Words by Kate Goodyer
People often talk about how to survive a long-distance relationship and, having never been in one, I have no idea. I can barely keep up a short distance relationship.
However long-distance friendships are another thing – those, I do have – and they can sometimes be hard to navigate.
I met my best friend during fresher’s week in my first year at university, we had the same classes, we enjoyed the same things and we became fast friends. Despite our near instant friendship, we didn’t actually move in together until our final year. But that became my best year, I flourished socially and academically, and I grew as a person.
Even though it was the most challenging year for both of us, our all-nighters working on assignments, presentations and dissertations became tolerable as we celebrated turning 21 together, enjoyed quiet takeaway nights in and loud, alcohol-filled nights out. My best friend grew up in the United Arab Emirates, so I was used to her flying back there to see her family and friends for the holidays and it occasionally meant that I was in our flat alone for a week or two but for the most part we spent every day of our final year together.
It was, honestly, hands on heart, the best year of my life – and it came to an end far too quickly. May rolled around, we handed in our dissertations, we partied hard and then the end of our tenancy came up and we had to start making decisions about our futures.
I eventually decided to stay in the city to continue studying for my master’s degree, however my best friend moved down South to study for her own master’s. We had to give up our flat, which we loved so, so, much and I moved back in with my parents and commuted for the rest of the year.
As hard as it was to see each other, we made it work and made sure to celebrate our 22nd birthdays together, went to concerts, had nights out and weekends away. Since finishing our master’s, it’s become harder to see each other, between work, families and other life events getting in the way, it doesn’t leave too much time to meet in person, especially as we don’t live in the same country anymore.
I realise all my feelings come from a position of privilege and I am incredibly lucky to be able to afford a car that makes it easier to see my friends and that I get on with my family well enough to move back home.
However, the feelings conjured up when the words “long-distance” are uttered tend to be along the lines of dread, frustration and eventual heartbreak. Especially as it would be easy to allow long-distance friendships to fade into the background as you make plans with your geographically closer friends.
It’s hard to keep even the closest friendship strong, and even harder when you live in a different country to them. When my best friend and I irritate each other or disagree, we can’t just go for a walk and make up or have a cup of tea in the kitchen. It requires organisation and scheduling to pick a convenient time for a FaceTime so we can hash it out and apologise. Sometimes it means we can’t patch things up right away as tone and empathy aren’t easily conveyed over text messages.
So, it begs the question, how can friendships survive long distance?
There are some occasions where we don’t have time to talk as often as we’d like and sometimes a month can go by without a FaceTime or a real conversation. These are the worst months, when I worry about our friendship and whether I could be doing more to save it.
But it’s important to remember that we’re both adults. We have lives and bills and problems that exist outside of our friendship and living in different countries only exacerbates these.
A simple text or reaction to each other’s Instagram selfies is enough to know that we’re thinking of each other and when we get the chance, we FaceTime – usually with a glass or two of wine.
Especially in lockdown, we have tried to continue our girl’s nights, film days and gossip sessions – but everything has gone virtual. We still plaster on a full face of make-up, do our hair and throw on a nice top, only difference is the comfy joggers and loungewear on the bottom half! We still order in a dominoes and have a duvet day, but we’re on separate sofas and sometimes can sit in silence if one or the other is focusing on something else.
I have found that going through the struggles of navigating a long-distance friendship when we saw each other every day before that has actually made our bond stronger. We don’t sweat the small stuff and any issues bigger than that are always maturely and calmly worked out over FaceTime. I am confident that our friendship truly is forever – we’ve made it this far; we can make it another few decades.