One thing COVID, border closures and lockdowns have thought us is that we can’t always see the people we love when we want to. Whether it’s family, friends or romantic partners relationships have suffered the strain of distance over the past two years. So, when there’s oceans, or even just a few suburbs between us, how can we maintain these crucial connections?
Calling, face timing and texting are probably the easiest and most obvious ways to stay in touch long distance. I often prefer an audio call while walking, as it feels like the person could just be in the next suburb over and it’s easy to chew the fat while you’re on a walk – they could almost be there.
Face time is another obvious option, the benefit of which is of course you can see the person’s face and expressions.
Scheduling calls/face times is a good way to maintain a long-distance connection. With time zones, work, kids, partners, and social lives the chances of catching someone overseas at the exact right moment are rare unless you know their whole schedule. I often get up at 630am or stay up until midnight to talk to people at home in Ireland, but it’s worth it to maintain those connections. My record so far is 4.5hrs straight on the phone!
Text & Voice Note
Texting (or WhatsApp/Instagram/messenger) is an amazing way to keep up small daily connections. Even sending random photos, GIFs, links to interesting articles and even ‘guess what happened this week’ or ‘how’s work?’ messages help to keep up that contact.
Myself and my friends often use voice notes too. If a story is particularly long, or one of us is walking/being lazy we will voice note it out to the other. Sometimes you have to wait to listen so it’s not as quick as texting but for more meaty subject matter it works well if there’s too many schedule clashes for a call.
This isn’t something I personally do, but my husband and his brothers in New Zealand do it a lot. Finding a collaborative game is a magnificent way to ‘hang out’ online. Being able to chat on headphones and have a shared goal, makes for a fun and easy way to spend a few hours with loved ones, even if they aren’t in the same country.
Virtual Book Club
This is something I do. Having a book gives you something to talk about – a continuous topic of conversation to maintain a connection when there’s no real ‘news’. This came about from the series of lockdowns over the past year, when literally nothing was happening. With nothing to discuss it’s easy to end up going weeks or months without talking because there’s nothing to say. Having a book club, gives you something to say.
Say what’s on your mind
This is probably the most important one. It can feel incredibly awkward to tell someone who sends you a casual text that you’re having a rough day or that something major happened. Or to text someone out of the blue to tell them you’re struggling, or there's been a change in your circumstances. But it’s important to try, especially as connections are maintained through sharing an honest account of your life.
Do you ever feel like you don’t really know someone? That every time you speak to them it’s ‘everything’s grand’ or ‘all good here’ and you have no idea what’s going on for them? There are so many minutiae that make up a life. Things like what you had for lunch or a fight with a partner. Small stuff like a work problem that’s bugging you, a promotion you’re going for, the new car you’re looking at and of course the more serious ones such as a death or illness. If we don’t share those, we don’t share life. And thanks to technology, we can share them long distance.
While living in Sydney five people close to us have passed away. It will never not be weird to send the people close to me a text saying, ‘X person died’, but if I don’t it feels weird, they don’t know. It’s something that has a huge impact on your life and having loved ones not know what’s going on can make the distance feel greater, and the relationship feel further away.
If you see a movie, or a type of food that reminds you of someone send them a text or a picture. If something is bothering you, or something great happened tell your mates. It might feel a bit odd to be texting out of the blue, but it helps keep those connections alive. No matter the distance.
Relationships take work. Sometimes it’s getting up at 6am on your day off to speak to someone far away. Sometimes it’s being a shoulder to cry on. But quality relationships also are the number one factor in happiness and mental health (read lost connections and thank me later). They are our source of support and comfort. It goes both ways. So it’s 100% worth making the effort with loved ones, no matter how far away they might be.
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