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Youth Messenger Online Edition


Surviving an LDR
Larissa Gessner

When I was 4 years old, my family lived in Itu, Brazil. My father was the Youth Department leader of the South Brazilian Union, and we often spent time with the Gessner family. They had three sons; the eldest one was just a few months older than me. The four of us regularly played together until one day my family moved to the United States.

Ten years later, back when MSN* a social media platform that is now long gone. was a thing, I was online when a new chat window popped up. It was the Gessner’s eldest son, Vinícius. He wanted to know about his aunt who had recently moved to a city near us. How was she doing? I answered his questions, but the conversation lasted for another seven years through emails and social media with him living in Brazil and me in Canada.

In 2016, we got married and brought our LDR (long-distance relationship) to an end for good. Seriously, I think the years of distance traumatized us so that, since then we haven’t spent a full 24 hours apart in almost 3 years!

The Truth

Long-distance is just terrible but it’s also fabulous. There are moments of excruciating heart-torn-out-of-your-chest pain, but these teach you that the level of sadness you feel can be the level of happiness you can experience.

The Cons
Missing out:

In most cases, the distance will mean that outside factors (ticket prices, work, and school schedules) dictate when you can see each other. This also means not being there for every birthday, graduation, or another milestone.

The distance:

Time zones force you to schedule conversations for a time when you’re both available and awake. And sometimes the moment when you most need to talk or be reassured by your loved one happens to be when he/she can’t be there.

Hiding the crazy:

Social media offers a highlight reel. We can edit photos, angle the camera to show the clean half of the room, polish our texts, consult Google to help us come off smarter. It’s also easy to project and interpret a written text to say what we would like it to say and begin forming an ideal person. Then when we finally meet the person, they aren’t everything we imagined them to be.

The Pros
Room for personal development:

Believe it or not, distance can be a healthy and useful tool for a relationship, especially when both parties are young. Vini and I were 18 when we officially started dating. We were both starting university, working at entry-level jobs, and still very much growing up. The distance was hard, but in the seven years we talked, we grew so much as individuals. We made mistakes apart from each other. We took risks and pushed each other from far away to be better versions of ourselves.

The distance allowed us the time and space to blossom into individuals. We have several memories together from those years, but we also have memories of our own, with friends and family. Being yourself is crucial to a long-lasting relationship, and LDRs allow you to explore who you are so you can enter a life of commitment with greater self-reflection. Conventional relationships can and should allow this as well.

Lean on Jesus:

Before you ever begin a relationship, pray daily for that special person God has for you. Your Creator knows all about your personality, your wants, and your needs. “O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways” (Psalm 139:1–3).

Keep the communication line open between you and Jesus by continual prayer and study of His Word. At those moments when your loved one cannot be there for you, go to Jesus. Use that time to strengthen your bond with Him. He is the Third Person in your relationship. Pour out to Him your sorrows, fears, and concerns. Tell Him your joys. When you have a bad day, but your beloved is already asleep or at work, tell Jesus about it. When something wonderful happens and you’re spilling joy, but your significant other is not there to listen, tell it all to Jesus.

Talking to friends and family is important too, but there’s a danger in confiding to someone outside your relationship. In those moments, use discernment. Take it to the best relationship Counselor and no one else. Jesus Christ is our “Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). Make it a habit to always go first to Him and you will lay a strong foundation for your marriage.

More Insights
Find yourself first:

A relationship should never be about finding yourself in another person. You should be able to be happy on your own before you enter any relationship, but especially a long-distance one.

Have a goal:

Set short term goals for when you will see each other again. Vini and I knew we’d see each other twice a year and having those days to countdown made all the difference. Save to make those trips possible. Suffering is tolerable if you can keep the end in sight. Also, make long term goals. Will you get married someday? Long-distance works better if a further commitment is the goal. Will one of you move closer? Who and when? Establishing and clarifying these goals early on are fundamental to “making it.”

True communication:

Long distance relationships place an enormous value on communication. You will hone your communication skills as well as strengthen and develop them. You might spend plenty of time talking about the mundane, but you will also have deep conversations that build trust and set a foundation for a durable relationship.

Observe and talk to others:

Most LDR couples, with whom I’m familiar, knew each other before they began their relationship, but that isn’t the case for everyone. If you have met each other only a few times in person, let me give you some serious advice:

Talk to that person’s pastor. Don’t lend your ear to gossip but do listen to advice. Seek out the people near your boyfriend/girlfriend who can give a truthful report of their character. You are precious. You are loved. You are worthy of the best God has in mind for you. Your time is valuable. LDRs require investment. Make sure you are investing wisely.

When you do see each other, observe how that person treats other people. How does he treat the other women in his life? How does she treat the other men in her life? That’s a good indicator of how he/she will treat you.

What do their family relationships look like? That may be a good indicator of what your future family may be like. Are there any familial relationship traumas that you need to be aware of and which may cast a shadow on your relationship?

If you are serious about committing your life to someone, make sure you can do so with wide-open eyes and heart. Actions speak louder than the words they have spoken or written to you. Observe with God-given prudence—not an infatuated gaze.

One great piece of advice I received concerning dating came from an old book I once borrowed from my piano teacher. It said, “Find someone with a similar background to yours.”

We are all unique individuals with peculiar experiences, but a relationship where both individuals have had similar life experiences often has a smoother path. Vini and I are both the oldest sibling in our families. We grew up as “pastor’s kids” and moved every few years. Our families had similar financial backgrounds and attitudes towards money, and the Bible principles within our faith. Despite the many differences within that outline, those core similarities helped us avoid obstacles faced by many newlyweds.

This is not to say that relationships, where individuals come from completely different cultures or backgrounds, are doomed to failure. Considerable differences can always be overcome by God’s grace. The main thing is that both are aware of the differences and have a resolution in mind to which both parties can agree.

Pray, listen, and surrender to God:

The more you strengthen your relationship with God, the more understanding you will have about your relationship. Listen to God. Accept His guidance. If this is not the person for you, trust that God has some better plans for you, then let go. If this is the person for you, deepening your relationship with God will only make your relationship stronger with your significant other.

My husband and I will have been married for three years this summer. I still catch myself looking over at him sometimes and saying in happy disbelief, “Wow, I get to be with you forever now!” Those years apart taught me to not take a single day together for granted. After years of wishing to be near him without a good-bye looming overhead, every hug, face-to-face conversation, milestone, and even every difficulty we face together is that much sweeter.