Coping with long distance friendship.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

When most people discuss long distance relationships, it usually comes down to romantic relationships.  That can be hard, for obvious reasons, but what about long distance friendships? 

Those who know me reasonably well will know that my best friend doesn’t even live on the same continent as me, let alone in the same country or same town.  Kate and I met when we were studying abroad in Kyoto, and have been emotionally inseparable ever since.  We haven’t seen each other in person for what will be four years this January, and that can be tough to swallow sometimes.  During December I can get a little bit down about it, because as homesick as I felt when I was living in Japan during Christmas time, in retrospect the Christmas I spent with Kate going to the flea market on a frosty winter’s day was one of my favourite Christmasses to date.  Our New Year’s Eve spent dancing around her bedroom together getting drunk off chuuhai ('STRONG Lemon' flavour, of course) is also an amusing and cherished memory!  Who knows when we’ll be able to do something like that together again?  There are times when we’ll be going through the motions or experiencing something that we feel that only the other can really relate to, sympathise with or even just understand, but all we’re ever able to offer in the way of support is online message-based words of love and comfort thanks to the massive expanse of ocean between us.  The one person we want to be able to call up on the phone or drive over to see, we can’t.

Even in the age that we live in where almost everyone is online and connected, and national boundaries and geography are blurred, there are people that can’t really comprehend close but long-distance friendships.  How can you be best friends with someone you never see?  Well, easily.  Just because someone lives on the other side of the world doesn’t mean you can’t talk to the all the time – rarely does a day go by when Kate and I don’t at least exchange a few messages.  If we wake up upset in the middle of the night or early in the morning, we’ll still message each other to vent and the other just responds when they can.  That’s the beauty of the internet, even with distance and time differences, we can still communicate effectively on a daily basis.

For most people who talk or blog about long distance relationships – be they romantic or platonic – it’s all about counting down the days until you see each other next, but for us that’s uncertain and still barely a possibility.  When neither party can afford a £600+ per person trip to the US or UK, the outlook is bleak and you can’t just rely on crossing days off a calendar until you next get to meet up.  Instead, you have to make the most of what you have together and not get caught up in the idea that you need to see each other and the disappointment and hopelessness that comes when you don’t really know when you will.

I’m sure that we’re not the only people who are disappointedly stuck in a different country to our bestie, but even so, there are plenty of things that you can do to stay close to each other.  I already mentioned our daily chats, but this can be taken a step further if you both have smartphones or WhatsApp and the like.  I’m hopefully getting a used iPhone over the Christmas period, and once I do I’ll be able to chat and text or Skype call friends who live abroad when I’m out and about, as though they were just living down the street to me like anyone else.  Time differences can still be a pain depending on where your friends live, but knowing that they’re as much on the other end of your phone as your friends and family in your own city or country can make a world of difference.

Cards and gifts are also a fun way to brighten each other’s days – this year and last year, Kate and I agreed to do cruelty free makeup swaps since there are a few brands in our respective countries that are harder for the other to get a hold of.  We’ve sent each other little gifts and cards in the past too, and if you’re living in the UK like me and it costs an arm and a leg to post anything bigger than a letter to your friends abroad, then try just ordering gifts for them straight off websites from the country they live in!  You end up only paying a couple quid for delivery instead of the ridiculous amounts we get charged just posting something via the Post Office. 

As long as you’re talking as often as you can and offering one another support as often as you can, there’s no reason why you can’t stay close and love each other as much as you did when you were physically together.  Communication is key in long distance friendships as in any relationship – if something is bothering you, if you feel neglected, if you’re concerned for the other person and want to let them know you’re there for them then talk to them.  Even if you think you’ll sound stupid, just tell them because unless you talk to them, they’ll be living in the dark.  When you can’t let your actions speak for you instead as you might in a normal friendship, actually speaking to each other is all the more vital for maintaining your relationship.

I won’t lie and say it isn’t hard, because it is.  Not being able to go to your friend’s house with cookies or cocktails when they’re feeling down is tough, as is not having them around in person to lean on when you’re going through a difficult time, but it doesn’t mean that your friendship will be any less fulfilling and rewarding than one that’s face-to-face every day.  We’re as much a part of each other’s lives as any of our local friends; my mum and partner ask about how Kate and her husband are getting on, how their move up north went, what they’re doing for the holidays.  Acquaintances and other friends may not get it; they might be confused when they finally click that the best friend that you talk about all the time doesn’t even live anywhere near you.  The other important people in my life though, they know just how important Kate and her hubz are to me and to these folk and to me, it’s no different to any other friendship.

Mostly, you have to have faith in each other.  Seeing each other again might seem like an impossible pipe dream at times, but if you have confidence that your friendship is strong and unwavering, if you’ve survived the goodbyes and the distance and the hard times so far already, then you can have hope that you’ll meet again one day.  It might be next year, it might be in ten years, it might be when we’re sassy little old ladies with elaborate faux fur coats and brightly coloured hair swapping photos of our grandkids – whenever it may be, we know we can weather the storm of long distance and we’ll see each other again.  And if we don’t, sad as that may be, it doesn’t mean we don’t still love each other and that our friendship won’t have brought us immeasurable amounts of joy.

You don’t have to see someone every day – or even ever again – to always be in their heart.

Do you have a long distance friend?  Got any tips on how you keep in touch and try to feel closer to them?


  1. Such a lovely post, and one that's particularly relevant to me right now. A friend I've been close to since high school moved to America (she met someone from Virginia online and they ended up getting married), and earlier this week I saw her in person for the first time in two years. It amazed me how we were immediately chatting and giggling like we'd never been apart. The best friendships aren't affected by distance or how much you speak, it's all about knowing they're there when you need them.

    I'm glad you have such a wonderful friendship with Kate, and here's hoping you get to hang out in person again before too long.

    Sophie xx

    1. Thanks Sophie, I'm glad you can relate! And that you and your friend got to see each other again recently. :) It's funny how some friendships can just be completely unchanged by distance or years apart - once some folks get back together again it's like they were never away from each other in the first place.

      Lucky for us we've been talking about the possibility of her coming to visit alone this spring or summer, fingers crossed it happens!


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