I met one of my very best friends late in college. We bonded during my junior year in design classes over Ingrid Michaelson and Helvetica fonts, studied abroad together the next summer, and graduated together in December of 2012. She immediately took a job with TIME Magazine and moved to New York City. For over seven years now, we haven’t lived in the same zip code, and we’re lucky if we get together in person once a year. But thanks to technology, our friendship remains strong, and when we do get together face-to-face, it’s like no time at all has passed.
For many of us, long-distance friendship is our reality (especially right now). Whatever the reason, it can feel like distance is the end of friendship, and that’s a hard pill to swallow, especially when it feels like making friends in the first place is no easy feat.
How to Maintain Long-Distance Friendships
But with technology, intentionality and a lot of grace, distance is not a death sentence for friendship.
Here are five tips for maintaining flourishing friendships no matter how many miles separate you.
It has never been easier to keep in touch with faraway friends than in today’s day and age. Thanks to apps like Voxer (voice messages that can be sent and played whenever) and Marco Polo (video messages that can be sent and viewed whenever), FaceTime, and regular texting, there are so many ways to stay connected.
Consider sticking to a regular day/time for a FaceTime chat, like every Sunday at 8 p.m., or every third Thursday at 9 a.m. Staying consistent means it’s more likely to happen, since it becomes a standing date on your calendar.
Keep in mind that not every conversation has to be a drawn-out, sit-down chat. Texting each other random GIFs or memes, a quick bit of encouragement, or a funny memory you share keeps you feeling connected, too.
Don’t Ditch the Tried-and-True
I did a poll on Instagram, asking women for advice on maintaining long-distance friendships, and was surprised by how many mentioned the old standbys—phone calls and snail mail!
Although we have a million ways to communicate, few things beat a good hour-long catch up on the phone, a note in the mailbox just to say “hey,” or a little care package sent for no significant reason.
Make a note a few days before your friend’s birthday to send an actual card in the mail, give her a call on your way home from work, or scoop up that cute little banner from the Target Dollar Spot and pop it in an envelope to send her way.
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Pray for (and with!) Each Other
This might seem obvious, but it was a big breakthrough for me when I started using a prayer journal that had a spot each month to write down friends’ names and their prayer requests.
I realized how cool it was to text my besties at the start of each month and ask how I could intentionally pray for them throughout that month. It kept me in the loop on things that were going on in their lives—things that rarely make it to the social media highlight reel.
We can sometimes feel like we’re keeping up with our gal pals by scrolling their social media and doling out lots of “likes,” but that can lead to missing the big stuff, the vulnerable stuff, the stuff that can be hard to talk about, even among friends. I found that by asking how I could pray for them—and then following up throughout the month to ask how things were going or how they were feeling—drew us closer together as we shared those hard or heavy things.
You could also go through a devotional or study together with your friend or group of girls, and hop on a video call or group chat to discuss it periodically. Praying the same novena together would be neat, too.
A spiritual bouquet is another great idea, especially if you’re part of a tight-knit friend group. Each month, one person “receives” the bouquet, and everyone else offers Mass, Adoration, Rosaries and other prayers for them. Rotate through the months so each person gets to receive a bouquet once (or a few times!) a year.
Do Things “Together” Even if You’re Far Apart
Whether it’s watching your favorite show together over FaceTime or just calling each other afterward to discuss, or listening to the same podcast episode to dish over later, it’s fun to feel like you’re still doing stuff together even if you’re physically apart. You could read the same book at the same time, or even start an online book club with your friends scattered across the country. Like to exercise? Sign up for an online exercise challenge together. Love to cook? Do a fun cooking challenge together.
Again, technology makes it possible to feel like you’re doing these things side by side, even when that’s not reality.
See Each Other When You Can
While this might not be a reality for everyone depending on their season in life, friendship really thrives when you can get together in-person, no matter how infrequent. Lots of women suggested making plans far in advance so you know you have it on the calendar to look forward to.
Lots of people stick to a reunion the same weekend every year (i.e. the weekend before Labor Day) to make it easy to plan around. Others switch off for birthday visits, but make it a point to spend their birthdays together. Making the effort to get together—while giving lots of grace for when circumstances make it impossible—goes a long way.
Long-Distance Friendships Just Take Some Effort
At the end of the day, long-distance friendship thrives on the same ingredients as in-person friendship: intentionality and a whole lot of grace. Intentionality to truly pursue each other and keep up on each other’s lives and not just rely on social media to keep us filled in; grace to not feel resentful when one person’s life season makes it hard for them to reply immediately, return phone calls, or commit to a visit.
Whether your bestie is the next state over or across the ocean, it’s possible to keep that friendship growing despite the miles, and the effort is worthwhile.
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