Every relationship has its challenges, but when your boyfriend is many miles away, those challenges are often intensified. As anyone who has been in a long-distance relationship knows, maintaining a connection via long distance is easier talked about than accomplished.
Though long distance is a challenge, it’s often necessary. Our 20s—when most of us are dating or seeking a mate—are a time of transition and development. It’s the time to complete our education, establish our careers and build a foundation for the future. Unfortunately these pursuits often pull us away from the ones we love! Whether you’re currently in a relationship or not, here are five tips for keeping love alive across the miles.
1. Learn each other’s love language.
If you’re not familiar with The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, pick it up at your library! This book shares profound insights into how we both give and receive affection. One of the difficulties of long-distance relationships lies in the inability to communicate love effectively. Knowing your love language, as well as your partner’s, makes this struggle much easier. By learning what kind of love gestures each partner appreciates most—gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, touch or acts of service—you can brainstorm creative ways to show love in a way they will best recognize it.
2. Set physical boundaries.
I was once talking to a mentor about the pros and cons of long-distance relationships. “When I met my husband, we were long distance,” she shared. “But because of it, when we finally saw each other, there were lots of…sparkles.” Chances are you and your boyfriend feel pretty “sparkly” when you see each other after long times apart. Because of that, it’s imperative that you set physical boundaries for your relationship in order to walk in holiness and honor one another sexually. The question should never be “How far is too far?” but “How holy can we be?”
Though standards are good, remember that we must first desire to obey God in our sexual lives or no amount of boundaries will protect us from impurity. This is one reason to develop and maintain a consistent quiet time—both personally and with your boyfriend—as often as you are able.
3. Treat phone calls and Skype dates like real dates.
Confession time: My husband and I don’t share the same love language. Because of this, our long-distance relationship suffered. He values quality time—things like talking on the phone. I hate talking on the phone, and prefer to send emails or texts. I often missed phone calls or Skype dates because I was busy doing other things. It wasn’t that I didn’t care about Josh; I just don’t value phone calls the same way he does.
One of the signs of a mature relationship is learning to love the other person the way they appreciate it most. I had to learn to make phone calls even though I prickled at the very thought of calling anyone—including my boyfriend! By treating phone or Skype calls with the same punctuality as a real appointment or date, you show that you value your relationship.
4. Embrace conflict.
Conflict is never fun, but long distance makes it worse. Only so much can be said over the phone or Skype, and even less can be effectively communicated via text. In order to maintain a long-distance relationship, you must view conflict as a positive thing, not a negative thing. Conflict strengthens relationships when handled correctly.
How do we handle conflict well? First, don’t take things personally. Try to see the situation objectively, and don’t use accusatory terms or generalizations such as “you always…” or “you never….” Second, learn to communicate exactly what you expect. My husband and I called this “the blueprint.” If he had expectations but didn’t communicate them, he had no right to be disappointed when I didn’t act according to his hopes. We started sharing “the blueprint” for our relationship with one another and miscommunications greatly diminished.
5. Be encouraging.
Encourage one another in your dreams. Stay involved in each other’s lives, ask questions and be interested in the answers. Cultivate thriving lives so you can share news with one another. The more vibrant your life, the more you bring to your relationship.
Most importantly, encourage one another toward the Lord. As you individually draw near to God, you will be drawn near to one another—no matter how many miles come between you.