Two of our YWAM Newcastle staff Fiona (USA) and Ryan (Australia), have just reunited after 6 months of long distance dating. Here are ten things they found important during their time apart.
Long distance relationships are far from easy. Whether you are two hours drive, an overnight bus ride, or continents away from the person you love, you’re bound to feel longing, frustration, helplessness and loneliness. Without a supportive family or community, it can be extremely difficult. It can even be extremely difficult with a supportive family or community. One may be found sighing, staring off into nothing, remembering time spent with their “significant other”, and dreaming of the future.
They say that distance makes the heart grow fonder, and they say it for a reason. From our experience, being apart proved to us just how much we wanted to be together. We were recently reunited for good after six months of having an ocean between us.
1. Pray together, even though you’re not in the same place (Fiona)
We find praying as a couple absolutely vital. Bringing questions, emotions, decisions and frustrations to the Lord in prayer, together, unites me with Ryan. Whether we’re in the same place, or separated by thousands of miles and a screen, it’s easy to let misunderstandings become hurt feelings and tension. Prayer is an amazing way to stop that from snowballing. Seeking God’s guidance takes the focus off what’s going wrong in our relationship, and places the emphasis on why we are together, highlighting God’s promises to us. Even when we cannot be with the person we love, our loving Father is there in our absence.
2. Communicate (Ryan)
Communication is crucial to every relationship. When we were together, we could get ice-cream, walk along the beach, or simply sit with each other. But none of that was possible over the phone, so we were forced to talk. Regular, honest and thorough communication is essential to keeping our relationship healthy. Processing decisions, thoughts and ideas, and sharing what God is teaching us is very important, and it keeps us on the same page. Don’t spend every second video calling each other, but always arrange times to talk (and not just text or email).
3. Find ways to make the other person feel involved with your day (Fiona)
This was especially meaningful for us since our days were basically opposite. Throughout our time dating long distance, our time difference changed three times. It started out as 14 hours different, then eventually became a 16 hour time difference once Australia started, and the United States ended, daylight saving time. I never anticipated needing to do so much math in order to call my boyfriend! One solution we found was for me to text photos and funny stories to Ryan throughout my day; once he woke up, he’d get all my messages, and he could feel more involved with my activities. He’d do the same throughout his day, so that I didn’t feel like I was missing out on his life. We also made certain to start out our phone/FaceTime conversations with a brief overview of our days. That way we had a chance to process our experiences with each other, and it connected us even more.
4. Don’t be idle (Ryan)
Keeping busy was really helpful to us during our time apart. Fiona had a job and worked for most of the time, which kept her mind present at home. It was a little harder for me, since my circumstances were almost identical to when she was with me in Newcastle. To ensure that I didn’t disengage from my surroundings and wish I was somewhere else, I made sure to get involved in a number of different activities week to week.
5. Pray for each other (Fiona)
While I was home in Michigan, one thing that God revealed to me was the importance of praying for Ryan. Usually, we would end every phone call with a prayer, and we’d take turns praying for each other: safety, good sleep, a productive day, for our families, health, etc. Praying together grew us closer to God as a couple, and also strengthened our relationship. I came to realise the time apart was also the perfect time to seek God on Ryan’s behalf. During my time at home, I worked as a nanny, so several times a day I had perfect opportunities to pray on Ryan’s behalf. As I took the baby out on walks or just rocked him to sleep, I was able to let go of my dreams for Ryan’s future. Instead of holding onto just what I wanted, I asked God what He wanted. This surrender opened up my heart to pray for Ryan without my own selfish motivations. Praying this way gave me a taste of God’s selfless love for us; I truly wanted God’s best for Ryan, even if that wasn’t me.
6. Visit each other (Ryan)
Perhaps the most agonising part about Fiona leaving was that we were unsure when we would see each other again. However, after a month apart, we began planning my first trip to the United States to visit her, meet her family and see where she lived. The time passed easier while looking forward to this trip. I found it really insightful to see her in her own home and everyday environment: the way she interacted with her friends, co-workers, and especially her family. Spending time with each other in different environments to the one we met and began dating in was one of the best things for our relationship, as it showed us aspects of each other’s personalities that we hadn’t seen before.
7. Don’t forget about the people you are with (Fiona)
I wish I had understood this more fully than I did while we were dating long distance. It’s easy to allow the frustration of being apart from your love to take away from the moments you have with the people you’re actually with. I had several months living at home with my family, who I hadn’t seen for 9 months and wouldn’t see for the next year. Instead of taking advantage of my moments at home, I grabbed every opportunity I had to talk to Ryan. Yes, communication in romantic relationships is essential, but the loved ones I was nearer to also deserved my love and attention. Thus, when I began to spend my precious time with family and friends, I showed the respect and affection they deserved, and we made memories I can cherish forever.
8. Be grateful (Ryan)
One of the biggest temptations for us was to wish we were elsewhere, or to wish we had better internet connection, or that the future would hurry up and arrive. It took a while for my perspective to change from selfish to thankful. We have been given so much that we should be grateful for- big things and small. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I thought, ‘If God wants me to always give thanks, then that’s what I want, too.’ And it certainly helped me enjoy where I was.
9. Prioritise time with God over talking to your significant other (Fiona)
First thing in the morning, all I wanted to do was to check my messages or call Ryan if he was still awake. My first thoughts were of my boyfriend, not of the Lord. When God convicted me of this, I consciously shifted. Instead of putting Ryan first in my life, even inadvertently, I actively spent time with God before talking with Ryan. For me, this meant praying and reading my devotional as soon as I awoke and before I grabbed my phone. Putting God at the forefront of my mind, I would start each day with the purpose of honouring Him. Then, throughout my day, I was able to feel God’s presence with me, which benefitted all my interactions, especially with Ryan.
10. Hold on. The wait is worth it. (Ryan)
Everyone I know who’s endured long distance dating has always said the same thing: “It will all be worth it in the end.” Guess what? They were right.
Written By Ryan Winslade and Fiona Muha (Pictured above)
YWAM Newcastle Staff