Oh, the time of tiny towns where everyone knew each other from birth to death is slowly going away. Sure, there are places in the world where you can still lock yourself in time – but for most of us travel and moving and change is as common as the air we breathe. Now everyone is flexible and agile and mobile too; chameleons would go nuts if they had to follow all these patterns and we somehow keep going. Always forward.
How can we not lose each other in the process?
I’m probably not the best person to teach you this lesson; I have left behind me a fair amount of people without a blink of my eye. Although I made my promises I have never visited any of my old workplaces again. There are times when I miss people I lost in the process of becoming who and where I am quite terribly, but there are also times, and there are more of these, when I don’t even notice they’re not there anymore.
You see, once you lose someone getting them back is borderline impossible. There were moment in my life when I felt the need to pull back someone from the reservoir of my past – but once the connection is broken, patching it up is just not the same. And since I do not have a natural tendency to hang around people, I need to pay special attention to make sure some of those important to me actually do still hang around when I am very far away.
You need to care
The single most important thing about sustaining a long distance relationship is mutual caring for the relationship. Pulling it one-sided never works and brings little joy and lots of frustration. And, trust me, long distance relationship are challenging. They require more effort and more engagement, they trial you in ways you never imagined possible.
If you think you want to keep in touch with someone who now lives miles away from you – think twice. As bitter as it sounds any relationship that is not strong enough will sooner or later fail. You need to be sure that it is a person you are prepared to make an effort for. And not a sort of: oh, something bad happened, I must comfort her/him.
You need to push yourself
You know that one time you actually have an opportunity to see a long distance friend in person but you so happen to have a terrible flu and your head feels like it is going to explode into a million pieces? You NEED TO see your friend. When there is little to no opportunity for face-to-face contact the only acceptable excuses are more or less death and an extremely angry mother. Fall out once and you are quite likely to fall out again, until you realize you don’t actually have this friend anymore.
That happened to me with way to many people. I’ve learnt my lesson and if there is one thing anyone is going to get out of this post, let it be: push yourself to see your friends or partners at any time possible. Nothing can substitute human contact, not letters, not phone calls, not texts. When one sees their friends frequently, missing one meeting is not much of a big deal. When meeting is a rare commodity, its importance cannot be overstressed.
You need to keep yourself in the loop
Do you have this one friend you never see anymore, but every time you suddenly pop into each other’s lives he or she understands you more than anyone else? I am sure you do. Usually these are our childhood friends, people we are still so amazingly compatible with, regardless of time passed. Yet the awkward silence comes and sometimes with awkward silence come awkward questions about things neither of you have any idea about.
With modern technology it is so easy to drop a line or two every few days or weeks to let the other person know what is happening in your life. It doesn’t have to be much but it does wonders. And if there is more than two of you, for example a group of old friends, places like Slack or even Facebook conferences are perfect to keep in touch – with even a small amount of people it will always seem as if someone is chatting. And if you ever find yourself wondering why you keep track of all the irrelevant stuff they spam you with – well, remind yourself that it is this irrelevant stuff that keep you together.
You need to learn to forget and forgive really fast
To sustain a long distance relationship one needs to master the art of forgiving and forgetting. Without the other person within reach of our hands it is just so easy to fall apart because of some petty argument. Arguments will happen, they always do. People will get hurt. But if you are serious about keeping it going – let it go. Sooner or later the anger would go away anyway – but with it your friend could be gone too.
You could think about some project
An awesome thing about seeing people you don’t see every day is that it kind of feels like an adventure. Why not make it one as well? Think: holiday together in a brand new place. Or: a fancy dress party. Maybe some sort of competition? There are countless possibilities.
Especially when you are worried about drifting too far apart, any sort of organized form of spending time together will make it that much easier to break the ice with people you haven’t seen for a long time. A common goal and distraction guarantees success.
And that’s pretty much all I try to keep up with. It sounds like way less than it actually is, but for someone like me, keeping other people that I never get to see at the edge of my consciousness is quite a tough endeavour. Can you think of anything else I could improve on? Or maybe you don’t believe in long distance relationships at all?