Some people have lots of friends. Anyone they like or spend time with or talk to regularly becomes a friend. It seems like they everyone ends up in the “friend” category.
I have acquaintances.
Don’t cry for me yet. I have just as many acquaintances as some people have friends. I just categorize relationships differently. It’s an introvert trait.
I consider a friend to be someone who is just as interested in my well-being as I am in theirs. They understand where I’m coming from. They get me. I don’t have to quantify or qualify my thoughts or feelings to them. These people are rare gems in my life.
My friend moved away.
Suddenly “friendship” has become a study. (A typical INTJ trait is to turn emotions into studies.) My friendship is worth keeping even though we are nearly 1000 miles apart. But I worry about “out of sight, out of mind.” So how does someone keep a friendship real and fresh despite the miles?
The key to long-distance friendships is frequent and consistent contact.
When we sat at each other’s kitchen tables on a weekly basis and had face to face conversations, it was easy. We didn’t measure the time between visits. It just happened. “Drop in for some coffee.” “Let’s take the kids to the park.” “See you at church.”
None of those things are available to us now. The only thing for us to do now is make a conscious decision to stay in touch. The technology available makes it easier, but it still takes human effort.
How to stay in touch with a long-distance friend.
1. Text often.
When we could sit for a coffee chat, we didn’t plan what we would talk about. We just chatted about life, kids, faith, ups, downs, and whatever. It wasn’t all deep, life changing thoughts and theological debates. Sometimes it was very unimportant, mundane stuff.
Whatever is happening in your life or your day for that matter, share it. Seriously. Who else could really sympathize with me when my coffee maker died? My friend. She know as much about the weather here as she does about the weather there.
Pictures of yourself. Pictures of the kids. Pictures of the coffee pot. (Yes, I sent her a picture of my new coffee maker.) Pictures keep your life real and a visible part of her life. It says, “You’re not here, so I’m sending it to you.”
3. Write letters.
It’s harder than it sounds. But it’s worth the time. Especially if you have something deeper in mind that you want or need to share. Sometimes I just want to share with someone I know will understand. And for someone like me, it’s easier to put it on paper.
It may seem obvious. It’s not always the best means of communication. Especially when there are children involved. It’s easier to have a phone conversation when you can give your undivided attention. My kids are like magnets though. As soon as my phone is to my ear, they need me for this or that. There is sure to be a fight that breaks out that I have to go referee. Still, it’s good to hear your friend’s voice.
We try to schedule “coffee chats” (much of our friendship revolves around coffee) around our schedules and when we think our children will be in pleasant frames of mind. Sometimes it works out. Sometimes it doesn’t.
I find this means of contact to be best suited for family greetings or for the kids to get a chance to chat. It’s not the same as sitting across the kitchen table, where a few silent moments pass unnoticed. Silence can be very awkward during face-time. I see you. You see me. We can’t think of anything to say. Unless you’re into making faces at each other. Whatever suits you.
It works much like texting. I tend to use it more often when I’m sitting at my desk with my laptop. I like my keyboard way more than that swipey keyboard thing on my phone. It’s good when we’re both working on our computers and the conversation doesn’t always require immediate responses.
7. Mail packages.
Receiving little gifts are a sweet reminder that you were thinking of your friend. Even a card is a token of friendship. It is literally giving a piece of your world to them. It doesn’t have to be much or even sentimental. When there is a distance between friends, you lose the physical part of your friendship. Gifts keep that part intact.
As much as possible, whenever possible. It might be once a year. It might be for only a couple of hours. If you’ve done a good job of staying in touch through the months, it will seem like nothing has changed.
Good friends are hard to find. They are worth the effort to keep.
What’s the hardest part of keeping a long-distance friendship alive? Do you have any tips? Leave a comment.