What it takes and when it’s not enough

Updated: June 2, 2021

Dear best friend,

It’s been a few months since we last spoke. And by speak, I don’t mean send a quick photo, tag each other in a comment or navigate the all-impossible text to answer, “How are things?”

Is it just me, or have the gaps between our true conversations widened? I know we aren’t a part of each other’s daily lives anymore, but can you even imagine it? Can you say you know the life and soul of your best friend now?

It’s as if time has sped up since we’ve been apart, our friendship broken in two down the Ocean, each of us moving in separate directions that are distinctly our own. Has the distance slowly eroded our friendship over the past couple of years, taking its inevitable toll, or have we ourselves stunted its growth? Out of sight, out of mind, or so they say, but you are always in my heart.

Our friendship was once a beautiful safe space, whereby often spending time together led you to know the ins and outs of my life, and I knew yours. We have options to connect through technology now, but we both know it’s not the same. Somehow, I feel you care more when I’m standing in front of you, your real best friend, not someone a world away who mainly appears in the form of words on your screen.

The bridge between two realities

LONG DISTANCE FRIENDSHIP A letter on what it takes and when its not enough1

Our lives have evolved into vastly different entities, and our decades-long friendship is the bridge suspended between your reality and mine. I have watched from afar as you started a beautiful family, always determined to be the best Mom you can be, and you have supported my constant travels abroad without ever questioning my path.

Between every time we say goodbye and you welcome me back home again, we must admit that things have changed. At first, it was hardly noticeable, a few weeks or months between visits, spontaneously filling each other in as we went. But after two years of living abroad, the tough realization began to sink in. Our friendship once so full of joy, secrets and a bond deeper than most seems to have ground to a halt.

It’s not just that we can’t visit in person as often as we would like. Or that you have become a time-strapped mother, or that COVID hit and interrupted our plans. This weight in our friendship is infused by all of those things, yet it feels deeper, too. Maybe there has been an imbalance for too long, our contrasting lives on different continents only bringing to the surface what has been long-buried beneath.

What does our friendship mean to you? I’ve come to realize that we must hold different beliefs on this defining relationship. Unspoken rules turn into repeat offenses that leave their mark. You say best friend, but I feel like less. For me, affirmative words backed by actions speak loudest. For you, maybe it’s simply knowing I’m out there. Am I valued mostly for responding when you need me, or does our friendship mean more to you, too?

You don’t often ask about my dreams or my struggles lately, but I tell myself that I understand you have a family to prioritize now. It’s a hard line to draw between supporting a friend spread thin, trying not to expect too much, and knowing when your own needs aren’t met over time. Our growing differences in experiences and outlooks on life present their own challenges to finding the common ground we used to share.

Is it unfair to have expectations of long-distance friendship? If true friendship is patient and forgiving, I think I have been. Maybe it is time to admit that our friendship no longer lifts me up as it once did. Maybe you no longer have the space you once did. Now it is loaded with too many disappointments, missed calls that form an emotionally draining chain, no matter the reason.

As I see myself typing, “no problem, I understand” yet again, I feel the weight of this belief that you no longer take our friendship seriously.

If they really cared, would they make time?

LONG DISTANCE FRIENDSHIP A letter on what it takes and when its not enough

Why, in our close friendships, should we be expected to accept a lack of showing care that we wouldn’t accept in our partnerships or families? If I’m honest, I have seen the parallels between feeling let down by you and that once unhealthy relationship.

For good reason, you knew that person wasn’t good for me, yet you, too, have left me hanging vulnerable, bailed on one too many plans. With you, too, I think to myself: If they really cared, wouldn’t they make the time?

I know I have high expectations of those I hold close in my life. It’s true, I hold you to a higher standard than other friends, but I thought that’s how best friends have always been. I know you can’t be expected to be perfect, and you have so much going on.

I want to understand your life and choices in our friendship, but I need you to understand my feelings, too. It’s not simply the odd text or occasion you have missed, it’s the sum of all parts. Why am I the one you are repeatedly willing to let down?

We can’t maintain all of our friendships across different phases of life, and in our case, different countries, too. I always assumed ours would beat the odds, that we would have occasional but deep conversations that supported us both. I thought you would call around important events, and reach out during difficult times.

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sad girl next to lake

As your best friend, I have tried to adapt to your needs and have given you the benefit of the doubt before. But am I the only one putting in effort? Like other healthy relationships, ours needs to be based on accountability and reciprocity.

Maybe our friendship will flourish when we live closer together again. I am ready to set boundaries, but not to give up. In spite of all of the emotions I have held in, it’s you I still want to talk to. For a reason, it stings the most when you don’t show up. You knew me best and looked out for my best interest. In person, you always had my back. And like a sister I don’t always understand or agree with, it’s you I unconditionally love.

I need you, best friend

LONG DISTANCE FRIENDSHIP A letter on what it takes and when its not enough3

I’m sorry I moved halfway around the world and that I can’t be there for you in person, which I know is what you have needed. Maybe taking a step back from our friendship has been your way of coping and focusing all of your energy on the family you cherish most.

I’m grateful to know that you’re happy, despite your battles, but I’m sorry that you feel pressured to take on so many roles. I know you hardly even take time for yourself.

Even so, I need to be the one to confront you with the idea that along with all of these very real challenges, real friendship takes time and effort. Real friendship is like everything else good and worthy in life. We need to accept that fact together, or admit that we will become like all the rest, distant “friends” out of touch and out of mind. I know times have changed, but I believe our friendship is deep enough to change with it, if only we try.

Usually I act strong, but the truth is, I need you, best friend. I have needed you over the past two years, and I need you now. Hopefully, in the future, after we are past this adult growing pain, I’ll share with you the positive letter you’re deserving of, too. I’ll focus on all those times you were there for me before we lived apart and life got tough. And I’ll thank you for coming back to our friendship, for paying attention and picking me up when I needed you to.

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