No Long Faces. It’s Only Long-Distance.
“I could never be in a long-distance relationship.”
“You guys are amazing.”
“We could never do that.”
I’ve been told numerous variations of these words over the past year and a half, and every time I get more and more confused. You know the saying, “I didn’t choose the thug life. It chose me?” That’s kind of how I feel about my long-distance relationship. A few years ago, I never would have wanted to be dating someone for twenty-two months and only living in the same state for eight of them, but now it’s just a part of my life.
My boyfriend, Anthony, and I started dating at the beginning of our second semester of our freshman year of college. After just one date, Anthony asked me if I would “officially” be his girlfriend. I know that seems a little bit fast to some people, but we were already very close friends and had been secretly crushing on each other for several months. So, what happened between then and now? Did we start dating and then it’s been happily ever after? Well, it wasn’t exactly that easy.
The school that we go to, Franciscan University of Steubenville, has a study abroad program in Gaming, Austria. Before I even started my freshman year, I had decided that I was going to study abroad in the fall of my sophomore year. I had talked with my academic advisor, and she agreed that this would be a good time for me to go. Within a couple weeks of our relationship starting, the time had come for me to pay the deposit securing my place in Austria that fall. The problem was that Anthony had also been planning to study abroad, but he was planning to go in a different semester. Although we desperately wanted to be able to travel together, we agreed that it wouldn’t exactly be prudent to change our plans for a relationship that had only just started.
Fast forward to the present; it’s been over a year and a half since then. I went to Austria that fall. I won’t bore you with the details, but it was a beautiful semester full of adventures and personal growth. During our spring sophomore semester, Anthony and I were together on main campus again. Now we’re first-semester juniors, and it’s his turn to study abroad. Did I mention that we’ve lived almost ten hours apart over the summers?
We haven’t perfected this yet – and no one has – but I can at least say we have a good amount of experience. So, if you’re starting out a long-distance relationship, or if you’ve been in one for a while, here are ten practical ideas and advice to keep the romance alive AND growing toward Christ.
- Schedule Mass or Holy Hour dates.
The crazy amazing thing about the Catholic Church is that it is UNIVERSAL! No matter where you are, the Catholic Church is there with you. Anthony and I are living in time zones that are six hours apart. I can go to Mass at 6:30 am and he can go at noon, so we’re both in Mass at the same time! If this doesn’t work out with your local Mass schedule, maybe you can spend an hour in Eucharistic adoration at the same time. If you like to prayer journal, you could send each other your notes after Holy Hour, or you could both pray with the same reading from the Bible or decades of the rosary.
- Find good patron saints and pray for each other.
Not all saints lived in monasteries or caves. Lots of them were just “regular” couples, and you can always look to them for guidance. Some examples of married saints are Saints Mary and Joseph, Saints Joachim and Ann, Saints Zechariah and Elizabeth, Pietro and Saint Gianna Molla, Saints Zélie and Louis Martin. I also like to pray to Anthony’s patron saints: St. Anthony, St. Joseph, and St. Raphael.
- Write snail mail.
Remember when you were younger, and you had a pen-pal? Don’t kid yourself. You’re never too old to get excited about receiving letters in the mail. If you’re ever looking for some good inspiration for love letters, you should check out the ones that St. Gianna Molla and her husband Pietro wrote to each other.
- Find some good apps that help you communicate.
Because we’re in different countries, regular texting and phone calls don’t work for us, so we have to use apps. Some of our favorites are Facebook Messenger, Skype, Snapchat, and Marco Polo.
Marco Polo especially has been a lifesaver for us because we are both crazy busy college students; and since our time zones are so drastically different, it can be really hard to schedule video calls. Marco Polo brings the personal aspect of hearing Anthony’s voice and seeing his face together with the practical aspect of being able to watch the videos at any time.
- Pick your fights and be super careful about introducing sensitive topics over text.
I hesitated to include this, because in no way do I want to discourage arguments. Yep. You heard that right. I like the fact that Anthony and I argue (every now and then). Of course, I don’t particularly enjoy it when we are in the midst of an argument, but I realized recently how much I love Anthony for the fact that he argues with me. One of the things that I most admire about Anthony is that he is a man with passion. As I put it in a letter I recently wrote him, he’s “not some quasi man/boy who tiptoes around feelings, accepting everything anyone and everyone says.” Because I don’t want him to be that way with other people, I don’t want him to be that way with me.
When Anthony and I argue over something, I know that it is because we are both seeking the truth, and we want it so badly for the other person. We’ve learned that when we are not physically in the same place, it can be very easy to misunderstand one another. Not being able to see each other’s facial expressions or hear each other’s voice inflections makes it harder to understand how the other person is feeling. We try to save difficult conversations for real-time video calls.
- Embrace this time as a time to GROW!
Remember that being in a long-distance relationship can be a gift. Do what you need to do so that you are a better person the next time you’re together. Go to counseling or find a spiritual director if that’s something you need. Strengthen your friendships with your same-sex friends. The fact is that after you get married (if you do), your life is only going to get busier and crazier. I’m currently living in a dorm, and I have some of my best friends living right down the hall from me. I’m never going to be in this same position again in my life – to be living in a hall with such beautiful women who are striving for sainthood. I can’t take this for granted.
- Work on your relationship with your family.
The relationships in your future family will most likely be reflections of the relationships you have with your family members now. Sometimes your siblings might drive you crazy, and you might think that your parents are being overbearing, but that’s not going to change when you are married and have a family of your own. You need to learn how to deal with personality clashes and disagreements respectfully. This is something I personally struggle with, but when I think about having a peaceful, loving family of my own someday, it inspires me to work on my relationships within my current family.
- Be happy for each other.
Anthony is running across Europe right now, climbing mountains, eating authentic gelato, and living in a beautiful 14th century monastery. I could sit around sulking that we didn’t go together, or I could be thrilled for him. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime, and it would break my heart if he couldn’t experience it.
- Remember that you do not own one another.
Your boyfriend/girlfriend is not your husband/wife, and quite frankly, you do not have a right to him/her. I’m honored to be Anthony’s girlfriend, whether we live on the same campus or if we live 4,500 miles apart. Right now, all that I can do is love him from afar and pray that his Guardian Angel looks out for him.
10. Have patience.
Your time will come. Love the season that you’re in.
P.S. I asked Anthony if he had anything to add to this. He could not be reached for a comment. He’s busy hanging out with Pope Francis in Rome. 🙂