Last year, my family and I moved from our home in Virginia to a snowy corner of the world in northwestern Pennsylvania. It was hard to leave behind that Virginia weather, and even harder to say goodbye to the close friends who we had shared the last 13 years of our lives with. While we may not see those friends on a day-to-day basis like we used to, both my husband and I have stayed close with our buddies from Virginia — but they way we've done that has been notably different.
It comes as no surprise to me that a study has found that when it comes to long-distance friendships, men and women have different ways of staying connected. For men, it's all about face-time — and not the Apple messenger kind. Guys need to hang out together in person, preferably bonding over an activity, to stay connected. For men, out-of-sight generally means out-of-mind. For guys to maintain their friendships, they need to do things together. Women, on the other hand, can stay in touch via phone calls, emails — or as in my case — even texts.
It makes sense.
A stereotypical guy hangout usually involves an activity — a hike or a concert or watching the game on TV — whereas gals are more likely to enjoy chatting over coffee or drinks or going to the park with their kids. I'm not saying this encompasses all that men and women do together; of course there are men who enjoy a good chat session with their guy friends and women who watch the tube with their female friends. But in many cases, male friendships are built on bonding over an activity while female friendships are centered around sharing stories.
"It's a very striking sex difference," Robin Dunbar, a professor of evolutionary psychology at University of Oxford and a lead author of the study, told The Guardian. But here's one similarity that Dunbar did find between men and women: the friendships that stayed strong were the ones in which friends made an effort to keep the connection alive. For women, that meant reaching out with frequent phone calls, and for men, it meant making an effort to get together.
Men and women may have different ways of maintaining their long-distance friendships, but no matter what gender you are, the only way to keep those friendships going strong is to put forth the effort to stay close and connected.