When a good friend moves away, you might be sad and nervous about what this means for your long-term friendship.
Now that you no longer share the landscape, images, and routines of daily life, will it be satisfying enough to stay “friends” on Facebook or exchange emails now and then? How can you keep your conversations and your friendship meaningful?
According to clinical psychologist and author Andrea Bonior, PhD, author of The Friendship Fix: The Complete Guide to Choosing, Losing, and Keeping Up With Your Friends, you can allow physical distance to spark a rich and exciting phase in your relationships by finding creative ways to share memorable moments and by improvising new styles of connection. Here are seven ways to keep the love alive.
- Accept that change is inevitable. Bonior reminds us that all relationships, geographically challenged or not, go through changes — and some do fade. Don’t approach staying in touch as a way to freeze your relationship in time. The distance between you actually presents an opportunity to freshen your relationship with new experiences and shared rituals.
- Trust the memory bond. Friendships are nourished by face-to-face contact, Bonior notes, but they have staying power because of the memories you share. “Close friendship is almost like a shared language,” she says. “If you have a friend with whom you’ve been close for many years, you still have shared jokes, memories, and so on that are very strong and special.”
- Make a plan. “Don’t get stuck in the ‘let’s talk sometime’ trap,” Bonior says. A little creative planning can give your friendship an element of regularity and predictability. Let planning be a fun — and collaborative — endeavor. Will it be FaceTime on Tuesdays? Or maybe you have a shared monthly “movie night” when you watch the same film at the same time, texting your reactions, or even sharing them by phone?
- Be spontaneous. Your separate experiences can be gifts to each other as you share them in unpredictable ways and moments. A call, text, or email on impulse, especially to share a new adventure or odd experience, will keep the relationship feeling current.
- Make it meaningful. “Today, the techniques for staying in touch are pretty available and easy,” says Bonior. “Everybody can look at a Facebook entry or send an email or share an image of themselves on Instagram. What’s more challenging is making the contact really mean something.” Make sure that at least some of your touchpoints go deeper than a status update.
- Send packages and cards. “It’s so rare to get something physical in the mail these days,” Bonior says. “A care package or a simple postcard can be a really strong connector.” The package doesn’t need to be jammed with pricey gifts. Consider inexpensive trinkets that are meaningful to both of you: A bar napkin from a favorite watering hole, a new book by a favorite author, or a funny postcard can make a real difference.
- Visit in person. “You’ll probably feel like you don’t have the time,” Bonior says, but it will do wonders for your relationship if you can get together once a year or so. Plan a girls’ weekend getaway or a man-cave retreat at a halfway spot. Or take advantage of business trips and other journeys that bring you close to your friend, and sneak away for some serious face time.
This originally appeared in “Distant Relations” in the September 2015 issue of Experience Life.