Fueling Your Long-Distance Friendships

Seventeen years. That’s how long the research says the average friendship lasts. And yet, I have a BFF friendship of 55 years, another of 28 years and still another that’s at least 20 years and going strong. At the heart of every one of these solid, long-term friendships, I notice two things:

  • A significant shared experience – either growing up together, working together or having an unusual, shared interest.
  • A mutual desire to nurture the bond through marriages, children, divorces, illnesses, windfalls, losses, extreme changes in circumstances and, yes, relocation.  

Honestly, these friendships have been put to the resilience test since I moved south six years ago. Why? Because after letting go of fretting over how things would be different, we put on our big girl pants and got creative about how to make this work! In each case, the motivation was there, the approach was different and the result was the same: my girls and I are just as connected as ever! Did someone say “Blessed?” Know that I do not take this blessing lightly.

But, here’s the thing: it doesn’t just “happen.” Long-distance friendships can go the distance with maintenance and planning. “Investing in friendships that make you feel appreciated, loved and seen is always worth keeping in your life, no matter the distance that separates you,” said Dr. Patel-Dunn. 

Here are some great tips on how to nurture the friendships from afar that mean so much to you:

Openly acknowledge each other’s feelings of loss or anxiety about the change. When you have been close to someone both in your heart and in your physical proximity, distance means loss of IRL experiences. So much for those happy hours and shared mani-pedis, I know. It’s a bummer, so talk about it, but also refuse to accept that out of sight means out of mind.

Initiate conversation to explore what will work best for each of you. There is no one size fits all. I speak to one of these friends every week, another every month and the other for about three hours every quarter – a marathon call! 

Deal with challenges. That Zoom call may be out because your computer is down. Or, rescheduling a phone call may take several attempts. Be flexible and lean into your mutual determination to work it out.

And speaking of Zoom: 

Put those Facetime/Zoom strengths you picked up during COVID to good use. I look forward to the regular invite I receive from my friend every month. We’ll drink tea if it’s early, or a glass of wine if it’s later. We’ll comment on each other’s new glasses or ask “what’s that thing on the table behind you?”  

Don’t rely exclusively on social media posts to sustain your closeness. Track with how your friend’s life is unfolding by staying tuned into her social media. But remember that it’s “social,” not personal to you. So, make a comment on something you saw in her thread, and then be ready to hear about what’s not said in the public thread. 

Stay on top of what’s happening in your lives. We know that very few things remain the same in our lives; things are changing all of the time. So, tell her about what’s new or different. Ask her about her day-to-day life. Remember that we stay connected based on both memories and current information.   

Get creative. I am 100% serious about this! Cook together, create a virtual book club, take a visual tour through your garden or even your closet. Think of those calls as opportunities for  YouTube-like experiences.   

Plan an IRL get together. When a friend from more than 40 years ago recently reached out to restart our friendship, she quickly added that her home was open to me at any time. All I needed to do was to get on a flight. I love her spirit even more than her generosity! If possible, plan a future real-time visit or arrange to meet somewhere in the middle for a girlfriend getaway in real time. 

And between those scheduled calls and visits:

Let her know that you are thinking of her. Email an article, send a quick text update or photo, or stick an inspirational card or small gift in the mail.

May you be forever blessed in friendship!


“That quality of your friendships is worth much more than who is in your immediate vicinity.” ~ Dr. Patel-Dunn


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