Loving Well Long-Distance: The Romantic Relationship

There are so many new people to meet and things to learn (like a language…or even an alphabet…) when you move overseas, your relationships back home can start to slip. We’ve got a simple three-part guide for keeping those important long-distance relationships thriving during separation, focusing on significant others, family, and friends. First up: your long-distance romance.

My husband and I were long distance for our entire pre-marriage relationship. In fact, for nearly half that time we were living in different countries. Since we’ve been married we’ve continued to deal with separations lasting several days to several months. Improving our relationship while we’re long-distance takes different forms in different seasons, but most important is communicating well when have the chance. We’ve been together now for more than a decade, and we’ve stumbled upon several ways to stay strong when we’re apart:

Use your time on the phone wisely. With smartphones and apps so widely available, I’m going to go ahead and assume you and your love have the ability to talk on the phone, at least occasionally. When you do talk, find a location where you have few distractions. I’ve tried talking on the phone while watching the kids or sitting at the desk in my office. For me, that just doesn’t work. My immediate surroundings take precedence, and I’m not able to focus well enough to have a decent conversation. Both of us end up frustrated because it’s clear we aren’t connecting well. When my husband and I were engaged and dealing with a lengthy separation, I had to leave my office and sit in the car to talk to him so my mind wouldn’t be caught up in the work sitting in front of me.

Another tip for long-distance phone calls: Watch the time difference. We tried the middle-of-the-night phone calls and they aren’t helpful to a relationship. Sure, it’s nice just to hear his voice, but you end up unsatisfied with the conversation. Plus, it’s awkward when one of you falls asleep on the other end of the line. What’s the etiquette there? Just hang up? Or yell into the phone?

Take notes on your day. Make the most of the time you do have to talk by jotting notes of things you want to share throughout the day. I’m always saying, “I wanted to tell you something but now I can’t remember what it was.” (On a related note, mommy brain is a real thing.) That feeling is compounded when you only have a short window of time on the phone. I like using the Notes feature on my iPhone for remembering thoughts I wanted to tell him. Alternatively, you can start an email at the beginning of the day and add to the draft as you have time. I like emailing because I like to write, but when someone—not naming names here—never writes back, I get worried. And then, when I know he’s safe, I’m annoyed. But that brings me to another point…

Be clear about your expectations for keeping in touch. You might feel like you need to call him every day; he may want to email. A big work project might keep you busy for a few days and he gets upset he hasn’t heard from you. Just voice those expectations in advance. If you assume you’ll get a call every night and you don’t, it’ll mess with your mood and your perception of the relationship on the whole. Meanwhile, he could be sailing blissfully along thinking everything’s fine until you write him an angry email wondering why you haven’t heard from him. (Can you tell this may be based on an actual situation? Learn from us.)

Write a letter longhand. If you’re away from each other for a long period of time and your loved one has an address, try writing a letter. Even if you talk to him on the phone daily, who doesn’t enjoy getting true letters in their mail? Slip in a printed picture of the two of you. Emailing is fun and immediate, but letters and actual pictures can be treasured. Care packages are great too! Do consider the postal service in your host country, however. Sometimes it’s great, and sometimes it, um, isn’t. Letters and packages only help you keep in touch if they arrive.

Pray creatively for each other. It’s easy to remember to pray for the practicals while your loved one is away, such as safety or for a big business meeting. Try picturing your spouse’s day and pray through it in a new light. If your wife is trying to lose weight, pray for self-control in the face of work lunches or nighttime snacks after the kids go to bed. Pray for your husband’s boss to be a good mentor for him. Pray that he will find a solid group of friends that are encouraging to him. Pray that flights will be on time and for good seatmates if she’s traveling with the kids. Pray for plenty of devotional time in the morning. Refreshing sleep. A chance to give generously. An opportunity to do something he loves. A good conversation when you talk. Pray for ways your love can thrive in a season apart.

Romantic relationships are both the easiest and the hardest to maintain long-distance. They’re easiest because they are your natural priority, and you’ll be more willing to spend more of your time and energy on them. But they also require constant care and attention. Apply these tips to keep your love growing long-distance!

Do you have any tips on cultivating healthy long-distance romantic relationships?  How to you cope when your partner is faraway? 

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Christie Chu

Christie has a long history of major moves, beginning at age 11. Most have involved state lines and a couple have included passports and visas. All of them have required finding a new community, learning a new city, and creating a stable, secure environment for her family. She may give you a blank look when you ask where she's from and it's likely her address will change within the coming year, but she's learned to build her house on the one foundation that is always constant--Jesus.

2 thoughts on “Loving Well Long-Distance: The Romantic Relationship

  1. Christie,

    For someone who has to live this long distance relationship–I say, “Practical and well said! Thanks for taking the time to write and publish this!”

    —Marty D in the Middle East

    • Thanks, Marty. Stay strong! Long distance relationships are hard, but you won’t easily fall into the trap of taking each other for granted.

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