One of the sad truths of adult life is that you drift away from people you care about. Sometimes this is emotional, and you simply find one day that you haven’t spoken to someone close to you in a very long time, but other times this is simply physical – with jobs and other responsibilities taking you to one location while those around you are pulled elsewhere.
When this happens, it’s difficult to not feel upset and as though the friendship is falling towards some inevitable conclusion, but that doesn’t have to be the case. There are multiple ways your relationships can survive and even thrive over these distances, but the key to success is acknowledging that all involved parties have to put their bestfoot forward and give it their all.
When it comes to these connections and friendships, the time in which you go about living your normal life is the downtime that leads to the reunions – those occasional events where you can meet up with them again and enjoy each other’s company. Of course, the form that these reunion events take might differ depending on whether you’re talking about a group of friends or a range of more straightforward one-on-one connections. If you’re talking about a group, these occasions become a bit easier to think about because you can start to visualize them as larger-scale parties or gatherings that make the most of having everyone in one place. This, combined with some sort of digital group chat system that you have with everybody attending, can ensure that you frequently stay in touch with people and then physically catchup at semi-regular events like these. The tricky part comes with finding a suitable middle-ground for everybody in attendance, especially if everyone is spread out across quite a diverse range of locations. In this case, you might find that some events simply don’t include everyone while still ensuring that everyone is invited to any given event as to avoid potential gatekeeping.
When it does come to these big reunion parties, there is room to get creative. Necessity is the mother of invention. You might find that you physically can’t fit everyone into any given person’s house like you would with a smaller number of people, so you might be encouraged to look outwards towards venues and activities that can house you all at once. Knowing that these events are irregular but having the framework (group chat) in place to organize them digitally can allow you to start thinking about ideas such as a garden barbecue, a yacht party rental, a campout, a road trip, or any other creative setting that you feel would allow you to spend time with the people that you care about.
With these types of friendships, going into a reunion event with the same kind of attitude you might do with a group event might feel unnatural. Part of this could stem from the fact that these large-scale events often cost a lot of money in the first place. When you have a larger group of people, this is less of a problem because you can simply divide the cost among you, making it a much smaller contribution from any given person. However, with just two of you, these events start to look very expensive from the outset. Furthermore, a certain air of the event is arguably lost when the number of people dwindles to just the two of you. You might not necessarily feel the same, but it could be more difficult to justify renting out something just for two people.
However, while this might seem as though it’s a problem that narrows your options down, the bright side is that you can afford to have your choices narrowed down. With a group, you might have found it difficult to accommodate people into one normal living space, but that isn’t a problem when there’s just the two of you. Additionally, while the lower number of people can reduce some of the excitement that comes with these events, the fact that you can have a low-key and relaxed time with someone you care about might work in favor of these reunions, as the lowered expectations could allow the time you spend together to become formed by spontaneous decisions dictated by your mood at the time.
In a Group
While the reunions with these people might be the times that you look forward to and remember as still being moments of your friendships where you can interact as you would have done in the past, most of the time will be made up of the time in between these moments. This doesn’t have to simply be dead air, however, and you can use the means provided to you by the digital age to make the most of this time – transforming it into valuable and quality time in its own right. As mentioned before, sometimes the group events won’t be able to include everyone due to the conflicting schedules of a large group, and sometimes you might be the one who is unable to attend, so it benefits everyone involved to have a way of communicating in the interim. The problem with this approach is simply that not everyone will be as familiar with technology as other people, meaning that you might find a bit of a divide in the group as to how natural this extension is for you. This means that those who are less familiar might take part less frequently or with less intensity, risking alienation. There are ways around this, but you might have to make a more active effort to get them involved, which might mean that you have to compromise on what you might prefer the activity to be. Compromise might be something that you have to get used to when trying to organize a digital event for a whole group, but over time you might find that you all begin to understand what works and what doesn’t.
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, people became familiar with these various solutions, and that knowledge might help you throughout situations like this. However, many people might have also realized that talking via means such as voice or video chat and talking in real life are not the same thing. Talking in real time allows for a fluid conversation where multiple people can have input at once. In contrast, over the internet, more than one person talking at the same time risks a loss of clarity, and factors such as lag can impact the conversation even further. For this reason, you might find that solutions such as having a video game to play at the same time to serve as a foundation for the discussion could be the right way to go. Of course, it might be the case that not everyone enjoys video games to the same extent, so you could find a more accessible and universal title, such as party games like Jackbox. Having this event as the centerpiece takes the pressure off the conversation itself and instead encourages a more relaxed atmosphere.
The Two of You
Without the need to accommodate everyone in a group, you might find that this aspect of the friendship becomes much easier to manage. With just two of you to worry about, the core of the activity becomes something you both agree upon, and taking the time to understand what you both want to do can make the most of your shared interests. For example, if you’re both into video games, you can simply focus on whichever games you know that you both enjoy to pass this time. Additionally, you might find that communication across digital spaces becomes much easier to handle without the multiple voices competing over each other. Voice chat becomes a simple conversation, and this, in turn, can start to look like an enticing option.
Not only might this help to make up for the long periods that you don’t meet up in person, but this can also be a time you use to plan that next event.
Accepting the Situation
There’s no denying that maintaining friendships across long distances is a challenge, and it’s a difficult situation emotionally for people who rely on contact with their friends to get them through hard times. However, it’s also a situation that requires a certain amount of maturity to get through it. As people grow and develop, they have their own lives,which is ultimately unavoidable. You can’t cater your whole life to ensuring that you’re close to your friends without jeopardizing other aspects of what you want to do, and as such, you need to accept that this situation is the way it is for a reason.
This doesn’t mean that you have to accept that you’re going to drift away from them emotionally, but if everyone involved takes the same approach towards this situation mentally, you’ve all got a better chance of avoiding certain pitfalls. For example, you might think that it’s inevitable that things will begin to feel awkward with your friends after a while of not seeing them, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Not only can aspects such as the group chat and digital communications prevent that from happening, but just picking up where you left off whenever you see them again can help make everyone feel much more comfortable. When you spend time alone, it can begin to feel as though you’re the only one who feels this way, but the chances are that most people have similar worries, and you’re all in this together.
Additionally, an acceptance of the situation and its consequences can help you move past it in a way that simply has you looking forward to the times you still get to spend with your friends. Distance makes the heart grow fonder, and you might find that this means that the times you spend with your friends retain an aspect of novelty that they might have lacked when you could see them more regularly. If you still struggle with the distance as it is, you might take solace in the fact that nobody knows what the future holds. The stars could align once again and have you living more closely with those you care about – in which case, this might be better thought of as a temporary solution that you embrace for the time being.