I married my high school sweetheart after four years of mostly long-distance dating (we got to see each other occasionally).

This was before cell phones. We used snail mail, email, AOL Instant Messenger, Skype, and a weekly phone call.

It was excruciating.

Today there are a lot more tech options. Great tools that work well and are less expensive.

However, I’m not convinced that relating over distance is any easier now than it was back in the day.

We are embodied. We’re meant to communicate in person. Everything else is a downgrade–a less real option–that both helps our longing a bit, but also provokes it at the same time. Like a few sips of water for an extremely thirsty person.

Dad encouraged me when I was embarking on this four-year distance by saying, “Dan, there are two sayings about absence: ‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder’; or ‘Absence makes the heart wander.’ Obviously we’re all hoping that the first saying will be true in your case. But if it isn’t–and you two drift apart–you’ll still be well served by this trial. It’s better to know now than later what your love is really made of.”

If you’re struggling with a long-distance relationship–that’s totally normal. It’s always hard. There are lots of things you can do to make it less difficult, but if you’re hoping to find the “key” that will make the ache go away–it doesn’t exist.

And besides long-distance romance, if you’re struggling right now relating across social distance–that’s normal too. We’re physical creatures longing for proximity.