Long distance friendships are inevitable in adulthood. When you go off to college, you leave all of your hometown friends behind, and then when you graduate, you leave all of your college friends behind to move to wherever you have landed your first job. Job transfers happen. Marriages happen. Often, you are left with best friends in different corners of the country. For me, I have best friends that live all over the country -- Arizona, Arkansas, Tennessee, Virginia… they are everywhere! And, although we don’t get to see each other all the time, they are still important relationships that I want to cultivate.
But, let’s face it life gets crazy & we might go weeks or months without being in touch with one another. This year, one of my goals for 2018 is to be more intentional with my friendships, both those that live close by and those that I have to board a plane to get to. As I have been thinking through what that looks like and talking with some of those friends, I’ve compiled a list of 5 ways to be a better long distance friend…
Recognize that quality is not determined by quantity of consecutive minutes.
Somewhere along the way, I bought into the lie that in order to call one of my long distance friends and have a conversation, I was going to need to have an hour and a half set aside so that we can catch up. Well, very rarely do I actually have an hour and a half’s worth of consecutive free time throughout the day, so the conversations just weren’t happening.
I know I’m not alone in this because several of my friends have confirmed that they thought the same way. I honestly don’t really know where that comes from because it doesn’t apply to my everyday life. If my husband and I both have a busy schedule, but are both home for 15 minutes one night, do I just completely ignore him until I have an extended amount of time available to talk with him? I mean, probably only if I’m mad at him for something… But, for real, we don’t do that. We have conversations when we can and when we do have time to talk more, we do.
Find the times in your schedule that you can connect.
Once you get over the fact that you don’t have to be sharing every second of every day from the last time you talked, I think it’s important to really schedule those times into your week so they are a part of your routine. Maybe every Tuesday on your way home from work, you call one of your friends? Or you call a friend every time you are waiting in the carpool line before your kids get in? While you’re grocery shopping? Folding laundry? Whatever it is, I think you can schedule in times into your everyday life that you are able to connect with the people that you love, even if it is only for a few minutes here and there.
Set goals and intentions for your relationships.
Until the past couple years, I avoided all goals like the plague. I wanted nothing to do with them because I felt like they were constraining, overwhelming, and honestly they just weren’t fun to me. I’ve grown up a little bit in that area and have started to recognize the purpose and power behind setting goals. I think when it comes to relationships, we feel that it’s inauthentic to set goals, but I actually think it’s the direct opposite. If our friendships are important to us, we should be intentional in that regard and not in a way of obligation, but as a way of prioritizing what’s most important so that even when life gets crazy, we’re following through on it. This year, I set a goal for myself to have two conversations with long distance friends a week. I literally have this written down in my Powersheets where I keep track of my goals. I don’t write this goal down as something I just check off the list, but as something that is so important to me. I have other friends who set reminders in their phones and others who have it scheduled into their planners.
“When we do the hard, intimate work of friendship, we bring a little more of the divine into daily life.” - Shauna Niequist, Cold Tangerines
Find mutually agreed upon avenues of communication.
There are so many different ways to communicate today, it can be overwhelming. I encourage you to find what works best for you and your friend. It could be a quick phone call, a steady text thread, or my new obsession, Voxer (think walkie-talkie that allows you to listen when you can). Of course, there may be times that you need to just hop on the phone to talk something out, but find what it is that works best and allows for more frequent and consistent communication. It will probably be different for every relationship, but when you find it, it will make it that much easier for you to stay in touch!
Send a care package or a card.
Who doesn’t love to get something in the mail other than bills and magazines that you don’t ever remember subscribing for? Taking the time out to send a friend something that made you think of them or that you know they will love can go a long way in helping the other person feel valued and loved! Bonus points if their love language is gifts! (If you aren’t familiar with the love languages, we’ll be doing a post on that soon!)
It’s not always cheap but nothing beats being in the same place as your friend for even just a couple of days. It’s something worth blocking off time in your schedule and saving up for! Find times of the year when airfare to where they live is less expensive and alternate who visits who to help with the expense. This may be something that cannot happen often, but if/when you can, make it happen! In the meantime, you can always Facetime to at least feel as though you are getting some face-to-face time.
We hope that this encourages you to love your friends well. What are some of the things that you and your long distance friends do to stay connected? Leave us a comment below!