Shaney Irene

On Faith, Life, and Being the Church

How Long Distance Has Been Good, Even When It’s Been Hard

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I have a wonderful boyfriend. His name is Matthew. We went to Baylor together, were friends the whole time, and started dating in October of our senior year. We became a long-distance couple after graduation in May, when he moved back with his family in California for the summer before starting law school in Chicago. Long-distance has been hard, especially on me. I used to say that I was not the type of person who would ever do long-distance. Surprise, surprise! God had different plans. But as always, God’s plan has been really good. For those of you in long-distance relationships, hopefully this post encourages you. For everyone else, may this remind you that God’s plan is always good, no matter where it takes you.

1. It’s pushed me to work on my communication skills.

Communication is a very different animal when it comes to long-distance. Over Skype, it’s a lot easier to hide or miss the things that we would normally see in person–body language, interaction with environment, etc. It has meant that sometimes I need to ask questions that I wouldn’t normally think of asking, or to be more open and specific with how I’m feeling. When separated by distance, it’s easy to feel disconnected. Therefore, using communication to stay connected to each other has become even more important. It’s become close to impossible to substitute other forms of interaction for open and frequent communication. I know that should we get married, I’m getting a lot of practice for the type of open and honest communication required to keep a marriage strong.

2. It has helped me not to focus on me.

I usually pride myself on being able to hold a long conversation with anyone, no matter how well I know them or how much we have in common. But–surprise, surprise!–I’ve sometimes found myself running out of things to say when Skyping with Matthew! Conversation was certainly easier in college, when we shared more of our lives together. Now that we don’t share nearly as much of our lives together, I’ve had to focus on asking lots of questions and learning about his life, since I’m not there to experience it with him! When at Baylor, it was easier to focus on our shared experiences. It’s different, and good, to learn about his experiences that I’m not a part of.

3. It’s removed the distraction of physical tension.

My love language is physical touch. Every time I take a “love language” quiz or test, I always score 100% in that category. So this is definitely more of a distraction for me than for Matthew. Although we set high standards for ourselves and stuck to them, I could still find it distracting if I found myself wondering if now would be a good time to reach over and hold his hand, rather than focusing on what he was saying. And I’m sure that if we hadn’t become a long-distance couple, the distraction would have only become stronger for me over time. By removing the option, it’s helped me to stay focused on other aspects of our relationship, like improving communication. While it’s still hard (really, is it ever easy to be unable to express your primary love language?), it’s good for us in this stage of our relationship.

4. It’s taught me to be more intentional

Between Matthew being in law school and me having a full-time job, we don’t always get a lot of time to talk. Often, if I want to talk to him about something, I have to plan ahead about when I’m going to do it and what I’m going to say. When we were at Baylor, communication wasn’t something I ever really planned. It just happened. Now, I know I’m learning to use time wisely and set priorities when there are many distractions, whether those distractions are school, career, kids, etc.

5. It’s opened opportunities to explore other aspects of our relationship and learn more about each other

Matthew has a wonderful, almost poetic writing style. He can make the most simple thing seem incredibly profound, just by the words he chooses to use (you can see an example of his writing here). I often find myself reading his letters and e-mails over and over again. Sometimes, something that he struggles to put into words when we’re talking will just click when he writes it out. I tend toward the opposite–I find it easier to give a good speech than to choose the right words when writing. Being apart has meant that we have written more e-mails than we probably would have otherwise. It has given me the opportunity to experience how beautiful his writing is, as well as the opportunity to improve my communication in the written form. This is an aspect of our relationship that I don’t think we would have explored very much had we not become a long-distance couple.

Have you ever been in a long-distance relationship? How has it been beneficial? What is something you’ve done that you never thought you’d do, but turned out to be very good?

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