Today I’m excited to introduce you to Chelsea, my sister-in-law and one of my best friends. Chelsea’s story is unique in that she and her husband Derek had both a long-distance dating relationship and now a partially-long-distance marriage as well. I hope you enjoy her story and the advice she has to share!
This is the first post in the Long Distance Love series.
Hello ladies! I’m Chelsea, and I have the opportunity to talk to you about being real/open with your human even though you are not face to face.
I want to give you a little history on myself before I begin. I was pretty set on being single forever, but God had other plans and allowed me to meet my husband at Ashley’s wedding! We were paired together at their wedding and we talked a bunch that weekend. He added me on Facebook and I messaged him a few days later, and it continued from there. We started dating in February 2015, but the kicker is that he was in Alaska and I was in Missouri, so we had a three hour time zone difference and almost 4,000 miles of separation. During that summer, we were only able to talk on the weekends because I was counseling at a summer camp, so we had even less opportunity for communication during that time. We were engaged in September 2015, and I made the decision to move to Alaska that November before we got married to spend real time together, so I moved my stuff and lived with his parents.
But surprise! He works a job where he is gone two weeks at a time, so we were and are still separated half the time. We have been married for 14 months and we have been making this long-distance-half-the-time-marriage work. It can be difficult to navigate distance and communication when you’re not face to face, but if you’re anything like me, talking through text and email can be easier.
You see, we all have different ways of communicating. I’m better at being open when I write, and my husband is better at being open when we’re face to face. When we were dating, talking through text was the easiest way for me to be real with my man, because I could say anything without having to worry about his body language and potential thoughts. It gave me the freedom to be myself without any pressure to be someone else.
But talking through text also means there’s a lot more room for miscommunications, because you can’t hear the person’s tone. When we were engaged, we finally decided to talk on the phone. It was either because we miscommunicated and needed to work it out, or it was because actually hearing each other was better. Whatever the reason, we talked on the phone and I learned how to be open the way my man appreciates openness.
All this to say that the key to being real and open when you’re not with each other is learning to communicate in different ways. If you’re a writer, try being verbal. If you thrive on being verbal, try being open through writing. Research and read about communicating, and put those tips into practice. The more you learn and the more you practice, the easier it gets to be real and open when you’re long distance.
One thing that has helped us through being apart is learning the other person’s love language. There’s a book called The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman and it was required to read for our premarital counseling. We read it and took the test when we were engaged, and it’s helped us understand how our needs are different. Reading the book was a good way for us to ask the difficult questions, get each other talking about needs, and get each other talking about what is working and what needs to change. We receive love in different ways and that’s great, but you have to learn to be creative in showing it when you’re apart. Just like you have to learn how to communicate in different ways, you have to be flexible and learn to give love in ways your partner will receive it.
On the flip side, how do you navigate being real and open when you’re actually together?
In real time, my man came to visit me in January before we started officially dating, then for a week in May and a week in July. After camp was over that summer, I visited him in August. It’s safe to say that it can be a little awkward at first if you’re used to only talking through text, but as you get comfortable being with each other, it gets easier.
A few tips for cultivating openness when you’re together:
- Asking questions, easy and difficult, is very important. If questions aren’t really your thing, Google can give you some ideas for good questions to break the ice, and get-to-know-you questions.
- When you’re with each other, be observant. Listen to what they say, watch their body language, watch how they treat other people.
- Most likely, your person will meet your friends and family. Listen to their opinions of your guy. If they don’t like him or they bring up concerns, don’t push it aside. Take what they have to say into consideration, think about it, and pray over it.
- Don’t go through your real time with each other wearing rose colored glasses. Instead, pay attention, and if you see red flags, pray and ask God for wisdom, talk to a trusted confidant about it, and don’t be afraid to call him out on what you see.
God has been good to us as we go through the challenges of being apart. God has to be in the center of your life and your relationship in order for it to work. If He’s not, then it might work for a little while, but when things get tough, it might not seem worth it to keep going. Long distance relationships can be challenging, but they can be well worth it if you put in the time and effort.