The Characteristics of Lasting Friendships
Friendship is one of the most beneficial bonds you can ever enjoy. Indeed, everyone wants to find like-minded people with whom they can maintain intimacy and emotional closeness. Yet, relationships often end up damaged and friends go their separate ways. To prevent this from happening, it’s a good idea to understand the characteristics of lasting friendships.
Friends promote your happiness and emotional well-being, protect your physical and psychological health, and even increase your longevity. These facts are detailed in the book, The Psychology of Friendship, (2017). But, what characteristics must a friendship have for these positive effects to occur and be preserved over time? We’re going to explain.
We all have different opinions of what true friendship means. Some of us seek deep emotional connections and prioritize making plans in the company of other people. While others like to maintain frequent contact and believe that friendship is demonstrated by being there in difficult times.
However, beyond these individual expectations, what does science say about lasting friendships? Let’s take a look at some of the more interesting findings.
You might also like to read Four Qualities of True Friendships
Deep knowledge of each other
Do you think you know your friends? We often tend to think that friendship is based on how much we know about our friends, as well as the degree to which we can describe them and understand what they like and enjoy. But, an interesting study published in Psychological Science found that it’s even more important for two friends to know what bothers each of them.
In particular, it seems useful to understand what kinds of situations or events trigger a negative emotional reaction in our friends. According to the research, this is associated with a reduction in feelings of conflict and an increase in feelings of depth in the relationship, leading to a longer-lasting friendship.
Expressions of gratitude
All relationships (friendships and other kinds) go through difficult times when there are conflicts and problems. Therefore, in order for a friendship to last, it’s important that both friends are capable of communicating with each other. In this aspect, gratitude is key.
A study reviewed by Studies in Psychology indicates that expressing gratitude in a friendship increases both parties’ positive perceptions of each other. Since this is the only way to resolve conflicts in a healthy and assertive way, it’s a crucial element in lifelong friendships.
Frequency of contact
Although, as we mentioned earlier, not all people value or need to spend time with their friends to the same degree, it does seem to be an important component of a lasting friendship. Indeed, a study published in The International Journal of Aging and Human Development, suggests that frequency of contact is related to the benefits of friendship.
Friends are those people you meet face to face, with whom you share much of your time and many of your activities. Moreover, they contribute to your well-being and health. Bearing in mind that the healthiest and most satisfying relationships are the ones you most want to maintain over time, this gives an idea of the importance of sharing moments together frequently.
The main ingredient of a friendship is emotional intimacy. This consists of closeness, connection, and mutual sympathy. In a good friendship, both people know each other, understand, appreciate, and respect each other. But, this isn’t something that arises automatically. In fact, it’s built through self-disclosure.
Self-disclosure consists of sharing relevant information about yourself, opening up to the other person, and giving them access to your inner world. It’s one of the most important factors for deepening and solidifying a friendship and allowing it to grow (Oswald, 2017).
Security and support
Finally, friendships that last create safe spaces for their members. A safe space makes you feel confident that your friends will keep your secrets and will be available to offer encouragement, appreciation, and practical support when you need it.
This idea is supported by an article published in Trends in Cognitive Sciences. It states that friends provide moral and emotional support, as well as protection against external threats and stress. In fact, it claims that the foundations of a lasting friendship are reciprocity and the balanced efforts of both parties.
You might be interested to read Good Friends Are the Trees That Shelter You From the Storms
Friendships that last must be enriching
As you can see, lasting friendships usually contain certain elements to make you feel happier, supported, and safer in your daily routine. This is the result of the joint efforts of you both in building and sustaining a bond of such quality.
However, lasting friendships aren’t always the healthiest. For instance, if you have difficulty setting boundaries, get carried away by guilt or feelings of homesickness, or fear being left alone, you may tolerate toxic friendships.
Therefore, it’s important to demystify the fact that only friendships that last are worth it. Try letting yourself go and open yourself up to meet new people, those who, perhaps, are more similar to who you are today than yesterday.It might interest you...
All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.
- Canan, E., & Arzu, A. (2019). The cognitive, emotional and behavioral indicators of dispositional gratitude in close friendship: The case of Turkey. Studies in Psychology, 39(2), 321-344. https://iupress.istanbul.edu.tr/en/journal/sp/article/the-cognitive-emotional-and-behavioral-indicators-of-dispositional-gratitude-in-close-friendship-the-case-of-turkey
- Dunbar, R. I. (2018). The anatomy of friendship. Trends in cognitive sciences, 22(1), 32-51. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1364661317302243
- Friesen, C. A., & Kammrath, L. K. (2011). What It Pays to Know About a Close Other: The Value of If-Then Personality Knowledge in Close Relationships. Psychological Science, 22(5), 567–571. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0956797611405676?journalCode=pssa
- Holt-Lunstad, J. (2017). Friendship and health. In M. Hojjat & A. Moyer (Eds.), The Psychology of Friendship (pp. 233–248). Oxford University Press.
- Nicolaisen, M., & Thorsen, K. (2017). What are friends for? Friendships and loneliness over the lifespan—From 18 to 79 years. The International Journal of Aging and Human Development, 84(2), 126-158. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0091415016655166?journalCode=ahdb
- Oswald, D. L. (2017). Maintaining long-lasting friendships. In M. Hojjat & A. Moyer (Eds.), The Psychology of Friendship (pp. 267–282). Oxford University Press. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2016-59521-016