At one time or another, most of us are faced with the prospect of living away from people we really care about. This can include family members, cherished friends, or esteemed coworkers. They move away, you move away, or you both end up in new locations. Depending on how close the relationship, the loss can range from a minor annoyance to intense pain. My wife and I have two grown children and four grand kids that live an airplane ride away. We also have many friends and former colleagues that are no longer close (geographically speaking). I’m sure the same is true for you and your family.
Times of transition are often catalysts to moving. As an example, your children are grown and long gone from the house, you no longer have an office to go to, and you are tired of the weather where you live – or just have a strong urge to live somewhere new. Perhaps you accept a new position out of town or you move to one of the popular active adult communities. Naturally you will bemoan the loss of your connections, but there are some things you can do to maintain solid relationships.
Use video call technology. Two great and free apps to facilitate video calls are Skype and FaceTime (for Apple products). These are terrific tools that you can use with your smartphone, tablet or computer to share your face as well as your voice. We use Skype to say hello to our grandchildren every Sunday. Sometimes they stay on for 5-10 minutes and sometimes it’s hard to keep their attention for 30 seconds. Either way, we are maintaining the connection.
Exercise your thumbs. Text is a great way to say: Hey, how are you doing? Text is a medium that is not made for long communications but rather quick snippets that remind your friends/family that you are thinking of them. In other words, don’t use text to tell someone everything you’ve been doing in the past week!
Send gifts. I’m not suggesting that you buy your way to good relationships but rather, send an occasional “I’m thinking of you” memento. Don’t make it expensive and don’t require reciprocity.
Stay positive. One quick way to lose old friends is to use them to unload all your negative feelings. A little of this is okay but you want your long distance friends and relatives to look forward to your communications, not find ways to avoid you.
Pay attention to timing. I’ve noticed that my kids and friends are sometimes eager to talk and have plenty of time for me, while at other times, they seem highly distracted and not keen to talk for more than a minute or two. If you experience the latter scenario, best to do a quick check-in and then let the other person go about their business. Hopefully, they will do the same for you.
When necessary, let them go. You will undoubtedly make friends in your new location, just as your friends in the old location will make new connections. It’s just the nature of the game – the same way you lost touch with many of your high school pals when you went off to college. There’s a saying that relationships are there for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. Appreciate the few that last a lifetime, but let the others go gracefully.
Pre-schedule a time to meet. When you travel back to your old location, give your most-favored contacts plenty of advance notice and if possible, line up some quality time. We’ve all got busy lives so just don’t ring them up and say, “I just got to town. Are you available this evening?”
Be available. Chances are, your schedule will become quite busy in your new location. But if you want to maintain a strong connection with friends and family, you need to be there for them. And if the timing isn’t right, suggest something that works for both of you.
The loss of physical connection is just a part of life in our mobile world. As Colleen Milner talked about in a previous article, loneliness is a real problem for those going through life transitions and even more so, for those who have few or any close friends or family nearby. However, if you practice the above suggestions, you can maintain or even extend your physical relationships. You don’t have to be distant, despite the distance between you.