When I was an 18-year-old college freshman competing on the speech and debate team for Southern Utah State College, I met an enchanting young girl from another college (Jennifer). We liked each other very much, and she became my first girlfriend. We attended college 500 miles apart, so my very first time being in love was a long-distance relationship.  We sent each other a lot of letters and gifts and met up at debate tournaments on the weekends to spend time together between rounds or after competition.

I wrote to Jennifer for two years while I served a mission on the opposite side of the world. She was supportive of me and a positive influence on my missionary service. However, when I returned from my mission, a “Dear John” letter awaited me in my parents’ mailbox. Jennifer told me in that letter that she was going to marry someone else. Though I was more than 7,000 miles closer to her than during my mission, Jennifer had never seemed farther away. During all the time we knew each other and wrote letters, we never lived less than 500 miles apart.

Fast forward more than 20 years,  and Jennifer and I were both divorced mid-singles. We got back in touch and renewed our friendship. At one point, when we were both single, I suggested that we give our relationship a real chance.  We were good friends and supported each other during our divorces but, in the end, the distance proved to be too great. We are still good friends, though we are both happily married to other people.

Stories like this are common and a big part of the reason many people say, “I don’t do long distance relationships.” I said the same thing but then had three significant long-distance relationships as a mid-single. Long-distance relationships can be meaningful, whether or not they result in marriage. For example, I view my friendship with Jennifer as a blessing in my life. She was a positive support to me on my mission. She was also a positive support to me when my long-term marriage broke up. At two crucial points in my life, she was a supportive friend.  The fact that it didn’t turn out the way I may have once hoped does not extinguish the benefits and blessings of having a good and trusted friend to help see me through some of life’s biggest growing experiences and difficult moments.

I believe everyone you love comes into your life for a reason. Some are meant to come for a while and help or teach you things and then depart.  A few are meant to come into your life and stay forever. We aren’t always meant to know what the relationship is until much later. We can value all our relationships for what they are instead of resenting what they are not or what they never became. Sometimes the distance will prove to be too big a barrier. However, sometimes a long-distance relationship results in eternal blessings.

Some ask why they should consider a long-distance relationship, when such relationships are typically more difficult and more complicated than a relationship with someone who lives in the same town.  There are several reasons:

  1. You may be in a remote location church-wise. In our faith, we believe marriage is intended to last through all eternity. We also believe that is only possible through the covenants of Israel, which we receive in the temple–the pinnacle of which is the sealing for time and all eternity. If you really believe eternal marriage is the central blessing of exaltation and take that doctrine seriously, it is no small issue whether you marry in the temple or not. Your opportunity for eternal marriage and eternal increase is partly dependent on it. So, if you are in a remote location from population centers of the church, you may want to explore long distance relationships with faithful Latter-day Saints in other areas.
  2. You may have met someone great in an unusual way. You may have met someone on your mission and later found out on Facebook that he or she is single. It might be worth reconnecting and seeing if there is any relationship potential. What about the person you had a crush on in high school that you never dared talk to? If that person is single and living in another state, why not reconnect and see if there’s anything there? What if you met someone while deployed with the military and had to move on before you got a chance to see how the relationship played out?
  3. Perhaps you are not finding what you are looking for. There are plenty of fish in the sea. But when you have dated all of them, maybe it makes sense to look for another sea to fish in.
  4. You might have an easier time in a different country.In my law practice, I once obtained a spouse visa for a truck driver from a small rural town in Utah to bring his sweet new bride to the United States from her native China. He was a relatively simple man with a good heart but little formal education. However, to someone from a simple life of poverty in Asia, he was a major curiosity. He had dated every girl in his age group in the town where he lived with no luck. He wasn’t home often anyway and didn’t have a great deal of time for formal dating. However, through the Internet, he was able to carry on a relationship with his eventual wife where they talked across the world on the internet for hours every day.  While marriage to someone from another culture can present risks and challenges, for some it is the best option and results in immeasurable blessings.
  5. In many cases, long distance dating is better than not dating at all.  While long distance dating may not be the ideal, it is certainly preferable to not dating at all if circumstances in your location are not well suited to dating locally.

The foregoing are just a few reasons you might find that a long-distance relationship makes sense.  If you choose to engage in long-distance dating, you would be wise to consider the following tips:

  1. Date regularly. Even if you are talking on the phone every day, it helps to plan at least one video date per week. Video dating presents less opportunity for people to hide and exposes the environment they live in better than calls and texts.
  2. Don’t chat more than a few times online before you get to a phone date and soon after that to a video date. You can waste a lot of time chatting and flirting with someone who may not even be a real person. If your partner does not agree to a video date reasonably soon after you meet online, move on. Chances are good that they are hiding.
  3. Save your pennies for gas or air fare. While phone and video dates are great, nothing replaces in-person contact for getting to know someone. Once the two of you have decided to explore things, you need to see each other as often as finances and circumstances permit.
  4. Beware the pre-honeymoon mentality. As some of our readers know, I had a brief second marriage to someone I met online and lived 700 miles from. We dated for a year. It was great fun while we were dating. We met up in numerous exotic locations for fun and relaxing activities. Courting on a perpetual vacation did not really give me the opportunity to get to know her in her home environment where the pressures of earning a living, keeping house, and taking care of kids were more intense.I heard one speaker talk about that TV show, The Bachelor,  where they have a guy start dating something like 30 women and eventually narrow it down to the one woman he wants to move forward with. The show takes all the contestants to exotic tropical locations where they do relaxing recreational activities and candlelight dinners. The speaker said, “I could fall in love with a turtle in an atmosphere like that!  What they should really do is lock them in a room together and have them fold laundry for 10 hours!” He was right. Having a relationship that is one perpetual long vacation doesn’t provide enough information about how you will live together.
  5. Consider dating longer than you would if you lived closer. Dating longer and spending significant time in each other’s homes will help you know each other better before making the serious commitment of marriage.
  6. Be honest. In a long-distance relationship, it is easier to hide. Don’t hide. If you keep secrets or fail to disclose important information before marriage, your partner will feel played and betrayed. Denying your partner the information he or she needs to make a wise decision is a serious betrayal. So, you need to agree with your partner that you will both take pains to be totally honest and follow through on those commitments.

Long-distance dating presents both opportunities and challenges. If you are not dating because of a lack of opportunities in your area, it is something to consider. Take reasonable precautions as suggested in this article and who knows? It may change your life!


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About the Author

Jeff Teichert, and his wife Cathy Butler Teichert, are the founders of “Love in Later Years,” which ministers to Latter-day Saint single adults seeking peace, healing, and more joyful relationships. They are co-authors of the Amazon bestseller Intentional Courtship: A Mid-Singles Guide to Peace, Progress and Pairing Up in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Jeff and Cathy each spent nearly a decade in the mid-singles community and they use that experience to provide counsel and hope to mid-singles and later married couples through written articles, podcasts, and videos. Jeff and Cathy are both Advanced Certified Life Coaches and have university degrees in Family & Human Development. They are the parents of a blended family that includes four handsome sons, one lovely daughter-in-law, and a sweet baby granddaughter.

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