Communication/Dating/My Relationships/Teen Relationships The Pursuit: Long Distance Relationships by Jay Martin On the day that I stood up at the altar and said, “I do” to my wife, the most consecutive days we had spent together in person stood at a whopping 12. What?! How could I, at the age of 23, commit my life and love to a woman who I’d never even spent two weeks in a row with?? Some would say it’s reckless. Others would call it foolish. Most would think it’s downright crazy. We hadn’t lived together, hadn’t slept together, and must have had NO idea what we were getting ourselves into, right? Wrong. We were finally closing the distance that we had endured for the majority of our three-year relationship. School and missionary work kept us apart for the majority of that time, but we were finally coming together, for good. As a teenager, I never thought I would end up in a long distance relationship, as I had only heard negative things about them. But I’m here to tell you that they are indeed possible, and to discourage the notion of not pursuing someone just because there are some miles in between the two of you. The Scope of Separation As you might know from another great blog, there are plenty of pros and cons associated with long distance relationships. For some people, the distance isn’t that hard to handle; for others, it’s stifling. But, if it’s for you and if it’s God’s will, it can certainly work. Those that have endured a long distance relationship know it takes trust, communication, patience, and a million other virtues. They’re full of FaceTiming, rosaries, and planning; a whole lot of waiting, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, and tough airport goodbyes. But, goodbyes aren’t forever and love can conquer anything. While distance is certainly a tough hurdle in dating, it can make a relationship stronger and even holier in the long run. With so much fear and anxiety often connected to just the idea of a long distance relationship, sometimes the beauty and glory that can shine forth can be missed, and simple steps to stay focused can be ignored. If you’re thinking about pursuing someone that has all signs pointing towards a good and holy relationship and the only question mark is the distance separating the two of you, fear not: the pursuit is worth it. The Space in Between I met my wife at a summer camp in Georgia (you might have heard of it) where we worked together for six weeks and then went our separate ways. Kristina was in Oklahoma, I was in Florida. Those 1,184 miles between us were daunting, but many months after camp ended, we found ourselves talking more and developing mutual “more than friends” feelings. It was at this point that we came to a crossroads where we had to ask ourselves a few questions: Was this a relationship we would be actively pursuing if we lived in the same area? If the answer to question 1 was yes, were we going to let the distance stop us from even trying to begin a relationship that we would otherwise be going for? The first answer was yes and the second was no, so we said, “Here goes everything!” and gave it a shot. She was holy, beautiful, funny, and most importantly, made me strive to be holier. I wasn’t about to let anything get in the way of my pursuit of holiness, especially a little distance! It was a long road that followed that decision, and while the details of how we made it work through the distance are somewhat complicated, the short answer is Jesus and Jesus alone. For anyone in a long distance relationship or thinking about pursuing one, the long answer as to how to make it work contains a number of important things to keep in mind, and while no two relationships are the same, I pray that if you feel God calling you to pursue someone in a different area, you keep these tips in mind and go for it. Communication is Key Good communication is integral in every relationship, but it’s taken to a whole new level in long distance relationships. Considering that the majority of your communication isn’t in person, it’s really important to be intentional and transparent when you talk. One common misconception is that long distance relationships require CONSTANT communication, but this is not the case. What’s important is the quality of communication, not the quantity. Being intentional with every chance I had to call or not multi-tasking while on FaceTime, made those moments, even if they were a fraction of what they could have been if we lived in the same zip code, so much more meaningful. Another important piece of communication is prayer. Some of the moments I felt closest to my girlfriend, even while hundreds of miles away, was when we took time to pray together or go to Mass at the same time. Remaining rooted in Jesus is instrumental when times get tough or the distance gets heavy. Learning how to effectively communicate and avoid miscommunication was a constant effort, but one that was so worth it as we grew closer together and learned how to listen better and share more openly. Be Where Your Feet are Having your significant other hundreds of miles away can make you feel like your heart is in two places at once. It can be easy to seem disconnected from those around you when you’re trying to stay connected to someone in a different time zone. What’s important though is to be where your feet are, and not let the distance or distractions creep into where God has you right now. A long distance relationship can’t succeed if you don’t have a solid home base, and if you spend all of your time distracted and glued to your phone, you won’t be able to put in the effort it takes to nourish friendships or get involved in your community. Being involved in positive outreaches, like a youth group or volunteer organization, not only gives you balance and purpose in your day-to-day life, but also gives you more to share about with your boyfriend or girlfriend whenever you talk about your day. There’s something beautiful about couples who have their own, independent personalities and lives, while simultaneously being in a strong, committed relationship. As Matthew 6:34 says, “Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.” Instead, plant those feet firmly and be your own person, as both you and your boyfriend/girlfriend journey through life together, growing (hopefully) closer and closer. Grateful Sacrifices The biggest factor in pretty much every long distance relationship is plain to see: sacrifice. You are sacrificing being physically together in order to continue growing in your relationship. You are sacrificing what a “typical” relationship often looks like with its regular dates and ordinary travel schedules. In some aspects though, your sacrifices may look small or meager in comparison to those around you, but in reality, they’re incomparable. To a couple going to the same school, something like a ten-minute phone call wouldn’t sound all that impressive. But, if I know that my girlfriend only has ten minutes to spare in between two events of a busy day, and she chooses to spend that time calling me, that’s a sacrifice she makes for our relationship. Traveling to see each other often meant expensive plane tickets, alternating holidays with our families, and long road trips. These were sacrifices we made for each other that helped us love in the “agape,” or self-sacrificial, the way Christ loves all of us. Like the poor widow with the two coins in Mark 12:41-44, giving what we had to offer each other, no matter how little it was, made all the difference. Embrace the Pursuit In today’s social media-driven society, it feels like we’ve sometimes forgotten what it means to actually ‘pursue’ someone in a relationship. Purposefully cultivating a relationship with someone over distance, instead of just sliding in the DMs, is difficult, but beautiful. There are so many positive aspects to long distance relationships: you appreciate the time you have in person so much more, you often get to explore new places together, you learn more about yourself, and your relationship is strengthened over time to the point that if (God willing) you both end up in the same city, you can handle anything. Distance shouldn’t stop you from dating someone who you see Christ in. As Philippians 4:8 says, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” My advice is to not just think about these things, but also pray about these things, and then pursue these things! Even if it means stretching your heart out by loving someone across the country, it’s worth it. Every day I come home to my wife now is like Christmas. We persevered through the distance and our patience was rewarded. It was a bold journey to take, but the world needs more holy couples in the world. If you think to pursue a relationship with someone living in a different zip code than you is within God’s will, don’t be afraid to take the leap!