It’s Wednesday evening, and after an exhausting couple of days working, running errands, and handling chores at home, all you want to do is fall into bed. But when you head up to your bedroom, your eyes brush past the framed photograph of you with your sister and her kids, and it pauses you for a moment. You look around and notice the other pictures you’ve lovingly hung – of your parents, your friends, your loved ones. They live so far away. Instantly you’ve slowed down, and warm feelings wash over you. But those feelings are followed by nostalgia, and you begin to miss your loved ones very much. You wonder how their lives are going, and you realize how long it’s been since you last had an actual conversation with them.
This experience is one that I can imagine most of us have had at one moment or another. In today’s transient world, it is all too common for our families and dear friends to live in far-away places that we can only visit a couple of times a year, if we’re lucky. While the distance doesn’t decrease our love for them or their love for us, the hustle and bustle of our everyday grind can make it difficult to stay connected in meaningful ways on a regular basis. With the cultural phenomena of social media dominating the way many people communicate with each other, sometimes it may seem as though we are more connected than ever. But the trade-off can often be that our connections, although more frequent, can be more shallow and less individualized. While social media can offer us wonderful ways to stay connected, it’s important that we combine it with some of the more “traditional” means of communication to ensure that we don’t lose touch with our loved ones. Here are some tips and strategies for staying in touch with long-distance loved ones that can help maximize your feelings of closeness:
• Communicate expectations clearly: Sometimes, you or your loved one can feel upset or forgotten about if your method of or level of communication isn’t what was expected by one or both of you. Having an open conversation with each other about how you would like to stay in touch can be very helpful and can prevent some of these hurt feelings. You can agree upon how often you would like to talk, what medium you will use, etc. Make sure that your expectations are realistic as far as how much time you can dedicate, etc., to avoid disappointment.
• Find what works for you: Increasing your communication with loved ones can be as simple as finding the medium that works best for both of you. Some friends can’t stand talking on the phone, while others find that the most rewarding. Some family members prefer to share details of their lives through email, while others find it time-consuming and miss the conversational back-and-forth feeling. If you are only available in the evenings but your best friend often works late, perhaps emailing or g-chatting during the week and using a phone call or video chat during the weekend could be a good arrangement. Finding a method that works well for both of you will increase your ability to communicate regularly.
• Visit when possible: Although staying in touch via phone, email, and social media is very important, nothing can replace the feeling of spending time with someone face-to-face. While this is very difficult when you live far away from your loved ones, making an effort to visit one another when possible can be very helpful and of course, enjoyable. Be sure to take turns visiting each other to balance the financial cost. If visiting just isn’t a possibility for a while, using programs like skype or facetime can help you to “see” your friends and family and spend time with them in a more complete way that includes nonverbal communication and can help you feel more connected.
• It’s the little things: Staying connected to our friends and family doesn’t always have to involve an hour-long phone call every week (although it’s nice when it works out that way!). Something as simple as sending a quick text to ask how their day is going or to tell them something you saw that reminded you of them that day can remind them that they’re important to you and boost that feeling of togetherness. Taking time to look at pictures they’ve posted of their vacation and commenting on them is another example. Genuinely showing interest in what’s going on in their lives, even the small things, can go a long way. Sending old-fashioned thank-you, birthday, and holiday cards is also always a great way to show them you care about them.
Living far away from our family and friends is never easy. It’s inevitable that we will want to talk and spend time with them more than we will be able to. But geographical distance doesn’t have to equate to relational distance – through using these tips and dedicating time to stay connected with your loved ones, you can continue to feel close to them.
Lindsey Hoskins & Associates provides individual, couple, and family therapy services in downtown Bethesda, Maryland. Call us at (301) 200-5290 to schedule an appointment.
Keywords: Staying connected to long-distance friends, family; long-distance relationship