How To Keep Your Long-Distance Friendship Thriving
Love & Relationships

How To Keep Your Long-Distance Friendship Thriving

One of the many chapters casually missing from the Adulthood Manual is the section on how to keep and maintain friendships.

The concentrated environment of colleges and universities truly did a number on how we perceived the frequency we’d be able to meet up with our friends beyond graduation. There was just something comforting about knowing that if we ever needed a venting session or to meet up for lunch, our friends were just a dorm room away. But as years passed, jobs changed, pandemics hit, and marriages happened, our friendships had a way of moving further away.

Thus, long-distance friendships were born.

Take me, for instance. In the (many) years since I made my first big-girl move away from my small town to New York City, I have since lived in Los Angeles, back home to the South, and now Chicago — which means I have a lot of friends and associates, spread across the country. And while that may seem like an appealing status, knowing a lot of people doesn’t away correlate to having deep connections with them.

As humans, we tend to like people we see often. It’s the Mere Exposure Effect. This psychological phenomenon refers to having the tendency to develop a “preference for things or people that are more familiar” to us than others.

So when our friends are out of sight or not in close distance to meet up regularly, celebrate life’s milestones, or just shoot the breeze in pleasant yet mundane activities, they tend to become out of mind. That’s why, in the case of long-distance friendships, creating opportunities for connection is essential for their longevity.

Sometimes quick check-ins via Instagram DMs and comments just aren’t enough to keep the gel between two friends bonded. A text here and there, mixed with a couple of “I was thinking about you’s,” don’t always hit the same as setting up a FaceTime call, a prescheduled coffee chat over Zoom, or pulling up to their city. Real life happens between social media updates and tweets, and in order to be a part of these moments, even from miles away, you’ll have to put in a little more effort.

While it may feel like a chore to keep your friendships thriving with miles between you, distance doesn’t have to be a barrier to keeping the dynamic alive. And here’s how:

Know How Much Communication You Really Need:

When it comes to our friends, sometimes we can expect a certain level of communication — whether a lot or a little — that we may have never expressed. But communication, especially from a distance, can’t be a guessing game.

When connecting with your long-distance friends, be open to sharing your communication needs and how much you’d like to see the two of you contribute to the relationship. Do you consider yourself a “bad texter”? Are bi-weekly check-ins more your speed? Or would you like to have a touchpoint every other day? And does this work for both of you? Being clear and transparent from the start will help limit moments of miscommunication and hurt feelings and allow more grace to be given.

Reconnecting Isn’t Awkward:

Say life gets busy, and you fall off from communicating with your friend on a regular basis. These moments can make us go back to our old ways, where a minor pause in communication can lead to more time passing before we pick up the phone again.

In long-distance friendships, awkwardness is not your friend, and in most cases, the passing of time doesn’t constitute the end of a friendship. So reach out. Don’t let your brain convenience you that you won’t be welcomed back or that your friend has completely moved on from you. It’s okay to send a “Hey girl, life has been life-ing, my bad” text and pick things up where they left off. There’s nothing awkward about reconnecting. After all, you are friends.

Don’t Run From Healthy Conflict:

If there’s one thing that long-distance friendships can guarantee you, it’s that challenges will happen and conflict will occur, but it’s how you handle the conflict that matters.

Misunderstandings are going to happen, a tone will be misread, and you or your friend might say something in jest that’s taken personally. In each case, don’t run from correcting these moments. Sometimes, it is necessary to take a step back and give each other some space to reflect and reach an understanding. But when you communicate to be understood and not to “win,” you allow healthy conflict to be an opportunity for personal growth and a chance to grow together.

Develop A Friendship Anchor: 

When you think about your long-distance friend, what’s an interest or hobby that you all share in common? Is there a TV show you can binge-watch together? Or are there some gym goals you both can keep each other accountable for? Establishing these casual touchpoints can help keep your friends top of your mind and create inside jokes and shared memories you can look back on.

Make Room For Growth: 

The truth about adult friendships is that the woman you grew to learn and love when the friendships first started will bloom into a new version of herself that you’ll have to learn all over again. And that’s the beauty of friendship.

She’ll become a wife or mother, brokenhearted, or pivot into a new passion. Still, you can grow separately and support each other along the way. While it may feel foreign to get reacquainted with the new version of your friend, remember it’s probably just as much, if not more, strange and different for her too. But it’s the support that matters because that’s how sisterhood lasts.

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Featured image by Luis Alvarez/Getty Images

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