Many of the most important relationships in my life are long-distance. I’m temporarily situated in my hometown, near my parents and extended family in Connecticut. My brother lives in Chicago, my sister is at a college 5 hours away. My American best friends live in Boston and New York. My boyfriend is in France. My other international friends are scattered around Asia, in Seoul, Germany, and the Caribbean to name a few. I don’t have the time, nor the funds, to see people for weeks, months, even years at a time.
My path and the paths of important people lead in different directions. So it’s presented me with the (sometimes-daunting) task of maintaining the majority of my meaningful relationships from afar. I’m not claiming to be an expert on the art of maintaining relationships. In fact, I suspect the unfortunate truth is that you learn what to do (and what not to do) by messing things up and losing a few friends.
Combined with my introverted nature (I just can’t be around people all the time!), the time difference, and the hectic nature of lives and schedules and jobs, maintaining long-distance relationships can be overwhelming. Between my jobs, I only have so many hours to talk, to message on Facebook, to e-mail, to Skype. I can’t be just a quick call or text-message away from ALL my people. And so with some friends, I go weeks or even months without having a good, meaty conversation. For some people, that just isn’t good enough.
I can’t say I blame these people, because having a strong bond is absolutely related to the quality and frequency of the interaction you have together. It’s related to how well you can count on that person when you need them. And while I do my best, I admit it’s just not possible for me to be there for all my friends at their most dire moments. And for that, I feel very guilty sometimes. I sometimes fear that my important relationships will disintegrate because I can’t give enough.
I’ve found that my best relationships (friendships, that is) are ones where we can pick up where we left off last time, call out of the blue and receive a warm response, fill each other in on the highlights of the last few weeks, without feeling slighted or hurt at the lack of consistency in communication. I’m not sure if this is the best or healthiest way to approach friendships, but this system is what works for me. It’s difficult to strike a balance with some people, and I’m sure I’ve hurt a few people with this system. For me, it’s like a juggling act with 20 props–every so often, I fail and drop one. No offense intended whatsoever, but even so, the ball’s been dropped.
The art of maintaining human relationships is complicated.