Going the distance: How to maintain friendships after you move
When families move frequently for jobs, it's easy to acquire a long list of long-distance friends. With these tips, you can maintain those relationships and keep making memories with people who have become like family.
Whether it’s your hometown, your college town or the town where you raised your kids, you are bound to make friends. Sadly, you’re also bound to move away.
So what do you do about all those relationships you have worked so hard to create? Call it a loss and just forget about your old friends? Never. It’s not easy to stay close to those friends once you move away, especially with the craziness of daily family life. But don't worry, following these few rules will make it a lot easier.
Do you have a friend who never calls? Rather than waiting for them to initiate contact, call your friend first. You may find that there’s a good reason for the lengthy silence. This also prevents any unspoken resentment you might be feeling over the lack of contact. Call just to say hello, even if you only have a few minutes to spare while you wait to pick up your kids. Even that small gesture helps to preserve your friendship.
I’m not always good at this. It’s easy to think. “If so-and-so really valued our friendship, she would make an effort.” This train of thought only undermines relationships — especially when you unconsciously look for reasons you shouldn’t make an effort either. So remind yourself that everyone has busy families, and pick up the phone. You'll never regret the decision.
While our families teach us to forgive people when we are in close quarters, long-distance friends need you to forgive from far away. Distance often contributes to misunderstanding, especially because you don’t have the positive interaction as frequently to balance any disagreements. Keeping this in mind encourages you to shrug off any hurt feelings that may occur.
For example, when one friend and I saw each other every day, I applauded her boldness. Now that we only talk on the phone, that strength is easy to mistake for a lack of tact. Instead of getting offended, I remind myself that anything she says is said with love. I pray for her well-being, ask about her job and take any critique she gives me with a grain of salt. That’s a good policy for any friendship, long-distance or otherwise.
Gracefully accept the changes in your relationship dynamic
Once you move away, you will no longer be the first to hear about a new romance, an achieved goal or even a scary car accident. By simply accepting this change, you remove the pressure from your friendship. This allows the relationship to progress naturally without you wondering what went wrong and why you aren't close anymore.
Because of this principle, one of my favorite roommates from college remains a dear friend. Our relationship is very different now that we live on opposite ends of the country, but it’s OK. We have accepted that we are much better conversationalists in person. As a result, we only call each other every month or two, which guarantees that we are extremely excited about those conversations. Things might be a little stilted between us right now, but when we are face-to-face, it’s like nothing ever changed.
Develop new traditions
Not all changes have to be passively accepted. Often we can take charge of changes and make sure they are good ones. Try setting up a regular time to call a friend. Form a two-person book club. Learn a new skill “with” your friend. These kinds of activities actually thrive in long-distance friendships. They don’t require face-to-face time, but they do mean that you and your friend still have things in common.
For instance, I often video-chat with a friend. If we still lived in the same place, I wouldn’t appreciate the novelty of seeing her facial expressions, nor would she be able to show me the latest additions on her home. Because these chats have become a unique and regular part of our lives, our friendship has not only been maintained. It has also been deepened.
Your friendship probably began because you were in the same place, doing the same thing. Choose the obvious way to continue this pattern and go visit your friend. Visits connect you to your friend’s current life, whether that includes children, a new house or a favorite local restaurant. Additionally, it gives you a break from your normal life. These experiences provide shared memories in a way social media never will.
That’s what I’m hoping for with an upcoming visit with a particular friend. Although I follow her blog regularly, life has very much gotten in the way of frequent interaction with her. Her brand-new baby provides the perfect excuse to go visit her, even if the little one will mean that we don’t do all the same things we always did together. Regardless, I’m excited to share this new, exciting time with her and the baby. I love that I get the chance to be a part of her everyday life, even if just for a few days.
In a world where we move our families to where the jobs are, it’s sadly easy to leave behind friends. However, with a little initiative, charity and flexibility, you can ensure that friendship will last. Just like family is still family, no matter the distance, friends are still friends, too.