us really wanted to move, but
both of us were willing to move if that was best for us as a couple—and God has
now shown us the direction to go. Yet it means that inevitably for one member of
the couple, the joy of marriage will be mingled with the sadness of being
uprooted, leaving friends and perhaps family behind.

It’s definitely not an ideal dating situation. Outside of vacations, weekends
are the only time we can meet. When crises arise, it’s frustrating to only be
able to discuss them in a phone call rather than put an arm around the shoulder
and have someone to lean on physically. We haven’t been able to do as much fun
stuff as we would if we lived close enough to go out for dinner and a movie.
Earlier this year, weekend snow storms and other complications left us with a
four-week period when we couldn’t get together at all. I hope that will be the
longest period we’re apart for the rest of our lives. But I have no regrets
about opening up to a long-distance relationship; neither of us had found anyone
locally who seemed to fit what we were looking for, and we’re thankful that God
used this means to bring us together.

One benefit for us as an older couple (we’re both in our 40s) is that the
distance encouraged us to be focused and intentional from the start. It’s too
much work for a casual, “not sure where we’re going” relationship. We both felt
comfortable raising and dealing with important life issues from the very
beginning of the relationship; the only reason to be together was to be
considering marriage, so we needed to know if marriage was in the cards. And the
rhythm of our interaction also encouraged lengthy conversation time—what else
are you going to do to connect in the middle of the week? How can you not have
extended conversations when you’re together for ten hours on a Saturday,
including two meals?

So my suggestions for those considering a long-distance relationship: Make
sure you can commit the time needed, restructuring your weekly schedule and
perhaps pulling out of some activities. Think through housing for visits. Have
reliable transportation. Get a cheap long-distance phone service. Think
carefully about whether you’re willing to move. And pray for God’s leading.

Kelvin

I just got out of a long-distance relationship. We met on an Internet dating
site that matched our personality profiles together. We even did some
personality profile testing on our own to get to know each other a little
better. Were we a perfect match? I don’t know, but on so many levels we just
clicked. I was totally drawn in by her personality. There are 200 miles
separating us, and we tried to make up for it by talking on the phone—a lot. We
talked about four or five times a day every day, from early morning cell-phone
chit-chat on the way to work to late-night discussions while I fought to stay
awake. Add to that the daily e-mails and instant messaging, and you get the idea
of how intense our relationship was becoming.

But with all of our phone calls and e-mails and instant messaging, I always
knew that almost everything I knew about her were things she had elected to tell
me. I needed to dig deeper. So much communication in a relationship is
non-verbal, from the way you look at each other to just simple hugs given just
at the moment you need them. We were missing out, big time. Then there’s
information you collect from observation. Who is this person to their friends
and family? How do they act in a group? In my mind, I was trying to fill in the
big picture of who she was, but just didn’t have all of the information I
needed.

I’m always thinking about things long-term, so I started asking myself the
big question: Could we ever really be together? I knew that I would have to be
certifiably insane to propose to someone I hadn’t spent significant quantities
of time with in person. One of us would eventually have to move so we could
date, and it didn’t look like that could ever happen. Both of us are very busy
as single parents, and being a single parent usually means you have a support
group of family and friends you’ve built up over time that isn’t easily
replaced. And you have to think of the visitation needs of the non-custodial
parent. I might have been able to make the move, but with great difficulty. Her
situation was even more complex; it was obvious she couldn’t move, at least not
within the next few years. To make this work, I would have to be the one to
move. But could I sacrifice my career? My income is more than twice hers, and
I’m not sure I could find a comparable salary in the smaller town she lives in,
even with cost-of-living differences factored in. And there’s no guarantee that
if I moved the dating relationship would work out.

I’m a strong believer in providence—that when something’s right, God makes a
way for us or shows us the way through the difficult circumstances. I prayed
about our relationship and turned it over to God, knowing he could work out the
details if it was meant to happen.

In the midst of dealing with all of the issues unique to long-distance
romance, it became apparent we still had a lot of relationship issues to work
through, as any couple does, long before we could ever consider marriage. We ran
into some conflicting ideas about relationships that weren’t going to be
resolved over the phone. The relationship faltered, and we tried to continue on
as friends, but I hadn’t sorted through all of the romantic feelings I had for
her. My heart was still holding desperately to the hope that we could make it
work somehow, and maybe she was doing the same. We were never going to be given
the chance to live in the same town to work through our problems, and despite
the fact I was falling in love with her, I knew I had to break it off.

It’s been over a month since we last talked, and I still think about her
daily and the impact she had on me. Every time I start working through our
problems in my mind, I want to call her and talk to her about it, but I still
keep crashing into this fact like a granite wall: She’s 200 miles away, and
that’s not going to change.

A long-distance relationship is a difficult proposition from the start. It
takes a serious commitment from both parties, and ultimately someone has to
move. Add that layer of complexity to the already-difficult prospect of building
a serious, long-term relationship with another autonomous person, and it’s
basically an uphill battle from day one. Anyone who is going to enter into one
had better have the willingness and the freedom to relocate.

Dan

My husband and I had a long-distance dating relationship. We originally “met”
on a Christian website. We lived more than 300 miles apart, a five-hour drive on
a good traffic day. Once the relationship got rolling, we took turns going back
and forth. He would head to my city for a weekend, then a couple of weeks later
I’d make the trek to his. We talked on the phone and e-mailed a lot in between.

Was it easy? No. But in some ways it was really good for us. We both were in
our late 30s and had been independent for a long time, so the distance gave us
the space we both needed to make the adjustment to couplehood. It also allowed
us a good amount of time to devote to our family, friends, and church
commitments even during our dating relationship.

My mom refered to our “together weekends” as “intense dating.” Other than the
overnight hours, we were together—meals, afternoon naps while watching football,
Sunday morning church, and everything in between! When I traveled to his
hometown for one of our weekends, I stayed with one of his sisters who lived
nearby. It gave me a chance to get to know his family. Unfortunately, that
option wasn’t available when he came to see me.

We invested a lot into phone calls and car expenses, but ultimately the
long-distance-relationship thing really worked for us!

Becky

Long-distance relationships can be fun and romantic. They make you feel very
special. Every time you talk on the phone or visit each other, he acts like he’s
thrilled to be able to talk to you or see you. And you do the same.

But that’s the problem. Any contact you have is special. So you step out of
real life into your own little world of romance. Any time he calls, you jump at
the chance to talk—you never put him on hold or tell him you’re too busy with
something else right now. Everything else in your life gets put on hold to give
him all of your attention, whether by phone or on your weekend visits.

When you visit, you have a limited amount of time during which all your
attention is focused on each other. It’s like going away for a week of summer
camp—terrific, but not real life. You never see each other in normal day-to-day
life.

I was in a long-distance relationship I thought was going great. We lived in
Chicago and Detroit, a five-hour drive or one-hour flight. Both of our families
approved of the relationship. After dating for ten months, he moved to be with
me. The plan was that he’d stay in my guest room until he found a job in my
city. Then, he would get his own apartment while we planned and saved for the
wedding.

But it ended up being harder to find work than he’d expected, and he missed
his friends and family more than he’d anticipated. The stress ended up having
more influence than the “special-ness” of our relationship. I was at work one
day and had the funny feeling something was wrong and that I needed to leave at
noon. I pulled into my driveway to see his dresser tied on top of his car. If
I’d stayed at work until the end of the day, I would have come home to find his
bedroom empty. I’ll never know if he would have had the guts to even leave a
goodbye note.

Karyn

I’m currently in a long-distance dating relationship. I was introduced to
Kent a little over six months ago. He lives in Oregon and I live in Missouri. I
go to church with his brother and sister-in-law. We started off sending e-mails
and instant messaging each other, and now we talk on the phone at least a little
bit each night. After the first month of talking, we started flying back and
forth to see each other. He’s been to Missouri four times and I’ve been to
Oregon once. We usually stay about five to eight days at a time.

We’re very fortunate that he owns his own business and is therefore able to
get his partner to take over while he’s out of town. He doesn’t have to pay for
a hotel since he stays at his brother’s house when he’s here. Also, I’ve been at
my job for more than ten years, so I get seven weeks of vacation a year.

In between visits, we send each other stuff in the mail and text message each
other, so it’s fun to have the element of surprise and romance in our
relationship. With his business and with all my church involvement, we keep
ourselves busy so we aren’t missing each other all the time.

He’s been talking about marriage, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he asked me
to marry him in the next two or three months. This may seem crazy, but when he’s
here we’re on the go so much that we hardly have time just to talk and share
some of our intimate feelings, thoughts, and dreams. When he goes back home,
though, we finally get the chance to share those thoughts and feelings over the
phone. I hope we’re able to keep that good mix when we get married.

Lavonna

I’ve been in multiple long-distance relationships. The fact that I’m still
single leads you to the obvious conclusion that they didn’t work. The
relationships had varied beginnings—a couple were Internet relationships that
went to the next level, and in a couple instances my boyfriend moved during our
dating relationship. I don’t believe in moving for the sake of a relationship,
unless it’s in God’s plan for me, which none of these where.

The biggest problem I found with long-distance relationships is the lack of
time in the “real world,” and because of that, a lack of true knowledge of the
other person. You learn a lot about a person when you observe him when he’s
stuck in traffic, dealing with a difficult boss at work, paying bills, buying
groceries, and the like. While you may spend hours on the phone each day in a
long-distance situation, there’s still an element missing. When you’re finally
able to spend time with the person, many of the realities of life are pushed
aside for that brief visit. You’re in vacation mode.

With the distance, it’s often even more difficult to merge two lives as both
people have developed their own life, hobbies, and friendships outside the
relationship. I’ve decided that long-distance relationships aren’t for me. I
want to be with someone I can see frequently, who’s close enough to meet me for
a walk on the beach after a bad day. A phone call is a poor substitute for a
hug. I’m not saying it can never work, but it certainly doesn’t work for me!

Tricia

Thanks to eHarmony, I embarked on a long-distance relationship earlier this
year with a woman named Miriam. She’s a teacher who lives in Albany, a country
town 250 miles south of Perth, where I live. There are positives and negatives
to our long-distance relationship.

On the plus side, this is an early test of our relationship’s strength and
commitment. We can’t act impulsively, as we could if we lived nearby. And we
have to be creative and intentional about getting together. Since Miriam is a
teacher, she has two-week holidays every ten weeks, so she visits Perth often.
I’ve visited Albany twice (a four-hour drive). We’ve visited each other’s
churches and met a selection of our friends. Yes, our phone bills are high, but
that’s still not as expensive as regular dating would be if we lived in the same
area. And it’s wonderful when we finally do get together.

The biggest negative, of course, is that we’re often separated for weeks on
end. It can be tempting to seek someone closer, but frankly I’ve never met
anyone as sweet, loving, and open as Miriam. I know relocation is an issue in
many long-distance relationships, but we haven’t discussed that yet because it’s
too early.

Overall the distance is a damper on a full-speed-ahead, impulsive
relationship, and that’s very healthy. We’re committed to taking it slowly and
both enjoy the daily phone calls, frequent emails, and infrequent but highly
romantic dates when we visit each other.

Adrian

Long-distance relationships don’t work. Without the face-to-face interaction
that same-city relationships benefit from, long-distance relationships are never
as close or real. Being able to see the person’s reactions to daily events and
spend time together doing the types of activities that allow you to learn about
your partner are vital to the health and longevity of dating relationships. The
same togetherness is needed for marriages to thrive. Why should pre-marrieds be
any different?

Matt

About a year ago, I got out of a long-distance relationship. I met this man
on an online Christian dating service. He lived on the east side of Wisconsin
and I lived in southeastern Minnesota. We e-mailed every day, talked on the
phone almost daily, and got together once or twice a month. I dated him for more
than a year and really liked him, but due to the distance, I still felt as
though I never really knew who he was.

Based on my experience, I don’t think long-distance relationships work. You
need to be able to see the person in order to make the relationship successful.
You can’t really bond with a person over the phone or on the computer—at least
that was the case in my relationship. You need that closeness (not physical
intimacy) to bring two people together.

I found the distance incredibly difficult. E-mails were misinterpreted and
our tone of voice over the phone was misunderstood, all because we couldn’t see
each other regularly like a normal dating relationship. We didn’t know how each
other would react to certain things. In the end, somebody always gets hurt and
the relationship ends.

In my opinion, long distance relationships are stressful, disconnected, and
just don’t work.

Brooke

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