14 ways to keep your long distance friendships alive
1. Don’t play sitting ducks
When I lived in Italy I’d just pick up the phone and text or call willy nilly as freely as I liked most evenings. It didn’t matter how long it had been since there last call or mine I just picked up the phone and sent a message or a text. The difficulties come when you both play sitting ducks. We I call last time so I’ll wait for them to call. Believe me I have friends who never text and rarely call. Yes yes bin them you say! Wrong! Sometimes you just have to realise some people are massively rubbish at the reach out, but when you do speak to them it is like you are never apart. Have a friend like that? I have a few. They just aren’t so great at the connect but the re-connect-that they do sublimely. Obviously you need to know the different between time lapse and time waste. But if their a time lapser they are ALWAYS worth it.
A long time between calling sometimes. Yet can’t shut us up once we get going!
2. Remember big events
You know that friend who remembered every key event? That used to be me! But with the busyness of life, or maybe the 2020 craziness has dampened my brain. So now I’ve invested in a birthday calendar. Everyone’s birthday, Anniversaries etc are written on this calendar and I just need to remind myself during the last week of the month to check who needs which cards for which event the following month. The calendar helps me to stay on top of things. So…to the friends who say “you always remember”…now you know….I forget as much as you, but I remember to WRITE.IT.DOWN.
Friends birthdays I never forget…but anniversaries, kids birthdays etc forget it. This birthday calendar was worthwhile.
3. Send Happy post
I used to be an avid snail mail writer. However, this only works if both parties as avid snail mail writers. Chances are the time needed to sit and reply isn’t always favourable to everyone’s lifestyles. So I binned that off and find ‘Happy Post’ is now my favourite (slow way) to connect. A quick note card…MISS YOU.LOVE YOU.CAN’T WAIT TO SEE YOU is enough and maybe some little token. I like when I find things in shops that make me think of someone and I just get it on a whim and send it to them. I love to make my friends smile.
4. Write an Email
I have long distance friends in Canada, Italy, Ireland, America…to name but a few and I still very occasionally enjoy sending them an email. It’s a great way to detail what’s happening in my life without the stop – start pauses of voice notes and text messages. It’s quicker than the aforementioned snail mail and works great for those that need time to read and reply at a time that suits them. Then no one feels obligated to get pen and paper out….let’s face it how many of us get round to actual 90s-esque letter writing these days?
From Ireland to America to Columbia to Italy – We have A LOT of destinations yet to visit!
5.Make routine time for each other
I literally have to set reminders on my phone to remember date nights. I literally cannot keep all of that stuff in my head anymore. I hate to think I’m always the one forgetting. But I do. Only human. If you know you cannot remember the date or time. SET.A.REMINDER! No shame in it, trust me!
6. Try not to cancel (read: ‘forget’) your “dates”
Try to keep to your set day and time if you have one. Granted life happens things need a re-jig, but for the most part if you have a set day or time try and stick to it. Firstly, it means that you are being consistent in investing in your friendship. Secondly if your doing group calls you are all more likely to remember the day and time rather than having to constantly message in the group chat for a reminder or constantly cancelling on everyone. Although we have all had to at some point. Sometime you just need a break from maintaining friendships. Think Self-care too.
7. Always show up in the busy
It is far better to turn up for that virtual call in the middle of the craziness then just consistently bin off your friends. Believe me after a while they’ll lose energy. Prime example – Last week Vicki jumped on the call later after putting the kids to bed. It had been a long arse day of home schooling…. again (hang in their parents) and she still hadn’t even had dinner herself. But none the less. She SHOWED UP! Granted we mostly stared at the kitchen ceiling whilst she cooked, but she took the time to show up for our virtual time. Chipped into the conversation in between cooking and trying to plan home-schooling too! What a champ! It in those moment that you realise the long distance friend are life. The show up whilst “doing life” with you.
8. Call in the middle of the mess
Literally love my group chat with these 3 beauties – we always catch up whilst in the middle of the mess
2020 was a complete mess am I right? No one and I mean no one expected this. All my friends plans of visits to the Netherlands scuppered! But the only constant was knowing I could still connect with my friends. Albeit virtually. We called when the house was a mess, when our brains were scrambled, when we looked a mess (picture above as proof). But none of it mattered. What mattered was we knew we could call, video chat, send post, cry, laugh, dance whatever. We found our comfort even in the middle of life’s mess. Now that’s how we do long distance.
9. Be Vulnerable
The other day. I had a melt-down! I guess that’s what I’m calling it. The overwhelming feeling of drowning just washed over me. Yes yes. God helps me in the overwhelm. But this had nothing to do with lack of prayer time. This was about purely missing my UK friends and family. Covid has meant (like many) I have missed out on a year or longer in some cases of seeing friends and all those best laid plans of visits scuppered.
So I cried and I cried and then I was okay again. Bottling up my feelings wasn’t necessary. I was with my people. no judgements. Just pure, raw unapologetic grief an overwhelm. Being reminded I’m strong, yet we are stronger together. My friends met me in the middle of my pain and it was virtual hugs all round.
10.Embrace the New
When my friends started getting married and having little humans of their own, I was like what is this? How do I navigate this next chapter? I wasn’t married and had no kids (although I liked them), like what will happen? Will they start hanging out with just other mummies? Will all they have to talk about is their new babies? Will I get bored? Truthfully No, No and NO! True navigating new seasons is hard but
Likewise when I made a permanent move to the Netherlands ….man I wanted to make friends so badly. New country, new culture, new language, new people. Slowly…and I mean slowly but surely I did. But….I seriously missed what felt like the simplicity and ease of my “ride or dies”, known me for centuries friends. And….big BIG! I felt like either we’d lose touch or I’d become a blip on the radar in their lives. Almost as if my new expat life was a replacement for the old one. Not so. Just go with the flow. Keep up with the originals, but embrace the new too.
It’s hard when you miss your long distance besties – but I’ve enjoyed embracing New friendships along the way
11.Have faith in your friendships
No distance of place or lapse of time can lessen the friendship of those who are thoroughly persuaded of each other’s worth.”Robert Southey
I think the main reason my long distance friendships have stood the test of time is that I have complete faith in them. Friendships aren’t like the vegetables in your fridge that grow mould, spoil and need throwing out if you forget about them for a week if you neglect to check on them for a week. They’re built on trust, hugs, and memories. (for me: especially those hugs!) If you are both/all willing to put in the time, effort and faith into it, you can always come back to it. Treat them like fine wine. They only get better with age.
“The people who are meant to be in your life will always gravitate back towards you, no matter how far they wander.”Unknown
You’d be surprised how much social media can be a help and not a hinderance, when used correctly. I actually found and now long distance with my best friend from when I was 4 (literally the girl next door) because she reached out on Facebook a few years ago. We actually lost touch 3 times , but God had a way of consistently bringing us back together. Now I’m Aunty to her kid!
God is good all the time! I literally got reacquainted with my soul survivor, church weekender bestie Kirsty after uni. We lost touch somewhere between 6th form and Uni and then once I move home for a while after uni we re-connected at a church service one Sunday. A few years later she made me Godmother to her daughter. So, yeah God works in great ways. I always feel like “what God joins together let no one separate” relates to friendships too.
So social media can be good for the soul and a fun way to connect with your friends. I sometimes use Instagram for voice notes, if I’m connecting with friend on a specific post or something.
From missing friends to long distance buddies
13.Do things together whilst apart
“Though miles may lie between us, we’re never far apart, for friendship doesn’t count the miles, it’s measured in the heart.”Rozina Hasham
When I began life as an expat I tried to ensure I could still hang out with my friends and do the things we love. I began having dinner date nights with one friend as that is what we used to do when we lived in the same country. We’d cook our meals then sit and “eat” together. Or you can set up a movie and watch it together. I’ve recently begun mini book clubs with different people. We get the same book read together then discuss after every few chapters….usually at the end of the week. That way we can do an activity we both love and then still get the connection we need. Obviously, we end up talk long after our thought on said book, movie, meal have been discussed. It’s a fun way to reconnect, especially virtually.
14.Anticipate the long awaited reunion
Yes….we are STILL.IN.A.PANDEMIC! When will it truly end? Your guess is as good as mine. But I’m actually compiling a list of activities things, movies days out that I cna do with certain friends when we can actaulyl physically see each other again. Catching up virtually is a great buffer in the mean time. But I cannot wait until the hugs and kisses and popcorn and days out roll round again.
What tips do you have for building friendships that last? Are their any friends you had to write off as time wasters since the pandemic began? Are you navigating inter country friendships like me? Leave your comments below. Let’s connect!