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How to Turn a Long Distance Relationship into Marriage

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Do you feel like you’re ready to make the ultimate commitment to your long distance partner?

Are you thinking about how to turn your long distance relationship into marriage?

Exciting times! But let’s stop for a minute.

The dynamics of an LDR are very different to a geographically close one. Turning a long distance relationship into marriage takes a lot of careful consideration, reflection, and discussion with your partner.

When I got engaged and married to my long distance partner, it was a lot of work! I felt that we wouldn’t have succeeded in signing our marriage certificate and being together today if I didn’t keep these points in mind.

  • Have more than just a strong connection
  • Make sure your partner is on board
  • Get married for the right reasons
  • Spend some time together first
  • Make sure you’re stable in life
  • Consider pre-marital counselling
  • Research how to register your marriage
  • When planning the wedding, have each other’s back
  • Don’t rush into it!

Have more than just a strong connection

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If you’ve only been chatting with someone online for a few months and one of you is already thinking about wedding bells, perhaps that’s a sign you need to slow down.

Marriage is more than just feeling passion for someone. Like it or not, passion can wane. Keeping the fires stoked 24 hours a day isn’t reasonable. And marriage is definitely not a way to “lock someone down”!

If you both choose to marry, you’ll enter a union that intertwines both of your lives. It’ll also connect your families as well. You’ll be entering a deep commitment to each other. If you choose to have children, it’ll strengthen your union as family.

On top of all that, marriage confers all sorts of marital rights to your future spouse. This can include next-of-kin status, custodial rights, the right to make certain spousal medical decisions, tax filing options, spousal privilege, inheritance of property, and more.

If one or both of you are considering the prospect of marriage, you should both be on the same wavelength in several areas. For instance:

  • Are you willing to support your partner in balancing your respective dreams and aspirations?
  • Have you met each other in person yet?
  • If you have, have you met their parents and family? Have both your families met each other? Will there be any potential issues on cultural conflicts between your families?
  • Speaking of families, what’s your stance on starting one? Are you willing to have children? Is having children a possibility in the first place? What about adoption?
  • Are you going to combine finances? How much will you share with each other?
  • How do you deal with problems? Do you approach them differently? Are you concerned with your partner’s attitude at all, such as anger or jealousy issues?

If you’re not on the same page on any of these issues, are you or your partner willing to change?

Make sure your partner is on board

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A successful marriage takes two people. If you haven’t already discussed the idea of marriage with your long distance beau, plan on doing so soon.

It can be hard, especially if you’ve never raised the topic before. It’s even trickier if you’re both still apart and you aren’t sure how things are going to work out.

You also need to have a solid plan for how you’re going to end the distance. This includes figuring out who is going to move, where you’ll settle, and what compromises might need to be made along the way. If you don’t have confident answers for these issues, you might be jumping the gun if you’re already considering marriage.

Get married for the right reasons

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For some countries, a spousal visa is one of the easier ways to obtain permanent residency. 

However, if you’re thinking of getting married just to get the visa, we don’t think that’s a good idea.

If you do both choose to marry, make sure that you marry for the right reasons:

  • You’ve spent lots of time together and feel a deep, soulful connection
  • Your relationship works on several levels and you both want to develop a lifelong partnership with each other
  • Your love for each other is deep and genuine, and you both want to take it to the next level
  • You have several shared common goals
  • There are no doubts or major concerns between the two of you.

Also, if you’re hoping that marriage will “fix” the distance by encouraging either of you to make a move, we don’t think that’s a good approach either. If neither of you commit to relocating, you’ll just end up being a married couple that’s living apart.

The risks of marriage fraud

Immigration departments deal with hundreds of sham marriage applications. According to the immigration lawyer we saw for our own application, she estimated that at least half of U.S. spousal visa applications were not bona fide relationships.

If you’re planning on just getting a marriage over and done with to apply for a spousal visa to close the distance, that might raise some red flags. Immigration departments have seen it all, and they have the final word.

Even if your marriage and relationship is genuine, you’re expected to provide extensive evidence of your relationship history. You’ll need photos, ticket stubs, chat logs, and more to prove that you entered your marriage in good faith. 

Spend some time together first

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If you haven’t already done so, make sure you spend some time together physically.

How we present ourselves online is a narrow window into how we truly are in person. We can control how much of ourselves we want to present or show at any time. 

So if you’re planning on making a commitment to forever with them, it might be a good idea to spend time with them. Long-term if possible.

Living with someone can reveal things about themselves that may not have been obvious while you were chatting with them online. It could be a glaring habit you can’t ignore, or a stance they have that you don’t fully agree with.

Finally, moving in together for the first time after a long distance relationship can definitely be an adjustment. It can be even more daunting as a newlyweds!

Make sure you’re stable in life

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While you don’t need 100% stability with a paid off car and mortgage and a fully funded 401(k) to marry someone…it doesn’t hurt to have your house in order, either.

If you’re not in a good place in your life, whether it’s your career or personal relationships, marrying someone won’t make all those issues magically go away.

Spending a lot of money on a wedding reception and a lavish honeymoon will feel good at the time, and may bring you closer together for a while. However, if you don’t have a game plan after the wedding, it might all be for nothing.

Also keep in mind that moving countries can be expensive, and visa applications are also not cheap. I personally paid up to $4,000 for my visa application and transportation costs. If you choose to use an immigration lawyer, it’ll be even more.

Consider pre-marital counselling

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Whether you’re living apart or together, seeing a pre-martial counselor can give you a better chance at a stable, satisfying marriage.

The counselor can help you both identify and navigate difficult topics of discussion. They can cover marriage roles, your beliefs and values, and how to deal with problems.

Before we decided to get married, my wife and I talked with a pre-marital counselor. Since we were still living apart, we called up a virtual counselor and chatted over Skype.

It does cost money to speak to one. However, you may be able to get a discounted rate through your insurance or some other program. 

We ended up paying for about two or three sessions, and we still found it fairly helpful. Our sessions identified issues that really affected us and helped us figure out how we could go about approaching them.

Research how to register your marriage

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There are plenty of avenues to consider when it comes to registering your upcoming marriage.

If you’re in the same country, that should be the most straight forward option. Check if your country has any laws on inter-state marriages, and if your state has any laws or restrictions on who you can legally marry. If not, go for it!

If you both live in separate countries, that may be a little trickier. Several countries offer a “fiance” visa that allows someone to enter the country for a specified period of time. The expectation is that the visa holder marries their partner during that time. After the wedding, that person can then apply for a change of status to a residency visa.

The U.S. equivalent of this is the K-1 visa.

Alternatively, you can check with your nation’s laws (or consult a good immigration lawyer) if you can get married in the country without using a special fiance visa. You and your partner can then use your marriage certificate to file a spousal visa for whichever country you plan to settle in. (This may take longer than the first option, though.) 

Check your country’s immigration department website. Look for any indicators showing how long it currently takes for them to process an immigration application. Prepare to see long wait times for some countries (months, or years).

Finally, keep in mind that a country’s political climate and its immigration policies can affect application processing times, too.

When planning the wedding, have each other’s back

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Take it from me—planning a wedding long distance is hard. (I go through a series of steps on handling a long distance engagement in this post.)

We had the wedding in my home city, and I could sense it was difficult for my wife. It’s difficult to try get a sense of exactly how you want the wedding to be without really being there.

She was here to help book the venue, but had to leave shortly afterwards. I stepped in and did a lot of legwork with vendors, photographers, and bakers. She finally joined me about two months away from the big day.

On top of that, there were so many issues in managing our family’s expectations. This was especially true when it came to cultural differences, dealing with certain family members, and all the other fun things when it came to planning a wedding…but with the added long distance!

If long distance wasn’t enough of a challenge, planning a long distance wedding will really test your mettle.

Don’t rush into it!

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If you’ve both been apart for a while, you may feel that getting married can help accelerate your relationship and bring you together faster.

While it can make it easier in some respects, we feel that you shouldn’t take this decision lightly.

It won’t only be the two of you getting married; both of your families will also be connected to each other as well. If you both come from separate cultures, they’re also going to come together whenever you both tie the knot.

If you’re still not sure if marriage is the right option for you and your partner, take your time. Perhaps you may need to focus on yourself before committing yourself to being a full time partner for life. Or you might feel more comfortable moving into marriage if you spend more time with your partner in person.

Whatever the case, if you are truly in love with each other, you’ll both do your best to make it work.