Welcome back to the second part in my Politics of Friendship series – keeping long distance friendships! I’m so honored that you’ve taken time out of your busy Valentine’s Day (or Galentine’s Day, or plain old work day) to check out my latest post!
I’ll be totally upfront here: keeping long distance friendships is something that I have always struggled with. Ever since I was in high school, really. And it’s not because I don’t value the friendship that I have with the friends who are far from me, either! But I’m a person who is greatly influenced by the recency and immediacy effect. I’ve always been more likely to respond to and make plans with people who are immediately around me because, we all know, it’s just easier. It’s something I’m still working on.
But since graduating back in May of 2017 I found myself struggling to maintain my formerly-short- and currently-long-distance friendships. All of us are. After all, our friendships were only ever in-person at school, not hundreds or thousands of miles away from each other!
I’ve been making progress in regards to being a better long distance friend, though, and it’s why I wanted to share this with you today on the epitome of relationship days (of all kinds!). Keeping long distance friendships may be tough, but when you put some effort into it, you’ll find they’re so worth it!
Understand what kind of friend you are.
This may sound harsh, but it’s definitely not meant to be! But in order to be successful at keeping long distance friendships, you have to know what kind of friend you are when distance isn’t a factor. But just saying that you’re “a good friend” doesn’t count, either!
For instance, I’ve always known that I’m a friend by proximity. I greatly prefer in-person interactions over texting someone throughout the day. This is a by-product of my terrible texting habits where I’ll drop off the face of the planet for a few hours or even days between text messages. But when I was in college this wasn’t necessarily a problem! If I forgot to text my friends back I was basically guaranteed to see them within a few hours depending on my class or extracurricular schedule, which meant that we could continue the conversation in person easily. But now that my best friends are all in different cities? Being a friend by proximity isn’t realistic.
[ Read On : The Long and Short of Ending the Distance ]
So what kind of friend are you? Are you the online friend who is better at texting, calling, or FaceTiming people than making in-person plans? Or are you the friend who is terrible at online communication (like me) and prefers to talk in person? Are you great at committing to plans or are you flaky about your schedule? Are you always busy so you have to plan things way in advance if you want to hang out? Or are you the type of friend who is always down for last-minute plans?
Accept what kind of friend your friends are.
Sound a little weird? Sure, but this step is just as important to keeping long distance friendships as the last. Now that you’ve taken a good look at what kind of friend you are, you also have to accept the type of friend your friends are.
The most important aspect of keeping long distance friendships is mutual understanding and compromise. How can you expect to remain friends with people if you don’t understand how they express their friendship, as well as where their shortcomings are? Accepting how your friends view and express their friendship will help you remain friends long-term.
I make sure that my friends know that I’m terrible at texting as general rule so that they don’t misinterpret my lack of response as ambivalence to our friendship, and I always let people know that due to my introverted nature I need plenty of warning about possible plans and will almost never do something last-minute. But now that most of my friends from college live in different cities than me, I need to make a more concerted effort to catch up with them online!
Prioritize time to catch up with your long distance friends.
The fact of the matter is that without effort on all of your parts, it’s very easy for friendships to crumble when they become long-distance. Therefore prioritizing making time for keeping long distance friendships is an absolute necessity.Make sure you prioritize time each month to catch up with your long distance friends, even if it's just a few text conversations or a phone call. Click To Tweet
Just like any relationship, you have to be willing to put in the effort to make things work. Remember, it’s basically impossible for you to passively maintain a friendship once it becomes long distance! You have to make the active choice to put in the upkeep necessary to remain friends with people who are no longer in close proximity to you.
My best friends from college all, besides one, live in a different city from me, and the closest one is a two-hour drive away. The furthest one now lives in a different country! And the fact of the matter is that it’s actually impossible for me to remain a passive friend and still expect our friendships to work out. If I don’t prioritize making time to talk to them it doesn’t happen, full stop.
Make the effort to see each other as often as distance will allow.
While some friendships can afford to exist solely online, most friendships that started in person need to be maintained at least partially in person. And that means making time to visit each other whenever distance allows it!
[ Read On: The Best Advice for Working with Friends – The Politics of Friendship ]
Are you going to be able to see each other every day, or every other day, like you did in college? Most likely you never will again, and how often you see each other will depend strongly on your distance. In reality I can only afford to see my friend Maegan, who currently lives in Paraguay, maybe twice a year if she comes back to the U.S. once and I go to Paraguay once (like I’m planning on doing in the fall, and now that I’ve published that it will hold me more accountable to it).
Seeing each other in person on occasion is one of the best methods for keeping long distance friendships alive. In my opinion, talking over the phone or through a computer screen can never replace hanging out face to face, or rekindle a friendship as well as seeing each other a few times a year!
Know that keeping long distance friendships means compromising.
No friendship can be successful without compromise and long distance friendships are no different. But long distance friendships need to be built off of the participants’ willingness to compromise, and without it, the friendship most likely won’t last.
What do I mean by this? In reality, neither you nor your friend will ever get exactly the same thing out of your friendship as you did when you weren’t long distance. Both of you have to be okay with that.You have to be willing to compromise in a long distance friendship or else the friendship won't last. Be understanding and supportive when you can! Click To Tweet
So what compromises will you be looking at if you’re working hard on keeping long distance friendships? For one, you’re going to have to work really hard to overcome any bad habits around electronic communication or flaky behavior, even if it’s part of who you are as a friend. These bad habits are ones that will ensure your long distance friendship won’t work out. You’re also going to have to manage your expectations for how often you’ll see each other, be able to talk on the phone, or even talk throughout the day.
The most important thing to remember is to be understanding that your friend’s life now doesn’t revolve around your friendship, and you have to accept that sometimes plans won’t work out or will have to be rescheduled or re-thought. Being willing to compromise in this respect will ensure that your friendship lasts a lot longer!