Sep 3, 2014

Learning to Dance with the Distance

*This was first published as a Facebook note on my profile. I've made some updates/edits for today's entry.*

I've known from the outset that my relationship with (my now fiancĂ©) Kimchi Taco would be somewhat unconventional. I initially thought that he would be in the US for the most part but thankfully, the Lord led him to beautiful Baguio City to pursue graduate studies while I work full time in Quezon City. Nevertheless, we're still quite far from each other and our relationship definitely qualifies as long-distance. 

We unintentionally matched our outfits that one Sunday. 

A long-distance relationship (LDR) doesn't sound attractive to most people. I've also often heard it said that it doesn't last long. Well, it's been 27 months since we started dating and I've seen how being apart has helped us both grow. But I would say that it may not be for everyone. In our case, the benefits of being in an LDR outweigh the inherent challenges. Below, I list a few things that I've learned from being with Carlo (and loving each other from a distance). 

1. You learn to worship God and not your partner.
It's easy to "worship" a person - devoting all your time, giving up your interests to pursue his, putting all of your energy to sustain the relationship - especially if that person's the only other creature you're exposed to. Being apart allows us to know our Creator because our relationship with Him is the most important relationship we'll ever have. A relationship is not the cure for boredom. It is not what completes a person. You won't really see this and many other things clearly if the other person is the only object in your line of vision.

If one person loves God above everything else, it would overflow to the relationship. If the both of us are captured by God's love, we are able to love each other better. C.S. Lewis puts it this way:

The woman who makes a dog the centre of her life loses, in the end, not only her human usefulness and dignity but even the proper pleasure of dog-keeping.

The man who makes alcohol his chief good loses not only his job but his palate and all power of enjoying the earlier (and only pleasurable) levels of intoxication.

It is a glorious thing to feel for a moment or two that the whole meaning of the universe is summed up in one woman—glorious so long as other duties and pleasures keep tearing you away from her. But clear the decks and so arrange your life (it is sometimes feasible) that you will have nothing to do but contemplate her, and what happens?

Of course this law has been discovered before, but it will stand re-discovery. It may be stated as follows: every preference of a small good to a great, or partial good to a total good, involves the loss of the small or partial good for which the sacrifice is made.

. . . You can’t get second things by putting them first. You get second things only by putting first things first.

This item is the longest because it is the most important lesson I've learned (and I'm still learning).

2. You have space and time (this should be quite obvious since this is what you get in an LDR)
The question is, space and time for what? A lot of things! You have space and time to reconsider where your relationship is at. You have space and time to reevaluate your values, individually and as a couple. You have breathing room and you gain P E R S P E C T I V E.
Photobooth can change your perspective, too.

3. If your love language is quality time and/or physical touch (like me), your definitions of these will evolve.
Quality time can now mean talking for hours on FaceTime or praying over the phone, and not just doing something together in person. Your means of expressing love will no longer be confined to just hugs and holding hands, but practicing giving verbal affirmations to the other person. You think of and work on different "projects" that help you get to know each other in fun but deep ways; in other words, you get creative. We have read books, done devotions and other things (like the exercises in the Saving Your Marriage Before it Starts workbook) over FaceTime or Skype.

The usual ways of expressing love go deeper, wider, and this makes the relationship all the more enriching. Being "together" transcends geography.

Also, the distance lessens the likelihood of going beyond your physical boundaries. :)

4. Every moment of contact is extra precious and you learn not to take the other person for granted.
Every phone call, every video chat, every lengthy message...they become like treasures. You learn how to value and cultivate all your means of communication. You value the person more because of the rarity of your times with each other. You also learn how to plan together and this allows you to observe the other's decision-making style. Whenever you see each other, it usually (read: always) feels like the first time.

5. Because you live in different places, you gain an interesting mix of friends.
Friends who are able to provide counsel, prayer, and just crazy times together. Stories, meals, trips, times of worship with others - you share life with other people and I believe this is needed for a healthy relationship. One couple (hi, Kuya Ty and Ate Cina!) told us that you'll know the relationship is unhealthy if it's just you and him in a bubble, and everybody else is shut out. We are blessed to share our relationship with family, church mates, childhood friends, and others.

With two of my favorite people on Earth, Daena (far left) and Lindsay (middle).

Dining out at Sage in Baguio City with an international community. Countries represented: Philippines, Thailand, Japan, and the US.

Carlo and I were not called to love just each other but everyone around us, and having friends from the other's "place" allows us to exercise this.

It's amazing how much I've learned about God, myself, Carlo, and other people within these 27 months. We've had our share of challenges because being apart for long periods of time really isn't easy. But so far, I can confidently say that our distance has been profitable. As I said above, you learn that love does transcend geography. Indeed, it appears that absence does make the heart grow fonder. I wouldn't have our relationship any other way.

What do you think of LDRs? Have you experienced a long-distance relationship yourself? (Not necessarily romantic. Lindsay, the lady pictured above, has a long-distance relationship with her best friend). What's your experience like? Let me know in the comments below :)

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