I will never forget when a woman that I know followed a man from DC to Nashville, with absolutely no assurances from him that it was going to turn into something serious, only for him to break up with her and then marry someone else. The woman? She was devastated. It also took her a long time to recover because, although the man did not tell her that he wanted her to come nor did he say that something would come of it if she did, she told me herself that she believed if she took the risk and came anyway, it would convey to him that she was all in which would convince him to reciprocate her intentions.
She is exactly why I thought it was important to write this article. The reality is that around 14 million Americans are in some type of a long-distance relationship. Not only that but statistics reveal that a whopping 75 percent of engaged couples have been in some sort of long-distance situation before (even if it was only for a short period of time) and somewhere around 10 percent of marriages began as a long-distance relationship as well. Clearly they are popular. Clearly some relationships end up becoming long-term. And sometimes, even jumping the broom is the end result. Still, because the marriage rate isn't super high and the woman I told you about isn't exactly an anomaly, if you're someone who's strongly considering getting into a long-distance relationship, here are seven things that I definitely think you should think really long and hard about. First.
1. How Realistic Are You About Relationships, in General?
Relationships are awesome (well, healthy ones are). You know what else? They tend to require quite a bit of time, effort and energy. That's why, something that I tend to say, pretty much on loop, is if you're a selfish individual, you have absolutely no business being in a relationship — especially when it comes to a long-distance one. Unfortunately, a lot of people feel so automatically entitled in a relationship that they don't even take the time to ponder if they are so self-serving that they are not willing to put in the work that is needed in order to make a relationship thrive and last.
Not only that but when something is long-distance, it can cause them to become pretty unrealistic about relationships, in general, because they have a tendency to be a lot like honeymoons in the sense that, since they don't really get to see their partner all of the time, every time they do, they're so excited that they may not even really get into the day-to-day challenges that seeing each other on the regular typically reveals.
Listen, I know many people who dated long-distance, got married and then, a few years later, either they were absolutely miserable or they ended up calling things off altogether. Why? Because they were so caught up in the romance of it all that they didn't realize they actually didn't know one another as well as they thought they did. That's why, before getting into all of the other things that you should ponder before getting serious with someone who lives in another city, state or even country, you should think long and hard about if you have a tendency to take a realistic approach to relationships or…not.
2. Are You Good at Prioritizing Relationships?
Straight up, there are some spouses I know who, although they love their partner to pieces, their relationship is still basically hanging on by a thread and it's all because they didn't prepare for how they were going to have to make their union a top priority in their life. In their mind, their marriage was going to be in the top five, for sure, when really, it needs to be right there under God. Everything else comes after (kids included; kids are fine when parents are in a good space).
Not to say that this point isn't something that requires a lot of planning and intention. I mean, there's work, there's family, there are friendships, there are daily to-do lists and schedules, there's "you" time — there's so much besides your relationship that you've got to maintain. And when the person you're dating isn't around you, it can be really easy to push them further and further down your priority list.
I will be the first to say that dating someone is not the same thing as being married to them (check out "7 Things That Make Marriage Different From Seriously Dating"). Where I'm going with this is while I don't think dating someone long-distance requires prioritizing them in the way that you would a spouse, it's still important to keep in mind that even more effort is needed to remain connected to someone who isn't close by. If you're not great at prioritizing or you're a huge procrastinator, that's another reason to consider maybe pumping the brakes on a long-distance situation.
3. What Do Your Finances Look Like?
Lucky for people now, smartphones are in these streets. Personally, I still remember when there were long-distance carriers and even calling cards. Yeah, talking on the phone in another state could literally end up costing the same as rent, if you weren't careful. Still, even though cells and communication apps like Skype and WhatsApp mean that you can talk to somewhere, literally anywhere, for hours, free of charge, ask someone who's been in a long-distance relationship before and they will tell you that it's a pretty penny investment.
Matter of fact, I recently read that if you're dating someone who lives far enough from you that you choose to fly to where they are and then go on a couple of dates while you're with them, just two of those trips could run you somewhere around $3,696. On the other hand, a couple who lives in the same city can go on a date, once a week, and only pay $2,600 annually to do so. That's a big-time cost difference right there.
Everything worth having is going to cost you on some level. The point here is if money is super tight, you need to really think about if you and (potentially) yours can afford to be in a relationship right now. Better to be honest on the front end, remain friends and perhaps finally prepare for what the future could hold than to get into something that you can't afford and then become resentful when either you can't see each other much or you're pissed because it's draining so much of your wallet(s).
4. How High Is Your Sex Drive?
I've shared, many times, that I am a marriage life coach. That's a part of the reason why I reference marriage so much (I also am a huge fan of that kind of relationship). And if there is one thing that I find myself constantly dealing with, it's couples who truly underestimated 1) how important sex is in a relationship and 2) how much sex drives can sometimes clash.
Although sex is a vital part of any serious relational dynamic, when you're in a long-distance relationship, unless the two of you mutually decide to wait for a long period of time or even until death parts you, sex can sometimes have even higher expectations because the physical time apart could result in you wanting sex to be more — shoot, more everything. More creative. More passionate. More often. Just more.
The really interesting thing about sex when it comes to long-distance couples is some partners desire visits to be non-stop romps while others could do without the sex because they want to mentally and emotionally connect more instead. There is no right or wrong here. The main point is to be honest about what your actual needs are and, if the two of you have decided to be exclusive, you need to be real with yourself (and them) about if that is something you can realistically be — or not.
5. What Is Your Love Language? What Is His?
Words of affirmation. Physical touch. Quality time. Acts of service. Gifts. These are the five things that are considered to be love languages (ways that we want love expressed to us). When you're in a relationship with anyone, it's important that you share with them what your two primary love languages are and also that you find out what theirs are in return. Oh but baby, when you're in a long-distance situation, take the relevance of this point up about five notches. Absence can be difficult, so it's crucial that you and yours stay connected by fluently speaking one another's language to each other.
Not only that but…say that you are a big gifts person and your partner is all about physical touch. He can send stuff to you on the regular and cause you to have warm fuzzies. Meanwhile, I don't care how much FaceTime or even phone sex happens between the two of you, he's going to get pretty antsy at some point because he needs to hold hands, cuddle and kiss — even more than you do. So yeah, discussing each other's love languages — and if you both are committed to speaking it to each other on the regular — is also something that is important before making a go of it. Because if neither of you is feeling loved, how can things work? Or last? Especially when there are many miles between you.
6. Are You Good at Compromising?
A writer and life coach by the name of Donna Martini once said, "Compromise is not about losing. It's about deciding that the other person has just as much right to be happy with the end result as you do." Lawd. If I could print this on a mug and send it to every long-term couple I know, I most certainly would! Far too many people go into relationships thinking that the objective needs to constantly be about convincing their partner to do what they want or that their way is the "right" way, when it really is much more about learning negotiation skills so that you both can find some common ground.
When you're in a long-distance relationship, especially, you are going to be challenged to be flexible and meet your partner halfway. Sometimes he won't get to come to you, so you'll either have to go out to him or wait. Sometimes there will be things that take precedence that may require you not speaking as long or much as usual. Sometimes you'll have to decide if dragging out an argument is worth the precious time that the two of you have together. Sometimes you're simply going to have to agree to disagree because having peace is more important than proving him wrong (especially when it comes to topics that don't have a real right or wrong, just a different perspective).
Bottom line with this point is lasting relationships require a willingness to bend and — dare I say it — sometimes even sacrifice because sacrifice means giving up one thing for something greater. Hey, if not seeing him for Valentine's Day means that he can stay even longer for your birthday…isn't that a fair compromise in many cases? If you're like, "Hell no. Things need to happen my way or not at all," well, you're probably not the best candidate for a long-distance relationship. Or any relationship, really, now that I think about it.
7. Where Do You Want Your Relationship to Be a Year from Now?
Long-distance relationships can be frustrating. They require so much that sometimes you're tired of putting so much into it when you're not sure if all of the giving is going to pay off. That's why I'm going to end with the fact that you should also ask yourself if you are contemplating getting into one because you want to semi-casually date or because you want to work towards something far more serious. If the answer is "B", then before making things official, discuss with your prospective partner where both of you would like to see the relationship within the next 12 months.
If marriage is on the table, this means that you both need to start using this time to not only cultivate your relationship but also figure out where you're both going to live, what career shifts need to be made and how you're going to adjust your lives in order to get things to the next level. Off the rip, you're going to be making sacrifices to be together. You need to be crystal clear how many sacrifices need to be required to get to where you both want to go — together.
Trust me, I could come up with several other things that are worth considering when it comes to being in a long-distance relationship. For now, what I will say is that if you take these seriously, it can help you to have a realistic look on this type of dynamic so that you can either get into a long-distance relationship and thrive or decide that it's not the thing for you and wait for what actually…is.
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