There has been a meme floating around on the internet these days that boasts that any friendship that lasts longer than seven years will last for a lifetime. This seems like such great news in a world that has been watered down by face book friendships and text messaging instead of girl’s night out. However, it’s not completely true. The actual study referenced for this popular meme is research conducted by Dutch sociologist Gerald Mollenhorst. The study showed that most relationships tend to have a life span of seven years and the majority of friendships you make are fleeting and based on convenience.
We all have the friends he talks about here. In high school it was girl you talked to during one class but never took it beyond that point, as an adult it may the neighbor you sometimes have coffee with or the coworker you lunch with every week. Seven is the magic number but the biggest factors are convenience and proximity. When you boil that study down, it shows that most friendships have an expiration date based on the stage of life that you’re in, and that’s ok.
Seven is the magic number, but not the deciding element. Seven years throughout the time that you were in school made relationships strong because you weathered such a pivotal time in your own life. Then those friends might be replaced with your college friends, the only ones who can really relate to what those first adult years were like because they experienced right them alongside you. With every new chapter in life you are exposed to a new network of people, your first friends that were pregnant with you, mom friends, your husbands coworkers, other married couples to double date with. Every seven years, another group and another chapter.
So, what really helps friendships last a lifetime? I don’t think it’s timeline at all. I have been very fortunate to be able to grow up with the best friends in the entire world. I have had the same friends since middle school and junior high and was also able to add to my friend circle while I grew up and still make every friendship important and lasting. For a lot of people investing in old relationships is easier than nurturing new ones. Becoming friends with someone as an adult is a lot like dating and can be very time consuming. Maybe you aren’t good at communicating or trusting new people, either way, old friendships can be a security blanket that always feels like home.
For me, my three best friend’s since childhood weren’t just easier bonds. They were so apart of me growing up that it felt vital to grow with them instead of apart. It’s not always easy. Sometimes my friends had so much going on that we wouldn’t talk for months or see each other for a year. If you aren’t open to taking care of the friendships that are important to you the only magic number that will matter is how many friends you have left. It’s easy to start, here are four things that lasting relationships have in common.
1.) Trying new things together
A fleeting relationship is one that puts you into a small box. If you always do the same thing together and are not able to bring it to another level it will not be a friendship that has a future. If you are afraid to ask them to something or to express wanting to spend more time together, you have the choice to either ask or see where their head is or be okay with having a friendship for only this facet of your life. You have to be willing to try new things. This is something that I love doing with my friends, making new memories and getting to know different parts of their personality.
My best friend Kylie and I are fond of painting together and now make each other’s birthday gifts every year. For graduation I made her a cat portrait of her beloved Duke. But it doesn’t end there, when she comes to visit we try something new artistically. During her last visit it was painting by popping paint filled balloons with darts.
2.) Being emotionally responsive
This is probably the most important part of a friendship but can be hardest to remember. When you are going through an emotional crisis or even an exciting part of your life it’s easy to rely on the ears and shoulders of your friends. But it’s also important to remember to return the favor no matter what your situation is. Be receptive to their lives, their moods, and be able to listen without giving advice. Check up on them when they are going through something hard and keep tabs on their success so you can share in it.
Initiate conversations with them and when you are going through something huge, let them know while it’s still relevant so that they have a chance to support you. I struggle with this most of all, when I am going through something it’s easier to want to keep it inside and deal with the problem myself. I keep having to remind myself that part of friendship is being able to support one another.
3.) Keeping asking them questions
In school I remember memorizing every facet of my best friend’s personalities. I knew all of their favorite songs, the food they loved, and what pajamas they wore on days they needed extra luck. It felt like the most important thing in the world, that if I didn’t know all of the things immediately that we weren’t as close as we could possibly be. As we grew it stopped being as important because life changes so much that it was impossible to know everything. Nor should you want to.
I don’t need to know the wine of the month or the toe nail polish my best friends are wearing at this exact moment, but I do need to keep asking questions. I do need to keep wanting to know the ins and outs of their life as it comes and not feel like it’s something I am entitled to in order to feel close. Keep asking questions, keeping learning about your friends, keep feeling in awe of the beautiful people they are becoming and already are.
4.) Experience life together
One of the reasons why Kylie will always be my best friend and sister is when we met. Her parents were recently divorced and together over the next ten years we survived family drama, ridiculous first heart breaks, and our high school careers. She cried at my high school graduation, she took me to her senior Prom, and I drove three hours to Spokane to watch her walk across the stage to receive a college diploma. My best friend Melissa will always be the most giving person I have ever met and we will always be soul sisters because we were seniors together, we skipped to drink virgin margaritas on the last day of school.
I helped her with her college homework, and she comes to dinner once a week now just to be able to spend an hour with me and my two kids. She loves coloring with them and staying up with me watching Lifetime movies and sharing popcorn. Friendship is going above and beyond, making the commitment to sharing your life with them and making their life experiences a priority. Friendship is being present and knowing that these relationships like this are gifts that will last a lifetime.