How feasible are long-distance relationships?

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How feasible are long-distance relationships?

Apr 02, 2007 |Candice Watters
Question

My boyfriend and I are preparing for college in the fall, and as things stand, it doesn't appear we will be attending the same college.

He's a godly, respectable, responsible, and intelligent young man, and for a long period of time (until college stress set in) I had this gut feeling he was the one I was to marry. As soon as we realized that we really might not end up at the same college, all the questions about the future of our relationship started to set in.

Should these doubts about our relationship, and sometimes even about him, be a red flag to me? And how often do long-distance relationships of two people entering different colleges work out? How can we make it work if it is feasible to have a long-distance relationship?

Answer

Thanks for raising an issue that I suspect is common for many of our readers. Given the mobility of the twentysomething years, beginning with college and proceeding through early career developments, it's not uncommon to face seasons of separation from romantic interests and long-distance love.

Though maintaining a healthy relationship has added challenges, there are some benefits to being in different cities, at least for a short season. And even the long season of college isn't necessarily unworkable.

My Mom and Dad graduated from high school the same year and headed off to different colleges. He went out of town while she went locally. Still they managed to see each other most weekends since the drive was only three hours — that was key. Because they were experiencing college together, though apart, they continued to have lots in common. As soon as they graduated, they got married.

Though relationships require extra effort when you're living far apart, my own parents' romance shows they can last. But that's not the norm.

Practically speaking, most high school relationships are not marriage material. That's no surprise considering that research shows that marriages with higher satisfaction start five years after high school graduation, at 23.According to the National Marriage Project out of Rutgers University, the highest marital satisfaction was reported for marriages begun between ages 23 and 27. There's a lot of changing and maturing happening between freshman year and when you graduate. It's not likely you're still going to be interested in the same guy at 23 that you were at 15, 16 or 17.

Granted, that's most relationships, not all. In the event yours is the exception, and you have the support of your parents and his, there may be a lot of benefit in heading to college knowing you're already committed. I knew quite a few freshmen (myself included) that had a hard time focusing on their studies for all the handsome young co-eds walking around. If your heart is spoken for, and you're not one to pine for your sweetheart in his absence to the neglect of your schoolwork, you'll be a less distracted, and likely more successful, student.

One of the best things about distance during the college years is that it can go a long way toward keeping you pure. It can also make the longings stronger, though, so you have to be extra vigilant to set up good boundaries when you are together (like being together in public and in groups).

For post-college readers who are in long distance relationships because their jobs are keeping them in different cities, I'd add a caution. Long-term long-distance can artificially delay progress. If you're apart for long months or years, you may remain "a couple" without ever moving toward marriage. To do so in your twenties is to potentially waste your most marriageable years. Anything past a year is a no-win. In the event you do eventually marry, you may have squandered your fertility during the waiting. If you eventually break up, you may have missed out on other good offers of marriage.

Now for your other concern, one that's far more important than geography: "doubts about him." What your friends and relatives think about the two of you, as a couple, is invaluable input. Emotional attachment has a way of short-circuiting our common sense, leaving us dependent on the sense of others. Spend time together with your families and others you trust in whatever time you have left before going to college. Ask them what they think about you as a couple.

If your concerns arise from character flaws, don't ignore them. Talk to your parents or pastor about them. One of the benefits of going to different schools, if those red flags persist, is that the distance can ease the difficulty of breaking up. The move away to college may be the perfect time to make the break.

It's hard work to maintain a long distance relationship under the best circumstances. And the presence of a whole new way of life and a whole new group of friends makes it even harder. So if you have any doubt about the longevity of your current relationship, distance is as gentle and logical a reason as any to suggest cooling things off.

As you weigh all this, the most important thing you can do is pray.

One of my favorite Proverbs says, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight" (Proverbs 3:5-6). If you commit your relationship to Him daily in prayer, He will give you the wisdom to know what to do.

May God Give You Wisdom,
CANDICE WATTERS

Copyright 2007 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.

If you have a question you'd like us to consider for this column, please send it to editor@boundless.org. Please note that all questions we select for this column may be edited for clarity and privacy and become the property of Focus on the Family.

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