Do long distant relationships work? (by Philippa Helen)

Often times the phrase ‘long distance relationship’ does not bring up particularly positive or helpful connotations when thinking about dating. Perhaps this is because there is a negative stereotype of dating long distance and therefore it is not something people initially set out to do when navigating the field of relationships. However the reality for many people dating long distance is quite the opposite of this. Like any other relationship there will come times of struggle, of miscommunication and of disagreement, but equally there will be times of great joy, laughter and delight in getting to know someone and in learning to love your partner. The following words in this article are intended as an encouragement for all those needing a small prompt in seeing the potential fruit that comes from dating long distance. It is also for all those left wondering whether investing time in someone who is not physically nearby is really worth the time and the commitment.

In short, love itself is a commitment. Whether you meet someone online, through a mutual friend or as you are sitting outside on your lunch break, there will come a time where you will have to make a decision to pursue that relationship further. Love is a choice, it is not based on excitement or a fluttery feeling in your stomach. Love is made up of careful building and cultivating, of carving out room in your heart to serve and choose that other person. Love embraces hope and perseverance, it does not give up. When thinking towards long term, these are values that are core to building any successful relationship, long distance or not.

That may have all sounded quite intense. I have not said this to scare anyone or to put pressure onto any relationship, present or future. I say this to demonstrate that in essence the core principles between dating someone living nearby and dating someone living a long way away are exactly the same. We date because we seek to get to know the heart of someone else, to process whether they could be someone we want to build a life with. In both cases we will ask the same sort of questions regarding that relationship: does this person share my values? Are our lives heading in the same direction? Does this other person bring peace to my life, or are they bringing me unsettlement?

Looking at it from another angle, I also want to encourage any reader out there that just because someone they know has had a bad experience with a long distance relationship, does not mean that they will too. Like any other thing, it is always hard to see beyond a particular viewpoint if it is the only reality you have come across, either for yourself, a family member or a friend. We will have people in our lives that we do trust with guidance through decisions and processes, and I encourage any reader to treasure and cherish those words of wisdom that come from the people you know that genuinely want the best for you and swiftly move past remarks that are said merely to trip you up.

That said, it is important to acknowledge that there will be elements of a long distance relationship which are challenging in many respects. Perhaps the most obvious is lack of physical contact. There are not as many opportunities to go exploring, to share a meal together or even to just sit down in the same room and have a conversation. I know that the thought of it can be disheartening. However my encouragement for this would be to really see past some of these constraints of long distance, and look towards what you think a healthy version of a long distance relationship could look like. For instance, it allows you to really learn how to properly communicate with that other person. We are always told how much easier it is when speaking in person than when you message or call them, and so speaking daily on the phone or online as part of your relationship will allow you to hone and practice communicating effectively with your partner. You learn to value their words more quickly than if you were dating in person. This is invaluable in a long term context. It also allows you to be creative in your communication and in your dating, for example my fiancé and I enjoyed writing letters to each other when we were living in separate countries – this was not something we would have been able to do in any other context other than living apart.

In summary yes, long distance do work in many cases, but in many others they don’t. Both outcomes are completely possible and both are completely okay! If a long distance relationship ends, it may not be necessarily because it’s a long distance relationship, it could be due to a whole host of factors, maybe it will be because of long distance, maybe finances render it impossible for trips to visit that person, and some sort of physical contact is important for one or both partisan that relationship. Oftentimes it will end just like any other “no-distance” relationship, and you conclude that the other person just isn’t who you want to continue that journey with, or perhaps you realise that your lives are in fact headed in completely different directions and that is why it ends. Other times, a long distance relationship does work out. Again the reasons for this are diverse and unique to that couple. But let me reiterate that both outcomes are valid and no one involved is worth less or more because of a “failed” or “succeeded” relationship, long distance or not. I want to end here with a little encouragement that I pray blesses your heart today:

‘The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.’ Zephaniah 3:17

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