At some point in your life, you will likely have to navigate the sometimes-murky waters of long-distance friendships. Whether it’s you or your friend doing the moving, it can be a confusing and sometimes unsettling time as you adjust to the new dynamics of no longer being geographically together.
I navigated this myself 3 years ago when I moved across the country to start a Master’s degree, leaving behind my family, extended family and almost all of my friends. It certainly wasn’t easy and it was painful at times. But I did learn, over time, how to work out what my long-distance friendships would look like.
Here are a few of the things I’ve learned about long-distance friendships over the past three years, from the perspective of being the one who moved away as well as the one who stayed behind.
If you are moving away:
1. Accept that you will lose some of your friends.
While it is possible to stay in touch with friends long-distance, you will simply not be able to keep in touch with everyone. As you settle into a new schedule with new demands on your time and a new community, it will be impossible to stay in touch with every friend from your previous home.
The friends you lose will most likely be acquaintances or casual friends, which is normal. It’s hard enough sometimes to maintain a social circle when you live in the same city, but if you are not close to a person who is now far away from you, your chances of catching up are more unlikely. Recognizing that this will happen is a key step in moving forward and integrating yourself into your new community.
2. Be intentional but realistic about keeping in touch with your closest friends.
There will most likely be a few close friends whom you’ll want to keep in touch with as much as possible. The key to doing this well is to be intentional while being realistic. Two of my best friends live across the country, in a different time zone, with vastly different work schedules from mine. We try to catch up on a fairly regular basis, but we expect and anticipate that we may not be able to do so as often as we like. The key is to not give up! It’s great when you can finally get in touch with each other and update each other on your lives. Another option for keeping in touch on a more constant basis is to try sending regular emails or text messages to each other.
3. Use Facebook, Twitter or other social media networks to keep up with friends and family back home.
With almost everyone currently on social media, it’s a great way to keep updated on what your wider circle of friends back home are up to! It’s easy to comment, “like” or reply to what your friends are doing, and it’s a great way to try to stay connected without needing to put in too much time or effort. This can work well for keeping in touch with casual friends or acquaintances.
If you are the one staying in place:
1. Give your friend space to adjust to their new surroundings.
You’ll likely want to connect quickly with your friend once they’ve moved, but give them some time and space before you contact them. This will allow him/her to get things set up in their new home and start meeting people in their new community. It may also take them a few days to get their phone and Internet set up, so they may not be able to contact you quickly. Giving them that space will help them to adjust quicker and deal with the stresses of a move.
2. Continue to make efforts to keep in touch with him/her.
Just because they have moved away doesn’t mean their care or love for you have diminished. Make the effort to keep in touch regularly, whether on Skype, e-mail, text messages or phone calls, but anticipate that your contact will be more limited due to the distance and differing schedules.
3. Accept that your relationship will change.
Even if you are the closest of friends, you will not always be able to keep each other completely caught up on your lives. Distance means that some of the day-to-day details or even some bigger situations in life can be lost in conversation. However, if you can accept that this is the new “normal” for your friendship and make the best of it, you’ll probably be friends forever!
Long-distance friendships are by no means impossible. I know that I have been able to successfully stay in touch with several of my friends from back home. It takes a lot of work, but it’s well worth it!
How do you maintain your long-distance friendships?
About the author:
Kristen Soo is an artistic scientist geek who is currently finishing up a Master’s in Chemistry at Simon Fraser University. When she’s not busy in the lab, she can often be found reading, playing music, hanging out with friends or catching up on the latest in Canadian and world news. Kristen blogs at Tangential Thoughts and can be found on Twitter.