4 secrets for surviving a long-distance friendship

September 16 | Guest post by Daryl Thomas
Sealed With A Kiss
Thanks to hextrovert for uploading this to our Flickr pool!

In the post-college phase of life, it sometimes feels hard to meet new people. But three years ago, I met a coworker who I knew would be a friend for life. Michelle and I connected instantly and quickly realized we had a lot in common: a straightforward attitude that people could sometimes find brash, a sarcastic sense of humor, similar tastes in music and books, and an interest in writing.

Just a few months after we met, Michelle got married in Hawaii. When she got back, she started talking about how she and her husband wanted to move there. I didn't think much of it. Who wouldn't come back from a beautiful tropical place and want to stay forever?

In the next couple of years, as we became closer and closer friends, she would occasionally talk about their long-term plan to move there. One day she came into work talking about how she was going to take her dogs to get the shots they would need for the standards in Hawaii. My heart sank, and I started to realize this wasn't a "someday" dream, this was a serious plan. And this March, she packed up her life in Massachusetts, and she, her husband, and their two dogs set off on an adventure to Hawaii.

So what do you do when one of your besties moves 5,000 miles away? It took a little while, but over the past several months, we've figured out some ways to stay connected.

1. Figure out the time difference
Hawaii is a long way from Massachusetts, and there's a six-hour time difference. It's tough when you can't talk to your friend 24/7 like you're used to! But we still text a lot, and we figured out that the best time for phone calls is when I'm leaving work, and it's mid-morning where she lives. She isn't working 9-to-5 hours right now, which helps, but even if she does, I'm sure we'll figure out another time to talk.

2. Be each other's cheerleaders

Although when Michelle first moved to Hawaii, I gave her a hard time, sending her lots of guilt-tripping texts, asking when she was going to come back, deep down she knew I supported her dream. It's important to let your friend know that you support them and to still be there for the bad days too. When I have a stressful day at work, or when she is feeling a little homesick, we still figure out ways to cheer each other up.

3. Find the right medium
Nowadays, there are a million different ways to stay connected. It can be easy to fall into a text/social media-only habit, but actual phone calls or video chats are so much more personal. Even though she's far away, we still send each other silly text messages and post goofy cat videos on each other's Facebook pages.

But some of the other things we've started to do is write long emails when we want to talk about our week, and we make the effort to have actual phone calls. It feels good to stay updated on each other's lives.

4. Be there for the big stuff
When holidays or big life events pop up, it's important to have some kind of recognition, whether it's a gift or a visit or just a text message. Just a couple months after she moved, Michelle texted to let me know she had already booked her plane ticket for my wedding in September. And with her birthday right around the corner, I'm planning a box of fun stuff to send her. My fiancé and I are even brainstorming how and when we could go visit (because how often will we have a free place to stay in Hawaii?).

Maybe someday Michelle and I will live in the same place again. And maybe we won't. But either way, I know it won't matter because when you find a true friend, it's worth the work to keep up your long-distance friendship.

Your turn! What are your tips for surviving a long distance friendship?

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  1. Damn, I could've written this! One of my best friends moved from Maine to Hawaii a few years ago and we use the same tactics to stay in touch and maintain our friendship (they work!). For example – we text each other regularly when we're having a bad day or send each other pics of big life events. She sent me pics of her baby just hours after he was born and I sent pics to her of a wedding reception she couldn't attend. And we get together in person whenever possible (which sometimes means years not seeing each other). Keeping long distance friendships going can be hard but it's absolutely possible.

    1 agrees
    • I want to visit but I'm nervous about the $$$. Don't suppose you have any tips for good deals to Hawaii?

      • I just looked up round trip tickets online and got one for just under $1000 with limited layovers. I don't have tips but I know you can at least get a similar deal (I went in April instead of the dead of winter – maybe that's cheaper?)

        1 agrees
      • Choose the airline that flies ALL the places you may go (family you have to visit for holidays? work travel?) then build miles with the one airline. Even if you don't earn enough miles to fly, it can reduce your overall cost to use all your miles for some of the trip. You can get a Hawaiian Airlines (and probably other airlines) web browser, so every time you search something online you earn a mile. Extra miles for shopping/purchases online with the browser activated. Also, their reward credit cards are not a bad deal. My uncle flies his whole family out every year at no charge just by using his Hawaiian credit card for everything on a regular basis.
        Also, yes, I think Hawaii is cheapest Dec.-March. The weather there is fabulous year round, so don't worry about that. I fly from San Francisco and the lowest fare I've ever seen is about $330 RT. More often it's around $380-400 from here.

  2. Yes. My best friend and I met in Tennessee. First she moved to Colorado and then I moved to Florida. We have weekly phone dates and we also text, facebook, and email to keep up. One excellent way to keep a friendship going long-distance is visiting each other whenever possible. We both love traveling so we travel to see each other and we also vacation together, usually attending events to support each other in our mutual hobby.

    1 agrees
  3. My best friend and I met online over 4 years ago. She lives 2 Provinces away but we are closer than I've ever been to anyone else. We message all day on BBM, and of course send silly photos on facebook, instagram, everywhere! Sometimes it's hard when she goes out with other people for a girls night, and I find myself jealous. But, as an adult, I know I can't be her only friend.

    My main key for staying close is be honest. If she sends you a picture to see what you think about her outfit for a date, tell her what you would if you were there in person. If she's being crazy, tell her! My bestie and I have a no nonsense relationship. We frequently disagree on things, but it doesn't affect our firendship or how we feel about each other.

  4. We aren't really "long distance" in the traditional sense, because it's only a 30 minute or so drive. But, my BFF has two small children, making it a lot harder to do, well, anything!

    We text and FB chat a lot. We also post funny things to each other's FB pages. I send her emails when I see things that make me think of her or the kids – I actually just sent her an email about a Disney on Ice presale. We also send each other cards in the mail. Sometimes they're actual cards, like for birthdays. Other times, they're just "hey, saw this, thought of you, love you!"

    When we DO get to see each other, we make sure to get grown up time, too. Sometimes I stay late into the evening to make sure we can spend some time with each other after her son has gone to bed. Other times, we decide that we need to get out of the house and leave her kids with her husband later in the afternoon.

    Sometimes we go a real long time without seeing each other. It's tough, but she's my favorite friend, so it's totally worth it.

    2 agree
  5. *sigh* yep. My BFF and I met in school in Vermont, but when we're not at school, I live in California and he lives in Texas. We text daily and talk on the phone or Skype whenever possible. Luckily, it's only a two hour time difference (not six!)– but it's not the same as being able to hang out in person. I'm actually going to go visit for New Year's, which is especially exciting since I just graduated from school and we won't be hanging out in Vermont every six months anymore.

  6. I move with relatively high frequency, so I'm skilled at this stuff. It's a lot more than just being supportive and communicating, though. It's planning vacations together (not just visits to each others' cities). It's using gifts from them (jewelry, coffee mugs) to feel their closeness. It's sending photos of pets, significant others, children (your "life" is more than just you). It's being honest when you miss them so much it hurts (even if you know that they're too busy to talk to you today). It's continuing your roles in each others' lives, whatever they used to be (fashion guru, email proofreader, band introducer). It's realizing that the distance is only as great as you act like it is.

    3 agree
  7. Nearly all of my really good friends are long-distance these days, so I am very familiar with this. Although one of my besties just moved back in town, and while I feel really sad for her that the move to a new city didn't work out, I also can't deny that I am basically stoked that she is back.

    1 agrees
  8. I'm currently living in Sydney, Australia, and my home is the South Shore of MA. Being 14 hours in the future makes it tough! But Facebook has been the best tool I've used to keep in touch – did you know you can make phone and video calls through the Messenger? It's perfect! I try to call my mom every weekend (Saturday morning for me, Friday night for her) and have had random chats with my other friends too. We even did our fantasy football draft recently through Facebook video chat. Best part is it's FREE, and the quality is quite good! If only my dog could use social media…

  9. I'm 2500 miles away from friends and family. While I try to call once a week or once every other week, part of the way I stay in touch is through letter-writing. It lets me share the mundane parts of my life or emotional thoughts and feelings without the pressure of "I have to make this time on the phone/on Skype count". When I'm able to travel back to my former home, I do my best to at least see my friends for coffee or lunch or an hour or two of hanging out. At holidays I send little gift boxes of things I get out here that aren't back home – loose leaf teas or chocolates or little tchotchkes associated with the desert (I live in a desert….). As long as we talk, we exchange letters, and we poke each other on the book of Faces occasionally, my friends (and family) and I seem to do fairly well. We miss each other, but we also understand that life takes us on long and winding roads.

  10. My BFF and I haven't lived in the same place since high school. At first we drifted a little because I'm not much of a phone talker, but soon enough I realized that that's what works for her. We catch up with an hour long phone call every other week or so; I make sure to call when I know I'll have time to talk, and I make sure to make the time. Even though we only see each other in person a few times a year, I don't feel like our friendship is any less than it was when we saw each other in study hall every day. 🙂

  11. My BFF of 15 years moved to Virginia a couple of years ago and I live in Washington. It's hard, but totally worth all the effort to stay connected.

    I firmly believe that different friends fill different needs. Amanda is my "bestie", and nobody else will have the history we have (there were some GOOD times between ages 15-25). But I have made some amazing friends in the years she's been gone who are nearby to fulfill other important needs – like when you really need to grab a drink after work. Friends who I may not have met if she was here.

    Just like it's unfair for your spouse to be the "one-and-only" person you go to for emotional support, it's important to not believe that one friend will be the only one capable of achieving "best-friend" status. When Amanda flew out for my wedding, she got to meet all my local friends, who she fit in perfectly with. And When I went to Virginia, she was able to introduce me to a few of her new friends there. (I will admit to being a little jealous, but I am SO glad that she's getting the emotional support she needs, when I can't be available.) PLUS, it's so nice to have a removed friend to vent to about everything gong on with your other friendships or spouse!

  12. My best friend married my fiancé's friend and moved to Las Vegas from Scotland, I both love and hate it. I love that I now have a friend when I'm over seeing my fiancé but hate it when she's not here in Scotland and probably never will be except for holidays.

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