Good friendships are hard to find. It's one of the most talked about "tricky" issues among women. Friendships fade. People get hurt. Seasons make it harder to get together. And then your best friend moves across the country. What are you to do?
Today, most people post on and check a handful of social media outlets. Even if you are posting authentic snapshots of your life and hoping your friends all over see them, it can be easy to forget that you need more than these little snippets to engage in good relationships.
Many of us don’t even post very often, so how do we make sure we are fostering the friendships we have, especially with those who are geographically far from us?
To cultivate and grow friendships, especially when a large distance exists, you must be intentional.
As I’ve moved through different stages of life, I have friends in multiple places around the world. I’m by no means a perfect friend, but these are some of the ways that can help maintain and even deepen those relationships.
1. Communicate about the deep stuff
It’s usually easy enough to catch up with friends when you share events like church picnics and play dates, but when you’re separated by thousands of miles, you need to seek out more intentional ways to communicate.
Some people are great at talking on the phone, but that can even prove to be hard with different time zones and complicated ever-changing schedules. Like most millennials (eek!), I probably answer my phone less than 5% of the time!
One way I’m solving this problem is by using Voxer (a free app for smart phones). With a tagline of “Leading mobile messaging solution for teams and distributed workforces”, the developers are not targeting me (as a busy mom who just wants to connect with friends) but this has been a game changer for some of my relationships.
You send voice messages of up to fifteen minutes to a friend (or even a group of people) when it’s most convenient for you.
With three small children, scheduling a phone date is complicated and usually someone ends up crying, resulting in a quick end to a conversation. With Voxer, you can quickly text a message or just talk while you are folding laundry.
Then your friend can listen at a time that is best for them to get all the important updates on your life and hear your questions. It’s basically leaving long voicemails but with other helpful features like being able to play messages at 2x speed, the ability to “love” a message, send text and picture messages all in one place - it’s perfect for busy friends who still want to connect and share the "real" stuff.
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2. Care about the hard things
We often want our relationships to grow to a deeper level but don’t know how that can happen.
One of the most natural steps is to care about the hard things in another person’s life. If you have a long distance friend, this is even more essential.
It’s wonderful to send a birthday card to celebrate the life of a friend but it meant so much more to me when a friend asked me how I was doing on the anniversary of my dad's death.
Taking the time to reach out means so much.
It’s great to say you will pray for someone, but when you take the time to follow up and ask about a specific issue a month down the road or share a Bible verse you’ve been praying for them, that shows you really care.
3. Prioritize visits
Yes, you’re far away, but if you can, real life in person time is still best.
This past summer, I recently decided to attend a bridal shower of a childhood friend but instead of just flying in and having a bunch of alone time in a hotel, I flew to a city five hours away from the shower so I could drive with a friend (who was also planning on attending the shower and driving anyway).
It was not a conventional solution, but I’m so glad I thought of it (and my friend agreed to it!) because it was such a good time of intentional conversations and fun!
Even if you can’t plan a whole ideal trip just for a leisurely vacation, finding in-person time to connect can be so refreshing when you haven’t seen each other in a while. Maybe you’re travelling for work or something else and could take a detour to visit a friend, even if it’s only for a short amount of time.
4. Support her in her work
We all need encouragement. Regardless of if your friend is single, married, has one kid or a full mini-van, encourage her in the place God has put her and point out the way you see her using her gifts to serve well in her season.
On top of that, so many women today are spending time doing meaningful things that they really believe in on top of their other responsibilities. Maybe it’s direct sales for a product she genuinely loves. Maybe it's volunteering or working for a non-profit. Maybe it’s a blog (if that’s the case, I think this article is a great overview on how to help your friend who is a "blogger").
You may not necessarily be her target audience, but if you care about her, you’ll want to show you care a little about what she spends a big chunk of her time on as well.
That doesn’t mean you need to join her MLM you don’t want anything to do with or buy something you’d never use from her Etsy shop – but you could probably like a post or leave an encouraging comment occassionally on social media, right?
Find a way to encourage her and build her up (Be a 1 Thessalonians 5:11 friend).
5. Give your friend (and yourself) grace
It’s like all of life, right? These things are helpful to remember, but your relationships must be permeated by grace.
You aren’t going to do these things perfectly with all your long distance friends. Remember that there will be some seasons where you may be closer with a certain friend than another.
It doesn’t mean your friendship is gone forever. Recognize the season for what it is. Reach out as you are able.
If she didn’t text you on your birthday, that’s ok! Do you really know what’s going on in her life right now? If you can, genuinely ask!
If you forgot her birthday, use it as a good excuse to send her a “Just because” gift a few months later. I have done this with the Small Flat Rate boxes from the USPS (you can get them for free here), put a note and a few fun and thoughtful (although small) things (think: a new lip gloss, candy, fun stationary, etc.) in it and ship it for $7!
Maybe you got this far and are thinking, “Ugh, I don’t have any friends like that.” I'd encourage you to reach out to someone today! Especially as moms who are home with littles often, sometimes long distance friends where you can go deep quickly (think: no small talk while the kids ask you 50 questions, most about the next snack) are an amazing source of encouragement!
What other tips do you have for nurturing those long distance friendships? Are you going to try any of these? I’d love to hear!