Friendships get harder to maintain as you get older, especially when they become long distance friendships. All those late night movies, weekly sleepovers, drunken evenings, and wild nights will likely become few and far between, but that doesn’t mean that the love can’t still be there. These thoughtful ways to keep long distance friendships from wilting will help you show you care about high school friends after leaving for college, college friends during school breaks or quarantines, and all types of friends if you move away from them.
1. Write Actual Letters
Being pen pals is a beautiful way to keep in touch. You capture a real moment from your life with a letter. There is also the personal touch of your unique handwriting, and the fact that each card can be a cute, funny, or sentimental token that you can display and treasure even though you can’t enjoy each others company. Sending a letter always takes a little more effort than a text, and it doesn’t feel as rushed. When you are writing a letter, or when you are reading one, there is always such a gentle stillness. It’s a moment to read, to remember. Your long distance friendships will surely benefit from moments such as these.
2. Schedule Phone Calls
Long distance friendships mean you can’t catch up over coffee, or vent during a therapeutic walk. Long distance friendships also make it harder to give the relationship the attention it needs to keep growing because you become focused on living the life that is directly around you: your job, your classes, your grocery shopping or your dining hall, the friends in your vicinity, that annoying person who always asks you questions at the most inopportune time, how much time it takes you to do that one task. Whatever your life looks like away from the friends who you still want to keep, you can easily become distracted from letting those friends know you care.
Although it might not happen all the time, catching up over a long phone call once a month or once every few months will make a huge difference in how you and your friend feel about each other. You can still know what’s happening in each others lives, but with some distance, you can also hear them talk about the growth they experienced during a situation. It’s quite beautiful to experience your friends in this new way. You don’t have your own opinions of the situation to distract you!
3. Don’t Get Upset If They ‘Don’t Keep In Touch’
I think it’s easy to always put the ‘blame’ outside of ourselves, and convince ourselves that it is someone’s ‘fault’ that we aren’t keeping in touch, which we usually assign to the other person. If you want to keep your long distance friendships from wilting, change your mindset. Just as you can get distracted and involved in the life that you are directly experiencing, your long distance friends will also become distracted and involved. Nobody is at fault. Both of you are living your lives, and living your lives separately does not mean that you don’t love each other anymore. Let the space exist. It’s healthy for people to move apart and come back together; we all need room to grow!
4. Do Something Together
Video call cooking is something I have personally experienced, but there are so many things you can do together with the internet! There are board games you can play online, Netflix party mode for watching movies, online cocktail parties you can have- the options are endless! You could even workout together with the right setup. Although the experience of physically being with each other is wonderful and cannot be replaced, it’s still nice to set aside some time to have fun with each other. Enjoy each other’s competitive spirit, or take their cooking and baking tips to make your snacks even better!
5. Share An Experience, But Alone
Do you both love bookstores? Coffee shops? Museums? Nature walks? Something? Plan an activity where you do exactly the same thing even though you aren’t together. You can text or talk occasionally throughout your day, or cherish the fact that you’ve both committed this time to spending on yourselves at the same time, doing the same thing. After having this beautiful alone time, you can share what you learned, what you did, and what you saw with your friend, or you can just send a heart emoji and go about your day. This offers you the best of both worlds: healing time for yourself, and also healing time with and for your long distance friendships.
The first time you might feel a little awkward, or not. Either way, with time you will start to treasure the feeling of being alone, but together!
6. Remember Their Birthday
Everyone likes a little bit of extra special attention on their birthday, and just because you aren’t physically there with your friends doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate them on their day! It might seem harder to be thoughtful with some distance, but in reality any effort you put into making someone feel special will be amplified by the fact that you aren’t there.
Although sending them a happy birthday text or making a special Instagram compilation is nice and lets them know you’re thinking of them, it doesn’t mean a whole lot. Instead, plan ahead by sending them an actual gift or a hand written card. You can send flowers, you can coordinate something with friends who are still there: there are many options! If you care about your long distance friendships, show them you care by going a step further.
7. Send A Care Package
Especially when someone is having a hard time, a thoughtful combination of little things will make your long distance friendships grow. A care package feels like the equivalent of a long distance hug, and you should take advantage of this. Send snacks, little trinkets from where you are, things you know they could use, a little note, etc. You know your friends best, so prepare them a sweet surprise. Note that packages can be expensive, so save this for when they really need the mood boost!
8. Text Them On Holidays
You probably don’t have tons of money to burn on gifts for all the holidays, so save it for birthdays if you’re on a budget. Holiday greeting cards are also a wonderful way to say hello, but a text should suffice. It isn’t necessary to send something out every few weeks for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanza, New Year’s, etc.
Although some of you might be spending holidays closer to friends, others create long distance friendships by going home for the holidays. Let people know why you’re grateful for them on Thanksgiving, ask them how their family celebration is going for their winter holiday, or send them your favorite memory of the past year on New Year’s Eve. It’s nice to include your loved ones in all sorts of celebrations. If all of these holiday greetings feels a little too clingy for you or your long distance friendships, just choose one.
9. Be Extremely Supportive On Social Media
Social media is about getting attention at least to some degree for everyone, but it’s also about keeping in touch with people, career advancement, etc. Take advantage of the wonderful way it connects you to friends. Even if you don’t have meaningful, deep discussions all the time in long distance friendships, you can occasionally respond to a story, like a picture, and comment on a post.
I personally LOVE being highly supportive towards my friends on social media. The internet can be such a dark and lonely space, so to see encouragement, support, and love in your notifications gives your long distance friendships a little boost through endorphins and attention. This helps remind your friends that you care about and support them even from afar. Works great with acquaintances, too!
10. Do Something ‘Just Because’
Use any of the ideas above, but do it just because. Write them a letter not because you are replying to them or expect them to respond, but because you are thinking of them. Leave them a message on their voicemail not because you expect them to call you back, but because you wanted to say something, and you wanted to use your voice. Send them a little gift from where you are because it reminded you of them, not because it’s their birthday or Christmas or Chanukah or any other holiday. It is so lovely to be thought of, and to be cared about enough for ‘just because’ kind of attention.
What are your best ways of cultivating healthy, long distance friendships? Let us know what works for you, and which of these options you’ll try!
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