If there is one expression I have found to be true over the years, it is “distance makes the heart grow fonder.” Getting older means that your circle of friends broadens and goes from those friends you grew up with to friends from college, friends from work, friends of friends, and a thousand other unique situations. This is both a wonderful and difficult thing. Adults are far more mobile than childhood friends. Some of us move far from our hometowns. Others travel, or get relocated for work. The likelihood of some distance being put between you and some of your friends is most likely, unfortunately, inevitable.
Take my friends, for example. I’ve got a solid group around my home base. They are wonderful people who I love dearly. Yet quite frequently, I find myself missing a good seven or eight people. There’s one of my best friends from college who moved to Hawaii, my amazing high school guy friends who relocated to Philly and Los Angeles, and a whole gaggle of special individuals from my study abroad group who are spread across the States and several continents. Let’s be blunt. Long distance anything sucks. But, it’s not impossible. After several years of practice, my long distance friends and I have it down pat. Here are some tips I’ve picked up on to make the most of the miles in-between.
Respect one another’s time and busy schedules
Long distance relationships require flexibility. Keeping up with each other is hard enough without the obstacle of time zones thrown into the mix. Scheduling phone calls or FaceTime can be difficult. While we all have the best intentions when we say we will be free to talk Sunday night, sometimes stuff comes up. I’ve found it’s quite useless to waste time being upset or angry when a scheduled phone call falls through. Instead, accept that spontaneity is going to become an important factor in your long distance friendships.
I love when my friend in L.A. randomly calls me up to let me know about something exciting that happened at work. I embrace the six hour time difference between my friend in Maui and me. If I have a late drive home after a night out, she’s usually just getting off work and is always so willing (God love ya) to listen to my stories and any venting that needs to happen. There’s honestly no rhyme or reason to the schedule of catchups anymore. When you’re willing to have an easy breezy attitude about those lengthy conversations you’re itching to have, it lightens the serious amount of stress that is already on a long distance friendship.
Little gestures make a world of difference
Look, if I could, I would love to buy tickets to make surprise visits to all of my long distance friends on a regular basis. But, here’s where we step outside the rose-colored world of movies and novels like Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, there are a ton of factors that affect how well moves like this actually play out. Factor 1: Time off for you. Factor 2: Time off for them. Factor 3: Money. Factor 4: Busy schedules.
It’s seriously ok though. You can make smaller gestures that are ALMOST as great as a surprise visit would be. Things like sending them a song you think they would like, or tiny care packages in the mail! Sharing a funny meme via text is always a welcome laugh. My friend and I used to send each other videos through YouTube (until my students found them and enlightened me to the fact that were indeed NOT private, so proceed with caution). These little reminders to let someone know you’re thinking about them can honestly make the difference between a bad day and a good day. When a long distance friend reaches out with a small but thoughtful gesture, it can leave me smiling all day.
Making the most of visits when they can happen
This is probably a given, but there are a few things I try to keep in mind when a friend is home visiting or I get to go visit them. When a friend is home, you have got to keep in mind that there are probably many other friend-sick people who are also eager to see them. No matter how much you want to, you cannot monopolize your friend’s time (unless they’re trying to spend all their time with you, in that case, you go right ahead) or pout when they do spend some of their time with other people. Please refer back to rule one.
When you guys do get to be with each other, enjoy every second and do whatever it is the two of you feel like doing. If you’re visiting them, remember to be a polite house guest. There is nothing worse than a rude one. Yes, you’re true friends will still love you if you’re a horrible house guest, but future invitations to visit may dry up. On both occasions, know it is totally acceptable to cry upon leaving one another. And if you have no idea what I’m talking about, disregard. I have unhealthy attachment issues.
Always remember that if you’re true friends, distance does not matter
At the end of the day, I think the universal truth about long distance friendships is that if the relationships is real and solid, distance truly will not have a mega affect on it. There’s the obvious: you’re not going to get to see each other a lot. Then there’s the less obvious: you’re still going to laugh with each other, cry with each other, share inside jokes, support one another, take interest in all the minor and major events going on in one another’s lives, share old memories, make new memories, and immediately call them up the moment you have news to share. They physicality of the friendship may change with distance, but the roots and strengths of that relationship aren’t going anywhere.
I remember every time I learned a friend was moving away, or I had to say goodbye to a friend returning home. My heart broke a little (ok, sometimes a lot). Here’s a hard truth we all have to accept in situations like this. We can’t be selfish. On the inside, maybe we can be a little selfish, but on the outside, you cannot let it show. We have to be supportive of our friends and the brave choices they make. We then help them pack up their cars and suitcases, give them a bear hug goodbye, and tell them to text or call us when they safely land. And when they do, you two start a new journey together. You feel the path out, grow accustomed to it, and rejoice in the fact that states, countries, oceans, and continents apart cannot ruin your bond.