Anyone who’s as obsessed with romantic dramas as I am knows that long-distance relationships can be frought with difficulty. Keeping up long distance relationships, even platonic ones, takes a lot of conscious effort from everyone involved. It’s so easy to get distracted by daily life and neglect relationships with people who live far away, even if we care about them dearly. While I don’t speak to most of my family, there’s one special, long-distance connection in my life that I put daily effort into and totally cherish. Through trial and error, I've learned how to keep a LDR fresh because those relationships can be so important.
My older sister, Whitney, and I weren’t always close. We grew up in separate states and never saw much of each other as children. I was pretty surprised when she reached out to me in an email about a year ago, asking to get to know me, but we’ve since become absolute besties. We connect with each other daily, and are a big part of each other’s lives. Here’s the catch, though: She lives in Arizona, and I’m all the way across the country in Wisconsin. We aren’t able to see each other as often as we’d like, and maintaining close relationships over long distances can be rough. From the innovation and self-awareness it’s taken to keep our long-distance sisterhood thriving, a few key habits have been born. I’m here to share them with you so you can keep your own LDRs in bloom. So, how have my sister and I been able to stay involved in each other’s lives over the past year?
Her important dates go on my calendar, too.
Whenever Whitney mentions upcoming events that are important to her, I jot them down in my planner. This way, I remember to wish her good luck on upcoming important meetings, or check in after big events to see how they went. Keeping track of key items in her schedule helps me avoid the classic, face palm-inducing, “Oh yeah, I totally forgot about that huge event in your life that you were really excited about! How’d it go?” Making an effort to remember her big events is just a thoughtful way to keep our long-distance sisterhood current and fresh.
Don’t fall into the catch-up trap.
All relationships need to be nurtured, or they grow stale and fall apart. When people don’t see each other often, it can be easy to fall into catch-up mode and end up just talking about each other’s day-to-day lives. This can quickly start to feel tedious and boring, so infusing conversations with outside topics to bond over is key.
Whenever my sister and I get stuck in boring conversations with each other based on polite “How are you?” questions and responses, I’m careful to reflect on the things we have in common. A couple of times a week, I surf the web to find things to bond over. I stumble on articles featuring home decor trends I think she’d be interested in, or discover mermaid memes that make me laugh, and share them with her. Doing this gives us things to talk about that bust us out of the same old routine.
Keep it current by exploring each other’s passions.
My sister and I have a lot in common, but we have so many differences. For instance, she’s religious, and I practice secular witchcraft. Though Whitney doesn’t approve of tarot, she recently read an article about practicing Tarot that I recently wrote. I found this very sweet of her. She congratulated me on it and commented on how insightful it was, and it really touched me that she would step outside of her comfort zone to try to understand something that’s important to me.
Whitney is obsessed with Flannery O’Connor novels, and I’m reading a collection of her short stories now just so I can try to appreciate something that she enjoys so much. Going out of our way to share in each other’s interests keeps our relationship strong and thriving, and lets us know how much we mean to each other.
Mail time, anyone?
Let’s get real: If you’re at all like me, you’ve been horribly spoiled by Amazon Prime life. I’m so used to getting same-day delivery on most things I order, that waiting more than a couple days for packages feels like a hardship. Still, exchanging snail-mail with my sister is worth the wait and hassle of long post office lines. Whitney and I curate gift boxes for each other full of local treats and thoughtful gifts, and trade off sending them to each other. The last box she sent me was full of Arizonan prickly pear candies and jellies (yum!), novels she enjoys, and a cute pair of earrings that made her think of me. Exchanging packages is a fun, cute way we make each other feel appreciated.
Bust out the face masks for a virtual date.
While my sister and I can’t get together more than a couple of times a year, we see each other regularly via video chats. We schedule weekly “sister dates,” during which we set up our Macs, bust out the bubbly, and do an activity together, long-distance style. During our last sister date, we did our skincare routines together. We had a fun time learning about each other’s favorite products and bonding over face masks, just like we would if we were able to actually be together. Sister dates are a great way to keep things fun.
LDRs are notoriously full of struggles, but keeping them fresh doesn’t have to be tedious. Putting my long-distance sister’s important dates in my calendar prevents me from forgetting about events that mean a lot to her, and consciously infusing our conversations with new topics helps us avoid the boring trap of perpetually catching up with each other. Exploring each other’s passions gives us new appreciation for each other, while sending snail-mail gives us fun surprises to look forward to together. At the end of the day, video chat dates are the next best thing to being with each other in person, and doing them regularly helps our relationship thrive. There are lots of ways to keep platonic long-distance relationships from growing stale, you just have to be willing to get a little creative.