7 Tips for Building Friendships to Last a Lifetime (2023)

7 Tips for Building Friendships to Last a Lifetime (1)

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Musing over the life of his late partner of 43 years, my longtime friend Chuck expressed sadness that David hadn’t been able to sustain friendships with some wonderful people who had loved him dearly. “It’s so sad,” he said. “He just couldn’t or wouldn’t maintain friendships. All of our friends were my friends.”

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Chuck has a talent for making and keeping friends – all of whom have been with him in person or in spirit in the wake of David’s death from a stroke in September. These friends go back to Chuck’s childhood and adolescence, through college and medical school and a variety of workplaces.

His friendship with me stretches back nearly 50 years through shared professional triumphs and a long-ago romance that ended when he finally came out as gay at the age of 30. We have shared loving mutual support through decades of life’s ups and downs. All of his friends have been treasured through the years, perhaps never more than now. “In this very difficult time for me, I’m so grateful to be surrounded by people I love who know me well,” he said. “There’s no substitute for a dear old friend, is there?”

There isn’t. Lifetime friendships are precious, not to be taken for granted, and are not necessarily easy. Reviewing our own experiences, Chuck and I agreed on that. Lasting relationships of any kind take effort and loving commitment. Many sweet and promising friendships fall by the wayside as our lives evolve. What are the secrets of building a friendship that can last a lifetime?

1. Reciprocity. Friendships that last are not transactional. Yes, you do favors, keep secrets, dry tears, just listen when there’s nothing to be said. But these kindnesses go both ways as needed, each of you willing and able to give as well as benefit from the relationship.

2. Making room for growth and change. Whether the relationship begins in childhood or adolescence, in young adulthood or later, friendships that last can weather change.

Dear old friends, don’t let life transitions or lifestyle differences tear them apart. Through marriage and children, geographic moves, divorce, religious awakenings or disillusionment, and differences in career trajectories or differing socio-economic status, friendships can endure if friends hold each other close emotionally.

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With lasting friendships, we don’t expect each other to stay frozen in time. We may have written “Don’t ever change!” in our high school yearbooks, but friends for life will tolerate and even celebrate one another’s changes over a lifetime.

3. Finding connections beyond the initial attraction. We make friends in so many eras and circumstances of our lives. The relationships that endure are the ones that transcend their origins, whether this is in school, at a workplace, or church or because our children are friends.

My client Judy complained recently about not having friends now that her two kids are grown and away at college. “All of my friends were the parents of their grade-school and high-school friends,” she said sadly. “Now that our kids have left the nest, our friendships have faded, too.”

That doesn’t have to happen. If, as these friendships happen, you find other things in common besides kids, an employer, or an alma mater, you can grow as friends quite beyond what first brought you together.

My friendship with Georgia started in a college dorm when I discovered that, despite her family’s affluence, they were every bit as dysfunctional as my own financially challenged family. Over time, our connection as college friends has become less important than the personal qualities we value in each other: resilience, telling it like it is, caring deeply, seeking creative solutions to challenges, and laughing between times of pain as we grow through life with its inevitable losses and sweet surprises.

4. Giving greater weight to what you share than to your differences. This is especially important at a time of great political, philosophical, and moral divides in this country. If you approach your differences with mutual respect and keep your shared history and feelings for each other in the foreground, you can maintain a friendship.

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My dear friend Mary and I have our political differences. We both make concessions for these while enjoying the many things we do have in common. Our commitment to focusing on what we share instead of how we differ was, perhaps, best expressed by her late husband, John during the last Christmas season the three of us shared several years ago.

John, who was suffering from dementia, showed me a catalogue he had been reading and jokingly threatened to give me a politically oriented gag gift for Christmas. I laughed: “Oh, John! I thought you had forgotten my political leanings.”

He smiled. “I haven’t forgotten,” he said. “But it doesn’t really matter anymore, does it?” No, it doesn’t. Mary and I agree that there is so much we share beyond politics and how much we would miss if we allowed our differences in that one area to come between us.

5. A commitment to maintaining the friendship across the miles. It takes just a few minutes to write and send a text, an email, or a warm snail mail note or card. We can hear the voice of a beloved friend on the phone or do a virtual visit via Facetime or Zoom. Doing some of the things you’ve always done together – whether it is celebrating birthdays virtually or in person or keeping up with each other’s growing families, or simply sharing tears or laughter about life’s ups and downs – can maintain warm ties through the decades. Making the effort to keep in touch can make a major difference in both of your lives.

6. Tolerance of time lapses. There are times when you don’t hear from a dear old friend for a while. Life gets busy. Depression may lead to a period of isolation. The birth of a child or the end of a marriage might take most of his or her emotional energy for a time. Instead of getting angry or shaming your friend for his or her silence or shrugging and pulling away, show that you care by keeping in touch or keeping a respectful distance if that’s what your friend prefers for a time.

When his partner/husband David passed away recently, my friend Chuck sent an email to his extended family and dear old friends asking people to please not call him for a while. He said he loved us but asked that we communicate by email in the immediate aftermath of his devastating life transition. We all honored that and welcomed his phone calls as he began to feel like reconnecting.

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Andrea and I, friends for more than 50 years, live many miles apart – she’s in Boston while I’m in Arizona. We both work full-time and have busy lives. Months may pass between our conversations. But when we do connect, it’s as if we talked yesterday. We recently hung out electronically for three hours, thoroughly enjoying our time together.

7. Openness to new old friendships. New old friends can bring special pleasure to your life. This may be someone with whom you were once close but lost touch. Or it may be someone from your past who wasn't a friend then but could be one now. Remember that person you never bothered to get to know in high school or at a long-ago workplace? Or even someone you didn’t like for reasons you can’t quite remember?

Giving friendship a second chance can be immensely rewarding. You can discover new old friends at reunions, shared activities, or by chance – or by Googling.

I recently reconnected with two co-workers from 50 years ago, thanks to their Google searches. Sally was a close friend who fell out of touch with me during a crisis 40 years ago. When her daughter recently found me online and brought us back together, the years apart melted away. The fun, the ease, and the caring were all still there, and we've vowed never to lose touch again! The other co-worker Mary-Anne and I never got to know each other despite working together for five years. She found me via Google, too, and sent a sweet email. And I have discovered, in our exchanges since, that she is a wonderful person, a great new old friend that I feel blessed to have a second chance to know.

A year before my 50th college reunion, Northwestern sent me a list of classmates to contact. One of them was Maria, someone I had disliked intensely when we were classmates. And thus began my improbable correspondence with Maria. When she responded warmly to my initial email urging her to attend the reunion the next year, I struggled to remember why I had disliked her so much back in the day. Maybe it was because we both had a crush on a guy named Tim.

Tim, oblivious to our rivalry for his affections, married someone else entirely but maintained lifelong relationships with both of us. Belatedly, in emails and on the phone, Maria and I built a loving friendship, finally getting to know, appreciate and thoroughly enjoy each other. At the reunion, we fell into each other’s arms in tears, much to the delight of Tim, who spent that lovely, memorable day with us.

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When Maria died unexpectedly eight months later, her husband invited both Tim and me to speak at her memorial service. He asked me to focus on the friendship Maria and I both treasured late in life after our rocky start all those years ago, emphasizing the joy of embracing love and friendship however and whenever it blesses our lives.


What are the 7 elements of friendship? ›

The 7 core elements of friendship, according to friendship experts
  • Reciprocity. Any party to a friendship has to both give and take, says Dr. ...
  • Support. ...
  • Boundaries. ...
  • Affection. ...
  • Ease. ...
  • Vulnerability. ...
  • Predictability.
Sep 30, 2021

How do you make friendships last a lifetime? ›

5 ways to make your friendships last
  1. Be flexible. Be open to the fact that your friendships will change and grow over time. ...
  2. Stay committed. Commit to staying connected with your friends even when you are far apart. ...
  3. Be patient with your friends. ...
  4. Communicate with your friends. ...
  5. Maintain balance.
Jul 17, 2012

Is it true that psychologists say if a friendship lasts 7 years it will last a lifetime? ›

As you go through different stages, you know one thing will never change: Those gems will always be on your team with you. This popular study says it all: If a friendship lasts longer than seven years, psychologists say it will last a lifetime.

What are the 3 C's in friendship? ›

A different way of categorizing friendship is by applying “The Three C's”. There are three basic types of people with whom you interact: Constituents, Comrades, and Confidants.

What are the four C's of friendship? ›

The four factors that are most effective in initial verbal contacts are confidence, creativity, caring and consideration — otherwise known as the Four Cs.

What is the secret of long-lasting friendship? ›

One of the requirements for keeping long-lasting friendships is acceptance. You acknowledge and respect your friend's values, preferences, and opinions and by doing so, you encourage authenticity, openness, and recognition for who they are.

How do you make a deep lasting friendship? ›

Making long-lasting friendships
  1. Be yourself. If you want to truly connect with other people and make friendships that last, the most important thing is to be yourself. ...
  2. Make the first move. ...
  3. Practice active listening. ...
  4. Make time for your friends. ...
  5. Don't be afraid to open up.

What promotes lasting strong friendships? ›

If you and your friend have trust, equality, compassion, honesty, and independence, you already have the foundation of a strong and healthy friendship. Even though it can be hard to recognize when a friendship is weak in some areas, it is always possible to improve yourself and your relationship with a friend.

What are the golden rules of friendship? ›

Friends should be loyal both in good times and in bad. Friends respect the person and not the position or the title. Friends keep their words – do what you said you will do. Friends do not talk bad about friends – defend your friends in their absence.

What are 3 signs that indicate it's time to end a friendship? ›

4 Signs You Might Want To End A Friendship
  • You spend more time trying to please them than yourself. ...
  • They don't respect your boundaries. ...
  • You can't connect with them. ...
  • It feels exhausting to spend time with them. ...
  • Moving Forward. ...
  • Other Helpful Articles.
Jul 14, 2022

How long does the average friend last? ›

Obviously, most people don't meet all of their friends during childhood and, unfortunately, not all friendships last forever. The poll found that the average friendship lasts for 17 years, however, 17 percent say they've had the same best friend for over 30 years!

How do you know your friendship is dying? ›

  1. The friendship is consistently one-sided. ...
  2. They betray your trust. ...
  3. They don't keep your secrets. ...
  4. They are overly negative and pessimistic. ...
  5. You have little or nothing to talk about. ...
  6. They create or attract drama. ...
  7. They are passive-aggressive when you say "no" to them. ...
  8. They dismiss it when you raise a concern.
Dec 9, 2018

What are the 5 stages of friendship? ›

Page 1
  • #5 Strangers. Strangers are people you begin to share information with on a superficial level. ...
  • #4 Casual Acquaintances. You still do not know each other well enough to share personal information. ...
  • Skills for Independent Living. Things casual acquaintances might do: ...
  • #3 Friends. ...
  • #2 Deep Friendships. ...
  • #1 Self-Intimacy.

What are the 6 levels of friendship? ›

The 6 levels of friendship
  • A total stranger(1): You have maybe seen this person on the train once or twice and have had a short conversation, and this is the extent of your experience with this person.
  • A colleague(2): ...
  • An acquaintance(3): ...
  • A friendship(4): ...
  • A close friend (5): ...
  • Family and Significant Others (6):
Mar 9, 2011

What is the first rule of friendship? ›

1. Support, trust, and honesty are givens. Everyone needs a support network — and friendships are the bedrock of our social support systems. When you consider yourself the friend of another, you're implicitly offering to be a part of her support network.

What are the 3 requirements of a healthy friendship? ›

Good friendships are based on mutual respect, honesty, and support (helping each other with problems, and celebrating each other's success).

What is the deepest level of friendship? ›

Essential friends

These essential friends are your confidantes and the people with whom you share your deepest values. And perhaps most crucially, they're the ones who loyally stick around, no matter what.

How do you stop a fading friendship? ›

To stop the friendship, delete or block them on social media, or anywhere else they might be able to contact you. If you go to school or uni with them, see if you can make sure you're not in any classes together. But remember, cutting off a friendship can have major consequences.

What are the 3 most important things in a friendship? ›

So, how can one recognize a true friendship? In my opinion, there are three crucial pillars of true friendship: acceptance, trust, and support. This is applicable to any setting: casual and professional.

How do you increase friendship bond? ›

Treat your friend just as you want them to treat you. Be reliable, thoughtful, trustworthy, and willing to share yourself and your time. Be a good listener. Be prepared to listen to and support friends just as you want them to listen to and support you.

What do real friends do? ›

A real friend is someone that you can rely on. You know that they will keep their plans with you. You know that you can rely on them to show up for you when you need it. Real friends are people that have proven they will show up for you in the past and will continue to do so because you are a priority to them.

How do you make genuine friends? ›

How to Start a Friendship
  1. Start the conversation. When you're with someone you'd like to know better, start a conversation. ...
  2. Show interest. Even if you're just meeting someone, you can make them feel comfortable by asking the right questions and being a good listener. ...
  3. Smile. ...
  4. Share. ...
  5. Do a small favor. ...
  6. Keep it going.

How do you slowly rebuild friendship? ›

5 ways to repair a friendship (or leave it behind if toxic)
  1. Reflect and write down the good. Before you face a difficult conversation with a friend, pause and reflect. ...
  2. Choose a different way to communicate. ...
  3. Give it time and try again. ...
  4. Shuffle the “friendship furniture” ...
  5. Follow the red flags.
May 18, 2021

What are some unwritten rules in friendship? ›

At their core, the Unwritten Rules are about kindness and civility. They emphasize talking and listening to one another, respecting and caring about one another, and reaching out to help one another. True friendship grows from a sense of connection.

What's the best friend code? ›

From standing clear of exes to cheering you up when you're down, here's 22 girl codes rules every BFF should know...
  • Never get with an ex. Period. ...
  • Don't mock her style. ...
  • Don't be man hungry. ...
  • Never ditch her. ...
  • Honesty is the best policy. ...
  • Don't judge other women. ...
  • Don't be negative. ...
  • Don't dish dirt.
Sep 16, 2014

What is the secret to making friends? ›

If you're looking for ways to deepen your connections, vulnerability is the way forward. In sum, the secret to making friends as an adult is that you have to try. You have to put yourself out there, ask people to meet up, show up at events, and keep doing this, over and over again.

What are three ways to strengthen friendships? ›

Four Ways To Strengthen Friendship
  1. Spend Regular Time Together. How many minutes in a day do you spend just being together and enjoying each other's company? ...
  2. Get to Know Each Other. ...
  3. Focus on the Positive in Your Friend. ...
  4. Show Appreciation and Gratitude for Each Other.

What are the signs of a best friend? ›

A best friend will be a constant in your life; they'll reach out to you regularly and they won't hold anything back when you two connect. A best friend should be dependable, trustworthy, honest, and supportive. If someone considers you a best friend, they'll tell you how much you mean to them.

What are the signs of toxic friends? ›

Toxic friendship signs
  • They disrespect your boundaries. ...
  • They always need something from you. ...
  • They don't take accountability. ...
  • They may weaponize their struggles. ...
  • They make you feel guilty for spending time with other people. ...
  • They dismiss your values. ...
  • They ignore your efforts to be a good friend to them.
Oct 12, 2022

How do you know if your friend doesn't value you? ›

  1. They don't really know you anymore. ...
  2. They avoid meeting or keep cancelling plans. ...
  3. You aren't included in their social lives. ...
  4. They seem distant and avoidant. ...
  5. They always place the blame on you. ...
  6. They're never around in difficult times. ...
  7. They never seem happy for you.
Feb 2, 2023

When should you let a friendship fade? ›

Even if you've been friends with someone for a long time, people can grow apart or no longer put equal effort and care into the relationship. If you can't count on them, or feel like you're doing all the work to maintain the friendship, it's okay to go with your gut and cut it off.

What age do you make most friends? ›

According to “The Friendship Report,” a global study commissioned by Snapchat in 2019, the average age at which we meet our best friends is 21—a stage when we're not only bonding over formative new experiences such as first love and first heartbreak, but also growing more discerning about whom we befriend.

Why do we lose friends? ›

Some reasons why friendships do not last:

They feel taken advantage of. One friend always wants to choose what they do together. The friends are not honest about how they feel about something. The friends have a fight and they do not make up.

How many true friends does the average person have? ›

Americans, on average, say they have about nine close friends
Mean Number of Friends
Personal happiness
Very happy9.1
19 more rows
Mar 5, 2004

What are the elements of a true friendship? ›

If you and your friend have trust, equality, compassion, honesty, and independence, you already have the foundation of a strong and healthy friendship. Even though it can be hard to recognize when a friendship is weak in some areas, it is always possible to improve yourself and your relationship with a friend.

What is the key to a true friendship? ›

A true friend is someone you can rely on when you need it. They treat you with respect, and being around them makes you feel good. They have your best interest at heart. You feel comfortable being yourself with them, and you can trust them.

What are 3 things you can do to develop new friendships? ›

How to Start a Friendship
  • Start the conversation. When you're with someone you'd like to know better, start a conversation. ...
  • Show interest. Even if you're just meeting someone, you can make them feel comfortable by asking the right questions and being a good listener. ...
  • Smile. ...
  • Share. ...
  • Do a small favor. ...
  • Keep it going.

What is a true best friend? ›

Someone who is a true friend stands up for you. When others try to hurt you emotionally or physically, friends do everything they can to make sure you stay safe. They don't care who is trying to harm you; they will defend you anytime, anywhere. If they can help you, they'll do it without reservation or reward.

What are the stage of losing a friend? ›

The five stages of grief is a framework that includes denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. After losing a best friend, you may experience some or all of these feelings. Use these tips to help you cope with each stage of grief: Denial.

What are 3 signs of a healthy friendship? ›

Here are some signs that a person can use to know if they have an unhealthy friendship.
Talking and listening helps people to:
  • Share their common interests.
  • Share their feelings.
  • Learn to listen.
  • Know they are an important part of someone else's life.

What a healthy friendship looks like? ›

Healthy friendships are mutually supportive.

From the unspoken feeling that your friends “have your back” to the more active ways they show up and help you out, healthy friendships are characterized by mutual, emotional and practical support.

What is a deep friendship? ›

Truly close and deep friendships are typically based on trust, mutual interests, and the time that was taken to get to know the other person. It can take weeks, months or years for one of these relationships to form, but they can become some of the most important relationships in life.


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