Long distance friendship is hard. You go from seeing your friend regularly, catching up weekly over a cup of coffee at Sunday brunch or during lunch in the office kitchen. So when a friend moves away (or you do), it’s easy to become overwhelmed with the negative emotions that result from just hearing the phrase, “long distance.”
While romantic relationships are a common form of long distance experiences, they aren’t the only instance – or even, likely, the most frequent. In adulthood, it’s normal to find yourself engaged in a long distance friendship (or a dozen).
But how do you maintain those ties while physically apart so that your friendships don’t end up in the graveyard of acquaintances past?
What is a Long Distance Friendship?
One person might be in a long distance friendship between Argentina and Antibes, while another feel like they’re long distance because they live in Hoboken and their friend resides in Brooklyn. Let’s be real: with New York traffic, that commute could take hours on the wrong day.
We’ll put a stake in the ground and say that any friend you can’t easily and conveniently see on the same day is probably a decent distance away from you. If you can’t get their residence in a pinch, you qualify as being in a long distance friendship.
5 Tips to Maintain a Long Distance Friendship
As the world becomes more connected, there’s a great chance you’ll have several long distance friendships throughout your lifetime. In fact, you might go through life phases where more of your friends are long distance than close by. Like, after graduating from college, for instance.
To keep your non-local relationships alive and thriving, we’ve compiled some long distance friendship tips.
1. Keep a pulse on their life through low-effort touch points.
If you’re not someone who loves gabbing on the phone, keeping in touch with long distance friends might feel extremely time-consuming. But what if we told you that’s not necessary?
Thanks to the likes of Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs, we have a dozen different ways to stay in touch with someone via technology. You can swipe up on their Insta story, comment on their posts, share TikToks with them, or shoot them a quick text with a funny memory or life update.
One of our favorite ways to communicate with long distance friends is through audio messages. This way, you can hear each other’s voices without the pressure to immediately reply or get caught up in a long phone call. These smaller, more casual forms of connection allow you to stay in more frequent communication with little effort.
2. Have a good “catch-up” every once in a while.
In addition to your frequent, low effort touch points, it is worth having a good old phone call every once in a while. Chatting on the phone (or FaceTime) is really the best way to get the scoop on each other’s lives.
The frequency of these “catch-ups” totally depends on the closeness of your relationship and what’s going on in your lives. If you’re both super busy, it might be less often. But if one of you just got engaged, perhaps it’s time to hop on the phone.
Planning a visit is a great idea, too! Having an upcoming trip or visit to look forward to is a great way to forge connection and keep up the relationship.
3. Be there for them during big life events.
It’s absolutely vital to the viability of our long distance friendships to be supportive of our pals during major life events. Because if we aren’t, it will put a strain on the relationship.
If you’re in your twenties or thirties, big life events can pop up at any moment. Between engagements, home purchases, pregnancies, gaining an additional degree…the opportunities to offer your support are bountiful.
This isn’t to say that you need to fly across the country to watch every friend of yours get engaged, but you should at least reach out to congratulate them on these big milestones. Bonus points if you can send a card or a gift to show that you were thinking of them.
4. Maintain a level of normalcy in your communications (read: be yourself).
Sometimes, long distance friendships can make us act weird.
We get in our heads about how we haven’t reached out to this person in X amount of days, weeks, or months, and that makes us feel like a crappy friend. Then we get awkward. Take some pressure off. Remember that the phone works both ways, and it’s not entirely on you to be the one who reaches out.
And this is your friend, not a stranger. With true friends, you should be able to pick up right where things left off, no matter how much time has elapsed.
5. Recognize when the effort isn’t being reciprocated.
You could do all the right things to maintain a long distance friendship, but if the other person is not putting forth the same level of effort, it ain’t gonna work.
If you have a friend who never texts you back or asks about your life, despite your consistent efforts, that’s on them. Know when to cut your losses and protect your energy. If they really are a good friend, they’ll step up to the plate.