Many of us have been flung into long distance friendships and relationships with Covid. How do we keep emotionally connected during times like these and beyond?
As someone who has been in a long distance relationship for 2+ years with someone from England, and whose closest friends live 8 hours away from college, it can work.
The keyword is work.
Long distance relationships whether with family, friends, or romantic partners can be just as meaningful and deep as ones with the colleague at work or your friend down the road.
The most important part is you both have to be invested because long distance relationships take more work and more planning, but I’ve found my long distance relationships have provided the most rich and meaningful conversations I’ve had. We can talk after months, sometimes a year and pick up where we left off. We’re working on talking more regularly, but that’s a problem I have with my friend even a half hour away.
Make time to connect. Prioritize it. Plan it. Repeat.
Plan it out. Monthly chats, weekly chats. Phone, Skype, Zoom. Whatever works for you both.
My ex and I talked on the phone. We used a webcam to see each other. We sent each other notes in the mail. We planned for the future and eagerly awaited when we would see each other next. I remember talking to him on the phone while opening his card and smelling his cologne he sprayed inside. For a moment, I felt like he was right there. It’s the little things.
It’s that one text or mention on the phone. Let’s do a game night. Yeah! And you schedule a date right then because you know if you don’t three weeks will go by. I have a friend who I did my student teaching and carpooled to school with while I was getting my teaching degree in England. After I came back to the states, we would go a year, sometimes more without talking. This summer we’ve talked twice in four months. What changed? We both committed to talking more regularly, we both initiated setting a date to talk, and we had such a deep and meaningful conversation on Skype, that we wanted to do it again.
One simple initiative is what starts the routine that motivates you to keep connecting, to make it a priority with all the other things that vy for your attention.
Share. Share the little things and the big things.
When you’re not a part of someone’s everyday life, you have to share the everyday life with them so they can feel connected to you. Otherwise you’ll find yourself having conversations ‘How are you?’ ‘Good and you?’ And not knowing what else to say.
Share the little stuff even if it’s what you had for breakfast or how your air conditioner is on the fritz. Share the big stuff. Your worries about your job, your dad’s health, your dry spell in your faith.
Sharing is also about learning something new about your friend. Try conversation starter questions, even if they seem cheesy. This article has some deep questions that sound less forced like how do you see me? Where do you want to be in five years? Etc. I’m definitely going to print this and use it! I love this list because of the funny question category. I so want to ask a friend what weapon from their house they would use in a zombie apocalypse! What’s a quirky food combo you like or have seen? This list will surely create some fun conversation! This article has some weird questions like did you own sexy undies but I also some good ones like your favorite band, if you could title a book about your life what would it be etc. Definitely some creative ideas here. I think I’ll even ask my husband some of these.
Show you care. One Action of Love at a Time.
I like to write notes, but I want to do more. I’m going to save money to do gifts. Just sending a photo and text can be enough for some to let you know you’re thinking of them. A message on their Facebook feed is good, but a personalized message just for them is even better. My friends are amazing. They sent me care packages when my husband got sick and could no longer work. They sent notes with scripture sayings to encourage. A few drove eight hours to come stay for a long weekend and help out. This was one of the most moving and meaningful things anyone has ever done for me. I hope I can do something special for them sometime.
Maintaining friendships like this that last a lifetime (we’re on 20 years almost), is about one action of love at a time. One decision at a time to stop the daily grind and let someone know you care. It’s about calling when a friend is struggling, not just texting or messaging. When my college friend lost her mom, I wasn’t able to go to the funeral. Instead I created a scrapbook with photos from my friend’s Facebook, quotes, and poems I wrote to show her I cared. She said it was one of the most thoughtful gifts she had received.
You show you care in whatever way works for you, with whatever gifts God gave you, with whatever resources you have in this season.
Good intentions may leave you with regrets if you don’t follow through. Pouring out love on those you love will only spread love farther as the effects of your one action has lasting impacts you may never know.
Get Creative. Create new memories.
This is a tough one with the distance. Money is definitely a factor. Save up money. I want to do an annual trip eventually. I might need to figure out what I need to give up in order to make that happen financially or how I might earn some extra cash. Some people use credit cards with mileage to earn points for trips.
One of my friends said once, if you want to keep the relationship, you’re going to have to do the work. My long distance friendships mean the world to me, but I haven’t been putting the time in to show that. I’ve been focused on trying to build friendships close to home, which hasn’t worked well. So my goal this year has been to foster these amazing friendships and help them grow.
However, it doesn’t have to be expensive. It doesn’t even have to cost money to create new memories long distance. You just gotta be creative.
My close college friends and I love board games and play them when we visit each other every 2-5 years, and those are some of my favorite memories while they visit. When Covid hit I got a text invitation to join an online game night. Yes! We played Fibbish from Jackbox games where everyone writes a lie and you have to guess the truth. Points if people pick your lie. Points if you get the truth. It was so much fun catching up, seeing their faces, and playing something fun. I know that one text started a tradition. Here are other games you can try if you want to do this with your family or friends. Scattergories, Skribble, even Virtual Min it to Win it could work. Virtual Min it to Win It Ideas 2. Super fun and entertaining.
Get creative. You can create a scrapbook together via google docs, watch tv shows together via zoom or google meets. You can do a long distance book club.
I’m going to try to do recipe creations with friends because I like to cook. We can cook the same dinner together on the phone or swap recipes and share photos.
My hope is I can join my friends’ craft day via zoom when my boys are older. Maybe until then we could work on our own time on a craft and share our creations when they’re done.
Maintaining friendships can be tricky no matter if they live down the road, in another state, or in another country. You change, your family grows, your responsibilities change. Life happens.
Some friends are in your life for a season. Some are in your life forever. Be flexible and open to your friendship changing. The love you put into your relationship only adds to the love, laughter, and good memories in your own when you’re both invested, and who doesn’t love that?
May you find ways to connect and deepen your long distance relationships and feel fuller and happier in the process.