Several people have asked me what I think of long distance relationships, and I’ve been meaning to write about it for quite some time.
First, allow me to give you my definition of a long distance relationship–I want you to know what I’m thinking of when I give advice.
A long distance relationship is a situation in which two people have met in person and decide to establish or continue a romantic relationship while living far away from each other.
I’m not talking about “falling in love” with someone you’ve never met in person (I dealt with that in another article). I’m also not referring to a husband and wife who have no choice but to temporarily separate (military duty, for example—though some of what I’m about to say still applies). I’m primarily referring to singles that choose long distance.
Does the Bible have anything to say about this? Not directly, but a verse in Proverbs gives us food for thought:
Do not forsake your friend and the friend of your father,
and do not go to your brother’s house when disaster strikes you—
better a neighbor nearby than a brother far away.
-Proverbs 27:10 (emphasis mine)
There were no ATM’s or wire transfers in ancient times. A brother living far away couldn’t do much to help you if you were in trouble.
Things have changed, but there’s still a principle to consider: there are some benefits that only come with living in close proximity.
Something is missing when you can’t look someone in the eye, have lunch with her, hold her hand and spend time with her on a regular basis. There are major limitations to intimacy and growth. Distance will always hinder the relationship, and the love will probably grow cold.
Here’s my conclusion: long distance relationships only work temporarily.
I’ll give you an analogy: the pause button.
Imagine you are watching or listening to your favorite media file. Something comes up and you decide to pause it. You’re probably not going to leave it paused for several days—doing so is a waste of time and electricity. You’ll eventually turn of the player, finish the file, or switch to something else.
In much the same way, separation is a “pause” in a relationship. You may be able to endure it for some time, but not forever. The longer the separation, the less likely you are to keep the relationship.
I’ll give you a couple of real-life scenarios:
*A young man once told me of a girl he met at a conference. But there was a problem: you guessed it—she lived in another part of the country. “If you really like her,” I said, “pray that the two of you can find a way to live in the same town. But don’t think you can have a relationship with her if she’s in another part of the country.”
*Another young man emailed me, telling me the girl he loved was moving away. They promised to wait for each other, but would be separated for four years. I told him it was just not a very realistic.
Now let me give you the worst case scenario:
Long distance relationships are a complete nightmare when there is no clear direction and no specific plan/date for getting back together.
Another young man emailed me with his dilemma. He had a long-term relationship before moving to another country. He and his girlfriend did not end the relationship, even though he apparently had no clear plan of returning. He eventually found himself falling for someone else in the country where he lived.
Here’s part of my (email) response to him:
Here’s the first problem–it seems you don’t have a definite plan with the girlfriend. Long distance relationships can only work temporarily. Leaving the country without a definite plan for the relationship wasn’t too wise. You need to do something–either marry her or let her go . . .
Now, on to the next issue. I’m not surprised you’ve fallen for someone else–our affection is likely to go towards women who we can actually spend time with . . .
This was a really unfortunate situation—many years wasted by both the guy and the girl.
Here’s a Summary:
*A relationship is severely limited when you are separated and can’t see each other often.
*Generally speaking, long distance relationships can be sustained only temporarily.
*The longer you are going to be apart, the less likely you are to have a good outcome.
Please consider my advice. I’m not telling you to give up a relationship over a short period of separation. I’m not even going to tell you what qualifies as “temporary”–many factors could influence the length of time you could sustain an LDR (amount of communication, etc). But I want you to think carefully before investing a great deal of time and emotion into a long distance relationship.
I got married since writing this article a couple of years ago. We were in different countries when we first started communicating. In other words, I have personal experience with long a long distance relationship–one that resulted in marriage (you can read our love story for more information).
Does this change my mind about what I’ve previously written? Absolutely not!
Mare Cris and I were able to establish a friendship through the internet (daily video chatting). But I met her face-to-face within a few weeks of our first online communication. The next step was for Mare Cris to move back to the Philippines within a reasonable time period so we could be together. She ended up returning sooner than planned, so the long distance phase of our relationship was only a couple of months. We had a clear direction and limited the time of separation.
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