Even in a pre-COVID era, many of us weren’t strangers to maintaining long-distance relationships, platonic or otherwise. The average individual today has many more connections to manage across various states, countries, and time zones than our grandparents ever dreamed of (not to mention the unique challenge of managing even our short-distance relationships from afar during a global pandemic.)
Whether you are a veteran of long-distance relationships or not, staying remotely in touch has never been more relevant. Here are a few of my favorite ways to stay connected with loved ones from afar:
Use your transit time wisely
What are you doing on your drive to work or your walk with the dog? Seriously. Rather than stewing over your boss’s latest faux pas or listening to Today’s Top Hits for the 100th time, pick up the phone and call a friend! Filling time gaps between errands or events by calling someone close to you won’t only make their day, chances are it’ll brighten your mood as well.
Birthdays, birthdays, birthdays
Everyone wants to be remembered on their birthday, but it’s especially important when you can’t be with them in person. I, for one, love cards more than any grandiose gesture. A birthday is a built-in time to tell those you care about how much they mean to you, and why! So take the time to let them know, whether it’s a call, an Instagram post, a card, or a simple text. Sometimes we just need to feel appreciated, and birthdays are the perfect opportunity.
Actions speak louder than words
While everyone’s love language is a bit different, sometimes the impact of a gesture like sending flowers, cookies, or a care box goes further than another “thinking of you!” text. If you want brownie points, send an item that reminds you of them, or better yet an old-fashioned care package. Some of my favorite memories are receiving these at college from my younger sister. It’ll mean more than you think.
Support the little (big) moments
If you keep one piece of advice in the back of your head, let it be this: everyone is living their own version of this complex life full of small dramas. It’s difficult to stay in touch with these ups and downs without being physically present, but if you can track a few, it’s worth it. Interviews, dates, big presentations at work, half-marathons, certifications, moves, medical tests — just like a birthday, put them in your calendar and follow up. There’s nothing that shows you care more than keeping up with the little things. Pay attention to them, they are a bigger deal than you think.
Tie in a visit
I travel a lot for work, and the one thing that makes even the most painful conference worthwhile is being able to see a friend. Even if just a few hours for a quick drink, every time it’s worth it. Tip: The people worth seeing are the ones that energize you more than a couple of extra hours of sleep in your hotel room. And if you don’t have a job that requires you to travel, consider a weekend trip (or inviting them for one!) After a while, even the greatest friendships may go quiet if you never make time to rekindle in person.
Make sure they’re worth it
All this being said, if you find yourself stretched too thin to maintain all your relationships, you may be trying too hard. The ones you care most about will suffer if you dilute your time for them with acquaintances you could take or leave. This does not mean you need to ruthlessly prune people you talk to casually, the power of weak connections is everything. But most of us biologically max out at a certain number of friends, so it does mean that you need to consciously determine who you are investing in.