What is it like to be in a long-term, long-distance relationship?

In a word, it sucks. Nate and I have been in a long distance relationship for the past two years, with one more year to go. We started dating during my senior year of high school. When I graduated, God led me to a college in Chicago—seven hours away from home. It was hard. At that point, we had only been dating for 10 months, and we weren’t sure what the future would hold. Somehow, we stayed together and repeated the process all over again my second year of college.

Now, we are a month into the third and final year before I graduate, and I thought it would get easier since we’ve basically become pros at it. And since I’m not an RA this year, I can actually come home for Thanksgiving and Easter break! At this point, it’s become normal to spend about 4.5 months total together out of the entire year. That’s nine months out of the past twenty-four—or 21% out of my total existence.

It hasn’t been easy this year at all. For starters, coming back to school after a long summer break, means we have to relearn how to be a long-distance couple after finally relearning how to be a normal couple over the summer. Once we finally get into the swing of things, another transitional period sneaks up and upsets the normalcy we have begun to create with one another.

Dates get replaced with Skyping. Gifts have to be mailed. Phone calls become the nightly hangout time. Balancing my priorities between time with God, time with Nate, and time with friends can be exhausting sometimes, and still nobody is always left happy. Communication is always crucial in a relationship, but it becomes ultimately crucial in keeping a healthy relationship when we are far away from one another.

Another aspect of a long-term, long-distance relationship is the loneliness that comes with it. I have a wonderful group of friends who support me, love me, and pray for me. However, it is hard for them to empathize or understand this situation because it is such a rare situation to be in. In fact, I have read that 96% of all high school dating relationships do not last, and furthermore, 40% of long distance couples ultimately break up. While it is fun beating the odds, it can be lonely walking the road by ourselves. So yes, nights like tonight can sometimes send me into grand pity party mode.

Many nights I choose not to do anything fun because I stay in to talk to Nate before I go to bed. Sometimes people try to sympathize with me by talking about their own long distance relationship. They say things like, “I know how you feel, it is so hard being away from my boyfriend for so long.” Or another classic line, “How often do you guys get to see each other?” “Oh, you know, like once or twice a month!"

Ultimately, I think the main reason why it is harder now than it’s ever been, is simply because this is not how it is meant to be. We are planning to get married at some point, and during this season of preparation, I have been pondering deeply what it means to pursue a godly marriage. A godly marriage is pursuing relational intimacy with Christ and with each other. A godly marriage is plummeting the depths of each other’s souls through the self-sacrificial love that only Christ can give. And this takes a lifetime of discovering one another’s beautiful traits, hilarious quirks, tragic brokenness, and deep scars. This happens through the day by day grind of committing to live life with this person with a love that is more than just a fleeting feeling.

Marriage happens when two lives ultimately merge into one. As a long-term, long-distance couple, we have had to put that desire on hold until I after I graduate school. However, holding back this desire becomes more and more futile when we think about the way God designed relationships to be. We were never created to be separated from God. We were never created to be separated from our absent mothers or our absent fathers. We were never created to break the bond of marriage intimacy through the tragedy of divorce. We were never created to endure long term, long distance relationships.

We were never created to live far away from our loved ones without a glorious homecoming to look forward to.

Thankfully, I get a day to look forward to: May 14, 2017. That’s the day I get to come home for good. I am starting to look forward to it more and more to the point where it becomes unbearable at times. During times like tonight, I remember that it is by the grace of God we are what we are. There is no way we could come out of this on top without His love and guidance at the center of our relationship. In fact, this glorious homecoming is nothing compared to the glorious homecoming we will one day experience in heaven, when we are finally next to our Lord.

There is nothing like eternal perspective that soothes an aching soul. God is the reason why we are together, and He is the reason we want to turn our commitment to one another into a covenant marriage relationship. So until both of these days, we will continue building our house upon the rock that stands; we will fight the good fight. We will call upon God to use this experience to shape us into the team we will one day become: ultimately committed, dynamically stable, and beautifully set apart.

Even with a few pity parties along the way.