Dating is hard work. Whether the couple lives in the same location or on separate continents, it is never easy. It is a challenge for both the man and the woman because it requires self-sacrifice and selflessness, qualities that aren’t natural for any of us. Relationships that hope to succeed over long distances, however, must realize that the work required to maintain and grow the relationship will be significantly more than a couple who lives in the same city. Just because a relationship is hard work, though, doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

My wife and I spent the majority of our dating, courtship, and engagement over a long distance. I was finishing seminary in Dallas and she was finishing her undergrad at Texas A&M. Although we weren’t separated by a great distance, we only managed to see each other in person once every couple of months. It was certainly a challenge for us both, but we learned some things along the way that I think helped make the distance negligible while also helping our relationship grow.

While we were courting, my wife sent me a quote that said, “Absence is to love what wind is to fire; it extinguishes the small and enkindles the great.” We certainly found that to be true in our relationship. Over the course of time, distance proved to be less and less of an obstacle and burden to us. Believe it or not, we even saw it as a blessing. Even today as I travel with my students for a week or two at a time, we still find the same principle to be true almost 10 years into our marriage.

Distance tests our hearts. If distance is too great a burden for us, then the test reveals that our heart isn’t willing to love. If distance is a small price to pay to be able to stay in relationship with another, then the test has proven that our hearts are steadfast and faithful.

If you find yourself in a long-distance relationship, here are some principles to help the small flame grow into a forest fire instead of being extinguished by the wind:

  1. Continue to ask for & go out on dates. Just because a couple isn’t in the same city doesn’t mean they cannot go out on dates. The man should continue to ask the woman out on dates (never expecting or feeling entitled to one) and plan them as he would if they were in the same city. It can be a phone date, Skype date, Google+ date, FaceTime, or any other host of options we have now a days to keep in touch with each other.
  2. Make your dates creative, fun, and/or adventurous. Don’t just schedule a Skype date, have a Skype dinner date! Send her a recipe she can make and make the same thing yourself and enjoy a meal together!  Don’t just schedule a phone date, send her on a treasure hunt that you’ve helped arrange with her friends! Don’t just have a Google+ hangout, host your own radio-talk show for her enjoyment – complete with comedy, listeners who call in, and give-a-ways! Don’t just sit on the couch and FaceTime, instead play a board game while you talk (it can be done!).
  3. Don’t talk or text every day. By far one of the biggest killers of the long-distance relationship is the typically unclear expectation of how much the couple should talk. Usually one person texts or calls more than the other person would like for them too. Eventually it wears them out and they end the relationship. Instead of talking all the time, have set times during the week when you catch up with each other via phone or internet. These are not dates, though. For example, a couple may decide to talk to each other on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday evenings. They make sure that the 8-9pm is protected for that time. So, instead of talking or texting every day and running out things to talk about, save those things for the planned conversations.
  4. Visit each other on a regular basis. A long distance relationship cannot survive on Skype alone. Both the man and the woman have to budget to be able to visit each other. As a general guideline, I would recommend not going longer than 2 months between visits (if possible). It may cost more money, but remember: distance is a test. It will prove whether or not you think he or she is worth it.
  5. Surprise him or her with random gifts. The key here is the word random. Of course you should be sending gifts for birthdays and such, but it goes a long way to send a special gift for no good reason at all. While this is a good principle even for couples in the same city, it’s an essential element for long distance couples. Gift ideas: flowers, a hand-written letter, a care package filled with all of her favorite goodies, gift cards to an ice-cream place, silly e-cards just for fun, etc.

I’m sure there are lots of other good ideas out there to share, but these are my top 5. Aside from these few changes, the remainder of the principles of the blook still apply. The man should still ask for dates and continue to define the relationship as it continues to grow.


What suggestions do you have for couples in a long-distance relationship? What worked? What didn’t work?

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