How To Maintain A Long-Distance Friendship
In a long-distance friendship, the road is a two-way street
It usually happens in college: your friends get into different universities, some of them overseas, and suddenly you’re spending lunch breaks with new faces. The text messages get more frequent and the messenger groups start to form but the face-to-face conversations get fewer and farther in between—for the lucky ones, monthly; for the unlucky, annually.
RELATED: Relationships to Pursue in Your 20s
But making that jump from daily interactions to digital meets isn’t easy; it arguably takes more effort and time and understanding. There are individual schedules, activities and sometimes time zones to consider. With everything happening, the landscape of the friendship drastically changes.
While I’m fortunate enough to have formed close bonds with those that still live a city or two away from me, I did lose someone to Australia a few years back; she had dreams our institutions couldn’t help blossom or challenge, so off she went.
She and I first found our footing in high school; I think I was a junior and she was a sophomore. By the time I was mid-way through university, she flew off. I like to think we found new ground to stand on—and our new footing is pretty steady.
Accept that they will have a life separate from yours
When a friendship becomes so tightknit, you both become very intertwined in each other’s lives. You can sprawl yourself in their bed without fear, you can talk to their parents as if they were yours, you can eat off their plate, you can answer questions about their lives as if you lived the moments yourself—but a physical distance will change this.
There will be moments in their lives that 1) do not involve you and 2) they miss out on telling you about. It’s okay, learn to roll with the punches instead of asking yourself why they didn’t tell you; it doesn’t mean the value of your friendship has diminished.
Calendar your catch-ups
A full-on catchup will not be as easy to plan when you have a long-distance friendship. What used to be “Hey, dinner tonight?” now has to be, “You free for an hour (or three) this weekend?” Calling them is not as simple, either. Sure, you can squeeze in those five minute check-ins, but you have to respect that they have other things going on as well.
And instead of feeling awful that you can never catch them at a good time, schedule an actual conversation—one where you can really focus on and pay attention to each other.
Get into the same things
An environment affects a person living in it so much, from the food that they eat to the music that they listen to. And while a friendship is heavily about being there when they need you, you still need commonalities to talk about. So if you’re distanced from a close friend, make it a point to try and get into the same things: start on the same book, watch the same movie, binge the same series or listen to a newly-released album together.
You know you’re there for the tough stuff; mix in a little fun along the way.
Meme feelings? Yes. Random Tiktok video? Yes. A voice message of you just screaming? Send it their way because they’re likely feeling the same (even if they’re miles away).
Patience, patience, patience
But here’s the most important thing to practice when you’re in a long-distance friendship: patience. You cannot hold it against them if they aren’t able to reply to you right away, you cannot get mad when they need to cancel your calendar dates (within reason, of course). Try not to get frustrated when it takes them hours to comment on something you said and try not to be so guilty when you take some time to respond as well.
Understand the friendship has changed; know that this doesn’t mean the value of it has.
Long-distance friendship? Definitely doable—as long as you’re both willing to put in a little more effort. And if you see yourself pulling and pushing too often and for too long, here’s one last piece of advice: learn to let go (because that’s okay, too).
Art Alexandra Lara