Today I am putting the finishing touches to a Christmas song I have written for my girlfriend. By the time you are reading this (due to holiday schedules) she will have heard it, so it’s cool – I’m not spoiling any surprise. You may think I’m a bit crazy, but since my girl is halfway around the world on a holiday of a lifetime, I have learnt a whole lot about myself and how far I will go to stay connected with someone who means so much to me.

Before I get completely romantic and lose half my readers… I do want to say: long distance relationships are very tough. I have so much respect for people who have gone for years without spending more than a few weeks together. It’s only going to be two months for me, but there are many people serving their country who are based far away for longer than six months. In Africa, there are countless scenarios where the father or mother have moved away to find work.

Distance is hard. But it does not necessarily have to be bad. I’m definitely not saying that long periods away from the ones you love are healthy, but there are a few things you can learn from them:

  1. FaceTime is from Heaven

I’m am truly convinced that God put a mandate on someone’s life to invent FaceTime. Being able to communicate face-to-face with someone adds so much meaning. Funnily enough, I have learnt so much about facial expression just by using FaceTime. It’s crazy how much more meaning is conveyed visually. There are certain levels of disconnect that you want to avoid when there is distance between you: written disconnection – I have had to work my way out of some tight situations because people read what I write the wrong way… (emoticons help apparently, but they are not foolproof); spoken disconnect – it is easier to understand what is trying to be communicated because of the tone and intonation of the voice but you are still not ensured that you have the other person’s full attention; and then face to face communication which is a whole lot more assuring.

2. Long distance makes you more intentional

Setting aside time, writing crazy songs, making special videos and sending messages at bizarre times of night helps you be intentional with your relationship. When the person you care about isn’t down the street or a few minutes’ drive away, you have to express your appreciation of them with much more clarity. The distance makes you work for your relationship – and reminds us not to get familiar with who we have in our lives.

3. Long distance improves communication

When the person you love is not in your environment or context, you have to get good and sharing what’s happening around you. This improves the communication level in your relationship in general, as well as reminds you of how much goes unsaid with people that are around you every day.

For all those missing their loved ones, I hope that they come back soon. Things that last are worth the wait. And things only last because you are willing to work for them. Keep at it!

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