Long-distance relationships can feel a little exclusive.
It’s almost unavoidable in a healthy dating relationship, really. If you only talked with your boyfriend when other people were around, you wouldn’t spend much time talking with him at all.
As much as you enjoy it, though, you might be afraid that all of this one-on-one time isn’t healthy.
The Christian life is meant to be lived in community, after all. And others may have warned you that it’s a bad idea to spend too much time alone when you’re dating. So what do you do?
Below, I’ve compiled seven ways that you can pursue shared community in a long-distance relationship. By shared community, I mean mutual relationships with others that you and your boyfriend have together, such as a group of friends or church community.
Before that, though, we need to talk about why the absence of shared community can be problematic and what you can do about it.
Why is this an issue?
I think a lot of people are nervous about the lack of community in a long-distance relationship simply because other people have told them it’s really important.
Pursuing community together while you’re dating is extremely valuable. But when your circumstances prevent you from doing that, you must pursue a deeper understanding of why community is valuable.
So, let’s consider why people generally recommend dating in a community:
- Sexual temptation and emotional impurity are easier to fight when you’re with other people
- You can tell a lot about a person’s character by how they interact with and respond to other people
- Other people can see potential problems with your relationship that you cannot and help you make wise decisions
All of these reasons make a very good case for shared community. But they also show us how you can make up for it.
If you can compensate for the loss of shared community by doing other wise things, you will still feel its absence, but you’ll mitigate some of the negative effects on your dating relationship.
First, because you will be spending more 1-on-1 time with each other, you will need to be more vigilant about your physical and emotional boundaries. Getting a friend or mentor to hold you accountable for your boundaries can be helpful.
Next, because you won’t see each other interacting with other people, you will need to be more cautious about idealizing the other person’s character. You’ll want to prioritize group interactions when you are together. If you can get to know his friends and family when he’s not around, you can learn a lot about he treats them from how they talk about him.
Finally, because you won’t have people who know both of you well, you will need to prioritize letting other people know you well individually so they can offer wise advice. Taking things slowly and seeking wisdom from a variety of trusted sources can also help.
Here’s the most important takeaway: In the absence of a shared community, dive deeper into your individual local communities.
Just because you can’t pursue community with your boyfriend doesn’t mean you can’t pursue community at all. Far from it! Make the most of your time apart by serving, worshiping, loving, praying, leading, and growing with believers near you.
Another thing to think about is why you personally see community as valuable. Although seeking others’ input and involvement while you’re dating is a good desire, it can also be motivated by fear.
Personally, I tend to doubt myself a lot and overvalue other people’s affirmation. It’s hard for me to feel confident that I’m making the right decision if I haven’t asked a bunch of other people about it and received positive responses.
Seeking wisdom from others is important, but it’s much more important to seek wisdom from the Lord. Any advice you receive from other people will never be perfect. Put your faith in Christ, not community.
7 Creative Ways to Pursue Community
Pursuing community takes more work in a long-distance relationship, but it’s still possible. While not all of these ideas are an option at the moment due to COVID-19, a number of them are still feasible.
- Stay with his friends when you visit. This is a great option because it helps you keep your physical boundaries, save money, and get to know your boyfriend’s friends. Rotate where you stay so you can meet the most people and avoid becoming a burden.
- Try visiting or calling his family when he’s not around. This can be really awkward but it can also be very rewarding in the long-run. If your boyfriend has a sister who lives closer to you than he does, for example, you could spend a day with her. If you want to get to know his mom better, ask if you can talk with her on the phone.
- Connect with people at his church. Attend a worship service or event with your boyfriend and let him know you’d like to meet the people he knows. Also, be willing to get to know people without your boyfriend at your side.
- Go on double dates with friends. I’ll be honest, we’ve never had a ton of success with double dates, but they can be a fun way to hang out with friends while still having a more private date.
- Play games with friends on Zoom. One of the benefits of the pandemic is that people are much more willing to hop on a video call. Organize a fun event with some of your friends and let them know you’d like to invite your boyfriend, too.
- Attend a conference or church retreat together. Whenever live events start happening again, this could be a great way to build community quickly. However, make sure you agree in advance that your primary purpose is getting to know other people so you don’t just spend all your time with each other.
- Have dinner or a video call with an older married couple. If you have a mentor who is married, find out if she and her husband would be willing to have dinner with you and your boyfriend. This can help them get to know your boyfriend’s character better or provide opportunities for more serious conversations.
A lack of shared community is a normal part of a long-distance relationship.
And while distance requires more effort to make up for the absence of group interactions, you don’t have to be afraid.
Just because your dating relationship doesn’t look like everyone else’s doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong. Seek community when you can, and trust God to guide you.