Things are so much simpler when you’re younger. You don’t have to think about paying bills or making appointments; even relationships are easier. When you live in the same home as your family, you see them every day, making it easy to keep up those relationships. Likewise, all of your friends go to the same school or live in your neighborhood. Having this frequent interaction maintains those friendships.
However, for many of us, growing up goes hand in hand with changing relationships. You move, sometimes many miles – or even time zones – away. As your life becomes busier and busier with work, chores, and romantic relationships, it can leave little time for those friends and family members who were once so close. As the old saying goes, out of sight, out of mind. Of course, we don’t mean to fall off the map or distance ourselves. But as life gets busier and we live farther apart, it will take a little extra work to keep those relationships strong.
Consider the Sims: If you don’t talk to Person A for enough days, that relationship score goes down. You have to make the time to spend a few hours with your family and friends – or at least call them – in order to maintain a healthy relationship score. The same goes for real life.
After I finished college and moved out to live with my boyfriend, my relationship with my mom grew distant. In contrast to the weekly video chats and daily emails we sent during my final year of college, our communication dwindled down to only the rare call here and there. For a while I would reach out, but it got to the point where I was tired of always being the one to call first. We used to be close, and I would take her to concerts with me on an almost monthly basis, but now it seemed we no longer had much to say or do together. Our lives became busy, and we simply didn’t make time for each other.
Sometimes we don’t notice our relationships slipping apart until the gap has become too big. Other times, we are aware of the little changes taking hold each week. For better or worse, relationships can change a lot as we grow into adulthood. How do adult children act around their parents? What do we say to each other; how do we spend time together? Likewise, friendships also undergo major changes during our 20s. As our lives move in different directions, we may find we don’t have as much in common as we once did.
What do we do when the relationships that matter to us are growing ever distant?
Recovering the Bond
After a few difficult years of distance between my mom and me, I decided something had to change. First, I followed my sister’s lead in calling my mom more often. Setting aside my irritation that she rarely calls me first, I realized that it’s not that hard to pick up the phone every now and then, and we both feel better after having an impromptu conversation. Often, my mom had a lot to say. She’d simply been waiting for me to call. I keep reminding her she can call me, too.
Second, I’ve invited her out to spend mother-daughter time like we used to. Last spring, she went to the symphony with me to enjoy an evening of classic Italian compositions. Over the holidays, my sister, mother, and I all went to the mall – just like the good old days when we all lived under the same roof.
Third, getting my mom on social media was a big help in rekindling that bond. We can keep tabs on each other and show appreciation for the little things we each share. Commenting on each other’s posts shows that we’re paying attention and care about each other’s lives. We even have a messenger group with my sister to discuss various little goings-on.
For some relationships, keeping the bond alive is easy. My sister currently lives in Ireland, a full 8 hours ahead of me, yet we still manage to video chat almost every day. My best friend is two states away, but we talk most days and video chat regularly. She’s visited me a couple times, and now I’m planning to fly down and see her.
But for other relationships, you might need to put in a little extra effort. When life takes up all your time, you may have to consciously remind yourself to give your friend or relative a call. Don’t be too hard on each other and be willing to pick up where you left off.
Put It in Your Calendar!
Once you start to reach out, be sure to make it a habit. All habits take a little time to stick, and it may help to set up reminders on your computer or phone. Choose a day and time for your alerts to ping onto your screen, reminding you to send an email, pick up the phone, or start a video chat. Whether you’re talking daily, weekly, or monthly, scheduling these regular conversations will keep the relationship strong.
You should also see about making in-person hangouts a regular thing. Maybe once a month the two of you can meet up for lunch. Perhaps every season you attend a sporting event, movie, or concert together. Decide how often you want to see your friend or relative – and, depending on how far apart you live, how frequently you are able to see each other. Then, make it a non-negotiable appointment to visit one another and enjoy quality time together.
Finally, take advantage of holidays and anniversaries. Everyone loves a thoughtful greeting card – whether physical or digital. Take the time to pick out a nice card for each holiday, including their birthday, and make sure to send it a few days ahead of time. It’s a nice way to show you’re thinking of them. Soon enough, you might start getting holiday cards in your mailbox, too.
Call Your Mom!
All relationships are different. Some relationships require more frequent communication to stay close, while others can go longer between interactions and yet you still feel like great friends. Figure out what works for each relationship. If there’s bad blood, figure out why and work to resolve it. Decide whether a friendship is worth fighting for, and then fight for it! Don’t wait for the other person to contact you first. Be proactive in keeping the relationship alive, and the other person will likely follow suit. With a little conscious effort and care, your relationships will remain strong and ever-lasting, no matter how busy life gets.
Amanda Whitbeck is Vice President of Operations at Petite2Queen. Since earning her master’s degree in Global Entertainment & Music Business from Berklee College of Music, Amanda has played key roles facilitating growth at start-ups. She’s also worked in diverse sectors of the music industry, from live events promotion to entertainment journalism. She brings her expertise in music business, writing, and website development to Petite2Queen.