As a person who’s moved around quite a bit during the past few years, I’ve had plenty of experience with long distance friendships; frankly speaking, I’m very experienced at being pathetic at maintaining them. With time zone differences and the hubbub of moving to a new city, regular communication becomes a challenge, even with technology’s best efforts. Once I came to Durham, some long-distance friendships flourished, while some combusted tragically, and in the metamorphic period of the first year of university, it became easier for paths to diverge and converge in unpredictable ways.
With time zone differences and the hubbub of moving to a new city, regular communication becomes a challenge, even with technology’s best efforts
The joys and challenges that come with joining university can be universal in some ways and extremely particular in another, which inevitably means that not every long-distance friendship can be maintained. In my case, the past year has taught me a lot of lessons about why some relationships thrive and others disintegrate under the pressure, ultimately coming down to the value of relationships and the importance of healthy communication. Experiencing both extremes, it was both heart-breaking and comforting to have these relationships in the background of my Durham life.
In one instance, I experienced the strengthening of a four-year long-distance friendship. Over the years, we’d had moments of sparse communication and sometimes complete silence, but this year was different. We’d check in on each other, give each other comfort and a place of familiarity in a situation where the unfamiliar was such a constant threat. It was easy, and therapeutic, in fact, to have this unconditional friendship when I needed a breath of accustomed air; a sense of home when I was trying so hard to find it in a place away from home. With this particular relationship, I had the pleasure of experiencing a bond that cemented itself as a weather-resistant one.
I needed a breath of accustomed air, and this bond cemented itself as a weather-resistant one
On the contrary, and I mean that literally, I experienced a friendship that cracked under the pressure to reveal underlying toxicity and lack of communication. The soothing air of remedial interaction that I experienced with the former relationship was nowhere to be found and instead I was faced with a person whose lessons over the course of their university experience were the exact opposite of mine.
Ultimately, the gaps in mutual understanding were too much to handle, and by the end of the year, it was hard to feel a sense of affection for each other anymore. Upon analysing it, which as a chronic overthinker I’ve done more often than I should have, it seemed like the nasty outcome of a mismatch between expectation and reality. The two of us expected to be able to continue our friendship the exact same way as it was before without accounting for the transformative experiences we were having at university. Furthermore, instead of acknowledging the change and letting go, we held on to an incompatible relationship that became toxic and a burdened reality for the two of us.
It was hard to feel any affection for each other anymore – the nasty outcome, perhaps, of a mismatch between expectation and reality
In these two instances, the stark difference was the level of communication I maintained, and also the unforeseeable factor of the ways I would change myself. Something I’ve begun to realise is that as you place yourself in different environments and inexorably adapt and change, you begin to demand and expect different things from the relationships around you. The person on the other end is usually evolving in their own separate environment too, and sometimes in ways that are irrevocably incongruous with you.
At the end of the day, it’s your judgement to dictate whether a relationship has enough value to hold on to, or whether it’s doing more harm than good. In hindsight, I would have much rather had a relationship that fizzled out naturally compared to one that exploded with extensive collateral damage. However, the point of unforeseeable factors is that you can’t foresee them, and that’s a whole life lesson in itself.
Photograph: freefortheworld via Pixabay