5 Tips for Maintaining Long-Distance Friendships

When I left California four years ago, I said goodbye to many friends. At the time, there were some that I knew I’d never see or talk to again. They just weren’t those kinds of friends. Then again, there were some who I swore I’d talk to regularly, those, know-them-til-the-day-you-die type friends.

But there have been people who surprised me, whose ability to keep in touch has blown me away. And there are very good friends, friends who were like family, who I speak to on rare occasion. It’s weird how it all shakes out.

That’s the thing no one tells you about moving 3,000 miles away from your friends. You’ll probably lose 80% of them and the 20% you keep might not be the people you expect.

I’m not perfect at this. In fact, sometimes I’ve really sucked. Here are a few things I wish someone had told me when I left California, to make it easier to maintain those friendships.

5 Tips for Maintaining Long-Distance Friendships #friendship | www.eastandblog.com

1. Set Calendar Reminders

When you get off the phone with someone, set a calendar reminder in your phone (with an alert) for your next call. You won’t suddenly turn in to every day talkers, but maybe skip ahead 4 weeks and add the reminder. It’ll help keep 6 months from going by accidentally.

2. Embrace Snail Mail

Nothing reminds someone that you miss them like a handwritten card. My favorite place to find cute, quality cards is T.J. Maxx or Marshalls. One trick is to pre-address and stamp several cards at once. Then later all you have to do is write a quick note, stuff it, seal it, and pop it in the mail.

If you’re really going for it, send a care package.

3. Have Your Next Visit In Mind

When my bestie Kaylin and I see each other, we make it a point to make a guesstimate on when we’ll see each other next. When I visited last August, she told me she’d visit me in early 2014. She flew out in February. After her bachelorette party last week, I know I’ll see her in September and again in October for her wedding. After that, I bet we meet somewhere in the middle. Nashville?

4. Text The Little Things, Even If You Think They’re Dumb

If something makes you think of a friend or a funny memory you shared together, send them a quick text. If something ridiculous happens to you, send a quick text. If your dog is doing something really really unbelievably cute (which come on, Archie does every 3 1/2 minutes), send a quick text.

I'm a firm believer that it's never inappropriate to share a picture of your dog.  See? I just added Archie to a post that completely didn't involve him.
I’m a firm believer that it’s never inappropriate to share a picture of your dog. See? I just added Archie to a post that completely didn’t involve him.

5. Accept That Things Have Changed

For a long time I felt guilty about not maintaining as many friendships as I thought I would. The thing is, there are many friends who I haven’t figured out how to fit in to my new life. We’ve never gotten in to the groove of being daily texters. It’s simply not possible to keep dozens of people up to date on day-to-day life. So those are the marathon phone call friends. But sometimes, they’re the people you look back on fondly on the occasion that you think of them.

Losing touch doesn’t have to mean you weren’t great friends. Perhaps your friendship with each other served a purpose during a certain point in your life (say, college) and now you have other people filling that purpose. It isn’t that you didn’t love each other. It’s not that the whole friendship is a failure. It evolved. And sometimes people evolve away from each other.

The friendship that I’ve done the best job of maintaining is my relationship with my best friend Kaylin. The funny thing is, I say I’ve done the best job of maintaining but it’s really her. She’s a friendship mastermind who never forgets to call after an important day, send a card for no reason, or text a pic from the Target dressing room. For my part, I always try to catch up to her. To call her as much as she calls me. To meet her halfway. It’s easy to do because her friendship is the one I enjoy the most.

With others, it’s been more challenging. The weird thing about long-distance friendships is that sometimes, you just don’t want to pick up the phone. It’s like getting over the initial hurdle of calling or answering is the biggest thing. Once you’re on the phone and engaged with a person whose friendship you value, you start to wonder why you don’t call more. Talking is great! We get off the phone and it’s like “let’s talk more often, okay?” and then we don’t. Months go by and then randomly, another marathon phone call takes place because truly, you can only do the big life updates. And you know what? That’s okay.

  • I love this! Most of my friends are currently long distance friends since moving home from college! Such great tips for keeping in touch. I had never thought of calendering times when I need to talk to them again.

    • Adding reminders to my calendar has been really helpful. Otherwise, way too much time goes by unintentionally.

  • This is so true! I moved one state away from where I went to college and fell out of touch with lots of my sisters and friends. Now that I’m living in the same area as most of them, I plan monthly brunches for us. I really want to spend time with them while we’re close together!

    • I’m so envious you are able to do that. Unfortunately, most of my friends never have any intention of leaving California and I have no intention of going back. We’ve got to make it work in creative ways.

  • Two of my best friends live across the country, so I can totally relate to this. We also text each other stupid little things, but I love the idea of snail mail. There’s nothing better than getting a cute handwritten letter.

    • Exactly! My best friend is the queen of cute stationary and getting notes from her always makes my day.

  • I don’t have any friends long-distance from me right now, but I remember moving away to college and having the same feeling of “I’ll probably never talk to most of my ‘friends’ again.” And it was true for all except my best friend and my sister’s now husband. After graduating college, I felt the same eery feeling, and it turned out to be true too. Sure, I see some updates on Facebook and Instagram, but it’s not the friendship is used to me. I regret not keeping in touch over the years.

    • I have a few people that I regret not keeping in touch with. The reality is though, it’s really hard. When people made an effort with me, I reciprocated. When I found that I was the only one making an effort, I let things dwindle. It’s a two way street.

  • thanks for the tips. It’s so easy to get busy with things and forget people’s important dates

  • This is so so good. we forget we need to nourish our friendships sometimes- especially the long distance ones!

  • This was so helpful. My best friend and I went to colleges across the state from each other than she went to grad school in California and now lives in Arizona, I feel like we will forever be separated now.

    • I know for a fact that I will always live across the country from my best friend. I’ll never move back to California and she’ll never leave. Still, we make it work. It’s possible!

  • It’s interesting how friendships change with distance. And how they don’t. I have several friends who all moved away and I keep in touch with them to varying degrees. I like your idea of setting call reminders!

    • What has shocked me most is the couple of people who I never expected to still be in touch with who I talk to frequently. If the effort is there, you can make it work. Still, I’m surprised.

  • Love this – its so true!! Thanks for the great reminder!

  • Since moving to LA a little over a year ago, I’ve definitely felt some of my friendships suffer. I was so used to just being able to drop by whenever I wanted to see them. But now it’s different. We’re having to rely on texts and facebook posts. It’s kind of sad, but it also really helped me to see which friendships will last a lifetime.

    xo Denise

    • That’s very true. It helps you see who your life-long friends will be.

  • This is awesome advice! Between moving to Missouri and then back to Chicago, I’ve had to leave friends behind too. I’ve found SnapChat and Skype are also really helpful. I love sending snaps to my far away friends, and just the other day a good friend and I had a 3 hour Skype session. It wasn’t even a big thing, we just carried our tablets/laptops with us through our apartments and chatted as we went about life. She cooked dinner and I practiced ukulele. It was really fun! Like hanging out almost. But I know I need to be better about using snail mail because who doesn’t love getting stuff in the mail?

    • I want to love snapchat but most of my friends aren’t on it! Even N uses snapchat all the time with his guy friends (I think it’s weird but whatever, they think it’s hilarious). I honestly almost never use facetime or skype either. The only time we do is with really big things (like when my bestie got engaged and I HAD to see the ring). I don’t know that facetiming will ever feel natural to me.

      • Facetime and Skype are things where I usually don’t use it, and I’m all “Ugh it’ll be awkward” but then once I do I’m all “Why don’t I do this more?”

  • These are some great tips. With two cross-country moves in the past two years, I’ve had a hard time keeping up with friends. It’s so easy to slip away from staying in contact with one another. Being intentional is SO important! Thanks for sharing, Nadine 🙂

    • The cross-country moves are the hardest. Plane tickets are expensive to keep face to face friendship going and if your friends aren’t good with daily texting, etc. it can be a huge challenge.

  • Kim

    Sigh, much of this definitely rings true to me. I have lived in Africa for the past 4 years (since graduating college) and it’s certainly been telling to see with whom I have and haven’t stayed in touch.

    I’ve found another important suggestion is tailoring your contact “method” to different friends’ styles. For example, I gchat with one of my best friends every single day (while at work ;), so we’re super up to date on each others lives and its great! But we pretty much never skype/phone chat. My other best friend isn’t so good about staying in touch… and gchat seems to overwhelm her, as well as my novel emails. So I’ve learned to schedule (lengthy) skype sessions with her every now and then. Honestly, its kind of frustrating to have to bend to her habits, but that’s another part of long distance friendship: managing expectations. On the flip side, she goes above and beyond when I visit her, so our time in person is really meaningful, if brief.

    In conclusion: long distance friendship is hard but doable! And at least one person has to be committed 😉

    • I have a few friends where I just was never able to figure out what their preferred method of communication was. It seems like if they cant’ figure it out and I keep trying, that maybe that’s a hint that they aren’t as dedicated as I am to maintaining a friendship.

      Honestly, my best friend and I started our blogs together, in part to keep up with each others lives. There are MANY ways to keep in touch.

  • I love this!! I just moved to Texas from Michigan and this advice could not have come at a better time!

    • Well I’m glad I could help. If you just moved, try to keep things going, right from the beginning. There comes a point where you realize you haven’t talked to someone in a while and then all the sudden, you wonder if it’s been too long to reach out.

  • Wow! This is definitely something I needed to read! I’ve been struggling with trying to figure out how to deal with long distance friendships and number 5 really got to me! Thanks for this post!

    • I’m glad I could help. I struggled at first and there are a lot of friendships that I lost. Some were my fault, but most of the time it was a lack of effort on both ends. It’s sad but eventually you just make peace with it and think back on them fondly.

  • That last point is so hard to come to terms with but it’s so true. Great post girl.

    • Thank you. It was by far the hardest for me but I’m glad that I’ve stopped feeling guilty about certain friendships. I’ll always look back on them fondly but perhaps they aren’t meant to be in my life forever.

  • This is SO true. I really didn’t move very far (just a state away) but the people who swore every day for the last month before I left that they would keep in contact, we’d always be close friends… well, most of them didn’t keep it touch. I wrote, I called, I texted. But they had a lot going on in their lives, and even though we still love each other, I just wasn’t a part of their everyday lives anymore. However, a friend who I met a mere 3 months before moving sends me at least one letter every month. He writes them at random little times (lunch break at work, riding in the car with his brother, etc) and always talks about the small things he thinks i’d like as well as all the big news. Another person who has kept in contact is a dear lady I’ve known forever, and hadn’t spoken to much before I moved, but she faithfully sends super cute cards asking what’s going on in my life and encouraging me. I truly hope I’ve managed to be half as good of a friend to each of them. The only person who I barely talk to and it doesn’t even matter is my bestie. We’ve gone half a year to a year on more than one occasion without talking, and every time it’s just like we saw each other yesterday. Sometimes I think she knows me better than I know myself, and we don’t have to talk all the time to know that we’re still each other’s best friend forever. 🙂

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