It’s not easy when your cross-town friendship changes to more of a plane-ride-away situation. When you hit the gym together on the reg and have weekly girls’ nights in, imagining what your relationship will look like when there are suddenly thousands of miles between you is potentially tear-inducing.
But while your friendship will definitely change, taking it long-distance doesn’t have to mean the end of closeness. In fact, according to Irene S. Levine, PhD, professor of psychiatry at the NYU School of Medicine, distance can actually strengthen your friendship.
“Long-distance friends are more likely to spend concentrated periods of time with each other,” Dr. Levine says. By spending more quality time together—read: not silently scrolling through social feeds at dinner—you may find that you appreciate your bestie even more.
By spending more quality time together—read: not silently scrolling through social feeds at brunch—you may find that you appreciate your bestie even more.
And distance may even give you a mechanism to enforce boundaries in a way that can be difficult when you live close to each other, says Diane Barth, LCSW, a psychotherapist and author of the new book I Know How You Feel. “For instance, you have a dear friend who you don’t want to see all of the time, but it’s hard to say no when you live near one another,” she says. “When you have a built-in physical distance, the boundaries are just a given.”
A silver lining, for sure, but how do you maintain that know-me-better-than-I-know-myself level of connection when you’re relegated to FaceTime instead of face time?
Keep reading for 5 simple ways to stay close with your bestie even when you’re far apart.
1. Be prepared for challenges
Even if you vow to talk every day, your friendship will inevitably change when spontaneous brunches—or spontaneous anything, for that matter—are out of reach. “Get-togethers can no longer be convenient; more likely, they’ll need to be scheduled,” says Dr. Levine. Which may mean requesting some PTO and booking a flight.
Another challenge faced by long-distance friends is the inability to rely on body language cues to communicate, Barth says. Without your go-to eyebrow raise to tip off your bestie to the fact that something’s up, you’re going to have to find a way to vocalize *all* your thoughts.
2. Make communication a priority
“There’s less opportunity to share common experiences in person, so maintaining a long-distance friendship requires ‘keeping in touch’ with each other’s lives,” Dr. Levine explains. While you may not have time for an hour-long phone call every day, sending a few texts back and forth about goings-on at work is key to staying close.
It also leaves little room for being a “bad texter.” If you have a hard time keeping up with incoming messages, or if the thought of a phone call makes you shudder, you’ll need to explain this to your friend. Dr. Levine recommends discussing how you’ll keep in touch to avoid any hurt feelings or confusion.
An unexpected upside to a long-distance friendship, according to Barth, is that you may end up having better and more intimate conversations. “People have told me that they have had some of their best conversations with friends when they were far away from one another,” she says. “Somehow, talking on the phone or via FaceTime or Skype can allow for a kind of intimacy that doesn’t always happen when you’re face to face.”
3. Embrace social media interactions
Don’t be too quick to dismiss social media interactions as shallow: Your app of choice is an invaluable way to stay in each other’s lives, says Barth. Sharing Insta stories and double-taps will give you a more interactive way to keep up with each other.
“Many women have told me that being able to see what their friends are doing adds to a sense of connection, especially when they don’t have regular face to face contact,” Barth says. So instead of just telling your bestie you went to yoga, share that Boomerang video of your crow-to-plank.
4. Commit to getting together IRL
Apps and unlimited data plans have made it easier than ever to stay in constant contact, but there’s no substitute for seeing a loved one in the flesh.
“Friendships rarely last on old memories alone,” says Dr. Levine, so it’s important to make the time to see each other as often as your schedules (and wallets) allow. Whether you’re jet-setting to a fitness retreat or simply visiting each others’ homes, creating new memories together will help your friendship continue to develop.
5. Remember there’s no right way to do it
The distance between you doesn’t define your friendship, and there’s no single way to maintain your closeness. Some friendships thrive with very little nurturing; others take more work. “This is true whether one is in close proximity or at a distance,” Barth says.
Keeping apprised of each other’s lives and being honest with each other about what’s working in the friendship and what isn’t is the key to keeping your bond strong, no matter how far away you are.
When you and your bestie are together IRL, consider going out instead of staying in—it’s better for your longevity. And here are the questions you should ask to make sure your friendship is healthy.
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