Wednesday, February 26, 2014

An Ounce of Prevention: 'Surviving Long Distance Relationships: 10 Tips to Keep You Close'

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OK...

There are some folks who have asked me what I think about long distance relationships. Well, according to a study that I checked out, reportedly, there's not much of a difference between them and relationships where both people live in the same city:

In an era when job opportunities are limited, professionals pursuing a career are often tempted to move to another city. But if your significant other can’t—or isn’t willing—to pick up and move with you, what happens to the relationship? Can long-distance romances really work?

Newly published research suggests the answer is absolutely yes.

“Contrary to popular belief, young unmarried people in long-distance dating relationships do not report lower relationship quality than those in geographically close relationships,” reports a research team led by Queen’s University psychologistEmma Dargie. In fact, the researchers add, couples who live far apart “often report better functioning in a number of areas.”

Their study featured 474 females and 243 males in long-distance relationships, and 314 females and 111 males who lived near their significant others. Recruited “from an Ontario university, the local community, and throughout North America,” participants had all been in a relationship for at least three months at the time of the survey. None were married or living together.

They filled out a series of questionnaires regarding intimacy, commitment, communication, sexual satisfaction (or lack thereof), and psychological distress. Those in long-distance relationships also noted how far apart they lived and how frequently they saw one another.

The key result: The researchers found few differences between those who lived nearby and far apart. “The two types of couples were doing equally well,” writes University of Utah psychologist Karen Blair, one of the paper’s authors.


OK. Did anybody catch that these findings were based on relationships that are *three months old*? Honestly, the study confirms my own thoughts about long distance relationships in the sense that when you're dating and getting to know one another, if you're trying to do it with healthy physical boundaries, long distance relationships can be a good thing because you're seeking to know the individual without sex being so much of an issue.

However...

The people I know who dated long distance, got engaged long distance and then got married? Yeah...that's a bit different. It's basically like being in a perpetual honeymoon phase, getting married and then experiencing a huge (HUGE) reality check. That's because no matter how much you talk on the phone or email or Skype, in order to be sure that this is the person you want to spend the rest of your life with, it's important that you spend some time dealing in one another's physical space: good, bad and ugly (relatively speaking).

In fact, there are two *now divorced* couples I know who dated long distance. During that time, it was like a movie: wining and dining, great conversations, always excited to see one another (because they only saw each other once a month). But then when they got married, *reality set in* (Ecclesiastes 7:18-Message) of the day to day and they realized that relationships aren't just about showing your best side but also making sure that you can *mutually tolerate* some of the worst too.

So...

My counsel on it is if you are dating someone long distance and it's getting to a point where you're discussing marriage, it needs to be brought up just how you're going to spend more physical time with one another. *Before getting married*. And yes, that is a gamble, being that it would require someone to uproot their life. And perhaps that is the disadvantage to long distance relationships: it tends to have high risks without a lot of guarantees.

Yet if you happen to be someone who is currently considering a long distance relationship or you're in the beginning stages of one, I did check out an article that could prove to be beneficial: "Surviving Long Distance Relationships: 10 Tips to Keep You Close":

Venturing into the unknown, with excitement and hope.

A few years ago, I met an American girl studying in my hometown, a small village in South Wales.

I remember her exuberance for life, as she walked along the road saying, “Hello,” to strangers, she wouldn’t stop smiling. She was on her own adventure.

It doesn’t matter whether I believe in fate or any path that’s ‘meant to be’—I have no answers to those assumptions. All I know is that my eyes opened with excitement.

Three years later, Jamie is my wife, and we are half way through a visa application to live together in the United States.

It has not always been easy.

I want to help mentally prepare those of you who are embarking on a similar journey. I thought I would share with you some bare-bones tips and advice from what I have learned through this time—the blind leaps, the wayward roadblocks and the all-out explosions of this choice of living.
 

Here are my top 10 tips for surviving a long distance relationship:

1. Bask in the scope of your decision.

You are about to embark on an adventure that people write songs, poems and books about. The romance of a message in a bottle is what you are going to create. The seas and lands between you are going to pull at your strengths and weaknesses unlike any other relationship you have had before. This is raw; this is living.

Attempt to keep a mindset semi-detached to the situation. Take time to step back and realize what you both are doing. Be proud of yourself for being the kind of person who is willing to take the chance. This is a grand definition of character. Bask in that.

2. Realize how amazing you have it.

First and foremost, if you have found somebody you love and who loves you back—you are one of the lucky ones. Don’t get caught up in the technicalities straight away. If you have found somebody, a rarity, that compliments your every aspiration, make this the priority.

The intricacies can be mapped out as you explore your new world.

3. Communicate daily.

Whenever possible—strive to talk everyday.

We have never been in a better position to indulge in a long distance relationship. The Internet has really changed the world we live in for the better. It means distances aren’t dictated by their physical truths. Today, I can sit at a computer and talk face to face with Jamie in real time. I can send free text messages through email. I can instantly send photographs and videos.  I can map out a virtual photo-album.  With a click, I can book a last minute flight in seconds.

And this is just the beginning. With inventions like 3D printing and Google Glass, the future of time spent apart will make us closer still.

4. Honesty must be ripe.


    “Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.”
    ~ Henry David Thoreau

If you’re going to survive this kind of relationship, this quote should be your mantra.

You see, I believe that truth is love. Or, to put it another way, love, without truth, can’t be love.

You have to be honest with each other. You have to make every effort not to waste each other’s time in this one short life. This is a huge dedication; this isn’t just some weekend fling. It is going to take sacrifice on many levels. You will need to readjust how you spend your time—you’ll spend hundreds of hours, if not thousands, on flights, you’ll miss nights out with friends, you’ll miss family occasions and you’ll probably take off a few years from your life, as a result of all the stresses that go hand-in-hand (though, this isn’t bound just to long distance relationships, of course!)

It’s easy, just respect each other enough to be truthful. Live your life in a way that merits easy honesty. Bottom line, folks—be excellent to each other!

5. See the adventure in everything.

When Jamie first left, I said good-bye at the airport, not knowing what the future would hold. How amazing is possibility? Really, think about it—everything can happen.

On this occasion, I was flying out from Heathrow toward a land that much of my childhood heroes were from. Like many others, I have been raised on a plethora of American culture, from films to books to music.

To the traveler, the ‘everyday mundane’ is magical. Landing at the Newark airport amongst a million lit homes at midnight, passing strangers with accents so familiar, and rolling a quarter into an airport pay-phone…magic!

6. Know your traits: demons and angels.


Be honest with each other, and be honest with yourself.

This kind of relationship will test your nature and temperament. You’ll have all the usual issues; only they will be magnified. You may go a little crazy over-thinking situations; I know I have. Alone, at night, thoughts stab in the dark. You are a few thousand miles away and in a different time zone. Your lover is living in a different day.

You have to overcome these demons.

The best way to do this is to draw strength from them. Rectify feelings of jealousy by making an even bigger attempt to be together. Use your unyielding conviction to overcome all of your obstacles. Counterbalance each demon with an angel.

7. Travel.

The most important thing for me has been having a date in mind to look forward to when I know that I will be seeing her again.

It doesn’t matter if it’s eight months down the line—you’ll know it is eight months down the line.

It’s expensive, but it’s the adventure once again. The adventure begins when you are sitting at your desk or wherever you earn your bread, when your mind is focused on the prize at the end of the line, when you are saving. Each step makes the next step more worthwhile.

Make your togetherness the priority.

8. Make the big decisions.
If you are coming to the point whereby you want to make the next leap, it’s time to make the big decisions.

Who is willing to move where? Will you both move somewhere new? When can you realistically be together? Are there children involved? What of work? What of money? What of marriage?

These practicalities seem like hefty casualties of the free-living adventure, but I assure you they are not. They are all part of the process of excitement.

Be on top of things. Be creative. Decorate roadblocks.

9. Make the most of your time apart.

You will have long pangs of time alone. Just because you cannot be with the one you love at that very moment doesn’t mean your life must be put on hold. On the contrary—now is the time to invest in you. Not only will it make time flow by faster, but it will build your mental character, too.

How about a free college course? There are 725 of them here. Start a yoga class. Learn a martial art. Learn a new language, perhaps your partner’s native tongue? Start a business. Start a blog. Write a book. Put on a charity fundraiser. Start a book exchange.

Set your goals and ease your way through the hard times apart.

10. Time will be cruel, but your reward will be luxurious.

Finally, I want to tell you of the most painful day of my life.

Just over a year ago, Jamie fell into serious pain; a kidney stone had infected her blood. I read that survival rates for such an infection were questionable at best. Medical complications and new discoveries on top of that brought about a wave of invasive emergency surgeries—the whole thing seemed to happen so fast that I became lost in limbo.

I was on the other side of the world while the woman who I want to spend the rest of my life with lay on an operating table. All I could do was wait for a phone call to come through to tell me if she was still alive—every slow second dragged me to the next.

I have never felt more fraught or helpless.

That day, time was cruel.


Now, I want to tell you about July 29th, 2012: we had spent the previous two weeks casually viewing wedding rings. On July 29th, I had the secret of a ring in my pocket—that night she agreed to be my wife.

The next day, in a last minute collection of friends and family, brought together with the promise of an impromptu wedding day, we made our vows together.

That was the last day I spent on American soil. I had to fly out minutes after the ceremony, but I knew what we had done, and I knew what was able to come next…

That day, time was luxurious.


The next time I land there, we’ll walk to our new home together.

I wish you all the luck you deserve in your own worldwide adventure!


Gotta love how a man pen's his own love story!

If I were to add a tip, it would be this:

BONUS: Do not seriously involve yourself in a long distance relationship without your closest friends, preferably including a married couple, knowing so that they can help you to look at things "from the outside in". A part of the reason is for the sake of your safety if you happen to meet someone online. Another part of the reason is to keep your discernment sharp so that you won't let a potential romance override your common sense. And then, if you see the potential of marriage in the future---*and so does the guy*---also speak with a marriage counselor. They can give you some helpful tips on how to decipher if you're in something good or you're headed towards making a grave mistake.

Bottom line...

The question isn't if a long distance relationship can work...

BUT

If it's meant to work for you.

It's quite the investment of time *and money*.

Stay prayerful. Before and during.

Luxuriant,

SRW

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