Long-Distance Friendship: How To Stay Connected When Life Gets In The Way
Life is always going to keep handing you (or your friend) full schedules. Geography and time zones – or sleep schedules – won’t always be on your side. Here’s how to stay connected when life gets in the way.
Making friends as an adult is hard. And keeping those friendships strong when life gets in the way? Even harder.
It can feel like the companionship cards are stacked against us – but we actually have more in our favor than not. We’ve grown into ourselves. We know what we love and what we don’t. And as we get older, we become less into appeasing others and more into honoring ourselves. We can be “friendly acquaintances” or “work buddies” with people in our various social spheres with zero pressure to develop a deep and lasting bond, like when we’re younger and in school or living in dormitories.
But life changes a lot as an adult, and friendships morph. You don’t need to live far away to feel like you have a long-distance friendship. People move across town, across the country, or across the world. They start new jobs, or grow new families, or take up new hobbies that fill up their soul. Work gets tough and obligations pile up.
Building a life for yourself as an adult is a complicated, ever-evolving process. And sometimes, it gets lonely. That doesn’t mean you’re alone, though: lonely’s just love with nowhere to go.
I gave myself a “friend-tervention” about a year ago when I realized that after planning and executing an amazing wedding, taking on a job that took up the majority of my time and energy, and hunting for a new apartment in the city, I’d been a pretty crappy friend for…well, for too long for me to be comfortable with. Plus, hello, I moved across the country almost three years ago! Time zones weren’t helping at all. I was super lonely, and felt disconnected to my nearest and dearest. And so I recommitted to upping my friendship game, to the people who lived far, but who lived close too.
Part of this meant making decisions to recommit to my sense of community in general – in business AND in life. When I joined Aaptiv, I became able to workout with anyone, anywhere. I could cheer up the people I loved when we were far away – and uplift people I didn’t even know yet. I let go of the classes that made me feel stretched thin and like I wasn’t able to give my all. And I increased the frequency of WANTcast episodes I released per month, and increased the amount of solo episodes I recorded so I could talk directly “to” listeners more and have a conversation “one-on-one.”
I ALSO started looking for ways to meet up with local friends that fit for both of us. Scheduling work dates with our laptops, figuring out when our schedules overlapped, grabbing a coffee with them on their lunch break. And I started to devise strategies around showing up, literally or emotionally, for the people I cared about most WITHOUT sacrificing myself in the meantime. Because to show up for your people, you really do need to show up for yourself first.To show up for your people, you need to show up for yourself first. Click To Tweet
Life is always going to keep handing you (or your friend) full schedules. Geography and time zones – or sleep schedules – won’t always be on your side. Here’s how to stay connected when life gets in the way:
My calendar is my lifeline. If something’s in my calendar, you bet it’s gonna happen. If it’s not, good luck to me remembering it. That goes for work, social plans – and sometimes, if the week is really nuts, even phone calls.
Texts to your nearest and dearest are great, but there’s something that can’t be beat about voice-to-voice connection, whether it’s a phone call or Skype sesh. Scheduling out time to “just say hi” or catch up might feel forced or contrived, but if the alternative is that “just saying hi” keeps getting put off…then this might be a strategy that helps you stick to your shared-words.
There are two ways you can do this: Schedule your calls along WITH your friend. If you use a digital calendar, like Google Cal, make a calendar event, and invite your pal so they’ve got it down, too. But if that feels too forced, then just schedule time in your OWN calendar to call someone, anyone, each week. I have three different reminders in my calendar spread throughout the week – when I KNOW I’ll have time to talk – that say Phone Call To Someone I Love. That way, even if I end up leaving a voicemail, I know I’ve taken the first step in connecting.
Of course you can call as many people you want to call, whenever you want to call them. But having it in the calendar is a reminder to take the time to do it, even when life feels overwhelming.
2 – Send them something they want, need, will make their life easier, or will make them smile.
Care packages aren’t just for sick days or sleep-away camp. They’re also for saying I Miss You, Good Luck, or, well, I Care. They can be emotional – like a copy of “Braving The Wilderness,” a book all about finding your place in the world, that I recently Amazon Prime’d to a friend struggling to identify their place in the world – or practical – like the fancy umbrella an anonymous person recently sent my way to help brave this wacky NYC weather (ps….who are you? I love it!).
Yes, this post is sponsored by Small Packages. Because it’s a company I’d champion and celebrate anyway. I LOVE their mission of making connection easier, and I love that they just want women to connect with those they love most. If you’re like me and you’re a bit, uh, over-achiever-y in the gift department, they knock it out of the park: you can select a box that’s themed around a life event like celebrating a birthday or buying a home, or around a sentiment like “I miss you” or “I screwed up.” And unlike some other boxes that might seem sterile or run of the mill, they go for quality over quantity – the products they choose are DOPE (literally have never seen a box this good – check out the picture above!) and they’ll even handwrite a card for your friend, from you to her (with zero character limit for people like me who prefer to write novels over notes).
Last week, I surprised my dear friend Jen with the “Missing You” box because a) The box reminded me of our favorite activities together, and b) Duh, I missed her.
I’m not sure how Jen and I became as close as we are, but the “Us”-ness of us just sort of appeared one day. She was only a few months into living in Los Angeles, and I was just a few months into teaching at Equinox. She arrived in my class and I had an automatic girl crush on the second-row powerhouse who looked like Wonder Woman and joked like Tina Fey. Multiple times a month, we’d meet up at a tiny strip mall in between our apartments for what we called Hooves And Paws: a manicure-pedicure date preceded or proceeded by fancy coffee beverages and the realest of real talks. When I saw the “Missing You” box, including a book of deep-dive conversations, a sleep mask that gave me H+P relaxation vibes, AND some really really good coffee…I knew it was the one.
Jen’s had a pretty wild year-plus, from business highs and lows to a death in the family to almost being on fire, literally. I am so proud of how she’s moved forward fearlessly through it all with grit, grace, and a crapton of humor. She’s got some big things going on right now that I can’t support in-person – so sending her something that reminded me (and her) of spending quality time together made her day, and it made mine too.
(Btw…if you want to send a Small Packages box to a friend, use code WANT at checkout for 10% off your order. Boom. Done.)
3 – Set boundaries, make priorities, and honor them.
Even when I worked in an office 9-6pm, I still was running SOMETHING in addition. Whether it was a freelance writing gig, acting auditions, or eventually WANT, I used to feel really guilt putting my work aside for social time…so guilty, that I almost always did it.
I ended staying up way past the wee-hours, cramming in the work I didn’t get to that evening, or scrambling on Monday when I didn’t use a little of my weekend to prep and get centered. I was way too exhausted and spread way too thin. I was so afraid of saying NO – for my work, for my health, for my sanity – that I started to realize my yesses didn’t mean much. Because I was always sacrificing something. I was exhausted, and wasn’t fully present. I wasn’t placing value on my time, or my friend’s time. Nothing was the priority. And that wasn’t fair to anyone. My friends deserved to really GET ME when they got me.
I now know how to say NO, and it’s saved me AND my friendships. I no longer dance around my priorities, and no longer feel guilty if I turn down an invite. The flip of that? When I say YES, I am ALL. IN. No work, no half-of-me….all of me, right here, right now. My friends respect my work, my health, and my sanity – and I respect theirs. I’ve even had friends tell me that because I’ve said I need to take a mental health day to myself, they feel comfortable saying that to other people now, too.
4 – Meet them where they’re at.
I saved my favorite for last. So often we expect each other to be exactly the same person we were when we first met. But as our lives change, WE change too.
Jacki Carr put it so succinctly in Episode 063: it’s important to reintroduce yourself to your friends as you grow and evolve – and get to know them in their evolution, too. Your friend who is a new mom probably is going to have some new priorities in her life now, and your friend who moved across the country is probably learning things about themselves they would’ve never predicted five years ago. Your friend might be in a period of self-discovery, or in a period of career expansion, or they might just be a different person now than when you first met them. And every single one of those scenarios is something to be celebrated and get curious about.
What’s incredible is that when you commit to meeting your friends, whether near or far, where they’re at – you sidestep feelings like jealousy, resentment, and __. You get to stay curious, stay surprised, and keep “friend-dating” them even after you’ve reached soul-mate status. Meet your friends where they’re at in life – and they’ll meet you where you’re at, too.
How do you stay close to friends when life gets in the way? What are some ways you keep your relationships strong, even when distance or circumstances might not be on your side?
Leave a comment below telling us – you might be helping out a friend in need who’s reading.
This post is sponsored by Small Packages, next-level care packages for the people you love the most.
Use code WANT for 10% off your order.
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