When we think about long-distance relationships, what do we think of? Probably two lovers who’ve been separated by school, work, or some other inconvenience and breathlessly await the few visits they’re granted every now and again. They probably live for the sound of a new text message, a new email, or a lengthy phone call. It’s the kind of love that we can imagine compensates for the time you don’t get to spend together, for the extra effort one has to make in every gesture. And almost always, it’s romantic love. But as anyone who’s moved away from family and friends can attest, there are many kinds of relationships — and many kinds of love — which can suffer at the hands of distance and conflicting time zones.
We often forget just how much relationships are built on the small, quiet moments between us: laughing and passing a bowl of popcorn over a movie, car rides together, the happy silence of two people who love each other enough to not have to make small talk when the food arrives. And when these moments are eroded, when simple geography keeps us from speaking this quiet, almost entirely unconscious language of love and friendship, it can make maintaining any kind of relationship an act of constant upkeep.
It’s up to us, whether with family, friends, or a lover, to make that extra effort to make the other person feel special, feel remembered. And this seems obvious in romantic relationships — you wouldn’t expect a long-distance relationship to work out well if you weren’t investing time and energy into making them a part of your day. But with close friends, and especially with family, we can often let this attention to detail completely fall by the wayside. “They’ll always be there,” we tend to think, “I don’t always need to let them know I’m thinking about them.” And a day or two of silence can turn into weeks, months, even years of a hiatus on your closeness. Sure, there will always be love between you, but we all need to feel that the few people who are really there are still thinking of us, even when far away.
When I think about some of my most precious moments living in an exciting new city, I often think about everything back home. There is something so beautiful, so reassuring, about being able to turn on a video chat or pick up a phone and be back in the warmth and familiarity of old friends and family. You can lose hours if you let yourself, laughing at stupid videos, eating dinner together over a computer screen, and gossiping about the day’s activities — every silly little thing that makes up your love to begin with. And knowing that there are people who will still get excited when they see your call pop up, who will look forward to catching up and planning the moment you’ll see each other again, can make even the most lonely moment in a new city bearable.
There is a certain level of maintenance required for every relationship, a moment here or there of simple pleasures and unspoken jokes that exist between people who miss each other. We have to remind each other — and ourselves — that distance is easily overcome these days, and that even a small effort can yield so much happiness and comfort. Just because the relationship is platonic doesn’t mean that it doesn’t need tending to every now and again, and we owe it to ourselves to maintain the beautiful things we started — even when we’re away for a while.