Moving to a new city was a logical step after Joseph and I got married at the beginning of last year. Joseph had accepted a new job, we were ready to start a home, and a new city promised some great adventures.
When I packed up my things into boxes and moved away, I left behind some amazing, inspiring relationships with friends back in my hometown. As we settled into our new apartment, I realized that almost all of those friends would be living at least an hour from me. And while phone calls, text messages and intentionally planned visits are wonderful, they’re just not the same as seeing everyone face-to-face on a regular basis.
During this year and a half of living in a new city, I’ve realized that maintaining long-distance friendships can be just as hard of a task as finding new friends in a new city. And while the internet is overflowing with tips and tricks about how to maintain a long distance romantic relationship, it felt like I was left without a lot of resources when it comes to navigating the world of long distance friendships.
Maybe you’re unpacking your moving boxes after making a move for a relationship. Perhaps college has left you hours away from your closest friends. Maybe life as an adult has pulled you away from those you used to live right next door to. Regardless of how you came to be in a long distance friendship, here are some things I can recommend to you for maintaining those soul-level friendships even though the miles are separating you.
1. Be intentional with your friendships
Because you probably won’t be running into each other on a regular basis, that means that you have to be intentional and committed to creating opportunities where you can continue to deepen your friendship. The first step is accepting that long distance friendships are going to take a lot more effort than they did back when you saw your best friend in class everyday, or called them your neighbor.
Long distance friendships require intentionality and effort. However, because you’re choosing the friendship deliberately, long distance friendships have the potential to become the strongest friendships in your life. Don’t be afraid to ask your friend their expectations for your friendship after you move away. Take time to discuss how often you’d like to talk to each other, and share ideas for how to communicate.
2. Let go of jealously
When we first moved to Kansas City, I’ll admit that I was jealous when I saw pictures of my friends back in my hometown spending time together. I wished I was still able to stop by their house randomly throughout the day or see them on the weekend. Even though I only lived an hour away from some of my closest friends, it felt like just enough distance was between us to stop me from spontaneously dropping by their house.
It can be hard to see you friend spending time with other friends after you become long-distance. Be patient with the adjustment to a new city, but also be patient with yourself. It’s okay to recognize that this will sting a little bit.
Instead of buying into jealously, rejoice that your friend is encountering authentic friendships in his or her life. Just because your friend is having someone over for the game night that used to be just for you two doesn’t mean that your friendship is forgotten or replaced.
3. Take time to share big news away from social media
When Joseph and I had big events happen in our life, we wanted to make sure to reach out to friends and family personally and share big news. We didn’t want close friends and family to find out we were changing jobs, moving, or getting a new pet through a Facebook post. There’s nothing that hurts more than seeing a huge life update in a good friend’s life on Facebook before hearing it from them personally.
Whether it’s a new relationship, an engagement, a new job or a new house, make sure to intentionally contact your close friends before posting that update on social media. Before you post that picture or status, make sure that those who are nearest to your heart will be able to celebrate with you before the entire world sees your update on Instagram.
4. Plan times to see each other
Texts, phone calls and Skype are great, but they’re just not the same as seeing someone face to face. As many times as you type ((hugs)), it won’t ever compare to getting to hug your friend in person. So make plans to see each other.
Maybe you’re just an hour or two away from each other and can get together in the evenings or on the weekends. If you are more than a few hours drive away from each other, intentionally plan a date on the calendar to see each other. Then make sure it happens. Whether that means saving up for a plane ticket, or finding a spot that’s halfway between the both of you, find time in your schedule to see each other in person.
5. Send some good, old fashioned snail mail
If you’ve moved far away and crossed time zones, maintaining your friendships can be a lot harder. Worrying whether your friend will still be at work (or asleep!) when you call can make contacting each other pretty difficult sometimes. And even if you’re in the same time zone, not knowing the other person’s schedule can lead to some impressive games of phone tag.
Although technology makes it easy to leave messages for people to get back to when it’s best for them, there’s something to be said about intentional communication. If you’re sick of sending out text messages and never knowing if now is a good time, can I suggest an old fashioned remedy? Snail mail.
Sending letters, postcards, or just quick notes to your long distance friend is a great way to foster intentionality. Because you’ll have to take time out of your schedule to write them a letter, you’ll be intentional with what you have to say. And if there’s one thing adult life has taught me, it’s that getting something besides a bill in the mailbox can make your day. What are you waiting for? Send your long distance friend a quick note in the mail just to let you know that you’re thinking of them and miss them.