5. So in light of that point Bolt, I guess let’s flip that around and say, what are some of the good things that are fortunate things with being in a long-distance relationship?
Bolt: I will say sexual purity is the biggest thing. Because when you are in a long-distance relationship, you don’t exactly get to be in the same spaces like all the time. There aren’t many opportunities when both your guard is down like in normal relationships. And usually when you do meet, there’s like so many things that you’re doing. There are so many people you’re seeing, activities you’re doing that this really doesn’t become like a big thing.
Ayay: I think communication for me. I think it’s a big plus because yeah, I’ve had to learn how to say what I mean and mean what I say, and explain myself in a way that you can understand what I’m saying. I’ve had to learn to listen and respond to you in a way that’s beneficial to you and to tell you how I prefer to communicate. Because if we’re not communicating, then there’s no relationship, because there’s no “being together quietly”.
Bolt: Yes. I wanted to say like, I suppose I think the benefit of a long-distance relationship compared to a normal relationship is that it affords you a friendship to develop. So, you’re more intentional about communicating, you call a lot more. I think if you’re in the same city, you can almost go through the motions, just get into the business of dating without developing the friendship or really getting to know the person.
Kiki: I think patience. I feel like I have definitely learned patience…
Siwe: I feel you, girl! Long suffering, haha
Kiki: Yeah. Like, you can’t be with that person right now and you don’t know how long till you see them. Just learning to trust God and just being patient. I think as painful as that may be sometimes, but yeah, patience.
Siwe: I would say also, you notice things more, right? So like, if we don’t come back to the things that we said we would. If we’ve pinned it and then we continue to have similar conflicts. I think for me, it’s been great for those kind of patterns, like seeing them in our relationship. Thinking, no man, we had this conversation three months ago. Because there’s not so many other things that are making you forget easily. So it’s easy to go, ha! trend analysis.
Bolt: Do you think that’s unique to long-distance though?
Siwe: I think, when I think about my other relationships and again, I don’t know if it’s one for one obviously, but when I think about my other relationships in the motions of life, I think I am more forgetful as we do life together on the daily. Because there’s just so much going on, but here it’s like, “this sounds like that thing from last month”. And so, I think that infrequency of being in each other’s space, even though you talk every day about many, many things, it doesn’t feel the same way as it does with my relationships that are present in real-time.
And then definitely with Kiki on the patience, but in a different way. For instance, you’re having a difficult conversation and the internet starts acting up. You’re literally stuck without recourse, since I can’t even just go over to his place to chat. In normal relationships you can just be like “you know what, let’s have this conversation right now. I’m just gonna come over”. Whereas with this, you have to be patient when things like that happen.
6. How have you thought about protecting each other’s purity, and sanctification despite being far?
Ayay:I think first of all, being aware of the things that the other person has already put in place. Like the spiritual disciplines that they already have. With you for example, knowing that you’re a member of your church, you go to growth group and are part of a book club. So, I think being aware of when you are not doing those things. If we’re talking and you’re lazy to attend your growth group for instance, just encouraging you to go and not enabling any bad behaviour. So yeah, just noticing the times when you might not want to keep doing the things which are good for you and encouraging you to keep doing them. I think this involves asking questions, like directly asking “how are you doing spiritually? How’s your prayer life? How’s your bible reading?”. So, not relying on what you’re telling me or what I am seeing in the ordinary but setting time to ask these questions. The challenge with long-distance is of course that you cannot see, but there are things I wouldn’t see even if we were in the same city. Like, I am not going to be able to see your bible reading or prayer even when we are in the same place, so yeah, asking questions.
In terms of purity, I think just making sure that there’s nothing about our video calls that are a cause for concern. That’s the only potential thing I could think of, haha. I mean, no naked talking to each other or anything.
Kiki: I think similar to Ayay, if we’re reading a book together for instance, and Ndo is like “I don’t feel like it, I’m just not in the right space. I don’t feel like doing the book right now”. Yeah, seeking to understand why he doesn’t want to do the book that we committed to, that’s helping with our growth together as a couple.
Bolt: So for me, I think it’s just watching how you communicate. Yeah, partly because I think when you are not physically together, your biggest danger is in what you send each other. Making sure there are no weird messages being sent. As Ayay mentioned, looking at those video calls also. I think I probably don’t ask enough questions about this, so yeah, asking more questions and setting time to chat about how we are maybe end of the week.
Siwe: Maybe like a weekly general meeting then?
Bolt: What would be on the agenda? The state of the relationship address?
Siwe: Yeah, just to make sure things don’t fall through the cracks and are addressed as they come up, haha.
I think from an individual perspective, I would say the onus is then on each party to be transparent about things that you’re struggling through. And obviously, in a way that is appropriate, right?, because you’re not married and so there are boundaries there. So even mentioning who you’re accountable to so that they’re able to ask you pointed questions, like “are you okay? oh, how is it going with the people that you’re accountable to?” stuff like that, because if you’re not mentioning things then I don’t know what’s going on.
Bolt: I suppose relating to that, how can you possibly set the limits around it?
Siwe: I want to know what you’re struggling with on the general. I want to know about your safeguards, frameworks and whether they are working? I want to know who you are talking to? Are you talking to someone? I want to know that you are accountable. I don’t want the details, haha.
7. Christians are quite infamous for marrying quickly. Why was that not your solution to your distance problem? Why didn’t you just marry soon after you started dating?
Bolt: I would say, for me, if conditions were optimal that would have been exactly what happened. But they weren’t.
If you’re asking whether I would advise someone in the same situation to get married sooner? Definitely. In fact, I would advise somebody not to get into a long-distance relationship.
Siwe: So can I ask, why was the fact that conditions were not optimal not something that deterred you from getting into a relationship until conditions were? Why not just wait for the right conditions before getting into a relationship then ?
Bolt: Actually for me, that was my attitude for the longest time – trying to find the perfect conditions before I got into a relationship. I think there is some wisdom to waiting but also, I think that can become an excuse. I actually remember around the time I met Kiki, I had just decided that I would be a bit more open that year and so yeah, I was willing to try meet people.
But back to your question, I think if you’re in a long-distance relationship, what is most ideal is to have a timeline, either that you’re both going to be in the same place post a certain time period, or that you’re getting married like very soon.
Ayay: Uhm, I mean for me the answer is that I had no money for lobola.
I think I got into a relationship even without having lobola because we had a timeline and a plan. I remember when we started our relationship, we were talking all the time, and I didn’t want to be in a situationship. So we were more than friends, but not in a relationship. I think it was wiser to get into a relationship because we were both single and now we would’ve been waiting. So it’s like, are we betrothed to each other if we’re just waiting?
Siwe: So you thought it better to lock me in?
I do also think that there are benefits in having the time of courtship and still growing together in our friendship, and in our relationship while working towards marriage. I knew that I wanted to marry you, so I didn’t see the point in waiting.
Bolt: So on the question of why we didn’t just wait, isn’t it like more on the “why would you date” spectrum?
Ayay: Yeah. Like, do you want me to ask you out with a ring in my hand?
Siwe: Haha, maybe with a ring in your pocket!
I wanted to ask Kiki though, why did you get into a long-distance relationship instead of just marrying?
Kiki: I think I got into a long-distance relationship because he didn’t ask me to marry him then, haha. But yeah, I honestly didn’t think it would take this long. I didn’t think it would take two years. Now I have been locked in, haha.
I do think the idea of courtship is a good thing, and the goal is still marriage.
Siwe: I got into a long-distance relationship because I liked him, so I was just like, why not?. Also for me it was like, let’s confirm that I still like you the way I did in 2016. Since we were talking incessantly, I knew that I didn’t want to be in a situationship. I had been in situationships ad nauseum and I was done with that phase. So when he asked me out, I was willing to explore it to see if it made sense. When he made it clear that he wanted to marry me, and I knew I could see myself with him for a very long time also, then it was like okay let’s plan. Having a plan gave me comfort and confidence that we were not just playing games.
And then you fall in love with the person and are imprisoned to the relationship, haha. I think the thing is, you know that the person is not dribbling you, or saying ambiguous things. So the things that are hindrances are real things, and you buy into the fact that this person is not trying to play games or lead you on or anything. I think that’s why I am still in this. The only thing is, I wonder if there’s a point where you’re like, “ah, bro, it’s been four years? I can’t do this anymore. While I know you mean that you want to marry me, and I believe you, it’s been too long”
Bolt: Yeah, I think so. I mean, I don’t know after what time period but there certainly has to be a point where it’s enough
Siwe: Kiki, we should discuss our upper-bound year limits after this session
Bolt: I think because sometimes, maybe this is just not the Lord’s will that this relationship works. So if there are constant obstacles, like, you might just be holding on to something that the Lord hasn’t willed to be so.
Siwe: I guess then who is the onus on to pull the plug? Is it on you guys to be like “you know what, while I truly mean it when I say I want to marry you and I do genuinely desire to, you’ve been patient with me for so long. But shame mntan’abantu, maybe I need to go and figure out what I am trying to do here” Or is it on us to assess the situation and call it a day?
Bolt: I would say, it’s definitely on the guy since he needs to be steering the relationship. It’s a hard decision to make, but that ultimately has to be a thing. If it’s not working then it’s not working. There are all these signs in the never-ending obstacles.
Ayay: I think that the onus is on the guy to think realistically and be honest about the trajectory of the relationship. While the onus may not be on the woman, I would say if you see that he thinks he’s being honest, but this isn’t going anywhere and you feel like he is being deluded, I think the onus is on you to voice that. Yeah, you don’t want to be staying in a situation which you already know isn’t the best for you, waiting for him to be like, “okay I think this isn’t going to work”.
8. What would you say to a couple thinking about a long-distance relationship?
Ayay: Don’t do it, it’s the pits!
Bolt: Long distance is not easy, and I don’t think it’s a good idea if you don’t have timelines. I suppose this isn’t so much an indictment on the long-distance relationship. I still think the long distance complicates it, but I will still advise the same to somebody who is not in a long-distance relationship. If you’re facing a lot of obstacles, like sometimes maybe it’s not a good idea. My issue isn’t so much the long distance, more than that all the issues are exacerbated by long distance.
Ayay: Yeah, I think I would probably question them in terms of why they are getting into the relationship. Are they getting into this relationship because, I don’t know, they’re exploring whether they really like the person? How much do they like the person? Uhm, because I think there’s an element of, you need to be sure that you really like this person if you’re getting into a long-distance relationship especially as a guy. Because it’s tough, it’s challenging. I think planning your life together is so much easier when you’re in the same place.
So, yeah, I think I would probably ask questions in terms of, what is your plan? Have you guys discussed your plans together? Yeah. If it seems like, “oh, we don’t really know. I’m just going with the flow”, then I probably would advise against it. I’m probably more likely to tell them to really think about it seriously, because it’s just, it’s not the most ideal situation.
Kiki: I think if they understand that the end game is marriage then it’s like any other relationship that people could just explore. If you have clear intentions and timelines, then go for it. That’s what I would tell them.
Siwe: Don’t do it, it’s the pits!
But honestly, I think I would also try to get people to count the cost. Then if it’s just, “let’s just get to know each other”, like maybe just try be friends. And obviously that limits your interactions too. Get to know each other like that, and then if you’re like, “oh we really do like each”, then you need to count the cost of the implications of it.
And I think I would tell them exactly how difficult it is. Tell them some things that I’ve found challenging in a long-distance relationship to help them to think through, you know, are those things that they’re willing to go through. And then also similar to what Bolt and Ayay said, do you have a plan of when you think this thing will end?
Bolt: Yeah even with this, I do think that people will always think that they can do it. We don’t realise the actual difficulty, because you sort of have to go through it to understand the extent of it. I suppose people need experience to know something like this. For example, I can put myself right back, like at the beginning of this relationship. You could have told me all these different things that I would experience and I would have said, “yeah, I get what you’re saying, but I think we can handle it”. I think if you have not gone through it before, you will always underestimate the impact of the strain that it takes on you.