Hot Take: Long Distance Friendships Aren’t Hard

Source: @anastasia-shuraeva | Pexels
Source: @anastasia-shuraeva | Pexels

In the six months since I graduated college, what’s made me the most anxious wasn’t finding a job. It was watching my friends move across the country—across the world, even—as we all started this new chapter of our lives. Ironically, the people I’m closest to are the furthest away, from California to Ireland, France to Washington, D.C. Even my best friends who still live in the same state as me might as well be in a different world, with work and grad school making it difficult to get together. But as time has gone by and we’ve each settled into our new routines, I’ve found that these long-distance friendships are a lot easier to keep up than I thought they’d be.

Long-distance relationships of any kind scared me at first. From the horror stories I’d read online (and even heard in real life), I felt like I had to prepare myself for these friends to slowly drift away, maybe with no explanation as to why, and I’d be left all alone, wondering what went wrong. But research has found that more than half of long-distance relationships are successful, and I can only hope that my own friendships follow this trend. If you find yourself in a similar situation, have no fear. I can confirm that long-distance friendships are a lot easier than people may seem, and there are a few key reasons why I’m sharing ahead.

You already have a strong foundation for friendship

I’ve known each of my long-distance friends for several years, and we’ve gotten close for various reasons—whether that’s having gone to the same high school, being a part of the same clubs and student organizations in college, or even living together as roommates. But what’s made us especially close are the anchors we’ve developed along the way, which, according to psychologist and friendship expert Marisa G. Franco, are things that trigger us to reach out to each other. For example, if I am reading a book that I know one of my besties will love, I immediately share the link with her. Or, if I’m watching re-runs of a show that my roommates and I used to watch, I text the group chat to laugh about the scenes we adore.

Anchors generate exclusivity, and “That’s something that builds our friendships when we have memories, experiences, [or] inside jokes that we share,” Franco shared with NPR. So even though my friends and I are long-distance, there is no doubt I am thinking about them regularly and contacting them to make sure they know they are top of mind.

There isn’t as much pressure to be physically together

Platonic friendships and romantic relationships aren’t all that different. They both are developed over time, count on anchors, and even include physical intimacy on some level, according to experts like Marie Murphy, PhD. Of course, once long-distance comes into play, that last point becomes a little more nuanced. I’ve read post after post about “what to think about before going long-distance” as it pertains to romantic relationships, and one of the most common questions was whether you and your partner could trust each other to be loyal. (When you’re not in the same place as your partner and can’t satisfy the physical needs of your relationship, worries about infidelity may easily pop up.) It’s an absolutely valid point to consider, but it isn’t as cut-and-dried with long-distance friendships, and I think that takes some of the pressure off.

Of course, my friends are going to make other friends (and I hope they do so quickly!), but that doesn’t mean that my place in their lives is any less significant. I don’t fear that they will forget all about me—because guess what? I haven’t forgotten all about them just because we don’t share a bathroom anymore. Physical proximity, while a little nerve-racking at first, has no effect on the strength of a relationship if you don’t let it.

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Communicating often (and in different ways) keeps things exciting

By looking at the text conversations I have with my friends, you might find it hard to believe that some of us are operating in completely different time zones. We’re in several different group chats together, and one always seems to start blowing up as another dies down. Plus, the amount of memes we send each other on Instagram and TikTok is neverending. Turns out, our constantly being in contact does more than entertain us—studies have shown that having regular communication with each other is one of the most important practices to keep a long-distance relationship alive.

That being said, we do switch up how we’re communicating in order to keep things fresh. Some of the most fun examples include filming video diaries or “Day in My Life” compilations just for each other, telling crazy stories via voice memo instead of a text message, and even sending each other physical mail, like postcards. It’s fun to switch things up, and it even makes it seem like your friend is right there with you in the Target aisle while you’re shopping and not a million miles away.

Planning things together gives you something to look forward to

When my friends and I make plans to revisit our favorite Indian restaurant once we’re all back in town, it does more than feed our imaginations. Putting things on the calendar makes sure that we’re still prioritizing each other when things get busy and will give us a shared experience that deepens our friendship once these plans come to pass.

In the meantime, when we’re missing each other a little extra, a virtual date goes a long way. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate; I’m always down for a watch party or a simple FaceTime call to catch up. Another favorite activity is “buddy-reading” books and sharing our thoughts with each other. While some virtual plans take more effort than meeting up for coffee on the way to work, they are worth the extra time and attention because they truly ensure our connection stays as strong as ever.

Final thoughts

I really value these relationships and want them to be in my life for as long as possible, so the effort it’ll take to do so is worth it to me. I know I’m not alone in wanting this, either, because my friends and I are pretty vocal about how much we miss each other. Even though we might be heading in different directions (literally) for the time being, we’re willing to put in the work so we can come back to each other and have a stronger bond.

The honest truth is that if these friendships matter to you, you can make it work. So I encourage you, if you are living away from a best friend and feel your friendship slipping away, or you will soon be away from your group of gals, keep these things in mind to maintain your long-distance friendships. Remember: Distance makes the heart grow fonder, after all.