I am the queen of the long distance relationship and that includes friendships. My policy is, why let geography limit you?
Here’s why: because it means you can’t be there in person when you want. And that was never more true that recently, when someone dear to me and 3,000 miles away needed help. It isn’t easy to be there in person in times of need. Not impossible, just harder. (I may be going at some point, waiting to see.) Long distance friendships ARE more difficult.
But as far as day-to-day friendships, I have to say that I am closer with some people thousands of miles away than I am with those who are geographically nearby. I know how to keep those friendships alive and vibrant and I’m going to share my tips with you. Because I’m certain you know someone many miles away who you’d like to keep closer.
Let’s start with the obvious:
Facebook. Nothing easier for day to day comments and sharing than Facebook. I love Facebook for keeping distant friendships alive. But I don’t rely on just Facebook. That would be cold.
The telephone. Remember that? It has numbers and each friend is associated with a unique number. If you dial it, you can actually talk with them in person! Yes, it’s true. You have a phone, use it. I use it for my distant dear ones. And I don’t mean for texts.
I really do hate text messaging for personal messages like birthdays or real check-ins. It’s distancing. If you are a good friend of mine and can’t pick up the phone or think to send a card? Shame on you! Reminder: if you’re going to wish me a happy birthday on July 23, do it with a card or a call. Even an email. Although really, if it’s my birthday and you and I are close friends? I do not want an email from you. I really don’t. Here’s what I want:
Cards. On my birthday or if I am sick, I want a card with a personal note from my dear friends. Hey, look, the dollar store sells them two for a buck. Actually, a long personal letter would be dandy. You can even type it. I just want more than a few words over wires. Yeah, call me old school.
Remember occasions. Related to cards. Hey, if I graduated, got a new job or had something published? Just like my birthday, I want a card. I want an acknowledgment that you know me well-enough to congratulate me with a note and card. Or a call! Yes, talk to me in person! Let me tell you all about my latest husband! or Riley’s graduation from training!
Send books. Oh, I love this one. A long-time friend in Santa Fe and I exchange books we think the other –or our husbands, or both–would enjoy via snail mail. I love passing along books I enjoyed but don’t want to keep. Easy enough to get a padded envelope. Send it without a note and you qualify for discounted media rate. (It used to be called book rate but now it’s media rate.) She just sent us two books via Amazon, and that’s another option, too. Free shipping for Prime members! I do this with my nephew, as well. Nothing more intimate than a book you know the other would like.
Gift packages. I love to give little presents and I do. A small padded envelope, a little box of tiny treasures to say “I was thinking of you!” is a great way to keep a relationship lively. My soul sister and I live 3,000 miles away but we have spiritual matters in common. A few weeks ago I sent her a Reiki-charged candle, a Celtic knot necklace and some healing stones, all picked out with her in mind when I was at a conference. It wasn’t a big package, but I knew she’d like it. She’s sent me similar things, too. A Zentangler friend has sent me tangles and even a how-to.
The answer to keeping a long distance friendship strong is to show the friend that s/he is in your thoughts often and to maintain a connection beyond an electronic one.
Because when push comes to shove, we want our dearest friends to be more than a name on a screen. And definitely not type on a phone’s text screen.
Now, it’s true that from time to time, a long-distance friend does not reciprocate the contact. For them, it’s out-of-sight, out-of-mind. I have a couple of those, and they’re the ones I stop initiating contact with. It’s ok–there’s a reason, a season…. all that jazz. Fortunately, I have more than enough friends who give as good as they get. You know who you are, we probably just got off the phone.
How do you keep your long distance friendships strong? Inquiring minds want to know in the Comments section!