Keeping Long-Distance Friendships Strong

Things no one taught me about being an adult: how to do taxes, what the hell a deductible is, how to make “grown-up” friends.

It seems like for the majority of our lives, we have friendships of convenience. As kids, we make friends with the other kids at school or on our sports teams. If we move off for college, those friends typically go away and new friendships are made with those we work, go to class, or are in clubs and other activities with. We don’t have to work that hard at maintaining communication or hanging out because we’re already guaranteed to see each other a few times a week.

But what happens when our friendships aren’t convenient any more? We get caught up in the hustle and, often, those friendships are the first things to go. Why? Are friendships less valuable just because you're not physically with each other? Answer: NO.

Two days after I graduated college, I started my first full-time job working at the university. Lucky for me, I was surrounded by one of the best teams I’ve ever been a part of. They were kind, hardworking, funny, and all incredibly (intimidatingly) intelligent. And here I was fresh-faced and a whole lot naive, eager to prove myself at my first “big girl” job.

I spent my lunch hour of that first day like I usually did: reading a book. Little did I know, that one act would lead to the greatest friendship of my life.

Melissa and I developed a great working relationship that slowly, organically, evolved into friendship. Our shared history of growing up in tiny towns, pronunciation of the word “calf”, frequent use of the f-word, and love of books and learning laid a solid foundation that we’d desperately need later on.

D & M at a conference in SLC

A month before I gave birth to my son, Melissa and her family moved to California. We went from spending 40+ hours a week together to being separated by almost 2,000 miles. Our friendship went from convenient to challenging in the blink of an eye. And we’ve never been closer.

HOW? We work for it. We’ve accepted that we have to be more intentional with talking and working at keeping the closeness. Don’t get me wrong, there are days or weeks where life gets in the way and we don’t talk as often. But we always come back and pick up where we left off.

Here are a few tips to navigate those long-distance friendships:

  • Commit - you have to accept that it’s going to be different. It’s going to be harder than your other friendships. But if you’re both committed to staying in each other’s lives, you’ll make it work.

  • Talk constantly - technology is FABULOUS because it’s easier than ever to stay in touch. Text, call, FaceTime, voice message… whatever works for you. Make it a habit to talk with each other throughout your day/week. Vent when you need to, send encouragement, update each other on your lives. Just TALK! Talk as if they're standing right next you and, eventually, it will feel like they are.

  • Don’t rely on social media - If it weren’t for Melissa, I would be terrible at this. I think we as a whole tend to post pictures or update our status to keep friends and loved ones up-to-date with what’s going on in our lives. I’m guilty of it! But… Melissa doesn’t have social media *GASP* I have to be mindful that she’s not creeping on my statuses to get updates on my life (and vice versa). So take the time to update each other AWAY from social media.

  • Use your love language - Ours is GIFs. If you look at our conversation, the majority of our conversations involve GIFs of some kind. It's our love language.

  • Send gifts - Digital Starbucks gift cards, deliveries from Amazon, good ‘ol snail mail… sending small gifts for birthdays, holidays, or just because are great ways to keep the friendship alive. Just because you’re not with each other physically doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate together.

  • Do stuff together - Again, just because you’re not physically together doesn’t mean you can’t do stuff together. Read the same book, do an online course/workshop, have a coffee date, start a blog, etc. Find stuff you both enjoy doing and do it together!

  • Visit - Take a plane, train, automobile, rocket ship… meet in the middle or take turns going to each other. We’ve made it a family rule to take a big trip to Cali at least every other year. But we’ve also talked about family trips or meeting each other in other states when we travel for work.

One way or another, it's about being intentional with your friendships. When you find those people in the world that you want to hold on to, hustle for it! Just like any relationship, friendships need nurturing and work to make them happen. It doesn't matter if they're right next to you or across the world.

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