Oblivious to the fact that my sister had learned the phrase “You can marry my sister” in Spanish and practiced it on my amigo-at-the-time, Karlos, I returned back home from my latest mission trip to Mexico.
Chatting online (oh, the days of Messenger 😉 – we found ourselves at a crossroads. Nations apart and yet, the thought had been planted that maybe, just maybe, we could be brave and explore what being novios might look like. I could almost hear the deep breath he took as his calculated typing appeared on my screen:
“Your sister said I have her permission to marry you…what do you think about that?”
Um – I think that would be amazing. But also hard and scary.
“Well, I really love being your amiga and would be open to seeing what else the Lord has in mind.”
So there we were. Both willing to explore what this may look like.
Looking back, the decision to date my husband came super facil. But we learned a lot of lessons once we jumped into dating long distance. Though nowhere near “experts” in the field, here are some tips for folks who may be embarking on the same journey:
#1 – Communicate!
I thought I was a good communicator, but then we started dating. From two separate countries. In two different languages. Man, it was (still is!) hard work. But honestly, I look back and I think this was actually a highlight in that chapter of our lives. We learned how to communicate. We had phone dates – at least once a week. And we texted at least once a day.
Mind you, this was before Facebook had really taken off, so we had to be really intentional about sharing what was going on, how we were feeling, etc. But I think this general tip needs to hold true even in this very “social” era. You can’t replace genuine, uninterrupted conversation with random, quick glimpses into your lives. That’s not fully sharing who you are and the life you lead.
#2 – Community!
Before we officially became a couple, during that initial “do we dive into dating?” Messenger conversation, we decided to take the following year to pray, fast and seek counsel from our people. We knew the decision to date was going to be a serious one (why else would you torture yourself by being separated by thousands of miles?!) and we wanted to step into that season prepared and sure of the next step.
Who are your people? Your roommate, parents, pastor, best friend, sibling, small group leader – whoever it is that “gets you” makes the cut.
Ask them to commit to two crucial things: 1.) to be praying for you (individually and as a couple) and 2.) to be asking you the hard questions.
#3 – Convene!
Throughout our 12 months of long-distance dating, it was crucial that I mentally had a date in mind of when we would next see one another. Whether it was 3 weeks or 6 months. It didn’t matter the time in between – just as long as I knew it was happening.
For us, because of immigration, Karlos was not permitted in the US. So that meant any time we wanted to see one another, it was myself crossing the border to meet him in Mexico. Tricky, complicated, expensive, but absolutely necessary.
You need to learn how that person is in real life. How does she spend her money? How does he interact with his mom? How do we decide which on restaurant to eat at? You can’t learn everything over Instagram and a weekly phone call.
Above all – trust your instinct, amigos. It’s ok to have questions and doubts and to be madly in love, but talk through all the emotions with your novio(a), your people and with God.
Does your love story include a time of being separated by distance? What are some tips that helped you get through that stretch?