Nowadays, it is not uncommon for a lot of people’s friends to be spread out across the country, having travelled and relocated for work and relationships since university. And whilst a lot of emphasis online is placed on maintaining long-distance relationships, there is little really said about how to maintain long-distance friendships.
I personally have a lot of experience with long-distance friendship; 99% of my friends don’t live within a commutable distance from me and finding a time to meet up can be really tricky. Having just been reunited with my girl gang from university, it got me thinking about how we have maintained such a strong bond in the 2 years since we all graduated. Don’t get me wrong, long-distance friendship and the inevitable loneliness that it brings is something that I have openly struggled with in the last few years, but I’ve also picked up some good ways of coping and some things that have helped me to feel closer to my friends.
Get a shared calendar
Honestly, one of the easiest and most helpful things you can do when in a long-distance friendship is getting a shared calendar. It makes it super easy to see when your friends are free to meet up and allows you to make plans far easier than via messages. We use TimeTree as a group of 6, adding our individual plans as well as any meet-ups or holidays and it’s great!
Don’t just rely on a group chat
As is normal for 6 working adults, the group chat can get a little quiet from time to time. It’s hard to stay in touch when we all have so much going on. But I try to send a little message of some sort to each of my friends about once a month outside of the group chat, to check-in and see how they are doing one on one.
Maybe it’s just me, but sometimes I find replying to a group chat quite daunting, whereas a little message from a friend is much more manageable.
Take it offline
With all that being said, I personally don’t like to rely purely on online communication. If you can, call your friends. A phone call can be far more natural and feel more connected than a Whatsapp message.
Something I also really appreciate is letters and cards. I’m a bit useless at remembering to send them, mind you, but it’s such a lovely feeling opening a handwritten card from a long-distance bestie and it definitely feels more personal and thoughtful too.
Mini meetups are good for the soul
With a group of six, getting all of us in the same place can be HARD. So hard, in fact, that this New Year was the first time we have all been together since graduating in 2017. It was so bloody good for my soul, I can’t even put into words how nice it as for us to all be together.
Instead of waiting for everyone to be free, we find planning little mini meetups, where 2/3/4 of us will meet up or go and visit someone from the group, much easier. It’s a great way to see people, feel a bit more connected, and see more of the UK in the process! I definitely want to try and see all the different cities that my friends live in this year as last year I wasn’t too great at getting out and meeting up with them.
Give each other space and take the pressure off
I think I can be quite a full-on friend sometimes. I like to be constantly in touch, doing things, seeing people and I get bored in my hometown very easily. This can mean I put quite a lot of my energy and time into my friendships and a bit of pressure alongside this. This year, I’ve definitely had to learn that I value some people a lot higher in regard than they value me, and that’s tough. I need to work on not feeling quite so paranoid about friendships and not allowing myself to get into that mindset of being left out and people not caring.
Balancing anxiety and long-distance friendships can be tricky, for sure, but I’m going to try and be more open this year with my friends about how I’m feeling – even if it seems really petty.
Remember that your friends have lives too. They will also be busy with work, relationships and other commitments. Give each other that time and space to grow, take the pressure off yourself to be in touch constantly, and you’ll have so much more to talk about when you next catch up.
Be prepared for the effort it will take
It’s not easy. Maintaining a long-distance friendship is hard, for everyone involved. And the effort and the repercussions on my mental health especially was something I was not expecting. So, my word of advice, if you don’t take anything else away from this post, is that you have to be prepared to be there and put the effort in. Be prepared to FaceTime when you’re tired, or go and visit someone last minute because they need you. Be prepared for having to go that extra mile for people when they aren’t physically in front of you.
It does require a lot of effort to maintain a long-distance friendship. But for the right people, it’s worth it.