Christians love to talk about relationships. Marriage, boundaries, discipleship: it seems to be the red-hot topic of every seminar, youth group and Christian summer camp. But what about long-distance relationships? Where can we learn how to make those work? Over 30% of people between college and university ages are in long-distance relationships — and more than 40% of those relationships fail.
Of course, I am by no means an expert on this. Just someone who madly loves Jesus and wants to do this relationship thing right so that it will last (my boyfriend is my very first one — and hopefully the only one I will ever have). Since we started dating around 2 and half years ago we were living a two-hour train journey apart. For some, that might not be much (my parents had an even longer distance when they were dating: my dad worked in London; my mum in Germany), but for us it came with its own challenges. My boyfriend is studying to become a teacher and I work full-time in London as a journalist. We have our own dreams, careers, lives and different churches that we serve in. Even though we live far apart for now, we both know that quitting isn’t an option — and we are going to make this work. Whether you’re married, single, divorced, waiting for the one or happily dating someone new, God has a plan for you.
Here a few things I’ve learnt from my long-distant relationship. And if you’re interested in what my boyfriend has learnt, his tips are at the very bottom of this article. Enjoy!
Every week or so on FaceTime, we get our diaries out and plan ahead. We’ll work out when we are both free and arrange dates. Doing so, means we have things to look forward to. We have an ongoing list of ‘goals’ we’d like to accomplish together (restaurants to eat at, places to visit, films to watch). When we can’t meet for 6, 7 or 8 weeks because of work commitments we know we have something else to look forward to. Next month it’s Thorpe Park and I’m counting down the days already.
Taking interest in the small things
From asking how a meeting at work went, to how his essay planning is going or what we’re both making for dinner, taking time and interest in the small things shows you care just like Christ does for us. By caring about the small things in a long distance relationship makes your partner seem closer and helps you to understand what they’ve been doing each week. Share stories about your day, insights from a bible study or victories from a job.
Supporting each other’s dreams and giving daily encouragement
Encouragement is key in any form of relationship we have. In Ephesians 4:29 it says “Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say what only helps, each word as a gift.” I love the latter part of the verse, that each word we speak to one another should be a gift. In relationships and friendships, treat your words as gifts to each other. Are they encouraging? Do they uplift? If you turn to Proverbs 10:11, you’ll find the beautiful verse that says “the mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life.” With my relationship, I ask God everyday to help me say the right things. If my only communication with my boyfriend is via text or a phone call, I want to ensure I put those verses into action and use my words to do nothing but uplift and encourage him. Let’s follow God’s example and be an encourager.
Praying about each other in our private time
I think this is a general point for relationships as a whole, but I wanted to add it into this article none-the-less. Ask your partner (or friend, if you’re reading this and are single), what they need prayer for that week. Personally, writing a “prayer list” at the back of my journal helps me to keep note of who or what I’m praying for. Even though we pray a lot together over FaceTime (an absolute life-saver for a long-distance relationship may I add!), praying for each other in our own quiet times with the Lord is healthy for any Christian relationships and sets a solid foundation. When I pray for my boyfriend during my bible study, I find I’m more loving, patient and caring during the day because of what Jesus is doing on the inside.
What he says that a long-distance has taught him:
Being busy in good way
Without often being able to meet for weeks, it really helps to have your own personal goals for each day. At university I try to study hard, play an active role in the Christian Union and create friendships in my local church. Knowing that my girlfriend is at work achieving her goals pushes me to be motivated myself. Plus, it means I’m not constantly waiting for her reply to my text messages or calling her every half an hour. While communication is an essential part of any relationship, in a long distance one letting each other enjoy and get on with our days can really help how productive we are and makes catching up in the evenings much more worthwhile.
Dreams are so important, particularly in any relationship and the Bible encourages us to dream big. Numbers 12:6 says, ‘he said, “Listen to my words: “When there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, reveal myself to them in visions, I speak to them in dreams.” I love knowing what my girlfriend wants to achieve in the next month and year. This helps me know God is pushing us both in the right direction. We always try to keep in mind the main purpose of dating but don’t let it interfere the dating stages we are currently loving. Sharing our goals for the future helps us agree on things and learn where we both are.
Nothing is more special than surprising your partner — everyone agrees with that. Receiving a small package in the post containing sweets to help with my essay writing, planning surprise date nights or posting me my favourite book, these are all things that have kept dating exciting. I try my best to also surprise her, like popping over for a family lunch without telling her, buying her a new pair of jeans or leaving flowers in her bedroom when she returns home from work. Surprises show you care, love and really know your partner. This, in my opinion, is such a foundation to make long distance relationships work.