Recently, I was talking with a friend about the long-distance relationship she has with her boyfriend. We were discussing the difficulties they face, and the challenges that come with dating a SO that lives a plane ride away. While me and my SO live close, it got me thinking about the long-distance friendships I have in my life, the difficulties they bring, and how I get around them. I feel that it’s more common than not to have long-distance friendships, and it seems that everyone can relate to the challenge of having that “friend from college who I rarely get to see anymore.”
It’s not only romantic relationships that need long-distance TLC — friendships are equally important. The older you get, the further away each person’s life path takes them from what they knew/were familiar with growing up. My group of friends and I all live (relatively) close to one another, but we’re all in completely different fields of work, and have gone our separate ways after graduating from college. I have two very close friends that live a few hours away, and I have a bunch of friends I met while studying abroad who live VERY far away. Although it’s difficult to stay in touch with everyone on a regular basis, my friendships are incredibly important to me. It’s vital that I take the necessary to steps to chat with far away friends often and keep up to date on what’s going on their lives. Below are some tips on how I try to stay in touch with long-distance friends, and how I try to do it better.
Set a time to check in/ call/ Gchat each week.
When life gets busier, and connecting on the phone becomes less and less frequent, it’s helpful to set designated times during the week to talk with one another. My best friend and I usually arrange a call each once per week (at least). For me, being able to hear her voice establishes a deeper sense of connection that isn’t there through plain Gchat and text (although they are both insanely helpful for daily check-ins). When we need to vent about certain subjects, doing so in real-time (and hearing the tones, pauses, and hesitations) provides more information than a simple text ever could, and it allows me to give my friends better advice that is, measurably, more helpful.
Use apps to your advantage.
Apps should NOT be underestimated! There are limitless free apps you can use to connect with friends and loved ones. For my friends who live abroad and I, texting and calling apps that use the internet rather than cell data are a godsend. They keep us in touch without having to rely on sending emails and Facebook messages. Here are a few I rely on to stay in touch:
A personal social networking app to keep in touch with friends. You can use the app to text, share music, trips, workouts, and more.
What’s App is a fantastic app for texting long distance. It’s great for groups of friends, specifically — you can use it to send photos, videos, emojis, and more!
The simple act of tagging a friend in an Instagram post, mentioning them on Twitter, or sharing an article on their Facebook wall can let a friend know you’re thinking about them. My friends and I also send Snapchats to one another, which provide small video snippets of what our days look like and what we’re up to. I used to bemoan the fact that social media took up so much time in everyone’s life, but as I’ve gotten older, I find myself relying on it more and more to remain in contact with friends.
Plan activities to look forward to, together.
One of the things I most look forward to is planning activities a few weeks in advance with friends I haven’t seen in a long time. For me, planning a weekend at the beach, a dinner at a restaurant we’ve read great reviews on, or a trip to a local bar we’ve been wanting to try creates a sense of excitement not found otherwise. Part of capturing the spirit of the oLdEn dAyS when we saw each other more frequently means planning fun things to do together to create NEW memories with one another. It’s essential that my friends and I don’t simply “catch up” and rely on the memories of days past, but are actively creating new memories with each other that we can laugh about years from now.
Celebrate their milestones with gusto.
It’s important to take time to celebrate the milestones in life, whether it be a birthday, a new job, a promotion, an engagement, etc. Paying special attention to these moments, even if it means snail-mailing something to celebrate with, is essential. These small acts of kindness and friendship are what sustains a long-distance relationship and strengthens the bonds of friendship, no matter how far away you are from one another
Most importantly, tell them how much they mean to you.
I will be the first one to admit that I don’t often tell my friends how much I appreciate them. When you’re used to seeing someone every day, saying these affirmations out loud seems trivial because you’re used to spending face time together. However, when a long distance separates you, you might be shocked to discover how far a small statement like, “I’m so thankful to have you in my life,” can go.
Not to sound morbid, but cherish your group of friends while you can, and take time to connect with them often and in a meaningful way. Like a long-distance romantic relationship, maintaining long-distance friendships can seem daunting. But it’s worth every single minute spent on that phone, texting, Gchatting, and tagging. Truly good friendships are difficult to come by, and when you find friends that make your life feel whole, do. not. let. them. go. Don’t let distance erode the beautiful bonds of friendship, and do what you can to keep them alive and healthy.