He Said-She Said: Can Long-Distance Relationships Really Work?
- Thursday, January 27, 2011
EDITOR'S NOTE: Each He Said-She Said column features a question from a Crosswalk.com reader with responses from a male and female point of view. If you've got a question about anything related to singleness or living the single life, please click here to submit to He Said-She Said (selected questions will be posted anonymously).
QUESTION: I am from Michigan, and I have moved away from my home state for various reasons. Through a series of recent events an old friend came back into my life. But he is back in Michigan, and I am three states away. I know long-distance relationships are possible, but I don't even know where to begin. Do you have any thoughts or wisdom on this subject?
HE SAID: As someone who has traveled the better part of the last fifteen years, I have had some experience with long-distance relationships. As a result, I do have many thoughts on the subject; however you'll have to determine if there is any wisdom in them for you.
In every situation, relational or not, I seek to "find God" in the midst of it. I try not to "over-spiritualize" it to the point of saying, "It must be God for this to happen" or "If God didn't want me to __________, I wouldn't have the opportunity." However, I strive to keep my mind open to unexpected people who come into my life or seemingly strange circumstances I am presented with, not discounting anything to my own "disbelief" or "incomprehension."
In other words, I look for opportunities in everything, not just for myself, but chances to impact others along the way, and believe everything is possible (Mark 9:23).
Fortunately over the past decade, technology has closed the gap between long-distance relationships to the point of making them a lot more feasible and probably more successful. This isn't to say "face-time" isn't necessary and required in a relationship to develop because it is, but the advent of iChat, Skype, smartphones, texting, "free" long-distance calling, etc., has made staying in touch from a distance a lot more practical.
Since this "person of interest" is an "old friend," you have a history; therefore I'm assuming you have exchanged your latest contact information (i.e. phone number, e-mail and physical address, etc.). If you haven't already, send him an e-mail expressing how glad you were to re-connect. Inquire about him—what he's been doing since the last time you were together, why he came back to Michigan, what his plans are, etc. Hopefully at some point he'll ask to call you and phone conversations will ensue.
I do believe guys should take the initiative in pursuing a relationship, but at the outset, especially with an old friend, there's nothing wrong with communicating back and forth.
Eventually, I would recommend finding out where the relationship is headed and what his intentions are. There's no reason to open up and invest your heart in something he considers just a long-distance "friendship."
Once a "relationship" is established, nothing can take the place of being together, but in the interim I have found online video chatting (Skype or iChat) to be important in maintaining a long-distance bond. Despite slow Internet speeds or a poor connection, it is well worth the struggle to actually "see" the person you're talking with.
It's also important to share in common activities "simultaneously" during your time apart, for instance, watching the same movie or television program, playing an online game, webcam-ing with each other, reading a book, etc. Sending "old-fashioned" notes, letters or pictures also help to fill the gap of not being with one another.
Just as in the movie You've Got Mail, there will be a time when "We should meet." Understandably, there can be many costs and sacrifices associated, but if both of you see a future together, you will find a way to make it happen, and he "should" take the lead in doing so.
Generally, long-distance relationships appear to develop along the same lines (time-wise) as other relationships, however, in truth it usually takes a lot longer since you aren't with each other and in each other's world to grow closer. What I'm suggesting is to not have any preconceived timetables for the relationship.
In the meantime, try not to wonder "How in the world it can work" or worry about "figuring it out."
Nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37).
SHE SAID: Each relationship has its own defining characteristics. In college, I remember that my friends and I called some couples "velcro couples," because it seemed they were joined at the hip and could never do anything apart from one another.
Other couples might be defined as "serious" or "casual," as it depends on the nature of their relationship and how committed they are to one another or perhaps how long they have dated or if they are also dating other people while dating each other (hence "casual").
But for some, certain characteristics are seen more as "liabilities" than "challenges." Age gaps, one person having been married before and the other not, culture or heritage differences, children, variance in socio-economic or education levels, etc.
In your case, it's "long distance" that could primarily define your relationship. But it's my heartfelt opinion that if this is a relationship that you feel God has formed or one that you feel he has brought together, then I believe he will help you work through the challenge of dating "long distance."
Yes, it will be a little harder than if you both lived in the same locale and it might be what determines if your relationship goes forward (sometimes distance can expedite a dating relationship toward marriage) or comes to an end (it could be too hard for you to get to know one another only during visits on weekends or in phone conversations or in e-mails or written correspondence). But it is something you and your interest will need to determine for yourselves as to how living far apart from each other will define your relationship. Only the two of you can know if it is something you are willing to try or to stick with for a period of time.
For some couples, it is a non-issue. I know of one such couple who just became engaged after about a year of long-distance dating (three states apart from one another as well). They will wed later this spring. Distance was not a problem, and they saw the value in one another and were able to spot the compatibility and shared vision, interests and worldview even while living far apart.
For others, though, long distance is just too much and stands in the way from a relationship maturing properly or as it should before determining whether marriage is the next step. Distance can become a hindrance, and I believe that God can use it to cause unrest or discord in a relationship and to end it if it is not of him or if it is not what he has purposed for someone's life.
Only you and your interest will know if your relationship can survive dating with many miles between you. And the only way to do that is to actually try it. Give it a go. See what happens for a short period of time (maybe three to six months?) and then discuss how you both feel. And then make some decisions. How much better do you know this individual than when you first started dating? Are there any lingering doubts or concerns? Are there some things that you don't know about this person that only living in the same city would help you discover or know? You will have to decide for yourselves whether to continue on or to go your separate ways.
I don't know of any long-distance dating relationships that are given to us as examples in the Bible. But I do think of some interesting scenarios that involved "distance." There's Abraham's servant who traveled to find a mate for Abraham's son Isaac (Rebekah) which comes to mind (Genesis 24). And then I think of Isaac's son Jacob, when he was travelling (fleeing actually) to stay with his mother's family (and told to take a wife from among his mother's brother's daughters) and met Rachel at probably the very same well where Rebekah was found (Genesis 28-29). Both involved great distances which represent "challenges" to me in two people coming together who have marriage in mind. And the end goal of dating is to find a mate, yes? Well, for those who are marriage minded at least. Regardless, I think we can glean a little insight from these biblical examples, even though they don't exactly relate to long-distance when it comes to a dating relationship. But in the end, either something is an obstacle or a challenge in your relationship or it is not.
So, could God cause you to have to travel a great distance as well to find out if your interest is someone who could one day be your mate? Perhaps. Only time will tell. I am sure you have already prayed about this situation and are actively seeking God's direction (Proverbs 3:5-6). To begin a long-distance dating relationship will require sacrifice and patience and discernment on both of your parts (as well as time, expense of travel, rearranging of your schedules, additional time spent communicating via phone or by other creative means, etc.). But are you up for it? Is this where God is leading you?
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