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This is why some friendships are temporary and others last a lifetime

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It’s a common fact: as we grow older, we're less likely to befriend new people. Adult freindships can be very close ones, yet not all friendships last. Science says it makes perfect sense.

In order to have a blossoming friendship, you need a few ingredients. First of all, you have to meet somewhere and be interested in one another. Friends are often quite alike, when it comes to hobbies, lifestyle and personality. According to Medical Daily, most friendships spring from situations where you meet regularly. It makes sense: the more often you see each other, the more time there is for something beautiful to originate. 

Reciprocity is key

No wonder many friendships arise between classmates or colleagues. But you won’t become friends with just any colleague, something special has to happen between the two of you. The secret of the transformation from acquaintance to friend is in reciprocity. Do you share your personal story with them, and do they share theirs with you? Then there’s a reciprocal relationship, and the seed of friendship was planted. 

Now, this can turn into a solid friendship that –if maintained well- can last a lifetime. Being interested in each other, being there for each other and having a laugh together is all very important for the continuity of the friendship. But if the feeling is good, you don’t have to work hard for it. 

How long a friendship will last 

Now that we know how most friendships come to life and are maintained, the question is why some friendships come to an end. Brett Laursen, professor at the Florida Atlantic University’s Department of Psychology, researched 410 children’s friendships for six years. As it turned out, only one percent of the friendships that were there at the start, survived the six years. 

The researcher says the ending of the friendships has to do with differences in gender, educational level, popularity and physical aggression. If two people are too different, the friendship will usually end. 

‘Differences are disastrous for friendships. They cause conflict and inequality in the relationship, for instance when one of the friends’ social status changes,’ says Laursen. 

Endings are part of life 

Once things are changing in your life or your friend’s life (moving to a new town, the birth of children, developing new hobbies) while the other one’s life doesn’t evolve with it, the friendship usually comes to an end. The things you had in common are less important to you, there are fewer things to talk about. Maintaining a friendship becomes a lot more difficult. 

After all, it’s the likenesses in personality, life style, interests and habits that were once the base of the friendship. Once these bricks change a lot, you’ll find it’s suddenly more difficult to set a date for your next appointment, the conversations are less personal and you’re both less interested in each other. 

Of course, maintaining a valuable friendships can be hard work sometimes – you don’t want to throw away a cherished relationship just for nothing. But as soon as a friendship starts requiring more energy than it gives you, you may have reached the expiration date of the friendship.  

Text: Eline Hoffman - Photo: Sam Manns