Survive Long-Distance Friendships
It's a fact of life that as we get older, our lives often move in different directions from our loved ones. Maybe your friends are leaving the town where you all grew up, or maybe you're the one that moved, for school, or a job, or a romance. Add the constraints of children, or elder care, plus the actual time difference between the places where you live, and the next thing you know it's been weeks—or months—since you bonded with your girls. That's not good for any of you—the bonds of long-term friendship are an important part of our emotional and mental health, and finding ways to stay in touch are crucial, especially when our day-to-day lives are so hectic. These are some ideas of how to squeeze the ladies back into your life.
Cover the spread
Thanks to technology, there are more ways than ever to remain a part of each others' lives. Social networking sites are an opportunity to keep abreast of each other, so take the time to comment on the Flickr photos of her new condo, or when she Twitters that she's having a stressful day. Long-distance charges are no longer a good excuse, since you can use free calling services, like Skype, to get in contact when it’s convenient for you both, instead of missing another opportunity for touching base. Send her a quick Instant Message when you hear something she would think is funny, or if you see a bracelet that's just her style. It might seem inconsequential at first, but in a few days, you'll realize that you feel back in touch of where she's at on a daily basis.
Bits and pieces
Just because you can't have dinner or a coffee face to face doesn't mean that you and your friend can't have real, meaningful conversations. But maybe the format of that conversation has changed. If you're exchanging emails about a serious topic, don't let the subject drop the next day, or if you move over to another platform, keep the conversation flowing, the way you would in person. And don't forget to be a listener, as well as a talker. Remember to send an encouraging text message in the days after she shares a personal problem. Even if she's three time zones away, you can leave a voicemail for her to wake up to, reminding her that your virtual shoulder is there for her to cry on.
Make the time
Of course, lengthy bonding sessions are what long-term friendships are based on. That means scheduling time with your faraway friends the same way you’d prioritize your partner or your career. Try and make a habit of it: Wednesday nights are phone call nights. Sure, you'll probably only have 10 free minutes most of the time, but often enough it will turn into an hour, or more, and you'll remember how hilarious, thoughtful, and sweet your old friend is. If you're lucky enough to visit each others’ home towns, always make sure you get some alone time, rather than squish all your socializing into big group events. And, if you can afford it, try to take real vacations together—with or without your partners—every couple of years, at least.
Accepting the transition when we move away from our friends can be really tough: once, you saw each other weekly but now, you don't even talk on the phone once a month. Even if you can't hang out in person, try to keep a physical element to your friendship. The easiest way to do this is to send real, paper greeting cards for birthdays and other special events—send real present if you've got the cash. She can keep the note on her fridge or wear the necklace often, as a reminder that she's got a real friend across the country—and that she should call you already!
Written by: Denise Balkissoon