“Some people come into your life for a reason, some a season, and some a lifetime”
Are you and your bestie about to embark on a long distance friendship (LDF)? Or maybe you and your bff are already in the midst of this new adventure and you are looking for a way to make it work?
Look no further. I have called on two LDF professionals (and myself!) to talk you through what makes an LDF stand the test of time. I can confirm they are the people for this job because they are my very of BLDFs (Best Long Distance Friends – that’s a thing!).
An introduction for you:
Rachel and I have been friends around 13 years, meeting when we were 18. I don’t remember the first meeting (booo!) but I do remember Rachel joined us on a post exam trip to Newquay (she was dating one of the guys from school). It wasn’t long before I left for uni; we stayed in touch, would visit each other regularly and Rach did many long drives over the years, helping me pack up one bedroom and move to the next. These day we live under a two hour drive apart.
Lori and I met during the first week of uni, the night ended in Oceana. Take me back. We bonded one night when we stayed in during our third year(we couldn’t get tickets for carnage) and Lori made me pie and chips. We became inseparable, early morning dances to Jackson 5 and eventually moving in together. I can remember Lori waving me off as I set off for London. Not long after, Lori headed to Birmingham. similarly to Rach, these days, Lori and I live under two hours away.
It recently occurred to me how much attention we give to long distance romantic relationships but not friendships, which some would argue, need plenty of nurturing too if you want them to last.
Here is what two of my best girls sand I have to say on Long Distance Friendships:
Carly: I have had a mixture. Whilst I wouldn’t consider any ‘bad’, I have experienced friendships fizzling out, despite the best intentions. In some cases, this has led to no contact at all and in others, occasional contact. There are some relationships, if I dwell on, can make me feel disappointed they didn’t work. I know they had potential, but things just got in the way. On the flip side, as you know, some have gone on to blossom.
Rachel: Luckily I have only had successful LDFs, and only a few of them. My friendship with Carly being the most successful… It’s actually really weird how close we stayed as we were only friends for a couple of years before she moved away to Bristol to go to university and if anything, I would say we got closer when she did move away! We used to mildly wind each other up in the first few months of knowing each other… We clashed a bit 😂
Sometimes I forget that we are even long distance friends.. We have been through much more together since we’ve lived apart which has made our friendship so much stronger.
Lori: When I first started to experience long distance friendships, I think I didn’t handle some of my emotions particularly well; missing out on things, not seeing friends regularly, thinking that my friends didn’t want to see me. I felt that they had their own things going on and I didn’t want to impede on that. But that is as much a part of where I was at with my own self at that time in my life (does that make sense?) as well as building a LDF. This didn’t necessarily lead to friendships not working out, but I did drive myself crazy at times.
However, as I have got older (and wiser) and more comfortable with myself, I recognise that some of my early emotions were irrational and not real! And now I have long distance friendships coming out of my hair! Working with a friend to build a solid foundation works by a mutual interest in seeing each other regularly and being proactive in doing so.
Another unsuccessful time for me was when I left to go to University; I am not friends with any of my school friends anymore. On top of moving to a new city, my family moved away from my home town, which meant I wasn’t going back to my home town during the holidays anymore. And I was just loving my new life! I didn’t make any effort to keep in touch with my friends from home past the first year away from home and, as a result, I am not longer in touch with any of them.
Carly: I really don’t know. I have so much love and amazing memories with many people where it just didn’t last. If I am honest, I think many people are in your life at the time you need each other. Maybe, you don’t need each other way you did when you were close together. Sadly, there has been times where I know LDFs where resentment has built and jealousy has kicked in. I think unless you feel it is really worth the effort, it is easy to let go.
Rachel: I guess if one person is having to put in all the effort to see the other.. It has never been that way for me and my LDF’s. Life and money can sometimes get in the way but if you get dates set in the diary I don’t see why LDFs have to be difficult! I actually see Carly more than some of my friends that live pretty close to me!
Lori: Imbalance- when one person is making all the moves- texting first, suggesting dates, doing the travel etc.
Lack of communication for whatever reason. Sometimes the longer I leave it with someone the more I think “they must not be bothered”. “I won’t pester them” or I think that I’ll just wait for them to get in touch as I don’t want to bother them.
Carly: I think so, part of me does doubt it, but there are people I’m confident I would have an amazing relationship with if it wasn’t for distance. Writing this makes me a bit sad about that and it’s tempting to grab my phone and message those people, but, I guess it is a natural part of life. But not with these two. Nope, I don’t care of they lived on the moon now, they are such a huge part of my world.
Rachel: No wayyy. How could it be with all the ways you get keep in touch with people these days?! Me and Carly sometimes book a Facetime in with each other on a Sunday with a cuppa at the ready.. We even tried being pen pals once.. That fizzled out after a couple of letters. (Carly: hahaha, I wish I had that letter still)
Lori: I think it can be a factor in ending a friendship. If there is imbalance or one of the people in the friendship is more/less invested in making it work, then eventually the friendship might suffer.
Carly: My first answer is a selfish one haha. I LOVE having somewhere I can go and run to. A cheeky trip away and an excuse to get out of the hustle and bustle of London.
I appreciate that these friendships are so strong they last. I am as close to these ladies as I am my close distance besties. I appreciate that, it makes me feel warm inside.
I know this is cliché but I really do appreciate it when we come back together. I don’t take a second for granted.
I appreciate so much when they come to visit. Travelling can be a hassle and it’s not cheap. The fact they are willing to do that strengthens the friendship even more.
Rachel: There’s a couple of things. The fact that I get to visit my LDF in their current home town which always seems more exciting than my own… You can make a weekend of it! And the fact you just have so much more to catch up on and talk about when you don’t see each other all the time.
Lori: When I think about my long distance pals it is with a happy heart. With Carly Ann I appreciate that she is always there for me and that she is always coming up with fun things for us to do. She is my ultimate LDF and there is actually nothing I don’t appreciate about her. She is a great listener and when I think about that special something it is her that springs to my mind. More generally with my LDPs, I appreciate their company- I must appreciate this as I want to see them and spend time with them. (Carly: heart.strings.pulling)
Carly: When two of you have no plans and you can’t just pop round each other’s houses. Rachel and Lori are two of few people that can make me belly laugh until it hurts. I would love to have that round the corner.
Whilst we do go to each other’s main events (birthday’s etc), you don’t really have casual dinners, midweek drinks, that kind of thing. That’s tough when I think about it, gives me a really strong sense of missing out on something good.
Just missing the person – There is a certain amount of time that passes where naturally one of us will message the other to book something in. I haven’t noted how long that is yet, but I like the fact it is just a feeling we must be having at the same time.
It sounds silly but sometimes I will forget things more, like the first day of their new job or something, that I ordinarily would try and send a good luck text too.
Rachel: For me it’s not being able to pop over their house for a cuppa whenever I want or go for a wine with them on a week night!
When big things happen in life and you need your friends close by! But when life does take a turn I can safely say that on both sides of mine and Carly’s LDF- current plans have been cancelled and we would both go to see the other person pretty much instantly without a question. It comes down to how much you appreciate that person.
Lori: The times when you just need your LDF, maybe in the middle of the week you need some TLC or you just have the perfect thing to do with them but one of you is busy. That is challenging because you just want to see them.
Also super sad times when I don’t see them for a while or when we part ways after a super fun time together. Because times together are planned you lose some of the spontaneity of friendship- no Thursday night pub quizzes, no midweek cuppa (or rose). That’s rubbish.
Also, the planning of time together means you want to maximise what you do. So sitting around and doing nothing doesn’t happen very often. After my birthday I had the hangover from hell, and we spent the day in bed together instead of going out and doing our day of activities. The day of activities would have been so fun but spending the day just chilling out and chatting was the absolute best and is one of the things that I miss the most about not living down the road from each other. I think I personally feel guilty when this is how I want to spend our time but that’s so silly because when we do it is so fun.
Carly: Thinking of my school friends that I have stayed in touch with, I think there is a sense of safety and always feeling like I am coming back home. You can’t get that feeling from any friendship. I am not one to say a relationship should stay together because of time, but in this case; these are amazing, kind people that bring joy when I am with them.
A mutual love for Cher, Philip Schofield or Ricky Gervais.
In terms of Lori & Rachel, I don’t think it is as simple as the qualities I (obviously) see in them. It’s that thing that maybe we can’t really name, that ‘spark’ between two people, that I have never considered before for friends (wow moment). That spark and having love for that person is the foundation of wanting to make it work. Without that, maybe the effort it takes can get the better of you. I guess my friendship with Rachel intrigues me greatly because of the fact we didn’t know each other long before I moved to Bristol for uni. Our friendship has grown stronger and I’m sure she won’t mind me saying; we had a tendency to annoy each other in the early days (lol).
Rachel: I think it’s down to how much you get on with a person and how much you appreciate each other.. You wouldn’t make the effort for people you don’t care about. And the feeling has to be mutual.. Pretty sure Carly loves me as much as I love her 😁 (I do!)
Carly: OK, number 1 is easy. Alternating. We tend to alternate who travels. It’s not a fixed rule and no one gets upset if there happens to go uneven, but mostly that’s what we apply. Also means we don’t spend ages deciding what to do, who to go where and leaves no space for resentment.
2, Plan. One thing Lori and I are good at (Rach won’t take offence don’t worry), is we book things in. Whether it is a trip away, a run or our next wine date. It goes in the diary whilst we are together. (Actually I saw Rach yesterday and we have our next event booked in too.. phew!).
3, Show up. With both friends, when any of us have been through something, we have dropped everything and been there on the next possible day we can. I don’t know how important it is for them, but for me, it feels pretty special. That goes deeper than showing up on my birthday (but please still come to my birthday!).
With that said…
4, Making the effort for special occasions. Whilst we don’t go to everything (that’s not possible at any distance), we go to more than we miss.
Rachel: It’s a two way thing! Set dates in the diary if you’re a busy person or if you work on a budget. Keep in touch in between if you’re worried you’re drifting apart.. Book facetimes in like Carly and I do.
Carly: Very. Lori went travelling for a year but besides that it has never been more than 2-3 months with these two, and 3 months would really be pushing it.
However, the friends I spoke of from school, every time we meet it feels so natural. I can still tell them anything and everything. I know I could message/call them now and they are there. That is the bonus of technology.
Rachel: For me it’s so true! Like I said before this is probably only going to work with someone you really like. If it’s a bit awkward when you meet up it’s probably not meant to be.
I Can’t imagine it being that way with Carly and I ! I think as you get older (cannot believe I’m saying that!) you have less friends around you but the ones you do have are the goodies and the ones you appreciate the most.
Lori: I think it really depends on how close your friendship is and how comfortable you are with each other. It also depends on what kind of person you are. I used to be a terrible worrier so the longer I spent away from someone, particularly someone who I am not 100% comfortable with, the more that I worry about the relationship so the next time I see them I would panic. If you are used to seeing someone all the time and then you spend a long time away from them, it can initially feel a bit odd when you see each other again.
I wouldn’t want to spend any longer than 8 weeks away from my LDF though…then I think I start to miss them. I think it would be the same and like no time has passed but I can tell when it’s been too long between visits.
Carly: It is important. I haven’t experienced it with these girls but let’s be honest, no one wants to put all the effort in. I don’t now that there is a huge difference, I think relationships need to be a two way street. Of course there are exceptions, but mostly, you feel it when it is all you. I expect the difference with long distance is that the friendship can fall off the radar quicker than it otherwise would.
Rachel: I think in any friendship both people have to make an effort no matter what distance you have between you! I hate to say it but I definitely have closer (in distance) friends that I don’t see or speak to as much because one of us isn’t making as much effort as the other.
Lori: It is one of my rules for a successful friendship! I think it is easier to make effort when you’re closer…but I think effort in friendship is always important, particularly as we get older and more things are going on in life.
Carly: Yes. Rachel and Lori are two of my closest friends in this whole world. Granted they are both not hours and hours away anymore, but over the last 13 years there have been many miles between us at different times. I’ve never questioned my closeness to these gals.
Rachel: Yes for sure! If you were close in the first place distance shouldn’t get in the way.. Or it could just make your friendship stronger like it has for me and Carly!
Lori: Yes absolutely…living proof right here!
Carly: My best friend Jo lived in Australia for three years, we were terrible at keeping in contact. I think if one of us had been making lots of effort and the other not, it might have been different. She came back last year, nothing changed and we might be closer than before.
Rachel: Errrrm I think it would mean you may not be able to see each other as often… Luckily my LDFs haven’t moved to the other side of the world yet but if they did I would still plan a date to see them… Holidayyyy!
Lori: That is a tough one. I have absolutely no idea…I guess if one of you lived in Edinburgh and the other in Plymouth then you are naturally not going to see each other as much because of travel costs and time. Does that mean that it won’t work? I’ve got no idea but what I do know is that I definitely don’t want to try it…so don’t move to Scotland.
Carly: I remember when I moved to uni, I had a proper chat with myself and decided a friendship does not have to be affected because of another friendship unless I let it. Rachel has a bestie (Whatuup Kelly M) and the 3 of us hang out together all the time. We wouldn’t be able to do that if we resented Rachel having more than one friend. If you feel jealous, you just have to remind yourself, the only thing that will come between your friendship is that jealousy. Although whenever Lori mentions a new friend I do comment 😉
My LDFs are both going through some of the big stuff at the mo (bump and wedding) and of course I wish I could be there more. I manage it by reminding myself those girls know what this LDF thing is like and they get it. I manage it with messages and pictures and facetimes and meetups and social media and voicenotes!!
Rachel: When big things happen in life and you need your friends close by! But when life does take a turn, I can safely say that on both sides of mine and Carly’s LDF- current plans have been cancelled and we would both go to see the other person pretty much instantly without a question. It comes down to how much you appreciate that person.
Lori: I think certainly when I was younger, I found this tough at times in that you want to be part of your friends life and although you feel happy for them moving on with friends, jobs etc you want to be involved. One of the hardest things for me when I first moved away from my friends was seeing them all together when I wasn’t able to be there. But that is part and parcel of being in a long distance friendship I guess. And now I don’t have these kind of emotions which I think comes from time and experience. Also, the depth of friendship. Now, when I see you and the work you’re doing for Carly Ann I just feel immense pride and I just want to be with you on your journey. I think talking about these aspects of your life is important but if I had to go back and give my younger self some advice, it would be that it gets easier. It also really helps to have someone that you can talk to, make light of the situation and get excited with them about these new and exciting changes.
Carly: I would say you have to decide not to let distance come between you. Things are going to change, go in the flow of the change. Don’t fight against it; this is part of your story and journey as a duo. Make it work. Make the time for each other. Put it in the diary in advance and show up. Decide together now, when this gets tough you will talk it out. It might feel vulnerable telling your friend you are missing them, but it’s better than acting out and/or resenting them.
Your friend is going to make new friends, the only way that will interfere with your friendship is if you let it, and you start to pull away. Loving someone new doesn’t mean your friend will love you less.
Rachel: Stick to the LDF rules above. Remember it’s a two way thing. Book days to see each other. Even if it’s once every two/three months. And we have mobile phones.. Use them! Or try the pen pal thing 😂
Lori: I have been really lucky in my long distance friendships because I have a number of successful ones but my one with you has been going strong for over six years now so I would draw on our successes. Make time for each other and make an effort to see each other. Initially be strict- say you’ll see each other once a month or once every six months… and once you’ve seen each other, get the next date in the diary before you say good bye. So make sure you take your diary when you see each other!
And- make time for one on one time- it is good to do visits with other people or events, but it is also important to do things just the two of you maybe? It’s good to have a balance of different scenarios for seeing each other.
I asked two of my best friends to answer these questions as I have been so intrigued as to what makes long distance friendships work. What I didn’t expect, was to end up with an even deeper found love and respect for them. It actually became an opportunity to hear about their side of our friendship. It’s clear to see our experiences are very similar, which has put a huge smile on my face.
If anything, this has encouraged me to have deeper conversations with my friends. Maybe give it a go, have a conversation with your friend about what you love about each other and why you are important to each other.
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Carly Ann xx