Three years ago, I was on a summer mission team when I met Joseph. He was passionate about his faith. Joseph was (and still is!) a great listener and we had some good conversations. But he was leaving at the end of the week and lived three hours away from where I was staying that summer. But the distance between us didn’t stop us from getting to know each other over the following months. We spent time getting to know about each other’s interests, families, and hobbies. We shared stories about how we both spent our summer. Then, when I moved back home (only an hour away from Joseph!), we went on a dinner date.
Joseph and I had a successful, long distance start to our relationship. Are you thinking about giving long distance relationships a try, too? Here are five questions you should discuss with someone before making it official.
1. What are your expectations for the relationship?
Before you start dating someone in a long distance relationship, take time to discuss what the expectations of the relationship are. But before you go into that conversation, spend time discerning what your expectations for the relationship are so that you can share them with clarity. “You have a right to ask for the things you need in a relationship,” the authors of Couple Skills wrote. “In fact, you have a responsibility to yourself and your partner to be clear about your needs. You are the expert on yourself. No one else, not even your partner, can read your mind and know what you need in the way of support, intimate contact, time alone, domestic order, independence, sex, love, financial security, and so on.”
Set aside a time when both of you can give a discussion about expectations your undivided attention. This isn’t a conversation to have at the very end of a phone call late in the evening. Instead, be intentional about this discussion. As important as it is to communicate your expectations clearly, it’s equally important to encourage the other to share his or her needs as well – and to listen to each other attentively.
Not taking time for a conversation about expectations can harm your relationship in the long run. If you don’t take time to discuss your expectations with each other, you may find yourself agonizing over how to interpret someone’s texts and interactions. After all, resentment originates from expectations that aren’t communicated or met.
2. How will you handle conflict?
Despite the advances of technology and communication tools, long distance relationships can still be challenging. At some point in the relationship, you will misinterpret what someone said, disagree with each other, or be frustrated with the fact that you can’t see each other in person as much as you’d like to. But conflict doesn’t automatically mean red flags should go up – working through disagreements together can actually help strengthen your relationship.
But in order to work through conflict together, you’ll need to know some things about each other first. For instance, do you know each other’s conflict resolution style? What is your plan when you have a disagreement? Joseph and I are both introverts. So when we had a disagreement when we were dating long distance, we took time apart to think through our feelings and cool off. Then, after we’d prayed about the issue, we’d come back and have a phone discussion (or see each other in person if it was possible!) and communicate our thoughts. We avoided texting about disagreements, and picked up the phone if we were misinterpreting what the other person was saying over a text. We both had to improve our listening skills and encouraged each other to be completely honest about our feelings. Like many things in a long distance relationship, communication is key!
3. How will you share each other’s everyday life?
Before you make your long distance relationship official, discuss how you will share your daily life with each other. You won’t be seeing each other on a daily basis, and that can complicate things. Make sure you both are on the same page about how you will include each other in the day-to-day events of life.
It wasn’t until I had been dating Joseph for six months that I realized that I’d never seen him stressed or angry. He had never seen me lose my fiery Irish temper, and to be honest, that worried me. If I lost my temper about a situation at work or a school assignment, I would work through it on my own. Then, only after I’d calmed down, I’d fill Joseph in on what happened. But once we started talking about marriage, I realized that when I processed my emotions by myself and only shared with Joseph afterward, I was closing him out of my everyday life.
To remedy this problem, I would call Joseph and communicate with him the highs and lows of my day when they happened. I was worried that I’d scare him off – but just the opposite happened. Because I shared those moments with him, he was able to get to know me better. He also was an incredible help when it came to processing tough situations – something I’d closed him out of before.
4. Do you trust each other?
The question of trust is perhaps the most important question you can ask yourself and someone else before diving into a long distance relationship. Granted, trust in a long distance relationship can sometimes feel like jumping out of an airplane with no parachute. Yes, you’ll forget someone details when you’re communicating over a phone call. You may completely forget to mention some events that happen during your day. But slipping up in communication isn’t the same as lying. Trust in a long distance relationship means believing that your significant other is willing your good and would never intentionally do something that would hurt you and your relationship. If you can confidently say that to each other before starting into a long distance relationship, you’re doing great.
Trust in a long distance relationship does not mean that you are constantly keeping tabs on your significant other every minute of the day. If you’re always worried that the person you’re considering a long distance relationship can’t be trusted, or you’re worried that they wouldn’t be faithful, it’s not a healthy relationship to pursue.