7 Challenges to Middle Distance Relationships

Grace and I live about an hour away from each other. Grace works in Austin an hour from her home and mine forming a giant one hour triangle of doom. I call this triangle of driving "a middle distance relationship." We are to far to see each other daily and to close for week long visits. This causes unique challenges.
Whenever I want to spend an hour with Grace I must commit two hours to the road. As you can image we hardly ever have short visits. This changes the way we interact.

Challenge #1 The Elimination of Spontaneity.
I’m a spontaneous guy and like surprising Grace. I have tried to surprise Grace in the past but it is not easy. Driving an hour only to find out she already has plans is the pits. I have to pre plan times to be spontaneous and work out conspiracies with her co-workers which, while fun, ends up not being very spontaneous.

Challenge #2 Non Intersecting Circles of Friends.
The center of our relationship socially is Belton. This means that we don’t have as much time to be with Grace’s friends. There is no way to adequately accommodate both communities as well as both families. We are courting not running for elected office. The result is that we can’t please everyone and must disappoint. The members of Grace’s church are not happy with me for pulling her away from their congregation but we need to go to the same church. Unfortunately, that means picking one not to go to. We hate disappointing people but we can’t see any way around it.

Challenge #3 Finding "Life on Life" Time Together.
Our time together usually turns into a big event because of the amount of planning. This is courtship not dating so we not just try to mesh our schedules with each other, we also mesh our schedules with over a dozen family members.

The result is that we don’t spend much time doing regular life stuff like folding laundry and doing chores. I think it is important to interact in these sorts of environments in order to get to know each other better. It is one thing to have a meal together and talk about deep things. it is another to spend several hours working together.

Yes I know we could make working with each other a scheduled event of some sort but that would in some way defeat the point.

Challenge #4 Expense
Unlike a long distance relationship in which couples hardly ever see each other, medium distance couples see each other regularly but at a great expense in both time and money. While talking about money on a courtship blog is unromantic, it is a part of real life. With gas at approaching $4 a gallon, driving long distances is not cheap.

The cost creates a paradox. We have to work more to afford to see each other, giving us less time to see each other.

Challenge #5 The Phone
Before courting Grace I never talked on the phone for long periods of time except to check in with my mom to let the family know how I was doing. Paying by the minute kept my phone calls short, punchy and too the point. The result is that I am somewhat awkward on the phone. Sharing what is going on in my heart is much easier for me to do in person than it is over the phone.

If an issue emerges on the phone between Grace and me we both feel more comfortable resolving it in person.

If you are a baby boomer and don’t understand why the phone is so awkward for my generations please see my post Generation Y and the Demon Phone.

Challenge #6 Serving Each Other

It is hard for me to serve Grace in the day to day stuff because she is so far away. If she needed help with a big project I could help her but it does not make sense to drive two hours to help her with a 15 minute task. This also means that it is tough to serve our families together.

Challenge #7 Bingeing and Purging
Grace and I tend to spend a lot of time together on the weekends and hardly anytime at all during the week. This creates predictable emotional high and lows. Not exactly preparation for a day to day married life.

We Are Thankful
We don’t mean to complain. In fact there are several unique benefits to medium distance relationships. But, if you want to get into a medium distance relationship these are the pitfalls you should look out for.

Thomas Umstattd Jr. is the author of Courtship in Crisis, the former head of PracticalCourtship.com, and co-founder of the Austin Rhetoric Club, a homeschool speech and debate club in Austin, Texas. He is a professional speaker and CEO of Author Media. He sits on the board of directors for several nonprofits, including the Texas Alliance for Life.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

5 thoughts on “7 Challenges to Middle Distance Relationships

  1. it seems like you are really trying to be real… it's not an easy process… praying for you all! it really is such a process…

  2. I had to comment on this post when I came across it since I too find myself in a similar relationship where my boyfriend lives an hour and a half away. There is a city about 45min. from each of us that we can meet in, and do at times, but all the points you touched upon are so true. The only seeing each other on weekends…gas prices…living a kind of regular, everyday life. It is certainly a challenge, and the toughest part for me is that it is impossible to make all involved happy – with different churches and diffferent families. Anyway, I enjoyed this in a I completely know what you are talking about kind of way!

  3. Well, I don’t exactly have a lot of experience with the courtship thing. (thankfully :-D) but I do have a lot of experience with the distance thing. But, hey Thomas, be thankful that Grace at least has a phone and Internet.

    Have you tried Skype video comference?

    > Brian

  4. Well, I don’t exactly have a lot of experience with the courtship thing. (thankfully :-D) but I do have a lot of experience with the distance thing. But, hey Thomas, be thankful that Grace at least has a phone and Internet.

    Do ya’ll use Skype?

    > Brian

  5. Hi, I write for a major newsmagazine and was wondering if you would like to share your middle-distance relationship traveling woes for a story I am working on that has to do with rising gas prices and relationship troubles as a result. If so, please send an email to cait.mcdevitt@gmail.com with your story. Thanks! Caitlin

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