A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

19 Perfectly Thoughtful Ways to Maintain Long-Distance Friendships

When you’re miles apart but close at heart, make distance feel shorter with these easy tips.

1 / 19

Be aware of your friend’s communication style

If you’re the type of person who gets separation anxiety when you leave your phone in the other room, it can be frustrating when a friend takes hours (or even days) to respond. But a slow reply doesn’t mean a lack of care. Your friend is likely waiting for the time to craft a thoughtful response, or the chance to sit down for a back-and-forth rather than a one-word text back between work meetings. Everyone communicates differently, so gauge if your friendship would flourish best through daily texts, occasional phone calls, or an ongoing email chain. Don’t make these texting mistakes that annoy others.

2 / 19

Treat phone dates like real get-togethers

Because you’re not physically meeting with the other person, it’s easy to feel like a phone call doesn’t deserve the level of commitment you’d normally give. But especially if there’s a time difference between you and your long-distance friend, rescheduling could be tricky if you back out. Emergencies happen, but try to respect your friend’s time instead of pushing back the time because you’re exhausted from your commute or work friends are grabbing drinks. (Make sure you’re on time too: Check out these tricks to stop always being late.)

3 / 19
iStock/Petar Chernaev

Don’t get caught up in the past

Yes, it’s fun to reminisce about the great times you had when you were in the same city. But to keep your friendship strong, you need to know about each other’s current lives too. Instead of limiting yourselves to memory lane, keep each other posted on your families, jobs, and weekend plans.

4 / 19

Stay connected as often as possible

Checking in only with big news is nice, but the real depth comes when you know intimate details. Friendships will stay strongest if talking regularly becomes part of your routine, whether that means daily, weekly, or monthly. Text your friend about the little things, like the great new ramen place he’d love or the embarrassing story you know will make her snicker. Here are some surprising times texting is actually better than calling.

5 / 19
iStock/Weekend Images Inc.

Load up emails with long stories

Email is a happy medium when you can’t pin each other down for a phone call, but a text message just won’t do. You can be long-winded with all the juicy details you’ll friend will want to hear about your new job, and the other person can read and reply on his or her own time.

6 / 19
iStock/rez art

Send mundane pictures

Nothing to talk about? Snapchat is a great way to keep tabs on each other’s lives without forcing small talk when you have nothing “real” to report. Use the app, or text a picture of your semi-impressive dinner or the wacky outfit your kid picked to get your friend’s reaction.

7 / 19
iStock/Rawpixel Ltd

Video chat regularly

Something about the face-to-face nature of a video chat makes conversation feel so much more natural than a phone call. Even if you don’t have any big news to report, set aside time for a virtual conversation. Apps like Skype, FaceTime, and Google Hangout make it easy to set up, no matter what device you use. Here’s how to be a better listener during those calls.

8 / 19

Write talking points before a call

Sometimes, by the time you pick up the phone, everything that’s happened since you last chatted feels too mundane to talk about. Carry around a mini notebook, and jot down tidbits you think your friend will want to hear about. Look it over before your call so you’re prepped with funny anecdotes and exciting everyday news.

9 / 19

Do some social media stalking

When did Facebook stalking get such a bad rap? Stay posted on your friend’s life by scrolling through his or her social media. Instead of grasping at straws with a “How are things?” text, you can just be straightforward and ask about your friend’s recent hike or 5K.

10 / 19

Follow the same shows

Hunker down for a long-distance Netflix marathon, pressing play at the same time so you can text each other through every plot twist. If you can’t coordinate schedules like that, simply tuning in to the same show every week will give you something to connect over, even if you have to record it for later.

11 / 19
iStock/Georgina Palmer

Mail a handwritten note

Texts and emails are an easy, quick way to keep in touch, but a handwritten letter is a treasure your friend will cherish. Take the time to write a thoughtful note, and snail mail it for a happy surprise among the usual junk mail and bills.

12 / 19

Offer coffee money

If you use Venmo or another money-sending app, randomly give your friend a few bucks with the orders to treat him or herself to coffee. It’s a small but touching gesture, and an excuse to escape the office’s stale coffee machine. Here are more little things you can do to be a true friend.

13 / 19

Send little trinkets

When you see a bracelet that’s just your friend’s style, or a spice mix at the farmer’s market you know your pal would work wonders with, go ahead and buy it. If it’ll be a while before you see that person again, mail it for a surprise that’s sure to brighten your friend’s day.

14 / 19
iStock/Micah Youello

Get in friendly competition

Play a game together virtually with an app like Words With Friends, and send a message after every move. It’s a fun way to keep connected, even when you don’t feel like talking.

15 / 19

Tag your friend in social media posts

When you see a post on social media that you think your friend would appreciate, tag him or her, or email the link. It could be a cute cat video, a funny meme, or a mouthwatering recipe—anything you think will bring a smile. Don’t miss these little ways to connect with others when you’re lonely.

16 / 19

Make your friend the subject of your #tbt

Every now and then, post a throwback photo on social media to remind your friend (and the rest of the world) that you miss the good times you had together. It will flood you both with warm, fuzzy nostalgia.

17 / 19

Don’t hold back

Sometimes, we limit chats with long-distance friends to the happy things because we want to seem like we’re put together. But friendships are all about supporting each other through tough times. Call your friend during not-so-great life events, or even if you need a mood boost when you wake up on the wrong side of the bed, and offer to be a shoulder to lean on when he or she needs it too. Click here for signs that you have incredible empathy.

18 / 19

Make plans to visit, even if it’s far in advance

Talking about the next time you’ll get to see each other will give you something to look forward to. Even if you won’t be able to see each other for several months, dreaming about your plans will help build excitement. If you stay at your friend’s place, read these etiquette tips for overnight guests.

19 / 19

Meet each other halfway

If the distance is too far, it might be hard to find the time and money to visit each other often. Pick a meeting place partway between your homes so you can see each other in person, even if it’s just for an afternoon or the weekend.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest

Marissa Laliberte
Marissa Laliberte-Simonian is a London-based associate editor with the global promotions team at WebMD’s Medscape.com and was previously a staff writer for Reader's Digest. Her work has also appeared in Business Insider, Parents magazine, CreakyJoints, and the Baltimore Sun. You can find her on Instagram @marissasimonian.