Adult friendships are hard to maintain in the best of circumstances. When demanding jobs, spouses, and kiddos enter the mix, friendships tend to take a backseat, even if unintentionally. When you’re separated by physical distance, staying connected to your long-distance best friend is a whole new basket of challenges. You and your BFF have to work extra hard at communication and bonding since you can’t just show up on each other’s porches for wine dates on Friday night.
Thankfully, there are some handy technological advancements in the communication arena, and with a little creativity, you can keep your close friendship strong despite the distance. In this article, we take a look at some unique ways to spend quality time with your long-distance best friend and ensure that your relationship stays healthy. While none of these solutions are the same as an in-person hangout, they will do the trick to keep you in the loop until your next hug!
Writer Note: Not to toot my own horn here, but long-distance friendships are kind of my thing. Since I started traveling the world full-time, pretty much all my important relationships are long-distance at this point, and I can verify that it takes an immense amount of work to make these friendships last! “Out of sight, out of mind” is a real thing. I say all that to make a very pointed truth: If you want your friendship to last, you’ll have to put in a lot of effort. Show up for big things, even if you can only be there virtually. Schedule your friend into your life and stay up to date on all the little things going on in their world, or you’ll find that you’ve become disconnected quite quickly.
Adventures From Scratch for Your In-Person Meetups
There’s going to be that rare chance for an IRL hangout with your long-distance best friend. Make the most of it with a few outings from Adventures From Scratch: Friends Edition! Our innovative friendship activity book is loaded with unique and creative ways to bond with your besties. Just consult the key, scratch off an adventure, and commit! We’ve even included relevant conversation starters and a scrapbooking spot to document your journey together. This handy book has everything you need to make incredible memories during your way-too-short time together!
How to Make This List Work For You
We realize every friendship is different. Some are perfectly sound without talking for months. You just pick right back up where you left off. Others are bordering on codependent. We’ve attempted to take into account the nature of multiple types of friendships and collect activities for every personality. Whether you’re a couple of bookworms, athletes, or intrepid travelers, we have something on the list for you!
However, you might have to play with the list a little bit. Sometimes, the best solution is the last one you would have thought of. Try out a few things, even if they don’t sound appealing at first. You never know what might work best for your busy schedules, communication styles, and personalities. Pick a few and give them a fair shot. If they aren’t working out like you thought, circle back to the list and try again. Remember: Maintaining a long-distance friendship takes work!
Ways to Stay Connected With Your Long-Distance Best Friend
1. Make communication your responsibility.
It might sound a little bit one-sided, but if you value a relationship, take on the responsibility of keeping in contact. True friends will eventually jump on board and return the initiative. It could be hard or awkward at first, and you might have the tendency to believe that your loved one doesn’t appreciate the contact or that they don’t miss you as much as you miss them. Fight off the urge to give in to that emotion. It’s most likely untrue. Your good friend is likely missing you too, and someone just needs to make the first call.
2. Set up a weekly phone call.
Make a choice to set up regular contact! Work together with your friend to find a time that works for you both, especially if you’re in different time zones. Don’t make it too difficult. Just say, “Hey, I love you, and you’re an important part of my life. I don’t want our relationship to suffer now that we live far apart. Let’s set up a time to talk each week that works for both of us. I don’t want to miss out on your life.” Be direct. Don’t be afraid to be a little intimate or vulnerable and ask for what you want.
If your intended friend values your friendship, they will respond favorably. If they show no interest or make an excuse, you could suggest a different method of communication. If you still don’t get a favorable response, perhaps this friendship isn’t worth your effort. Consider letting it go or becoming more of a casual acquaintance.
3. Schedule on a shared calendar.
If you’re new to this whole long-distance relationship thing, you might be thinking that your amazing friendship will just naturally work despite the changes. That’s very unlikely. You’ll have to schedule time for your friendship and make it a priority. You kind of have to take a “no matter what” approach. We will speak once a week, no matter what. I will make sure that I’m there when you need me, no matter what, etc.
The best way to do this is to make a habit of your communication. We know; “habit” doesn’t feel like a very friendly or loving word. You’ll feel really dumb, at first, texting your friend and making an appointment for a video call on next Friday at 2 p.m. or whatever. It will feel silly, but it’s the only way to make sure that other responsibilities don’t creep in and take over your friend time. If you don’t have a set time, it’s inevitable that you either won’t call because you just want to watch TV, or they won’t answer because they weren’t expecting a call and are busy. Though it feels weird, just schedule it and do everything you can to show up for your appointments.
We recommend creating a shared calendar on Google or Apple and putting important events on the calendar. Schedule your video calls as events and set reminders. You can include notes and even photos to your calendar, keeping you and your bestie on the same page all the time. It’s just nice to be able to see all the little things and be a part of your friend’s life, even when you’re far away.
4. Have a weekly virtual game night with Let’s Roam.
If you love games, hop on our innovative platform and play pop culture trivia games, Pictionary, or our fun geography challenge game with your bestie over video chat! You can keep it between the two of you or invite mutual friends along. It’s an easy and fun way to get some quality time without having to focus all your mental energy on the conversation.
5. Set up a Wi-Fi-friendly chat.
If you’re living in a different country than your long-distance BFF, you may have to find a form of daily communication that is Wi-Fi-friendly. Switch from your text feed to WhatsApp, GroupMe, Telegram, or Signal so that you can communicate worldwide. This will avoid any nasty international texting fees.
6. Ask pointed questions regularly.
True friendships are based, at least partially, on intimate conversations. Instead of texting, “I miss you” or “how are you doing?”, go with something more pointed. Vague statements and questions get hard to answer after a while, and your communication will just dwindle. Try something like, “Hey friend, what are you doing today?” or “What’s on your schedule for the week, anything important?”
These are just a couple of examples, but you could also ask a direct follow-up question from your last conversation. If they were having a problem, ask if they found a solution. If they had a big project at work, ask how it went. In order to do this successfully, you have to become a good listener and pay attention during your conversations. This pointed conversation lets your friend know that you really do care about the events of their life, that you are there no matter what, and that you’re putting in the effort to maintain your relationship. When people feel valued by another person, they tend to return the favor.
7. Send care packages for special occasions.
Who doesn’t love a birthday gift? We don’t know anyone who doesn’t love getting a thoughtful present. It’s even better when it comes in the mail. Whether it’s a birthday, anniversary, or celebration of some amazing milestone, send your buddy a commemorative gift. Heck, send one on a random Tuesday. Random gifts are more thrilling than expected ones.
A good long-distance friendship gift can be anything (as long as it will pack and send well). Small gift ideas are certainly cheaper to send. Keychains, picture frames, or friendship bracelets might work for younger penpals. Adult friends might consider having a bottle of beloved wine sent to their home. A gift basket of tasty treats from Harry and David or a piece from one of their collections is also great.
Some of the best gifts are things that you know they want. If your friendship love language is gift giving, set up an Amazon list where you can both put things you love. When a special occasion comes up, you can hop on your friend’s list, snag a great gift, and have it delivered right to their home!
8. Set reasonable expectations.
Long-distance relationships come with emotional hardship. It’s not something any of us like to admit, but feeling left behind or overlooked by a close friend is hurtful. Often, operating long-distance means that one or both people in the relationship will get caught up in the belief that the other person is too busy to talk, no longer interested in the friendship, or has moved on to new friends. This usually is not true! While some friendships do end because of these reasons, a vast majority end because of a lack of vulnerability and the initiative to have conversations around the topic.
However, you do need to set reasonable expectations. Your best friend is not going to be able to devote two hours a day to long-distance phone calls. They might not text back immediately, especially if there is a time difference. Be prepared for them to be busy when you call and expect that they may have to call you back tomorrow. They might get new friends, and you’ll have to navigate that space with grace. While you should never pour all your effort into a one-sided friendship, do give your friend some wiggle room and protect your own feelings by not putting high demands on them.
9. Respect your friend’s personal space.
Going along with the last one, try not to be clingy. Keeping contact and showing interest in their life is different than being a friend stalker. This generally happens when one person in the relationship moves away for a new job and doesn’t have a community in the new city yet. They rely on their old friend to stave their boredom and fill that loneliness gap. The problem is that the other friend still has all of their normal life responsibilities, and they don’t have that much extra time to devote.
It’s important for you to make friends in the area where you live. They won’t take the place of your best friend, but you have to remember that their life is going on as normal since you left. Don’t make outrageous demands on their time.
10. Watch the same series on Netflix.
An easy way to spend time together is to watch the same TV shows. You can hang out via WhatsApp while you watch and discuss it together. Try out Teleparty, which allows you to watch the same show on Netflix, HBO, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and many more while having a group chat in the chat box. You could also consider listening to the same podcast and discussing it on Friday night over a video chat!
11. Read a book together.
Join an online book club or just do a DIY book reading together. Set up a schedule for reading the same chapters each week and make time to call and discuss what you read. Not only do you get quality time with your friend and easy conversation fodder, but you also rack up your book quota. It’s a win-win.
12. Do a spiritual study together.
If you and your friend have the same religious preferences, consider doing a study together. You can use an app like the Bible Recap or one that fits your personal preferences to read the same scriptures daily and have a chat about what resonates with you.
13. Make sure you see their face regularly.
Most days, you’ll just text or communicate on social media, but at an agreed-upon interval, set up a video call to actually see your friend’s face. Use Zoom, Facetime, or WhatsApp. There are tons of video conference platforms. It’s just nice to have an actual conversation, and it’s healthier, especially if the topic is important. Being able to hear your friend’s tone and see their body language can help you dodge unnecessary friction in your relationship that is often associated with text-only conversations.
14. Take a virtual tour together.
Since the pandemic, many great tourist attractions have moved online. You can now take a guided tour of the Louvre, many of the Smithsonian museums, and other attractions all over the world through their websites. Make a list of places you want to see together. Set up a time to meet virtually with your bestie and choose an adventure for the night. Enter the website together and enjoy!
15. Have a laugh together each day.
One of the things you most likely love about your best friend is that they make you laugh like nobody else. Just because you aren’t together physically doesn’t mean you still can’t share inside jokes on the daily. Social media is great for a laugh if nothing else. Send your bestie that hilarious reel you saw on Instagram or a pertinent meme you saw on Twitter. Perhaps they’ll reply, and if they’re busy, they might not, but either way, you will put a smile on their face for a moment. Goodness knows that by Wednesday each week, we can all use a good chuckle.
16. Start a shared photo album.
Online photo album sites like Canva, Shutterfly, or Snapfish allow you to easily create awesome photo albums. You can include text, find adorable themes, and document your memories in a fun way. When you have a good album put together, print it and give it as a Valentine’s Day, Christmas, or birthday gift to your bestie.
Even if you never print it, having a shared album is fun and gives you a way to keep up with each other’s daily lives. You could just as easily set up a shared Google Photos album and both upload a picture of the day. It only takes a few seconds, and it’s a great way to keep in touch.
17. Write a letter or postcard.
There’s something nostalgic and heartwarming about a handwritten letter. It just harkens back to the time of childhood penpals, and handwritten notes tend to be more intimate, thoughtful, and personal. Plus, they make great scrapbook pieces! Sit down once a year and write your best friend a heartfelt note.
18. Make the most of your short conversations.
You likely don’t have tons of time for your conversations with your long-distance friend. In fact, we recommend that you don’t make your conversations long. Often, good friends don’t call each other because they know that their conversations can last for hours. Since they don’t have hours to spend today, they just don’t call. Try to keep your conversations meaningful and fairly short.
A short conversation can be just as fruitful as a long one. Come to the table with a few important things you want to discuss. Ask important questions. Discuss this week’s stuff and then set up your next call and do it again next week. This doesn’t bar having long conversations, of course, but it doesn’t set the expectation of being on the phone for hours. It respects both parties’ time.
19. Follow a mutually interesting influencer.
Do you and your bestie love fashion? Are you both avid chefs? Do you have a mutual love for a sport? Find an influencer or social media account that focuses on your shared interest and follow along. You can send trending posts to each other and discuss your thoughts on the matter. This can lead to more meaningful conversations more often. Share your quick thoughts in the moment! Just be careful not to get too swept up in online drama. You want to uplift and encourage your bestie, not encourage bad vibes.
20. Send short videos to each other.
If you don’t have time for a video chat, apps like Snapchat and Marco Polo will allow you to send short videos to one another in a text-like manner. These are the quickest and easiest Wi-Fi-friendly options for getting some facetime with your BFF. You can quickly post a snippet of your kiddo’s basketball game, ask for an opinion on a new pair of pants, or share a funny moment that happened at work in real time. It’s one of our favorite ways to communicate with long-distance friends.
21. Schedule a real-life hangout.
The truth is there is no substitute for side-by-side adventures with your closest friends. At least once a year, schedule a trip to visit your best friend. Even better, take a joint vacation! Plan to meet for a week in Barcelona, the Maldives, or Paris. Pick a city or state that is halfway between your current locations and make it your next vacation destination.
Plan it early and get it on the calendar at the beginning of the year. It takes top priority, and nothing else goes on the schedule that week. In between your meetups, spend your time planning together. It will increase your devotion to actually making the trip happen and build anticipation for the trip!
Create a joint Pinterest board where you can each add activities to try at your intended destination. Open a shared Google Sheet where you can list possible itinerary items and include links to fun activities. Include beautiful hotels, fun tourist attractions, and locally recommended restaurants. Add them to a shared Google Map for the trip. By the time it comes, you’ll be prepared for the ultimate adventure! Take your copy of Adventures From Scratch: Friends Edition with you on the trip to add some spontaneity to your friend-cation!
Going the Distance
Maintaining a long-distance friendship isn’t easy. It will require a certain level of vulnerability, a fierce devotion to your friendship, and several tweaks to your norm. Your friendship will have to look different than it did when you lived in the same location, but that doesn’t mean it has to be less enjoyable. Don’t let the distance flush your friendships down the drain. Employ a few of these long-distance friendship tips to ensure that you stay connected until your next in-person meetup.
Have you been in a successful long-distance friendship? Do you have tips of your own? By all means, drop your knowledge on us in the comments!
For tips on adult friendship, check out our article “Keys to Maintaining Adult Friendships.” We discuss, in-depth, why adult friendships are so hard and give valuable tips on how to maintain healthy friendships despite a busy schedule.
If you’ve recently moved to a new place, you’ll need to start building a new social circle. Here are a few tips on “How to Make Friends as an Adult (And Why You Should!)“
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes. Long-distance friendships come with a specific set of complications, but with a few creative tips and a strong devotion to your people, you can have successful long-distance relationships!