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Everything about a long-distance relationship is intentional. Since you’re not in person, everything takes an extra level of commitment and sacrifice. Despite the challenges, a long-distance relationship cultivates strong communication and creativity.
After making the leap into a long-distance relationship you’re probably wondering what makes a relationship last? The secret isn’t any different from the advice in-person couples would receive.
In his popular work, The Five Love Languages, Dr. Gary Chapman shares his wisdom on having a healthy relationship. Based on his experience counseling couples, he believes that each person has a primary love language that needs to be communicated regularly to feel loved. He identifies five of these love languages:
- Gift Giving
- Quality Time
- Words of Affirmation
- Acts of Service
- Physical Touch
How do the five love languages translate when a couple is separated by miles of distance? There’s no denying that some of the love languages are better expressed in person. There are many things you can’t do like bring them a cup of coffee or give them a hug whenever you’d like to.
There are many simple ways you can express each of the five love languages and strengthen your long distance relationship. Instead of focusing on what you can’t do, let’s focus on what you can do.
Here are some ideas to start expressing your partner’s primary love language today, even if you’re long-distance:
Giving a gift shows your partner that you care about them. You will have to put thought into what gift you think they’d like to receive. Adding your own personal touch will make the gift extra meaningful. Here are a few gift ideas:
- Send a care package. Everyone likes getting treats! You can send little things that the person you’re dating likes. For an extra bonus, send them their favorite cookies (just make sure you package them properly).
- Create a series of “open when” letters. For instance, you write letters for your partner to open when: they are having a hard day, need a hug, had a good day, need encouragement, or miss me.
In each one give a special type of encouragement for that particular situation. You can print out clips of funny memes to make them smile or IOUs for when you see each other next.
- Use delivery services: Send her flowers or have a local restaurant deliver him food. There are more and more options for ways to send something quickly for them to enjoy.
To a person whose primary love language is quality time, undivided attention means the world. When you have a chance to talk with them put away all distractions and try out some of these fun ideas:
- Have a date night over video chat. Pick up the same type of food, dress up, pour a glass of wine, and enjoy a nice meal and conversation over video chat. You could even put on a nice playlist of music to add ambiance.
- Watch a movie together. There are some sites that allow you to watch at the same time, like Gaze, which was created with long-distance relationships in mind. For a low-tech solution, you can both just press “play” at the same time while talking on the phone.
- Make a meal together over video chat. Even if you’re not chefs, you’ll both get to share the same experience of making the same dish or dessert.
- Play games online together. There are plenty of fun online two-player games to choose from, as well as chat through.
Words of Affirmation
If this is your partner’s primary love language, then surprise them by complimenting them. Luckily this isn’t too challenging with phones and video chat.
- Tell your boyfriend/girlfriend why you’re thankful for them, why you love them, and encourage them when long distance seems unbearable.
- Send a few texts throughout the day. This lets the other person know that you’re thinking of them.
- Send love letters expressing how you feel about them. It’s a really romantic gesture and a perfect way to capture how you feel about each other. Your partner can look at those letters whenever they need a reminder of your love for them.
Acts of Service
Helping your partner from a distance might be challenging, but there are creative ways you can still make their life easier.
- Are there any tasks you can help with online? For instance, edit their paper, find resources for them, buy them something you know they need; or book your flights to visit each other.
- Ask how you can help in other ways. There may be something you wouldn’t think of doing for your boyfriend/girlfriend that the other person could really use your support on.
- Plan your date nights. If any of the ideas above sound fun, put together the plan. Have everything ready so the other person can just enjoy your company.
This might just be the toughest love language to express while in a long-distance relationship.
- Say that you’d like to give the other person a hug or be there to hold their hand. Just letting them know that you’d like to is important.
- Plan when you will see each other if possible. That way you will have some in-person time to show them this love language.
- Give the other person something that they can touch, like a t-shirt of yours, your favorite book, or an essential oil so they can remember you when they smell it.
You can tailor the above-mentioned ideas to your particular interests as a couple. You can pray for each other daily, do things to surprise each other, and learn about each other’s interests.
Practicing the five love languages will not only help your relationship grow but will also help you form healthy relationship habits. Hopefully, these habits will stay with you when you eventually transition to an in-person relationship.
In the meantime, you can enjoy the benefits of mutual respect and strong communication that long distance can create. There’s no limit to how creative you can be when you’re in a long-distance relationship.
If you’re long-distance, I would love to hear how you express the five love languages in the comments below.
Bethany Swanson studied Humanities and Catholic Culture at Franciscan University of Steubenville. She’s originally from Oregon and is now enjoying the beaches and warm weather of California with her husband William. She shares her reflections on newlywed life and the faith on her blog at http://www.strengthenmyheart.com/