The friendship formula isn’t always the easiest, especially when those best friends live far away. One of the top items on my list of “thankful-fors” or “reasons for gratitude” is friendships. We’re not just talking any old friendship, but the ones with my ladies. My gal pals, babes, girlfriends, tribe, or whatever name you have those females who bring goodness into my life.
I am thankful to have many gal pals that have met me in various seasons of life. Some girls I met the first week of college (Go Dawgs!), others in a class later on, maybe during a summer working at camp, or through a mutual friend. Whatever the circumstance, I am very aware of the many women who have stepped into my life at the absolute right time. What they might not have realized at the time of meeting is that now that they are with me, they are basically stuck and I am going to try my best to never let them leave. They might move to a new city, enter a new career, or add some new friendships into their circle, BUT, I believe these are inevitable conditions of life and it doesn’t have to result in an ending of a friendship. In fact, I live in a different city than most of my go-to gals and I can truly say that friendships CAN strengthen through distance and time.
what’s the formula?
Over the weekend I had the opportunity to spend some time with several of my best ladies because that is one of the many glorious parts about wedding season. A weekend filled with sleepovers, pillow talks, shared meals, walk and talks, and the like reminded me of why I love the women in my life and why it is always worth it to pursue long distance friendships. Because I tend to get really emotional and introspective after weekends with my ladies, I thought I would take some time to try to put into words just a few of my thoughts and feelings, and some things I have learned about friendships, specifically the ones that exist over many miles. I’m fully aware these words won’t even scratch the surface but it might shed just a sliver of light into my heart.
There is a magical formula for the best friendships: what you put in, you will get back: times a million. There isn’t a clear-cut set of practices for what you put in; it varies from friendship to friendship. If you attempt to figure out practically what it means–putting “stuff” into friendship–you can trust there will be a high return. You will get back more than you can ever imagine and what you receive makes up the most meaningful parts of your life.
So, what’s “the stuff?” What do we put into friendships? How do we add value to the relationships with people who don’t live near to us? Here are some ideas:
Provide encouragement. Be in your friend’s corner, regardless of if there are other people with them or not. When you have all the energy in the world and are on top of the mountains, encourage those people who are in the valleys. Encourage through words, actions, songs, memes, or whatever feels best.
Ask questions. The only surefire way you will be able to know about what is going on in someone’s life is by asking. You’ll be lucky if they share updates on social media, but you’ll probably have deeper questions they won’t get into publicly anyway. Ask about their heart, their thoughts, their day, and their current season. Also ask about their goals, hopes, and dreams, and if there’s any possible way you can support them in that. But don’t forget the most important part here, to listen. Listen without judgment and with patience.
stay in touch
Stay in touch. It probably seems obvious to stay in touch, but is one of the largest obstacles of distance. Maybe it’s because it’s easy to get so focused on what is right in front of you. Whatever the reason, how to stay connected varies and is dependent upon the particular friendship. It can look like phone calls, text messages, emails, direct messages on social media, written letters, or whatever works for you.
One of the best ways for me to provide and receive the best life updates is through random phone calls. While sometimes there’s a planned “set on the calendar” time to talk on the phone with a friend, other times I randomly call to see if I can catch the friend. If I catch them, it usually results in a spontaneous catch-up conversation that is almost always soul-filling, and if not, I leave a rambly voicemail and start a game of phone tag. These phone calls are almost always filled with the fast-paced conversation to say and hear the most we possibly can in the time we have. One of my favorite ways to talk on the phone is by going on a walk and talk because it gets my body and mind in the best place.
Don’t underestimate the power of text messages. I think texting is one of the best ways to provide encouragement, little check-ins, and to see how the other is doing. Try texting someone on the day of an important meeting, when you know they are traveling, or working on something big — I guarantee it will mean something to know you are thinking of them. Even if it’s just a random Tuesday, asking about daily life is valuable. Basically, whenever I find myself thinking of a particular person or friend, I try to text them, if I’m able. Because what good is it if you’re just keeping the thought to yourself if it is one that could be meaningful if it is shared?
Everyone enjoys opening their mailbox to a handwritten letter. Let me be honest: I do not regularly send letters. In fact, I think about sending letters way more than they actually get sent. However, I try to make a point to send a letter on something big like a birthday or celebration.
Other various forms of communication that have worked well are facetiming and direct messaging on Facebook and Instagram (the beauty of social media!) A little bit goes a long way, so find what works for you.
Be vulnerable. I guarantee that if you invest into your friends, they will want to invest back into you. It’s so beautiful how that works. What is the most beautiful (and sometimes scary) part about friendships is the necessity of vulnerability. Be honest about how you are and say something when you are in a valley. Ask for prayer if you need it. Be real with yourself and then with the people who want to be there for you.
Plan opportunities for visits. This one is sometimes the hardest to make happen, but you can choose to make it a priority. It will almost never be convenient, but it will always be worth it. Drive to another city to visit a friend. Take a different route and leave two hours earlier if it means you can stop and grab a coffee with a pal. Save some extra finances if you need to travel to somewhere. Wake up earlier to catch another opportunity. A group of my college gals started an annual ladies reunion weekend and it’s one of the most authentic communities I have been a part of. I have never ever regretted an opportunity to cultivate a relationship with a woman who means the world to me. The kind of soul-filling, heart-warming, fast-talking, mostly-laughter-and-maybe-some-tears kind of conversations that happen face-to-face are the absolute best and cannot be replaced. Prioritize this.
Give. It’s important to understand how you give. For me, it’s through food and words. I love cooking for people, sharing meals, sending surprise treats, and really any experience that involves food. With words, I text, call, write, and do what I can to keep the communication going. Friendship doesn’t need to be expensive of fancy. It’s not important to buy or impress, but focus on the relationships and how to strengthen and nourish what exists.
Time is key
Here’s the deal. Time is key. There isn’t a shortcut for friendships. While some spark faster than others, or some feel easier to maintain, time is what will create the deepest of relationships. You have to trust that it will feel more comfortable over time. The first couple of years might have awkward moments or uncertainty, but if you continue to invest, the other person can be one who provides comfort, safeness, and a home. Be patient and forgiving, and know that time will lead to actual gold. I honestly feel like I have already hit the jackpot with the women in my life and it brings my heart joy to know it can still get even better from here.
friendships might change
I say all this with the understanding that some friendships will change. It is really hard to see someone slowly leaving your life but not have the energy or motivation to continue to put work into that relationship for whatever reason. This is sometimes the reality and must be accepted. Relationships take work — work that is usually hard. They take vulnerability, selflessness, time, sometimes finances, and trial and error.
Though it would amazing to have solid friendships with everyone, you have to choose your community wisely. I think it’s a balance of holding tightly to your home team, but leaving room for another gal or two to walk in at any moment. Find your girlfriends, invest time and hard work, and trust and prioritize the process. My family includes far more people than those related by blood — it is extended to my chosen sisters. Regardless of the distance, the circumstances, and season, I try my best to build, strengthen, and nurture these powerful relationships. With everything in me I believe it will always be worth it.
- How do you know when someone is a real friend?
- What are other ways to send love from a distance?
- Who is your favorite fictional friendship (from tv, movies, etc.)?