As promised, here is the second installment of the things I've learnt about how to not just endure long-distance relationshipping, but to use it as a way to grow and build the relationship.
Enjoy the positives. There's no denying it, it sucks to be apart from the one person you most enjoy being around in the world. That said, there's no point in spending weeks feeling sorry for yourself and not feeling you can still enjoy life. I've found that there's actually a number of positive results from doing the long distance thing:
Firstly, I've found that we often talk about deeper and more interesting things when we're apart. When you're not together, it's impossible to just hang out talking about mindless things like whats going on around you, the people you see and so on. Instead, whether it be through letters or phone calls, I've found that we talk a lot more about untangible things like concepts, ideas, dreams, passions and so on. I'd say this single element of doing long-distance has enormously helped our relationship.
Secondly, being in separate locations forces you to get more creative about ways to express your love. Whether it be in the words of a letter, gifts sent or even sneaky things you try and rig up in their location, it takes some lateral thinking to do cool stuff when you can't be there physically. Of course, this all takes a lot of work and so ties in with my first point yesterday, where you need to recognise that it will be a lot of work. Nonetheless, I've often found that the ideas sparked while we're apart pay off in boosting some romantic ideas for when we're back together.
Finally, and perhaps a bit selfishly, you get to taste the hospitality of everyone who feels sorry for you. I've already been offered a bed at the flat of some guys at church, and meals at a bunch of people's places. I'll be honest, I'm not complaining! On a more serious note, Paula has seen some incredibly inspiring and quite humbling hospitality from people she's stayed with. We've had a chance to see how incredible it is being part of the church community and quite truly being part of a worldwide family.
Use the time to develop yourself. Obviously, when you're in separate parts of the country, you'll have a lot more time by yourself. This can be an ideal time to kick-start or reinvigorate any habits, disciplines and patterns that you want to build and cultivate. For example, I'm going to have the house to myself, making it easier to get back into pursuing God in the mornings, without worrying about interfering with what Paula's up to. If you find yourself with extra nights or extra time as a result of being apart, then make the most of it by doing things that will make you a better person when you are reunited. Read books, go for walks, catch up with inspiring people, do whatever but use the extra time to get closer with God and improve yourself.
So anyway, none of this stuff means I'm looking forward to Paula leaving, but at the same time I'm confident that we will come out the other side stronger and better for it. And I hope that we'll be able to look back on this time and laugh about it.