No one dreams about long-distance relationships. But while we don’t pine for relationships full of teary airport goodbyes and scheduled Skype dates, it has become the new reality for an increasing number of couples. Thanks to the wonders of online dating, we’re finding that special someone across the state, on the other side of the country or even on the other side of the world.

My fiancée and I met at a singles conference and have spent most of our relationship doing long-distance. Here are the five potholes we’ve learned to avoid on our road to marriage.

1. Vacation Mode

One of the first things we learned is that our trips to see each other can often feel a lot like vacation. It didn’t hurt that I live in Colorado Springs and she lives in San Diego, two great places to enjoy a getaway! We filled our visits with walks on the beach, scenic hikes, parties and great meals.

The problem with constant vacation mode is that it doesn’t give us a chance to see each other in our everyday lives. We aren’t learning to solve problems together or see each other after a long day at work.

Every dating relationship should have moments that feel like a vacation. But it’s also important to do everyday things. During your visits, carve out some time to do the things that feel more like “real life.” Maybe complete a household project or serve someone together. Go grocery shopping and cook a meal at home rather than going out to eat. Learning to steer clear of permanent vacation mode is part of becoming a successful long-distance couple.

2. Moving Too Fast

The challenge of distance combined with the excitement of a new romance can often spur us to move too quickly. This is one long-distance issue that really challenged us. We met in August, got engaged in October, and started planning a March wedding. We soon realized we were moving too fast.

Looking back, we admit that was crazy quick, but in the moment it felt right. We were excited to have found each other, knew we wanted to get married and were excited to be together and married.

Once we realized we were moving too quickly, we pushed back our wedding. It was a tough decision, but we both are convinced it’s just what we needed. We are much more prepared for marriage as a couple now than we would have been a year ago.

Every couple will need a different amount of time. Just know that the longer you’ve waited for marriage, the more tempting it will be to move quickly. There is value in seeking the wisdom of others in determining the right timing. Waiting can be hard, but good things are worth the wait.

3. Hiding Your True Self

We are all tempted to hide our struggles or weaknesses in relationships, but long-distance relationships can make this temptation even stronger. Don’t let the distance keep you from having tough conversations when you need to.

One long-distance couple recently told me they took time to have a hard conversation on a recent visit. They talked about some difficult topics and responded to each other with grace. It was probably tempting to just avoid those hard conversations, but in the end the couple was stronger. Our relationships can only become strong when they are rooted in truth and love.

4. Dating In A Vacuum

A great way to get to know someone is to bring them around people who know you well. Your community can often see things you may not. The friends and family test is an important one in any relationship. But being long-distance can make this step trickier to accomplish.

Make sure your times together includes visits with friends and family who have your permission to give you their honest feedback. Let your community speak into your relationship. Value their feedback and trust their instincts. Love is blind, but your friends and family will often see what you can’t.

5. Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind

As we get used to being together, it can be a struggle to make the same time for each other we made at first. Texts, emails, voice messages, cards and gifts are not just for the early days of a relationship. Letting the other person know you are thinking of them is especially important when you don’t get to see them every day.

Be creative about finding ways to show your feelings from a distance. Understanding their love language is a huge help here. My fiancée is a words person, so I often will send a text or voice message when I know I’m heading into a busy stretch of my day.

As I look back on our season of long-distance dating, there have been so many sweet moments. It definitely can be done well. There have some important life lessons we have learned together, even while miles apart. If God writes a long-distance relationship into your story, receive it with gratitude and ask Him for the grace to avoid these challenges.

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