How to Maintain Long-Distance Friendships

Don't let distance keep you away from your friends. Use these tips to stay close, across miles.

by - Posted on May 26, 2017

How to Maintain Long-Distance Friendships

In my 20s, I left Kentucky and moved to Ohio. Then California. Then Colorado. And then back to California before finally returning to my hometown. Every relocation meant there would be friends I’d have to leave behind to set off on my next adventure. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about keeping the lifelines to a friendship intact no matter how many miles are between you.

1) Manage Expectations

You and your friend might not be able to hop on the phone every day or even every week. We’re all busy and there are probably in-person friends and family making demands on your pal’s time. That doesn’t mean they care about you any less. It just means when you do get time on the phone or a chance to video chat, you must make the most of those moments. I had a friend move to China for work. Sometimes when she called me, it’d be 1 a.m. my time, but I’d stay up and chat with her because I knew how hectic her expat life was.

2) Be ready to go the extra mile.

If you or your friend travel anywhere remotely near each other, go out of your way to get together. A friend of my mine flew from Orange County to Nashville for a marathon. I drove three hours from Kentucky to spend time with her. When I lived in California, I had friends who extended business trips so that we could spend a couple of days together.

3) Schedule time to chat

My best friend from high school was a new mom and I was in a different time zone in grad school. But she made an effort every few weeks to call me on her drive home from work. We’d have a good 30-40 minutes of uninterrupted chatting. This continued even after she had a second baby. When I moved back home our friendship felt like I’d never left.

4) Vacation together

Most people have a limited amount of vacation time and funds. If you don’t live someplace vacation-worthy, why not plan a trip with your buddy? One friend and I hadn’t lived in the same state in 5 years, but I saw her on a trip, whether it be to Costa Rica or a quick weekend trip to Vegas. Not only were we staying in touch, we were creating new memories together.

5) If you feel it, say it

When my friends are far away, I make a point to remind them of how special they are to me. When there’s distance, it can be harder for people to see how they’re contributing to your happiness. Sometimes after I’ve vented to a friend on the phone, I’ll send a quick follow up text thanking them for their time. I’ve received cards and "just because" gifts in the mail from friends who want me to know they’re thinking about me.

6) Connect over little things

If you’d read our text messages you’d think some of my friends and I saw each other all the time. We text each other about the mundane things like having to work late or losing an earring. By being able to connect over little, casual things and not just the big life events, we’re creating a more steady, constant presence in each other’s lives. Another friend and I maintained our connection over a TV show we both watched each week. We always had an excuse to text each other.

7) Use Social Media

Social media has been such a blessing when it comes to keeping my long-distance friendships going. It’s allowed me to not only keep up with my friend’s lives passively, but I’ve also come to learn more about their other friends in the comments section and that makes me feel more deeply connected to them.

8) Know when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em

Not every friendship is a friendship that can survive long distance. Some friendships are solely dependent on your proximity to that person – and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s kind of like that work pal you stopped eating lunch with when you got a new job. When I lived in Denver I had a friend I saw several times per week. Shortly before she moved to Atlanta, we realized we didn’t have much in common besides our desire to move to new cities. So, we didn’t stay in touch.

Keeping friendships alive after a big move takes work. But as we get older it can be harder to make new friends and there’s something deeply gratifying about having someone in your life whose known you for many, many years. So, make the effort! Your kindness and commitment will be rewarded by having more people in your life that care about you – and a couch to crash on anytime you’re in your friend’s city!

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