When You're The Only One Keeping In Touch With Friends
Why are some women so terrible at reaching out?
“Hello, it’s me … I must've called a thousand times … At least I can say that I've tried,” as famously sung by Adele. Let’s be honest. In this day and age of social media and email, there’s really no excuse for not keeping in touch with a distant friend. So why is it that I haven’t spoken to a few of my oldest and dearest friends in years? I mean, I was raised on the schoolyard song, “Make new friends, but keep the old.”
My husband and I have moved around quite often, chasing that elusive ladder of success, yet we’ve managed to make some great friends in all the places we’ve lived. We’d meet at the pool, school, gym or dog park. And sometimes, we became fast and inseparable friends. We were weekend warriors, workout buddies, designated drivers and close confidantes. And I just presumed that we would be lifelong friends.
Each time, as we were packing up the house, we shed tears, hugged goodbye and vowed to keep in touch. I was no sooner out of the driveway when the “I miss you” text chains began. We’d talk often in those first few months apart, sharing what I’d missed, what the kids were up to, and (yes) gossiping about other friends. Moving can be a very lonely process, so staying connected to familiar people and places makes it a little less so.
But after several months, the relationship seems to wane like a first love. The phone calls and lengthy texts become infrequent and, even in some cases, disappear altogether. I’m fiercely loyal as a girlfriend, and when I connect with someone on a deeply personal level, I don’t take breakups well (just ask my high school boyfriend). I feel like I’m always the one who makes the effort, initiating that phone call or text, anxiously waiting for a quick response, ready to chat on the phone for hours like preteen girls. But I get tired of being the one to make the effort. I’m stubborn like that. I have the time, and the desire, but relationships are a two-way street, right?
I have a few girlfriends who were like sisters to me that I have not spoken to in a decade because I grew tired of always being the one to initiate. So, I had to let those friendships die. And I mourn them. Obstinance meets humility.
So why are some near and dear friends just so terrible at staying in touch?
I try not to take it personally, the “It’s me, not you” mentality. We are all busy. Busy with our lives, kids, jobs and everyday life. But who doesn’t have an hour here or there to put in the earbuds and chat while running errands? Or to Facetime over a glass of wine in the evening?
I guess some people adhere to that old adage, “Out of sight, out of mind.” That’s the part that saddens me. I’ve made great memories with these people. So why am I not in their minds more often?
I do know that in a couple of instances my friends were going through a rough patch and probably needed their space. I’m cool with that. But isn’t that when you need friends the most?
I once told my husband, “There’s this new couple I met and I’d really like to get together with them.” His response: “I have enough friends and not enough time to see them all.” True dat. I guess some of my distant friends also could have a cap on their friendship quota.
My four BFFs and I have been friends for almost 20 years. Midlife, we found ourselves spread across the continent, from Florida to Washington to Hawaii. Yet we were still committed to our monthly Skype happy hour and managed to get together at least once or twice a year. This is commitment. This is true friendship. We hung in there and now we’re finally all back in the same state. So, I know it can be done. Staying in touch doesn’t have to be hard, or expensive, or time consuming.
I thought I’d share some tips for being a better long distance friend in hopes that some of my long lost pals read this.
1. Take advantage of social media. I understand that not everyone is on social media, but if anything, it’s really a great tool for staying in touch across the distance, political posts and prom pictures aside. I actually have friends who simply use the private message function of social media without using the feed.
2. Handwritten notes are back in vogue. I’m a sucker for pretty notecards. Thanks to my computer, my handwriting is not so pretty. But I find it humbling and therapeutic to write personal notes to my friends.
3. Send wacky holiday cards. True confession, I can no longer read the ink on my holiday card list as it’s faded from years of lack of use. I think the monumental task of writing our dozens of cards each year turned me off. So, I do occasionally send one-off silly cards for other holidays like Halloween or National Margarita Day.
4. If you can break up by text, certainly you can make up by text. And unlike an email or handwritten note, brevity is expected. Just a simple “Hey!” or even an emoji will do. At least I know we’re still friends and you’re still thinking of me.
5. Call spontaneously. Resist that urge to text first and just make the call. I find that dinner hour actually works pretty well. If I can at least catch her on the line, we can arrange another time that is more convenient to talk, but at least I’ve got her on the hook.
As I get older and ponder what others will say about me at my funeral (yes, I really do this), I think about friends who’ve had an impact on my life and I want them to know that. I made a resolution this year that I would reconnect with an old friend each month. It’s a work in progress, but I’ve learned that swallowing my pride and being the one to make the effort is worth it in the long run. Like any other relationship, it takes work. So, you know who you are. Call me!