Long Distance Friendships

I was talking to a friend of mine the other day about the challenges and benefits of long-distance friendships.  He has been struggling with the fact that his best friend recently moved far away and it has affected the connection between the two of them.  I can easily sympathize with this because some of my oldest and closest friends are long distance.  Not only that, but I was in a long distance friendship/relationship with my husband for almost seven years right up until the day I married him.

I explained to him my own personal theory on it, which may not be true for everyone but has proven true in my experience.  Some people are not cut out for long distance relationships.  Some people are very hands-on, and out of sight is out of mind for them.  This is not a failing on their part, it's just the way they are and we cannot change other people.  That is rule number one!

It is frustrating though, which leaves those of us capable and willing to put forth the effort feeling disappointed or even angry.  But instead of projecting that frustration onto them (which is futile) we can only try to focus on appreciating the friendship we were blessed to have, and doing our best to keep the doors open.

I am capable of long-distance correspondence similar to the amazing written friendship between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams.  After a tumultuous political and personal relationship filled with everything from admiration to distrust, in their retirement, Adams and Jefferson became firm friends, and the letters between them chronicle their exchange of ideas, their amusements and their affection for one another.  How much of that would have been lost to us had they just met for coffee every week!

One of my dearest friends and I met in high school and spent two years daily in one another's presence.  During this time we built a friendship, and after high school I moved away.  I will say that even though it has not been without its challenges, she and I share a closer bond now, thousands of miles apart than we had when we were together face-to-face.  And she is not the only friend I have had where this came true.

Part of it is that writing is so intimate.  In a world where everyone has their nose down into their phone, it's nice to get a letter or email thoughtfully written where the writer's focus was clearly on you.  Another part, especially for me, is that life is busy.  I don't have time to go out socializing during the week with friends.  But in the quiet moments, I do have, I can send them a message with my thoughts and news in it, and when they, in turn, have a quiet moment, they can read and reply.  If I had to wait for both parties to be available, we'd wait forever I think!

A favorite part of it, to me, is the anticipated visits.  My friend JB has visited me numerous times over the last several years, sometimes coming to stay more than once in a single year.  And during these times, we cherish the time we have together and do all of the things we cannot accomplish through technological communication.  Last time she was here, I annoyed her to death in a movie theater seeing Wonder Woman with my incessant coughing from being sick!  These are the pleasures you get to have when your beloved friends come to visit!

I am so thankful that many of my childhood friends turned out to be skilled long distance communicators.  And for the few that are not, I appreciate the history we share, and I appreciate all the more the little efforts that they make each year, sending birthday and Christmas cards and so on; it doesn't come easily to them, and that makes it even more valuable to me.