Today we’d like you to meet the newly engaged Anna Demyanik and Sergey Kalinin. Anna is a 4word Portland member and a Global Buyer at Columbia Sportwear Co. She met Serge through a mutual friend a decade ago but didn’t connect with him until he moved to Seattle, where he’s currently finishing a degree in mechanical engineering. Despite the long distance, Anna and Serge made their relationship work, and they both sat down with 4word this week to offer their insight and advice on long distance dating.
4word: Were you nervous about starting a long-distance relationship? What made you decide to go for it?
Anna: I was, but the nerves had little to do with the distance. Voluntarily placing myself in a vulnerable position, opening up myself to another person, one who will see all of my flaws, sin and contradictions—that was scary.
Serge: I wasn’t necessarily nervous about it; I just knew from friends and previous experience that it would be difficult and would take a great deal of commitment. We decided to go for it because, well, we felt it was something that we could do.
4word: Did you see benefits to long-distance dating? What areas of your lives and/or your relationship did this help you grow in?
Anna: Distance makes the heart grow fonder? Maybe not, since distance also means you miss out on the “daily” of the other person’s life. Thankfully, God’s granted us both a heart to see the good. We’re blessed to live in a time when Serge and I can touch base throughout the day via text, write beautiful letters via email, hear the other’s voice in phone calls and see our reactions and body language on Skype when a tough conversation requires it.
Distance equipped both of us to quickly decipher if the other’s pause alluded to a long day at work, frustration or a silly distraction. Since we miss out on the opportunities granted to couples attending church together, we’ve been creative in pushing our conversations. We read and discuss books and Bible passages together. These allow us to delve deep into better understanding the other person and why they think and interpret the way they do.
Serge: The distance does create more of a longing to see one another, and it does make you appreciate the times that you see each other. I feel it may have even helped us forgive one another a little more easily because it is hard to be angry or upset with someone when you only get to spend a few hours each week with her. Though it does leave a lot to wonder in regards to how it will be when we see each other on a daily basis.
4word: What advice would you give to someone considering starting a long-distance relationship?
Anna: Are you sure? Long-distance is not for everyone and requires deep commitment from both parties. Serge’s commitment is beyond incredible: without complaint, without frustration, he willingly made the trek from Seattle to ensure I saw him at least every 10 days! Seeing the other person and spending time with him in his community adds invaluable understanding and illumination to the relationship. Before you dive into an LDR, analyze if you’re comfortable seeing him on your pre-determined cadence.
Serge: Make sure you understand that it will be difficult, and that you have to have definite goals about where you want it to go with some sort of timeline. We made that mistake early on, and it caused heartache and anxiety because we didn’t know when or where the relationship would really end up. Also, learn to be patient and forgiving because it will get very easy to misread the other person when you are always communicating via text or email, or even phone calls. And chocolate. Make sure you always bring chocolate.
Even if you aren’t dating long distance, there are still plenty of things to consider, especially if you are thinking about getting engaged. Diane offers some excellent advice in Chapter 5 of “Work, Love, Pray.” Here’s an excerpt that we particularly love:
“Be honest with yourself
If you’re engaged or about to become engaged, here are three “why” questions I recommend you spend some time thinking about:
1. WHY am I getting married?
2. Why am I marrying THIS man?
3. Why am I marrying this man NOW?
And if all your answers are, “because I love this man,” I have one more question for you to wrestle with: why? If you can’t answer that one with some specifics, you may just be in love with love.”