We’ve all got our best friends — the pals to whom we can go no matter the situation because they’ve seen us through highs and lows. We need friends like this to journey with us through life. But what happens when you or your friend moves across the country and you’re suddenly not a five-minute drive away when you’ve had a bad day and need to chat, or want to do something spontaneous and fun? How can you stay close to a long-distance friend who has played such a big role in your life?
As someone who has been through a lot of transition in the last year and half — graduating college, moving home, changing jobs, moving cross-country — I can attest to the fact that staying close with my best gal-pals who don’t live near me is hard. But there are several tips that have helped me stay connected and involved in my BFFs’ lives despite the distance.
1. Be intentional
When I was in college, I took for granted all my friends being in the same location. Looking back, I appreciate that time in my life so much more because I realize I don’t have the time or energy to invest in all of these people all the time when we don’t live near each other. That was a hard realization to make, but it made me prioritize my friendships. We all have busy lives — work, social events, home life, etc. — and sometimes (okay, a lot of times) there aren’t enough hours in the day. I could run myself ragged trying to stay in touch with every single one of my friends from college and back home, or I could choose to be present where I am and pick just a small group of distance-friendships to cultivate. Who are those friends whom you know you want to be friends with when you’re old and grey? Write them down and then…
When you live in the same location as your BFF, it’s easy to make time for each other because you often have similar schedules and shared experiences. When you move away from each other, you don’t have these things in common anymore. Your lives have changed. It makes it difficult for communication to happen organically, which means you have to prioritize. Schedule it in your planner — that’s what I do. I’ll try to pick one of my friends who doesn’t live near me and make time to chat with them each week. It has helped me stay connected more often and be intentional about our friendship because the truth is, life’s busy! If you want someone in your life, prioritize them.
3. Be honest
If you’re anything like me, you don’t like to be the Debbie Downer of a conversation, especially if you haven’t talked to someone in a while. I notice that if it’s been a month or so since I talked to one of my girlfriends, I will catch them up on life, but it will be on a superficial level. That’s an unsatisfying level to be communicating on. Be honest and sincere. Part of the reason you’re best friends with someone is because they’ve seen you go through highs and lows and have walked alongside you. Just because you don’t live near them anymore doesn’t mean they still don’t want to be next to you for the journey. If you’re having a bad day, tell them! Shoot them a text. If you’re having a good day, let them in on your joy. Don’t settle for superficial. Be honest and real, and your friendships will continue to blossom.
4. Social media is your friend
If used right, social media can be your biggest friend for long distance friendships. Facetime and SnapChat conversations make me feel like I’m still next to my friends back home. I’m also a big fan of the Marco Polo app. It’s like Facetime on your own time — perfect for busy people who might not be able to take 30 minutes or an hour to catch up during the week. If there’s distance between you and your besties, make use of social media. It makes it SO much easier.
5. Make the extra effort
When you lived in the same town, it was easy to text your friend to go out for coffee, drinks, or do something fun. Now you don’t have that convenience. It’s a sacrifice to take time out of your busy schedule and make time for this friend, even if you do enjoy their friendship. But going back to tip #1, if you want someone in your life, you will be intentional about it and prioritize the friendship. That might mean turning down drinks with friends one day after work to FaceTime that friend. It might mean taking five minutes out of your busy morning to shoot them a text and ask how they are doing. If you want someone in your life, you are going to have to make the extra effort. Love is not convenient; it takes sacrifice. If done correctly, long-distance friendships should teach us how to empty ourselves in the sacrificial love we’re called to.
I’m saving the best for last here. For Lent this past year, one of the things I did was to text someone everyday and lift them up in some way. A lot of times, this was as simple as a text saying, “Hey, just wanted to say have a GREAT day! Let me know how I can pray for you.” This random message made a lot of peoples’ days, and they would share how I could pray for them. This helped me be intentional, stay connected, and honest. And I learned about what was pressing most deeply on the hearts of my friends. Bring your friends into your prayer life. Ask how you can pray for them, and be sincere. Let the Lord be the ruler of all parts of your life, especially friendship.