How to Keep Your Long-Distance Friendships Strong
Remember how easy friendship was in college? Face time with your closest pals was as simple as a quick jaunt down the hall from your dorm room — that is, if you and your besties weren’t already roommates. As we get older and forge our individual paths into adulthood, it’s natural for friendship to evolve. Friends move across the country (or even out of the country) for jobs, relationships, or other opportunities, which inevitably means the logistics of keeping up with the people we love get more complicated.
Thankfully, with a little help from technology and good old-fashioned thoughtfulness, there are plenty of ways to maintain — and even grow — a long-distance friendship. First rule of thumb? Always remember that while miles between you and your friends may be a downer (who’s going to join you for Taco Tuesday?!), they don’t have to be a damper on your relationship. Are some of your nearest and dearest dots scattered across the map? Here are a few of our best ideas for keeping the friendship flame alive, even from different time zones.
1. Leverage the convenience of the internet — but don’t rely on it. Thanks to technology, staying in contact with friends is as easy as signing into social media or shooting off a text — just call it “remote friendship.” And there are certainly pros to keeping your friends in your back pocket. Social media and text threads are a simple and convenient way to make you feel like you’re present in your bestie’s everyday life, while apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger ensure you and your international pals can stay in touch regardless of location or phone service.
But keep in mind that the modern conveniences of the internet can compromise the emotional intimacy you’re used to in a close friendship. Plus, so much can get lost in translation in strictly text-based communication. (You know what they say: One woman’s happy emoji is another’s passive-aggression.) Remember: Prioritizing your friendship means ensuring it continues to grow, even with miles between you — and that takes planning and intention. If you want to continue investing in your long-distance friends, carve out time in your routine to connect “face to face” on FaceTime or Skype. Think of it as quality time, a crucial ingredient in any friendship.
2. Agree on the parameters of your communication.Setting boundaries — the art of communicating expectations to protect your loved ones and yourself from disappointment and hurt — is important in all relationships, but it can play a unique and significant role in long-distance friendships. You and your BFF might be on the exact same wavelength when you’re together, face to face; however, distance can throw a wrench in your communication style. While you might be totally fine with ongoing texting throughout the day, such frequent bursts of communication might be overwhelming for your friend, or vice versa.
To prevent misunderstanding and conflict from the get-go, take some time to set parameters for how, how often, and when you’ll touch base, and potentially what conversation topics you’ll engage via text and which ones are best for a phone call. Also, make sure you’re on the same page about how you’ll communicate that you need space, or that a topic of conversation is really important to you and you need your friend’s full attention.
3. Make an effort to meet in person at least once a year. Even though many relationships can totally thrive from afar, there’s really no replacement for in-person time. Whether you meet halfway for a weekend getaway or take turns visiting each other’s new hometowns, spending time face-to-face can do wonders for your relationship. Not only will you have an excuse for a road trip or vacation, but you’ll probably find that the undistracted emotional connection you experience in person will build trust and intimacy in your friendship for years to come — almost like living in close proximity.
4. Let them know you’re thinking of them from afar. Another way to remind a long-distance loved one that miles ain’t nothing but a number? Gifts and surprises! Think of it as a small investment in your relationship. While in-person quality time keeps most close-proximity friendships afloat and thriving, spontaneous acts of love like snail mail cards or a care package can do the same for your remote pals. Take some time to think about what lights up your best friend, and plan accordingly.
5. Give them grace. You and your friend probably have history together, but the truth is that the seasons of relationships change over time, both with and without distance. If your bestie makes new pals in their new city, don’t despair — instead, cheer them on for their boldness and bravery. And if they flake on your FaceTime call because something came up at work, try to be understanding. Chances are your friendship is still a priority, and your friend is adjusting to the distance, just like you are — and you’re both 100 percent human. Isn’t that what makes friendship fun in the first place?
What are your surefire tips for maintaining long-distance friendships? Tell us @BritandCo.
(Photos via Getty)