Red Flags in Long Distance Romances

Morning friend,

Tomorrow (Thursday), I am off to Seoul, Korea to accompany my precious adopted daughter as she meets her biological parents and sisters for the first time. I’d appreciate your prayers. It will be a life-changing experience for both families.  

A mom’s heart is always for her children no matter how old they are. Thanks for the robust responses and encouragement from last week’s question on how to help an adult daughter. I firmly believe we need one another and grow stronger together. That’s why I’ve been doing this blog for over 10 years now. The community’s concern, support, and wisdom are such a blessing to me and to you all. Thank you.

Today’s Question: I have been divorced 10 years after a betrayal/affair of my husband who was an elder/leader in the church. I feel healed and free from bitterness even though we are still always in litigation over money, he doesn't want to pay alimony. I have recently (6 months ago) met an amazing Godly man whom I feel I am in love with. He also is 8 yrs. divorced (ex-divorced him) and we have been trying to pursue a long-distance relationship. We have both stayed pure and will continue until marriage even though we spend one weekend a month together, it's our commitment before the Lord.

I feel strongly about getting married sooner rather than later. I can't imagine having a Skype relationship for too much longer. We have older children, so the kids don't come into play as far as living situation. Am I going too fast? It's hard at 59 to wait too long and can I trust my heart? He's more cautious and analytical and planning time frames for “his” timing but my life will be the life that changes the most and I'm not sure if he's afraid of commitment. We have prayed together about letting God lead us and waiting for His plan to unfold. We met at church, and he considers us in the “courting” stage. Could there be red flags I could miss by long-distance courting?

Answer: Thank you for asking this question. When you feel “in love” and long to be married, it’s very hard to wait and ask for advice. Kudos to you for reaching out to get some perspective.

Long-distance relationships are tricky. They’re hard because when you’re not together you miss each other and are anxious for the intimacy that marriage and being committed provides. They’re also hard because it’s not possible to truly know someone when you spend only limited time together. Someone can be on their best behavior short term. When things are lovely, and you have beautiful days or weekends together it feels wonderful. But that’s not real life. From what you wrote, you’ve only known him for six months, only on weekends. Please do not rush into marriage.

Dating for a longer period and having closer proximity gives you a larger perspective of this person’s character, habits, values, and patterns. Since you are both older, you both have established ways of living, thinking, and doing things. Are they compatible? For example, if you value a tidy space, does he? How does he manage his space? His things? His time? Have you actually been in his home? Has he been in yours? You’re not going to change him, so are you both aware and accepting of how each of you manage your life, time, and resources? Do you even know enough details about these areas if you haven’t spent regular time together? 

Do you know the reason his ex divorced him? How did he handle it? What’s been his dating history? Have you met his friends? Family? What is his relationship like with his ex-wife now? His children? Is it cordial? Peaceful or hostile and estranged? Have your adult children met him? How do they feel about your relationship? Does he like them? This gives you important information on his ability to make and maintain long-term healthy relationships. 

You mentioned that because you have older children they don’t come into play, but I think you’re missing how they do come into play. Is having a close relationship with your adult children and grandchildren important to you? What if it’s not that important to him? Are you willing to miss family Christmas together because he’d rather go on a cruise? Have you met his children? Do his children like you? These are important ingredients to achieving a successful blended second marriage. You’ve only known each other for six months, all of it long distance. In my opinion, this is not enough time to know someone well enough to commit a lifetime to them. 

One more crucial ingredient is finances. You mentioned that your ex-husband is constantly taking you to court because he does not want to pay alimony. Does your boyfriend pay alimony to his ex-wife resentfully as well? Does he have debt? Do you know how much? If you asked to see his checkbook, savings account, credit card statements, credit report, and his last 3 years of tax returns would he show them to you? Would you feel comfortable showing him yours? 

RED FLAG ALERT. If you don’t know the answers to most of the questions I’ve asked you, then trust me, you do not have enough safety or trust in this relationship to commit to marriage. 

I had a friend who was engaged to be married and the wedding was only one week away. This had been a whirlwind long-distance courtship and when she finally put her foot down and required a full financial disclosure before the wedding, she discovered that he had not been truthful. He had no assets and a lot of debt, which he had lied about. Had she married him she would have paid bitterly as she was far better off financially. She was heartbroken but called off the wedding. She realized he was not trustworthy, nor a good steward of money. She could have known that far earlier had she been less romantic and more pragmatic. 

Friend, falling in love is the easiest part of any relationship. Being smart about who you fall for is much harder. And even when you fall in love with a healthy person, creating and maintaining a good long-term relationship is hard work. You both have experienced the failure of a marriage. What have you both learned from that? How have you both grown? 

Please, take your time. Do your homework. You have feelings, but please also use your head to look hard at some of the things I’ve invited you to think about. If everything checks out positively and you want to go forward, then start with some pre-marital counseling around what challenges you might face as you marry and build a new life together because there will be challenges. 

Friend, what are your thoughts or words of wisdom on her question? Any other RED FLAGS you see with long-distance relationships?

18 Comments

  1. Laura Petherbridge on March 7, 2024 at 8:28 am

    Thank you for giving her such excellent advice. I’ve lost track of the number of women I coach who moved long distances to be with a man only to discover there were MANY issues they didn’t know. Also, your advice about adult stepkids is CRUCIAL. Ppl think bc the kids aren’t young that they don’t play a part. WRONG. Many kids are still dependent or expect a parent to help them financially and many other ways. If I were this woman I’d rent a VRBO for 3 months near her boyfriend and REALLY look at how he lives and the dynamics. Trust me I’ve coached many women over 50 who are in a very complex situation with stepkids and a new spouse, home, neighborhood, etc. ask God “ reveal the truth to me of anything I cannot see”. Laura Petherbridge

    • heather on March 7, 2024 at 10:44 am

      good advise to you and Leslie. Thank you both!

    • Jeanne Nixon on March 7, 2024 at 1:09 pm

      Awesome advice! ❤️

  2. Lynn on March 7, 2024 at 9:11 am

    I was in a similar situation as this woman. I was divorced and met my new husband on a Christian dating site. Fortunately he was a widower, although I was divorced after my ex- husband had numerous affairs. I secretly wanted a widower who had loved his first wife. I was very cautious. I talked with him weeks before we actually met, and a friend ran a background check to determine everything he told me was true. I insisted on pre-marriage counseling and we also did a pre-nuptial. Our children very much need to be taken into this decision to move forward, as we both relish being around family for holidays and to be involved in our grandchildren’s lives. We each sold our respective homes and bought one together. We have been married for four years now, and we are very happy together. But it was a huge leap of faith. My husband is everything I would have wanted in a partner.

  3. Alyson Zurek on March 7, 2024 at 9:31 am

    Oh if only…
    I could have used this advice 8 years ago. 18 years ago and 30 years ago. 3 marriages later I will gladly carry this advice into the relationship that lies ahead.

    Right now I’m near the end of #3 and I am ready for a break.

    I’m going to keep and apply resources I’ve learned from you Leslie. Thank you.

    Next week I’m starting Walking in CORE strength

  4. Kristi on March 7, 2024 at 9:32 am

    I hope and pray that all your readers take the advice given TO HEART. I know from experience what you could get if you don’t have full disclosure. (And that means A LOT MORE than what they’ve told you happened!) I would add one more thing: if the man gets miffed if you ask kindly for any kind of proof about anything (instead of taking their word for the reason they’ve not been going to church, or why his kids rarely/never speak to him, why he’s behind on his own bills, the status of relationships with women at work who constantly call/text), then take a huge step back, pivot and run. If you are blamed for “having trust issues and making him pay for it,” pivot and run. If you uncover lies or a lot of half-truths, and you get tears turned on and his, “Would *I* lie to you?” or other guilt-inducing statements, smile, back up, turn and run. THESE THINGS DON’T CHANGE AND DON’T GET BETTER, BUT OH, THEY GET WORSE. They are God-given signs that you are being given to make an informed choice. And even if you’re engaged or the wedding looms, you are NOT married. When you want more time to think, and you’re told what an unsubmissive person you are, remember that until you tie the knot, you are NOT married to this guy, and you do NOT have to submit. Please go with your gut (or your grown kids’ legitimate concerns). Waiting will reveal so much. All of the above would have saved me decades of misery.

    • Amy Cline on March 7, 2024 at 10:26 am

      Also, when you DO tie the knot, husbands and wives are to submit TO EACH OTHER. That is not a one-way street.

  5. Rebecca on March 7, 2024 at 10:46 am

    Yes!!!! All of this!!!! I was in a long distance courtship and definitely got swept up in the romance…problem was, nobody in my life tried to tell me any of these things!!! It was all cloaked in a “God brought us together” way, and I know several other people who have the “whirlwind courtship” story that ended up working out well for them. (At least from the outside, and from what they share!) But the “if two people really love Jesus, and keep Him first, then everything else will fall into place” idea is a bunch of hogwash. It takes a lot of work, and compatibility, and shared values! I definitely experienced the results of someone being able to be/act however you need them to for a short period (weekend, week, etc), especially when that is *all* each of you have going on. But when you throw in daily life, the grind of work and how you cope and recharge after a long day of work, how you communicate about problems, how set in your ways you each are, it can change a LOT! If I could go back in a Time Machine, I would tell younger me to RUN! Or to slow down, be more intentional and curious, seek advice from people who truly know him, and decide if you could have a healthy relationship with him the way he is right now. How does he deal with your “no”, or differences of opinion and perspective? I never really tested that, and discovered it didn’t go well. How does he receive feedback? How willing is he to compromise, listen to you, and self-reflect? Thank you, Leslie, for your words of wisdom! I believe this article should be posted on ALL dating apps!!! So much wisdom and truth.

  6. Suzanne Birch on March 7, 2024 at 3:48 pm

    Fantastic advice. I’m pruning this and saving it for such time I’m smitten with someone (if ever, it’s been 7 yrs and I won’t even date…but that’s another story)!
    Thank you for your wise, objective counsel on this and all matters related to thriving after surviving a destructive relationship. Prayers for you in Korea.

    • Suzanne Birch on March 7, 2024 at 3:49 pm

      *printing not pruning

  7. Angel on March 7, 2024 at 5:51 pm

    Back ground check, get to know the WHOLE family, and Pre-Nup!!! Bonus Tip: try to talk to the ex-wife!!!!

  8. Leslie C. on March 7, 2024 at 6:41 pm

    Love this! “Less romantic and more pragmatic.” Does he pay alimony to his ex-wife resentfully as well?? Leslie you nailed it!!

  9. LJ on March 8, 2024 at 5:27 am

    In hindsight how I wish I had found a way to rent a VRBO in his city for 3 months to really get to observe him in every setting. I paid for it dearly over 13 years psychologically, mentally, emotionally, financially and spiritually.. I even left my country to marry and immigrate to his. It only took 3 months into the marriage to realize he was OCD, perfectionist, controlling, narcissistic. At that early stage I became psychologically terrified of him, developed CPTSD and became a shell of who I was when we had met.

  10. Chelsea on March 8, 2024 at 6:34 am

    Yes, I dated a man long-distance that I’d met in person and we got married quickly (7 months). I missed how he treated women, how he handles money and his pornography and computer addiction. He also doesn’t hear “no” easily but throws a fit often. It’s been a painful journey since marriage; things seemed to change right after marriage.

  11. Missy Robinson on March 8, 2024 at 10:22 am

    Leslie is so compassionate and wise to recommend waiting. Compatibility cannot be determined without much face to face time and interaction during real life events…stress, unexpected interruptions, family dynamics, etc. It’s worth it to wait for confidence in these matters.

  12. Lynn on March 8, 2024 at 6:42 pm

    Excellent advice.
    I was involved in a long distance relationship with a Christian man after my divorce from an atheist. I thought I had done healing and we weren’t together until we married. I thought I knew him well and we connected at a heart level. The day the honeymoon ended he started to reveal his true character. It took 6 1/2 years for me to get out of the abuse relationship. It was easy for him to hide the dysfunction because of the distance. It has taken me years to recover from the shame and abuse.

  13. Bonnie on March 10, 2024 at 11:57 am

    Geat advice from so many pairs of eyes! One thing I thought of. How many men have you dated since the divorce? When I am starving it is so easy to grab the snack bag or cookies and I always pay. But in the moment it meets the need. (not really) I’ve heard something that really sticks with me:” it’s easy to stand out in a crowd of one.” (Henry Cloud, I believe) Is this man in a crowd of one?
    ALL marriages have conflict. The deal breaker is how conflict is managed. A lot of that depends on how a person approaches conflict. Do you approach the conflict with a genuine desire to understand the other’s thoughts and feelings? Is it a side by side approach, eg. ” can we look at this together and come to a resolution of some sort?” How has this conflict, over when to set the date, been approached and handled? Have you looked deep within and questioned why you want to go ahead so quickly? The best predictor of the future is the past.
    I am an artist and I have learned the hard way that impulsivity, although a lot more fun in the beginning always takes me to a place of hard work later, that I never really wanted to do. I have to do the preliminary work of planning and answering as many questions asI can before the first brushstroke. Hope this really helps.

  14. Mary Drontle on March 11, 2024 at 10:16 am

    Add to this is many people who want long distance relationships live a double life.
    I know 90 days tv show isn’t christian but in it 80 % of the people are cheating living in numerous way.
    That is the reality
    They come together after internet dating and nothing is as it appears.
    Your falling in love w words. Be hard to tell if he is a Narcissist from a zoom screen I would think.
    The worse guys can be nice for a fantasy date once a month.
    Question is to ask yourself.
    What is in you that you desperately need to make this happen this quick not even knowing him.
    What do you NEED as Leslie says

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