The Twenty-Something Series: Keeping up those long-distance friendships

It can be hard to stay friends with someone when you don't see them a lot, so I share some advice in this post

It can be hard to stay friends with someone when you don't see them a lot.

I have friends from work, but most of my close friends are people I don't see in person very often.

When graduation rolled around in summer 2016, I knew I wanted to keep in touch with my little group of uni mates from my course. We were all quite spread out across the country, so I knew it would be kind of a challenge.

And when I started my current job last September, I then moved away from the new work friends I'd made in my first job, and moved even further away from my uni mates. 

One of said uni mates, however, had done a year abroad in Iowa during our third year. We'd stayed in touch, met up after she got back, and it was like nothing had changed. I felt like that was pretty good proof that the whole long-distance friendship thing could work.

And by long-distance friendship, I don't mean just liking their Instagram photos.

Now, almost two years after I graduated university, and a year after I left my old job, I'm still friends with my uni friends and my old work friends - and a friend I've had since primary school. I might not see them a lot, or even talk to them every day like we used to, but there are a few different ways I've found work really well to keep up long-distance friendships that I'm going to share in this post.

Don't be afraid to say you miss them

If I've not talked to one of my friends for a while (whether that's a couple of weeks or like, two days) I'll just message them saying 'miss u', or they might message me first saying this. For us, it's like saying 'hi', and we'll just catch up and make conversation from there. 

Plus, these are my mates. We can laugh at ourselves together and I'm never worried that with them, saying I miss them will make me sound like a clingy loser.

Write letters!

When my friend was on her year abroad in Iowa, we wrote a couple of letters. I sent her a care package at one point. We bought stickers and confetti to put in the cards. It was cute, and even if we'd talked over video chat or messenger in the meantime, it was really nice to get the letter.

With one of my other friends from uni, we've been writing letters back and forth for the last several months. (Admittedly, I'm a little bit rubbish at getting around to replying, but I do.) We send each other a little gift with each letter too - a hair mask, a keyring, a pair of socks, a necklace... Something small and sweet, that's always a fun surprise. We'll send Snapchats or text a bit sometimes, but the letters are the main way we stay in touch. A little dedication can go a long way with this.

Find a show you both love

One of my old work friends and I are both absolutely in love with two shows on Netflix: Jane the Virgin and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. These are the kind of shows where you get one new episode per week (instead of a whole season at a time), so we'll message each other a lot about the new episodes. We don't sit and watch them together or anything, but it gives us something really easy and solid to bond over. When I'm watching a new episode, I'm constantly thinking, 'Oh my God, I need to talk to her about this part!' or 'I bet she cried at this bit too'.

Go ahead and message first

Sometimes it can be a bit daunting to message a friend if you haven't actually had anything to do with them for a while. Maybe the group chat has been dead for a while and you think that's it, it's just died a death. 

But go ahead and message first! Sometimes it just needs one of you to break the ice again. And if you message a few times and they don't reply, well - maybe the friendship isn't worth keeping anyway.

Assuming that isn't the case, though: they'll be happy to hear from you, and you'll be glad you messaged!

Actually comment on something they've shared and talk to them about it

One of your friends is sharing photos from their holiday? It's not enough to just like those photos. If you want to keep up a proper friendship, talk to them about it! Message them and ask how the holiday is/was. If they've shared something exciting or funny on their Snapchat story, send them a message about it and have a bit of a conversation.

Make the effort to meet up

So my friend who did the year abroad in Iowa, I hadn't seen since... God, last summer? Ish? It was coming up on a year, at any rate. Now I'm living in Swindon, I live closer to her. We looked up what was halfway between us (which was something I remembered from an old vlogbrothers video), and a little poke around Google maps after looking on there suggested an indoor rainforest in a little village, about a fifty minute drive for each of us. We invited our other friend along too, and it was a brilliant day! 

Maybe you can find something a little different to do that you know you'll both enjoy - like seeing a West-End show together, or visiting a new city.

Similarly, with my little group from my course - it can be hard to get five of us in the same place at the same time, and plans like that can get abandoned quite quickly when it starts to get just a little difficult.

Plan far enough in advance that you'll all have time to clear your calendars or book travel, and make a day of it. Persevere with your plans and organise something. If it gets closer to the time and one of you can't actually make it now - rearrange, don't just say you will. Someone's got to organise, so why not you?

Don't underestimate video chats, or a regular phone call

Hopefully your good friends are the ones you don't mind seeing you with your hair wet and piled on top of your head, with no makeup on, not looking your best. Go ahead and video call them! You'll be surprised how long you end up talking for. Best part about this is that you can do it while you're doing something else - like cooking, or ironing. (The kind of task you don't need to pay full attention to, so can hold a conversation while you're doing it.)

A couple of my other friends and I have joked that we'll need to have a girls' night in, with a glass of wine and a movie - but where we're only together over video chat. We've yet to actually try this though!

Long-distance friendships require effort on both sides but they're completely worth it. I've moved around so much in the time since university that I don't know where I'd be if I hadn't kept all those friendships up and had them to talk to.

It takes time and sure, it can be hard work (when it comes to things like finding time to actually spend together!) but wouldn't you rather do that than lose the friends?

What are your top tips for staying in touch with a long-distance friend? Share in the comments below!

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