3 Reasons You Keep Long-Distance Friendships, Even Though You Grow Apart

By Kristyn Emmer

I'm stranded in the largest terminal at the airport and I've run up and down the terminal countless times, stood in long customer service lines and have been told “no, ma'am” and “I'm sorry” way more times than I would care to hear. So I anxiously get online to book a loan-sized ticket on another airline without thinking of the cancelation policy or lack thereof.

And the more I think about it, the more I think about how this is long-distance friendship.

There's nothing quite like it. Having friends in many places is similar to feeling like your money is flung all over the place. You have precious valuables worth so much scattered about and you do everything you can to keep track of it all. My college roommates are my people. I still call them my roommates because, well, once a roomie, always a roomie.

We spent some of the most beautiful and painstaking years of our lives together, which I think is the reason we're still so close. No two of us are alike in ways you think best friends would be which, to this day, continues to baffle me. And since college ended, we scattered around the country.

I don't see them every day; I don't get to talk to them every day. I miss big, beautiful life moments often. I don't intimately know who their people in their places are. I don't know the kinds of responsibilities they have anymore.

But there's one word we all rather unofficially agreed to long ago and that's commitment. We've said “yes” to one another, even though it isn't convenient anymore. We've agreed to share in life's moments worth noting, the moments of life that are gut-wrenchingly painful and the ones that are glowingly beautiful. We've agreed even though thousands of miles separate us, we won't let that get in the way of a sisterhood such as this.

And it's worth thinking about what it really means to have long-distance friendships. Not just any friends, but friends who are priceless gifts that continue to show up in creative, amazing ways.

1. The effort feels effortless.

When it comes to your people and the physical distance that separates you, the effort for closeness often feels like the normal rhythm of life. They're deeply woven into the threads of life that have been spinning for many years.

It's the joyfulness towards “I'll just keep calling you until you answer,” rather than the frustration of never having co-ordinating schedules. It's the excitement that brews when you put together a "just because" kind of package to ship across the country. And it's about the distance you'll go for closeness to your people, perhaps late flights and sprints through the airport.

2. The time spent together is rich.

My college roommates and I plan a roommate reunion every year. Once a year, we set aside around four days to spend with one another, concentrated time under one roof, bringing things back to the way they once were. The meals shared together. The specific wine and popcorn combo that's to die for. The late night, hair on top of your head, sweatpants kind of evenings. The random deep sharing crammed in the bathroom brushing your teeth together.

They're deeply woven into the threads of life that have been spinning for many years.

And you know you better let it sink deep because the reality of this situation, although so sacred, isn't forever. So you put the phone away, you set down the social media and you make sure the one across the campfire from you knows you care. That time together is limited and precious and there's no mistake from anyone to treat it as anything else.

3. The foundation set is solid.

There's just something so lovely about knowing people who won't leave, even when you've all left. This is especially true for me, knowing these women were the ones who showed up in my darkest days. They didn't leave then and they sure didn't run when I shared my dreams of moving halfway across the county.

There's a level of undoing that is allowed to happen when your people commit, when they remain steady through the inconsistencies of life. The word is safety and the result is freedom. When your people choose to stay and you know they're going to stay, the undoing of the mess and madness of life has a place to rest and the freedom of your people has a place to flourish.

There's a great quote that goes a little something like this,

You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That's the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.

Long-distance friendships are one of those rare gifts that, when not handled with care, can leave deep holes in places only these sacred friendships are meant to enter. They're those do-anything, go-anywhere kinds of friendships that offer so much more than a listening ear and some unforgettable memories.

They're the deep friends who create spaces of safety, consistency and clarity. They're the ones who show up first and continue to pursue when it isn't easy.

These long-distance friends are the people who anchor us, reflect us and remind us we aren't alone in this vast world we all share life in.