Long distance friendships: How do you rely on your best friend when she's 10,000 miles away?

Taylor Swift and her female friends who make long distance look easy on the surface
Taylor Swift and her female friends make long distance look easy on the surface Credit: Instagram/Taylor Swift

My phone usually lights up long before my alarm goes in the morning - strings of messages sent from miles away with the hope there’s someone waiting to read them. Before my eyes even focus I know I’m reading a conversation that has already begun and ended without my input.

In the two years since my best friend moved to Australia we’ve entered unknown friendship territory. We all know about the issues with long distance relationships, but long distance friendships? They're far less familiar, but can be just as tough to navigate.

We’ve had so many 'Sliding Doors' moments of missing endlessly negotiated Skype times and now the guilt of unanswered messages feels like the start of a cold war. Unsurprising really, as there are few things as depressing as staring glumly at your own video stream at 4am waiting for someone to join you.

My best friend Scarlett (right) and I

Yet when my boyfriend spent four months in Japan this year I somehow manged to find the time to speak to him every day. Like so many couples divided by distance, we scheduled our way through the weeks with drunk calls in smoking areas and texts under the dinner table.

So why isn't it as easy to maintain a friendship separated by distance?

My best friend Scarlett has been the most constant and stabilising force in my life since childhood, and her leaving has been harder than any break-up or heartache I’ve ever felt. But for some reason - and as much as I hate to admit it - the distance has driven us apart.

Friendships are supposed to be the bone deep relationships that see you through both trauma and success. They're meant to lengthen and swell as jobs and boyfriends flit in and out of our lives. My friend and I have survived all of that, but now her decision to move to the other side of the world has  become a test for how much we care.

Friendships are supposed to be the bone deep relationships that see you through both trauma and success

According to New York Times article You’ve Got to Have (150) Friends, "emotional closeness declines by around 15 per cent a year in the absence of face-to-face contact". If this is the case I’m down 30 per cent and already scouring Amazon for an ice-axe to bridge the arctic gulf between us.

The article goes on to discusses the false protection of friendships that Facebook allows us to believe we have. Whilst technology has made distance a different game, the jury is out on whether we’re necessarily better off.

We can Skype loved ones into our bedrooms and allow ourselves to pretend they are really with us, but with the constant social media surveillance, it is easy to confuse watching people’s lives with actually being in them. Seeing your best friend smashed in the arms of another girl provokes a similar reaction to finding your ex’s name in the 'like' list below a stranger’s picture - an intense desire to slowly cut that girls' limbs off.

Technology can make us think we're connected but often means we feel more lonely Credit: Syda Productions - Fotolia

When our friends are apart from us the hollow liking of pictures feels like an approval of their new life - but usually it makes us more more lonely and miserable than before.

Relationship specialists Relate recommend having an awareness of what the other person’s understanding of the friendship is about: "If you start FaceTiming or emailing the whole time and that is too much for them that can hurt the friendship too. If both people are happy to put the effort in, you can keep each other in the loop in a brief way and then make arrangements to have a longer conversation."

They also suggested the underpinning factor in friendship is knowing what it means to you: "You might be in different places in your lives but it means being interested in what is going on in each others lives even if they differ from our own."

There’s no easy fix but these five steps may help recover the friendship you had. If all else fails just pray distance really does makes the heart grow fonder.