It’s easy to say that long-distance friendships are possible, but when the rubber meets the road it can often seem like a daunting task.
Feeling up to the challenge? Here are eight tips that can help you make the most of it.
1. Choose Wisely
We may optimistically say that we’re going to continue keeping in touch with everyone we meet, but realistically that’s just not possible. The fact of the matter is that healthy relationships are nearly always more difficult to maintain from a distance. They’re going to take more effort, more thought, more intentionality. Long-distance friendships never happen by chance. So make sure you’re choosing who you want to invest in wisely. Don’t spread yourself too thin. It sounds selfish, but it’s really the most loving thing you can do for your friendships. You are making sure that you are actually able to commit to the people that you call friends.
2. Call Regularly
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“I’m not as close to my friends who’ve moved away. We end up only talking every few months, and then the conversation is always just catching up on big news.”
I’ve heard and expressed this sentiment on so many occasions. It’s a simple fact of life — if you go months on end without talking to someone, it’s going to change the closeness of your relationship. Don’t be that friend. Once you’ve chosen who you want to intentionally invest in, make it a priority. I have a handful of dear friends that I have weekly calls scheduled with. This is enough for us to stay on top of and in each other’s lives, rather than just distant spectators.
3. Keep up with Them on Social Media
The caveat here, of course, is that they need to be social media users. But if they are, this can prove to be a very helpful way to stay connected to things they care about. I have all of my long-distance friends marked as “top friends,” so I get a notification every time they update their page. Whether it’s an article they liked, some pictures of their recent outing, or a silly cat video, I am connecting with their lives. It also gives us more things to talk about on our weekly phone calls.
4. Schedule Video Calls
Every now and then, it’s good to connect with more than just your voice. Try to schedule a time every few months to connect a little more intimately. You can use Skype, FaceTime, Facebook Video, Google or whatever video messaging platform you prefer. There are plenty out there. Which program you’re using doesn’t matter. What matters is that you simply make the effort to see each other’s faces and connect (virtually) face-to-face.
5. Remember Important Events like Birthdays and Anniversaries
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It’s easy to forget about things like this when you don’t see someone for a while. Especially when you have a bad memory, like I do. To combat this, I created a separate Google calendar just for birthdays and anniversaries. There are two reminders set up for every event — one a week before, and one the day of. The first one gives me enough time to get a card in the mail if I want to. The second is just a reminder to call or text them on the day of. I know from being a recipient of these phone calls that they can mean the world to the receiver.
6. Write Letters
If you really want to go all in, try to write letters to them occasionally! Letter-writing is, sadly, becoming a lost art form. However, the up-side of this is that letter are all the more treasured when they are written. Letters are a delightful surprise to receive in the mail. They break up the monotony of bills and junk mail, and are something that can be kept forever. I’m a huge fan of letter writing!
All friendships need some time together in the real world. What I like to do is to try to schedule vacations around visiting friends. I have enough friends in other countries that I could see a large part of the world by simply going to visit all of them. For friends who live in the same country, long weekends are a good time to hop on a plane and go see them. You’ll be nurturing these close relationships AND getting free lodging on your vacation.
8. Be Understanding
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All of these tips sound wonderful on paper. But at the end of the day, no one’s going to be able to do them all the time. There will be busy seasons in life, times when day-to-day stresses are far more pressing than writing a letter to an old friend. Be forgiving during those times. Putting pressure on a relationship is never a good thing. They’ll be grateful for your understanding, and most likely more willing to be patient themselves when you go through a busy period of your own.