I assumed that some of my friendships would be lifelong. I don’t think we ever go into a friendship imagining it will end, but over time and distance, I’ve realized this is exactly what can happen. Not all friendships can stand the test of distance.
But because we’ve been told friendships survive with enough effort, we try to sustain relationships that would perhaps be better to let go. If we let go of a friendship that’s struggling because of the miles between, we have more time for the relationships in front of us. So how can you tell if it’s time to move on? Below are four ways to know.
1. You’re neglecting your immediate community to keep what’s familiar.
Sometimes we maintain a friendship out of familiarity. We don’t want to do the work of meeting new people and developing new relationships, so we strive to stay connected with old friends—even when they don’t reciprocate. We struggle to make Skype dates happen, send letters and schedule phone calls—all time that could be spent getting to know people who live next to you.
Sometimes it’s possible to have both. I’m not saying you should have zero long-distance friendships! But just make sure you’re not maintaining those friendships out of dependency on a friend who has moved on. You need immediate community in addition to (and perhaps more than) your long-distance relationships.
2. You’re the only one initiating.
Are you the only one reaching out? The only one texting, calling, sending letters and gifts? That’s a sign this friendship is pretty one-sided and it’s probably time to move on. This doesn’t always come from a mean spirit on the part of your friend. It could just mean they have found their own immediate community, and your relationship is no longer fitting for that kind of closeness over that kind of distance.
3. That person isn’t a healthy connection.
Is the person you’re trying to stay connected with healthy for you to be in close relationship with? Do they build you up, encourage you and push you toward Christ? Keeping in contact with someone who regularly discourages you or is a bad influence on your walk with God isn’t always a great choice. With some people, it’s a way to minister to them through a tough season. But with others, the friendship quickly becomes toxic and unfruitful for everyone involved. Particularly when a friendship like this is long distance, it can be wise to step back.
4. You’re pursuing the relationship out of guilt.
Last, think again about your motives for pursuing the friendship. Do you feel like you have to pursue it—like if you let go, you’re failing somehow? I struggle with this when seasons change or when I am the only one reaching out. I feel guilty stepping back from initiating contact. But when I release the guilt to God, He gives me wisdom to know whether or not it’s wise to pursue that relationship or to let both of us move onto new friendships.
Again, all of this doesn’t mean you won’t have any long-distance friendships! I have several. But you’ll have deeper, more quality long-distance friendships where both people show up for the relationship. You’ll also have time for the friendships in your immediate community, which you need for personal growth.
Have you had to let go of a long-distance friend?