Philip Shippy — Staff writer
With Valentine’s Day only a few days away, it feels right to observe it through an article. There are many ways of writing a Valentine’s Day-themed article, the most common being to give advice to dating/engaged/married couples, or to a give voice to those who are single and want to date.
While this opinion piece does fall under the advice category, there is a specific type of dating that many college students experience that requires a different set of advice: Long-distance relationships.
25-50 percent of college students are currently dating long-distance, with up to 75 percent having been in a long-distance relationship at some point, according to an article by the International Communication Association in 2013. I am currently among that 25-50 percent, with my girlfriend going to college in Colorado. It can be hard to stay connected with her and get to know her better.
I’m sure many of you know the struggles or at least know someone close to you who is going through the struggles of long-distance dating. So, I would like to offer to you (whether you are currently dating long-distance or know someone who is) both my own experience and the advice given to me.
But before I can do that, I should give you a quick picture on how I view dating and marriage, so that my biases are in full view. I believe dating is a temporary relationship, meant to help people figure out whether they want to spend the rest of their life with their partner. Once they know where they stand, the relationship should end in either breakup or engagement. Similarly, the main things that will allow a married couple to spend the rest of their life together are the enjoyment of each other’s company/personality and agreement on the big questions: where do we put our faith, do we want our kids to be publicly or privately educated, do we want to travel around or stay in one place, and so on. If someone does not agree with their partner on these things, they will be constantly fighting with each other.
Now, here is my advice for those of you who have a friend who is dating long-distance:
• Give your friend the time and space they need to be with their significant other. It is hard enough with homework and potential time zone changes to find the time to talk; this is especially true if the significant other has come to Dordt for a visit. • If your friend’s significant other is in town, and they both show up to hang out with your friend group, be as welcoming and inviting as you can. The significant other likely doesn’t know anyone and depending on their personality might be a little intimidated.
For those of you in the long-distance relationship:
• The greatest thing you can do is find a consistent, regular time to talk about both the light and heavy things. If dating is meant to help you figure out whether you want to spend the rest of your life with someone, then you need to be with that person often. There are a lot of ways to contact your significate other, but I would recommend methods that let you speak to them face-to-face, such as FaceTime, Discord, or Zoom. I myself make time once a week to video call my girlfriend on Facebook Messager.
• Read something together (thank you, John Copley, for this idea). If you are a Christian, try devotionals for couples or the Bible. Reading these things can bring up important questions that could help you get to know the other person better.
• Try writing each other letters. I find that letters can allow you to go into more depth about certain things (such as your classes, new friendships, and fun events) than a face-to-face conversation can, helping you get to know your partner more. Letters are also more human than texts, giving more of your personality (especially if handwritten, although not everyone has good handwriting). The slow pace of letters also helps you focus what you want to talk about, since you will be more likely to remember the important over the trivial. Finally, letters can create a record of your relationship that you can hold on to.
• Have fun together. If you are going to spend the rest of your life with someone, you should enjoy their company. Find one of your hobbies that you can do with them over the internet. Video games are the easiest, but if you are into board or card games, then you can probably find an online version to use. If you like movies, then find a way to watch a movie together.
Long-distance dating takes effort. Hopefully, this advice will give you ideas to keep your relationship healthy.