Wife. Puppy Mama. Christ Follower. California Living.
How to Maintain Long Distance Relationships with Family and Friends
For the past 8 years my best friends and family members have been 1200+ miles away. While I've made great friends in this time, you can never replace your childhood best friends and your family. Maintaining the closeness is a huge challenge. You'll often feel like you're not doing enough. You'll feel guilty. You'll feel like a bad friend, a bad son/daughter, or a bad sibling. The best way to successfully maintain these relationships is to be efficient and strategic with your efforts. Use the approach that speaks to them. Use their love language. There are 5 love languages... 1) Words of Affirmation, 2) Acts of Service, 3) Receiving Gifts, 4) Quality Time, and 5) Physical Touch. What does your loved one respond best to? Hint: It's usually how they tend to express love to others, too.
If it's Words of Affirmation....
1. Send them encouraging quotes or positive words that remind you of them.
2. Send them quick emails and texts throughout the day.
3. Always offer positive encouragement and build them up in phone conversations.
4. Say or write how much you miss them.
5. Give them fabulous public shout outs on Facebook or Instagram on their birthday or surrounding big life events and accomplishments.
6. Make sure to give and take in conversations equally. Don't center the conversation around yourself.
7. Send them cards in the mail that would speak to them.
8. Write sweet letters or notes with heartfelt words.
9. When they're going through challenges or stressful circumstances, send them quotes, Bible verses, and other positive words of encouragement.
If it's Acts of Service...
1. Offer to help them research things they are interested in.
2. Help them find inexpensive flights to come visit you.
3. Send them links of things they have been shopping for or trying to find online.
4. If they need help with a task, help coordinate another family member or friend to be there.
5. If they are struggling to solve a problem, figure out some possible solutions and offer up your ideas.
6. If your parents are elderly or sick, offer to help manage their bills, investments, finances, and filing taxes.
**Service is not only physical labor. You can serve others with your time, energy, wisdom and problem solving from afar.
If it's Receiving Gifts...
1. Send them surprises of things they've been struggling to find online/in stores. Amazon Prime is great.
2. Send them books that you think they would appreciate or find interesting.
3. Give them a magazine or newspaper subscription that you know they would enjoy.
4. Give them a subscription to a monthly box type of program (i.e. Birch Box, Stitch Fix, Bark Box, and more). Check out a whole list of subscription boxes here: Subscription Ideas
5. Send them gift certificates to mani/pedi's, Starbucks, Chipotle, or even a cleaning service like Merry Maids.
6. Send them little things like candy, chapstick, or earrings when you find things that make you think of them.
7. When you come across coupons that the person may use, email/mail them to them.
8. Send the person something of yours to remind them of you (i.e. a shirt, your favorite necklace, or a little trinket).
If it's Quality Time...
1. Dedicate time to focus on them each week or month on the phone or Skype.... no multi-tasking, just quality time.
2. Spontaneously chat with them if you see them online on Facebook.
3. Pick a TV series that you both enjoy and take time to talk about each episode.
4. Read the same book at the same time and take time to discuss.
5. Share in an online church service together.
6. When you do get to see them in person, make sure there is 1:1 time where you can be together without distractions. Do things that they enjoy doing.
7. Consider surprising them with a surprise visit if you're able to travel.
If it's Physical Touch...
1. Good luck with that one.
But in all seriousness, long-term long-distance is hard. And it's easy to feel like you're falling short. Try to identify which love language speaks to each of your family members and friends and focus your energy and efforts on their strongest language. They'll feel much more connected.