Today, meet my sweet friend Reagan, who lives on the opposite side of the world from me in Thailand! Reagan is currently in a long-distance relationship, and has some wise words to share about preparing to meet your distanced love face-to-face again.
This is the third post in the Long Distance Love series.
When Ashley gave me the list of topics to write on, I picked too late. The topic I felt I could actually write on with any ounce of dignified authority was already taken. I skimmed the list a few times and landed on this one.
And then I sort of laughed on the inside. Not a funny laugh, mind you. A “yep, of course it’s this one” laugh. A “this is the one I suck at the most” laugh.
For a bit of background, my boyfriend and I both serve as missionaries in the country of Thailand. We live about 3 hours apart and get to see each other about 2-3 weekends a month. So preparing to see each other face-to- face again is something we have the opportunity to do relatively often.
Our situation is a bit more unique in that we met online and talked for just over a year before meeting in person. We talked about everything—because what else can you do?—so our emotional intimacy was high. Needless to say, I had a lot of expectations for how our meeting face-to- face would go.
So okay, let’s just get this out of the way: we all want our magical fairy tale romance. We all want to pull up to the home/airport/sky train station (in my case) of our long-distance beau and to behold one another’s visage with pure satisfaction and delight after a long time apart and then blissfully revel in one another’s company all day and all night (until around midnight because then it’s time to go sleep at someone else’s house because we are all good Christian girls obviously) and then do the whole thing over again until it’s time for one of us to return home.
That’s what we expect, right? Or am I the only one?
So our first face-to- face meeting, right? It didn’t go well.
I had hoped for an instant connection, an unmistakable physical and emotional chemistry that matched what we had shared for so long over the phone and video chats online. But it was weird, and figuring out what to do with one another’s quirks and preferences and MOs was (and still is) a very real thing. So what do we do with that?
Maybe you’re in a similar boat as I am, or maybe it’s smooth sailing. But here are a few things I’ve picked up along the way that I think can help during the time you prepare to meet face-to- face again, regardless of your present experience.
Talk about your expectations beforehand.
What kinds of things would you like to do while you’re together? What time would you like to begin and end your days together? Will you be spending that time with other people? How much of it? These kinds of questions are especially important for those who differ greatly on the introversion-extroversion scale. Some people (I’m raising my hand on the inside) need a lot more down time than others to feel energized. And others love to get out and explore the world. Talk about how you can both best enjoy your upcoming time, and honor one another’s needs and desires as you express your own.
Also, keep in mind that some people love making detailed plans (me), and others would rather fly by the seat of their pants. So if you both are of the latter disposition, these kinds of conversations won’t be that involved, and that’s cool too.
And then lower them.
For some reason we (at least I) have this idea that we need to pack in all the conversations and activities we weren’t able to accomplish during our physical distance apart. But this just puts on a lot of unnecessary pressure to be awesome, when you can still be awesome just making brunch together and watching Netflix documentaries. Distance makes the heart grow fonder, but not more capable of expending a month’s worth of physical and emotional energy in a few days. Chill out.
Focus on just hanging out and being normal and enjoying each other. Plan ahead to maybe do one or two of those really awesome things, but give yourselves grace if you don’t. You’ll get to all the other stuff in time.
Focus on the friendship.
This is the most meaningful one to me because it’s the one I don’t do well at all. And I am fully expecting my stance on this to not apply to everyone. All of our experiences are different, and this perspective is simply a reflection of mine.
After a string of one serious relationship after another, my hopes, dreams, and “specs” for my future husband have gotten higher, and my tolerance for the time it takes to figure out if this guy is him has gotten lower.
So instead of really being present in the moment with my guy, I am constantly temperature checking myself with thoughts like, Am I attracted to him? Why don’t I feel excited right now? Is it okay if this is a little boring? Will it always be this way? Is he just boring? Are we boring? Am I supposed to marry him? If we get married, will we always be bored??? All within the time it takes to lock the apartment front door and walk to the elevator. It’s pretty miserable, and it’s something I don’t do with anyone else. Do I have these kinds of thoughts about my friends? No. Family members? No. Just this impossible expectation for my boyfriend to entertain me 24/7.
I read a blog once about first face-to- face dates of people who met online. Obviously, this doesn’t entirely apply since we are talking about already-existing relationships, but I think a bit of the advice still works for us here.
“So what’s the best way to get past the awkward hello and uncertain chemistry on the very first meeting? My suggestion, take the romance off the table. What? …Yes, take the romance off the table and the expectation of instant chemistry. When meeting someone for the very first time say from an online connection, taking the romance off the table and focusing on developing a friendship is a much better way to start. This takes the pressure off the expectation of chemistry and the awkward hello has been switched to meeting a friend.” *
Take a breath. Not every second is going to be rainbows and butterflies. Prepare yourself during the time apart to not “feel it” all of the time. Plan to treat him like your good friends, the ones you don’t constantly wish were funnier or better-looking. And choose to love him like one of them too.
Before you meet again, remind yourself again and again that you are dating a human, not Jesus. And sometimes humans are a little tired or a little hangry or forget how you like your coffee, and it’s fine. Those are not the things that define your friendships, and they shouldn’t affect how you feel about him, either.
When we place an expectation on another human to fulfill our needs and desires, we make them an idol in our hearts. That’s not their job. Ask Jesus to take that wheel.
Treat your long-distance communication like your together communication.
I’m one who likes to be really honed in on the present conversation and nothing else when my boyfriend and I FaceTime. But I find that that’s not always the reality in our face-to-face time. Life happens, and in actuality, people don’t always just sit and stare at each other with no other distractions for an hour each day.
So if you want to make breakfast sometimes while Skyping your boo, that’s a real-life thing, and as long as you can multitask a little bit, it’s probably fine. Or sometimes one of you really has a paper to write and the other really has some Facebook stalking to catch up on, but you want to keep talking… so make your video chat window smaller, stick it in one of the corners of your screen, and work together, like you would do in real life. You could even plan a video chat date night, in which you both eat dinner and play a game online (we did Words With Friends once).
Of course, the multitasking ideas are not things you necessarily want to do as a rule. Having that dedicated time to really focus on one another is important and shows you care for one another enough to set aside that time just for them. But sometimes it’s okay to change things up to mimic how things will be in person.
During your times alone with Jesus, talk to Him about the state of your heart. Share the joys and struggles of your life—including your romantic relationship—with Him. Humbly ask Him to show you areas where you have put your boyfriend above Him, and repent as the Lord reveals those things. Receive His love, grace, and joy. Ask Him to give you wisdom and lead you in your relationship. Entrust it to Him, knowing He is trustworthy. Ask Him to prepare your heart for seeing your boyfriend again. Ask Him to help you both act wisely and treat each other with honor once you are together.
Talk about your struggles with your boyfriend, and when he shares his, don’t just tell him you’ll pray for him later. Do it now. Talk about your expectations for your time together, and pray about them. Pray about your relationship. Pray about discerning God’s will for your next steps together. This is a pattern you want to establish whether you are together or apart. And it will hopefully keep you from going too crazy when you are together again.
This applies to any relationship, whether next-door or long-distance, but there is a lot of wisdom in having older, experienced people pour insight and Godly wisdom into your relationship. As you prepare to meet face-to- face with your boyfriend again—and as you leave each other and prepare to wait again—check in with these people in each of your lives, having them pray over the relationship with you, ask the tough questions, and help you exercise good judgment during the time you spend together by keeping you accountable.
This list certainly isn’t exhaustive, but I think it’s a good start. May God bless and lead you in the waiting!
*quote from You Lost Me at Hello: How to Get Past the First Awkward Meeting, by Jonathon Aslay. Full article here.
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