Having recently moved from the United States to Europe, I’m trying to figure out how to retain friendships across an ocean. I’m realising that you need to spend time on relationships, especially time when the other is not present.
I had a large group of friends, but I only saw them at parties and events. The events included week-long camping events, so I got to know them very well. But I never made the time to go do things with them between events. Now that I’ve moved to another country, if I don’t figure something out, all those relationships will just fade away.
In the end, the answer is simple. Maintaining any type of relationship is all about spending time on it. Time together, doing things, sharing stories, philosophies, life goals, and such. But also time when apart, thinking about the other person, planning things, buying gifts and even just thinking about what they’ve said to you.
I never really thought of it that way. I was reactive to what was right in front of me. The people I saw every day got my attention. If I attended an event, I would interact with the people there. But when I left, I didn’t reach out or really think about them or about what we had discussed. Buying gifts was very hard, because it definitionally involves thinking about people when they’re not present.
So I’ve made a list in a spreadsheet of everyone I want to tend a relationship with. I need to spend time every day looking at that sheet, thinking about the people, and thinking about things I could or should do. I also list the last day I contacted them, so I can send them a quick “what’s up?” message if it’s been too long.
In elementary school I would always get poor marks in “Uses time wisely”. I think this is what they were talking about. I’m trying to not be reactive, but to consider how I’m using time to tend my relationships. Hopefully, that will be a wise use of my time.