We’ve all heard the cliché, “distance makes the heart grow fonder;” however, how true is that statement? And if distance makes the heart grow fonder, what does closeness do?
Relationships with friends, significant others and family are hard, but adding long distance to those relationships can make them seem even harder. Even when you’re as close as living under the same roof as someone, relationships take work, sacrifice and intentionality; however, how much more hard work, sacrifice and intentionally do relationships take when you add a few hundred or a few thousand miles between friends, family and home? Here are a few tips to help bring longevity and life to long-distance friendships and relationships, whether you’re out of the country for a few years or just across the state for a few months.
1. Use Technology
This is the obvious one. We live in the most technological age of the world, and it’s only going to get more advanced as time goes on. With technology comes an array of options to help keep in contact with close friends and family. From email, phone calls, texting, Skyping, FaceTiming, Tweeting, Facebooking, Instagraming, Snapchating and so many more communication vehicles, there are more than enough ways to stay connected to those we love (if you got through that list in one breath, props). Though technology may be hard to come by and use in certain places, public Wi-Fi is available now in many places, so be sure to take advantage of it. Use technology to call or write to your friends and family when you can, and never forget to call home; mom and dad want to make sure you’re alive. Also, here’s another key tip– Don’t let technology distract you from where you are. Be present and be in the moment; you are where you are for a reason.
2. Communicate Well
Unless you want to live on a deserted island by yourself with no contact to the outside world, communication is important. The ability to communicate well is crucial to healthy relationships, and it is vital to any relationship, long distance or close, to be able to communicate in a healthy way. It’s important to be able to figure out your strengths and weaknesses in communication, as well as figuring out the other person’s strengths and weaknesses. For example, if one person’s strength is texting and the other person’s strength is talking on the phone, spend some time doing each of these things to so people can benefit. To communicate well with loved ones, especially over long distance, it takes patience, understanding and selflessness. With distance come time differences. To communicate effectively over time differences, it takes patience with your friends and an understanding that schedules are not always going to line up. It’s important to set aside that extra time in your schedule to communicate well – even when it’s hard and when the timing is not always the most convenient for you. Be selfless with your time, and most importantly be flexible.
3. Know Love Languages
Knowing “love languages” may sound like something that’s just for people with ‘significant others,’ but it’s really for every kind of relationship and friendship. Knowing the love languages of the people closest to you is important in order to love friends intentionally, regardless of the distance separating you. The five love languages are: words of affirmation, acts of service, gifting, quality time and physical touch. Some of these are easier than others to do across distances, such as writing a letter full of words of affirmation, spending quality time together via FaceTime or Skype, or sending small gifts in the mail to one another. Physical touch and service are more difficult simply because it’s hard to hug someone when they’re thousands of miles away; however, still knowing one another’s love languages can save a lot of time and energy on figuring out how to show love to those closest to you. Here are some basic ideas: Affirmation: letters, Quality time: Skype, Gifts: a package in the mail, Service: Be thoughtful in gift giving, Physical touch: Give the biggest hugs ever upon reuniting
4. Look Forward to Something
Remember when you were a kid and there was nothing more difficult than waiting for Christmas morning? It was something to look forward to all year ‘round that would start on December 26 and wouldn’t stop until December 25 the next year. Just as a kid has Christmas to look forward to each year, it’s absolutely helpful to have a date to look forward to with your friends that’s in the future. Whether it’s a Skype session next week or Spring break six months away, having a date set to see one another again in the future is a symbol of hope and longing that keeps a positive vibe flowing through the relationship. It’s something to talk about, plan for and look forward to together. This has been one of the biggest keys for my girlfriend and I, as we’ve dated long distance for the past 10 months. We’ve always had a date to look forward to in the future when we would see one another again, and it’s given us a positive, tangible thing to hold on to when homesickness and missing one another sinks in. I highly recommend countdown calendars.
5. Realize Distance is Only Temporary
Even though the form of a relationship may change from close distance to long distance, it doesn’t mean the intensity of a relationship has to change. Distance is only a stage and a small part of the overall story that makes up a relationship. All relationships have stages to them, and distance is just another stage and test that will only strengthen the relationship and make it deeper. Long-distance friendships are unique, and with them relationships can grow in ways unlike any other. As talking and writing become the main form of communication, it becomes easier to have deep, meaningful conversations with the people closest to you because there’s only room for so much “small talk” before there is nothing left to talk about except deep issues and feelings. If you’re in a long-distance relationship or friendship of any kind, I would encourage you to step back and realize that it will only be “long-distance” for a small period of time in the grand scheme of life’s story. It’s a special time that can build your relationship into one that is unshakeable and strong for all the right reasons.
With these tips in mind, let’s go back to this question: “If distance makes the heart grow fonder, what should closeness do?”
Closeness makes our hearts grow ready for distance when times of distance come. Regardless of how many friendships you may have, distance is bound to sneak into at least one of those relationships at some point, whether it’s a friend moving away to college or a significant other taking a job in a new place. Take advantage of the time you have with your friends and family while you’re close to them so that if and when distance becomes a factor of those relationships, you’re prepared to take the steps needed to keep the people you love in your life close, regardless of how far away they may seem.