Keeping Friends by Knowing How to be a Good Friend

People take surprisingly different approaches to friendships. Some people have lots of friends, while others have a small group of close friends. Some close friends are nearby, and other close friendships exist over hundreds of miles. But, no matter how you view friendships, keeping friends can be hard when one friend moves away. The challenge is knowing how to be a good friend and finding ways to adapt to the change in proximity and still stay close.

Friendships, as any relationship, exist and flourish according to established norms. These norms get set into place when both parties in the friendship mutually enjoy doing certain activities together, or find a comfortable set of habits that support the friendship. When the friends live in the same town, this usually includes favorite get-togethers, places to go and things to do that the friends mutually enjoy. This routine, or set of norms for the friendship, gets thrown off when a friend moves away.

In order to make the friendship continue to work, new norms need to be established that can take the place of the previous ones. It can help to start with a conversation about ways to adapt the friendship so that each friend still gets what is needed from the friendship, even at a distance. This may include a regular phone call, perhaps weekly at an appointed time. It could also include e-mail contact, or occasional trips to see each other if possible. Some friends also take a trip together to reconnect.

Ingredients for Strong Friendships

Regular Contact. Talking, e-mailing or visiting regularly can help maintain a friendship. Communication is key in any relationship, and friends need to find ways to show each other caring and support, even if it's not face-to-face. Some friends stay close, even if the friends don't talk for months at a time. Other friendships need weekly contact in order to stay strong.

Because everyone is different, a conversation about what the new norms of communication will be can be helpful. If possible, have the conversation and set your standards before the change takes place to ensure a smoother transition.

Established Bonds. It's easier to maintain a friendship that is already established than one that is new. A new friendship that is suddenly changed by one friend's moving away is more likely to dissolve due to the stresses of the friendship not having had much of a chance to grow and develop.

Flexibility. Long-distance relationships call for flexibility from each friend. This may include being understanding if a planned phone call needs to be changed, or even if travel plans are waylaid due to weather, sickness or insufficient funds for travel. When unforeseen events occur, good friends find ways to reschedule.

Understanding. Friends need to accept that, when one moves away, each friend's life goes on in all of the routine ways it needs to. The level in which the friend was involved in the other friend's life may decrease, but the friendship can adapt to these changes if both friends can handle not communicating as often.

When a friendship can't withstand the changes due to one friend moving away, it doesn't mean the end of the friendship, but it may mean the change in status of a friendship. It's possible to stay in touch via e-mail, or even just yearly family newsletters. Understand that these things don't necessarily maintain the friendship at the level it used to be, but they don't mean the friendship is over, either.

Making New Friends. When one friend moves away, it opens up the opportunities for both friends to make new friendships. Try to be open to meeting people and finding common interests to share. There are many places to find people with similar interests, including a religious institution, clubs, hobby groups and even one's own neighborhood.

Here are some keys to making new friends:

Make eye contact, and don't forget to smile. This paves the way to introducing yourself.

Introduce yourself. Just say hello. The rest will follow.

Find a common topic of interest or comment on what the other person is doing.

After you ask the person something, be sure to listen to the person's response.

If you find that the person could be a friend, exchange phone numbers or suggest a plan for doing something together. It's a little like dating, but less stressful.

As you make new friends, you'll have much more to share with old ones, and it will be easier to move ahead in your new life. With new friends, you won't be as reliant on your old ones and less likely to be upset if a friend starts to lose touch.

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