long distance friendships

How to Reconnect with an Old Friend When You’ve Been Out of Touch

"Losing touch with our friends" is one of the most common regrets of people at the end of their lives. But here at GirlFriendCircles, we don't want that regret! We know that our relationships are investments-- and that we have to stay in touch with some of those people we've developed the most frientimacy with in order to keep the benefits feeling supportive, safe, and satisfying. Huge thanks to GFC member and rock star counselor, Tricia Andor, for sharing her story as encouragement to us all! May we each take the time to reach out to a friendship that matters! -- Shasta

The Reconnection That Almost Didn’t Happen

By Tricia Andor

I returned Dawn’s call on a Tuesday, and we reconnected for two hours of talking and laughing. We hadn’t spoken for three years, which is just part of the rhythm of our friendship. Sometimes we’re in-touch, sometimes we’re not. Maybe that’s bound to happen when you’ve been friends since preschool, but it’s a cadence that’s always been fine with me, and I think fine with her too.

After our conversation, a delightful little thought started percolating. It would be great to connect in person. Dawn should come out this weekend for a visit! The weekend was only three days away, she lived nine hours away (in Nebraska), and it was Easter Weekend, so there were possibly a few obstacles.

However, I knew my friend well, and quickly marked off each potential hindrance.

Dawn was actually a fan of last-minute get together plans. We’d done the last minute “wanna do lunch today?” countless other times, even when we lived an hour away in different towns. Check! I knew she didn’t exactly live on a shoestring budget, so the expense of a trip likely wouldn’t be an issue. Check! And, she wasn’t that into organized religion, so it seemed unlikely that she’d have conflicting religious commitments for the Easter weekend. Check!

Every obstacle -- crossed off!

Well, every obstacle that is, except one.

There was one last annoyance nipping at my heels: Connection Perfection.

The Voice of Connection Perfection

Connection Perfection sidled up and quietly whispered:

“You’ve lived here one and a half years and you still have unpacked boxes under the stairs? Sheesh.” “What? You haven’t even painted or decorated the bathrooms yet?!” And then, going for the jugular: “(Gasp!) You have no baseboards! Still?”

Connection Perfection caused me to fear that Dawn would look at my not-quite-finished home and conclude that I was inadequate. It made me want to chuck the delightful idea of inviting her out like a hot potato.

Connection Perfection is not our ally. It makes us think we’ve got to get our life perfect before we reconnect with an old friend. It makes us feel nervous, inadequate, and sometimes even ashamed.

It says things like, you’ve got to write the perfect email to reconnect. Or, you have to lose weight before she sees you. Or, don’t even think about having people over unless your house looks like it belongs on Pinterest.

Solutions

No need to fear, though. We can outmaneuver Connection Perfection!

Here are the 3 things I did that you can do too:

  • Think about your actual experience with your friend. Has she ever been anything other than happy or receptive to receive an invitation from you to connect? Has she ever been critical of your emails, your body, your home, etc. in the past? Does she expect perfection from you?
  • Surround yourself with people who are also exercising courage in their friendships. I’ve read Shasta’s books and am a member of GFC, and both reminded me that it’s perfectly normal to feel a little nervous when extending an invitation. They gave me the support I needed to follow my instincts and invite my friend out for a visit.
  • Distinguish the feelings that come from Connection Perfection from those that come from excitement. Both can elicit feelings of nervousness, hesitation, or fear. Connection Perfection, however, also tends to bring with it negative appraisals like, “I’m going to be judged,” “I’m going to be exposed for the fraud I am,” or “She’ll see me as inadequate.” It tacitly expects our friend to be a harsh, unforgiving judge, whereas the excitement brings hope and possibility. “That’ll be fun,” or “Something great is about to happen” are the appraisals of excitement.

My Outcome

I invited Dawn for the visit. She flew out, and we packed in activities and connecting, and had a fabulous time.

Tricia, in between her husband, and her friend, Dawn

Tricia, in between her husband, and her friend, Dawn

We laughed and talked personal growth and politics at the dining room table. During my husband’s and her golf game, we chatted and laughed uproariously while zipping from hole to hole in our golf cart. We went out for dessert and caught up about our families. She, my husband, and I lounged Saturday morning, watching favorite comedy bits on Youtube. We meandered around a fine art gallery, and made ourselves at home in two cubist leather chairs in the middle of the room, swapping sordid stories about a few choice teachers we’d had growing up.

Best of all, Dawn and I got to connect face-to-face at this point in our lives. A lot had gone on in three years. I showed her my new town and home we’d moved to, she shared about her divorce, and I got to meet her new boyfriend through FaceTime.

There’s no one in the world like Dawn, and certainly no one who has her place in my life. She’s incredibly quick-witted, upbeat, and expects that situations will turn out for the best and life will be good. She’s the most self-confident, least neurotic person I know.

The whole weekend, Dawn -- of course -- didn’t have one iota of judgment about any not-yet-finished aspect of my home. On the contrary, I just felt supported, known, and believed in. I can’t believe I might have let Connection Perfection keep me from building all of these rich new memories with such a good, long-term friend -- a friend who, by the way, was too busy connecting with me to even notice, let alone care about my non-existent baseboards.  

Dawn sent me a thank you right after her visit

Dawn sent me a thank you right after her visit


Tricia Andor: With a master’s degree in clinical psychology and sixteen years experience as a Licensed Professional Counselor, Tricia Andor uses the best psychology-based tools to help you stay focused, be kinder to yourself, and dream bigger.  Get her free guide, Better Together, which shows 7 things she did (that you can do too) in one week to make more and deeper connections. 

My Annual GirlFriend Group: The Benefits of Long Distance Friendships!

Tomorrow morning I fly out to San Antonio for my Annual SoCal Girls Weekend. SO EXCITED! SoCal Girls Group

We used to all live in Southern California (hence why I still refer to us as the SoCal group!) where we would get together weekly for an evening of tea, book talk, and life sharing. I think we met for just over a year before life started moving some of us to new places, but we made a pact that we'd all get together at least once a year for the rest of our lives. We're seven years in to that commitment. I love that we made that decision.

Since I'm always championing local and new friendships, I thought I'd rave today about  some of the pay-offs that come from our time spent with more long-term, albeit long-distance friendships:

  • Provides Ongoing Intimacy: I rate myself pretty low on the "good at staying in touch" with long-distance friends scale.  If it weren't for this annual weekend these would be women who I simply would drift apart from. Sure, some of us see each other here-and-there if we're traveling through each others cities on business or visiting family nearby.  A few texts and phone calls are exchanged between different ones of us throughout the year, and we also try to periodically stay in touch on a group Facebook page and via a couple of scheduled conference calls.  But those are all just updates.  It's staying up all night talking for a weekend that brings us back to real Frientimacy.  These weekends are where we share the real stuff with women who know us.
  • Non-Negotiable Commitment: It's a no-brainer every year to buy the airline ticket. Since we already made the decision years ago that this is going to happen, we don't ever have to ask "Can I go this year?"  We don't get input from our busy calendars, our budgets, or our spouses/kids as to whether we can go this year-- we just say yes. The truth is we can always talk ourselves out of things if we raise the question--work will always be hectic, funds will always feel tight, kids will always need us-- so it's nice to have the important things in life already decided. Our friendship is important to us so we'll keep the weekend short and inexpensive, but we will always be there.
  • Protected From Life Change:  Since our time together is really only a weekend every year-- my friendship with these women doesn't go up in flux if they get married, have another kid, change jobs, move to a different city, or go through a divorce. That's a gift right there.  Most of our local friendships are constantly being impacted by the choices we all make-- we get our feelings hurt when one person is too busy or goes through a big life change. So the downside to our long-distance group is that we may not know each others kids and husbands well, but the up-side is that any of that can change and it won't change the fact that we are getting together for our 3 days.
  • We Know History & See Growth:  One of my favorite parts of our time together is that we all answer a few questions on paper about what our lives look like right now-- things we're grateful for, wounds we're nursing, fears we're feeling, goals we've set-- and we put them in a folder that we only look at this one weekend.  This year, we'll all open our long-forgotten page from last year and see how life has changed from then.  It's like this mile-marker for life, giving us a chance to say "oh yeah, I remember feeling that fear... look at me now" or "interesting that this same thing keeps showing up every year on my page..."  We share with each other what we've written-- sometimes crying, often cheering, but always loving. It's nice to have friends who see us deeply once a year.
  • A Bigger-Picture-Type of Sharing: I love my local San Francisco girlfriends-- we can talk on the phone ten minutes here-and-there, get together for tea, share dinners, and know what we're each facing every week ahead.  There's a consistency there that supports me in the best way ever.  But there's also something really special about the friends who are removed from my day-to-day life, the ones who only see me occasionally. We talk about different things. Whereas friends here might ask what I'm doing today or this weekend, these friends ask about highlights and lowlights from the last year. The conversations give me a chance to think about life in a broader way, to reflect on the bigger issues.  They observe changes in me that might be harder for people who see me all the time to notice. They ask about things I'd long forgotten. They hold a space for me to learn about myself in different ways.

I tell you all this because if you don't have this and want it-- you can make it happen.  We did not all know each other when the six of us all started getting together weekly.  It's not like we were all a clique from college.  I was new to SoCal and just started asking some girls if they wanted to come over for a weekly book discussion. Some of them invited someone else they knew... and our group formed.  You can do that.

For many of you it may be that you already have a few women flung across this country that you love and it may be that you simply need to make the decision to be the catalyst that gets you all together.  It can be affordable-- Southwest has flights on sale all the time, hotel costs decrease when split among several of you, and you can just buy a few groceries to keep it simple.  This kind of friendship is worth the investment.

So tomorrow I board the plane knowing that on the other end will be women that I may not have seen in a year, but that I know will hug me and love me like few others can.