Keeping connections from a distance can often feel impersonal and fragile. There are some things that we can do to make sure that we are receiving the care we need and giving the care our loved ones deserve no matter the miles which separate us.
From experience, I’ve found that my own personal attitudes about the distance which separates me and a loved one, does far more to influence the relationship than the frequency of which we speak. I think sometimes we fool ourselves into thinking that speaking to someone every day or seeing someone every day is what constitutes a good friendship, when in reality this proximity is more about our personal comfort than the success of the relationship. A successful relationship of any kind requires patience, communication, genuine interest, and compromise. If we put these things into practice daily rather than focusing on speaking daily, we might begin to feel more fulfilled in our relationships.
1. Patience a virtue that our current generation seems to have forgotten. Technology and social media have bred us into instant gratification machines. If it is not instantly available we are simply not interested. For example, I was going to a restaurant with some friends, and we were told there would be a 10-20 minute wait time. The immediate reaction was frustration and everyone voiced interest in trying to find another restaurant; though the wait would likely be the same everywhere. In my mind 10 or 20 minutes was a brief moment in time, but to the rest of the group, it was a tremendous chunk of their day they simply could not sit unentertained for. The point being, that permanent connections require that we let go of immediate gratification and become patient with the schedules and agendas of other lives besides our own. Understanding that our friends and family are trying to lead as fulfilling and busy life as we are, may help us to be more patient when they miss our call and don’t get back to us the same day. By remembering how tired we are at the end of the day, how forgetful we are at times, how other tasks are constantly calling us, we can begin to understand how a week passing by without a call is not reason for doubting your friendship.
2. Communication is key. Cliché but undoubtedly true. Sometimes I feel that the unspoken rules of society can get in the way of making real human connections. We feel that sometimes we can’t say certain things because we must appear a certain way; it keeps us from saying what is really on our hearts because we fear the reaction. I have vowed to remind myself daily not to live this way. Instead I try to remain open and honest with my friends about what I expect from our friendship and what makes me feel loved and ask them if they could be open and honest with me about the same things, in this way I always know what is expected of me and I can make sure that I meet the expectations of others. For example, if I haven’t spoken to a friend in a long time and I would like to catch up with them, that’s exactly what I tell them. I would say something along the lines of “ Hey, we haven’t spoken in some time. Do you think we could both make some time to catch up next week?” By saying this I am being direct about my feelings, and making a specific request from my friend so they know what I would like. No guessing games, just straight forward communication. We will always have times where the distance and scarcity of communication will get to us, but we’ve got to keep our communication pointed at feelings instead of each other. We’ve got to give ourselves an honest appraisal and make sure that our requests are reasonable and that we are willing to meet in the middle.
3. Genuine interest means that we listen when it is time to listen, that we are active in that listening, and that we allow ourselves the joy that comes in being truly happy for someone else’s successes and truly empathetic during their trials. Sometimes it is easy to get wrapped up in all that we have going on in our lives. We want to talk all about it and answer questions from those we share our stories with, but we aren’t as eager to listen when the time comes. If we want someone to be interested in us we must reciprocate the interest and really become invested in their life stories as we knew them and as we will come to know them. Attend their extracurricular events when possible, keep in the loop with the sports team for the school they attend, and invite them to the things happening in your life. This is a great way to express interest while becoming involved in their new and expanding lives further, and inviting them to maintain involvement in yours.
4. Compromise is the glue that holds society together. We must find a way to make things work that please both sides. If not, the nature of the relationship becomes temporary. How can we expect one side to enjoy satisfaction while the other becomes more and more dissatisfied? We can’t. We must be willing to give, but also willing to ask. This keeps us balanced. This keeps our emotional bank account in check, so that we do not become resentful towards our friends. If you cannot go to your friend and your friend cannot make the journey to you; you can literally meet in the middle somewhere. A big part of this compromise in my life is planning. I have a daughter, which means that when my single friends make last minute plans to get away somewhere, I most times, cannot make it. We decided to compromise in a way where these vacations are planned in advance and I can make babysitting arrangements. Easy as that, both sides are satisfied. Having totally different lives is going to create a mismatch in schedules that will seem impossible to overcome. As we get older and our lives become more filled with to-do’s I’ve come to realize that future planning is the best way to keep in touch. I may only see my best friend once or twice a year because we live a 12 hour drive away from each other, but we spend each year looking forward to an amazingly planned vacation where we can catch up and return guilt free to our separate lives and begin planning our next vacation together.
It is so important that we maintain connections that are meaningful to us. It is also important that we allow ourselves the joy of expanding our own lives and adding new connections to our lives. Feeling guilty for not being able to stay in touch as often or see your friend as often is not the way to ensuring that friendship lasts. Just stay patient, maintain open communication about your feelings, show a genuine interest in your friend’s new life, and compromise on when and how you will keep this connection for a lifetime.