Life happens, and friendships fizzle out. It’s a bummer, and it fills many of us with guilt, regret, and loneliness. Often times we move on and try to forget that we left our best friends behind. But friendships are important. They can be the difference between a happy and fulfilling life and a miserable one. According to a study published in the PLoS Medical Journal, a lack of relationships can have the same impacts on your health as smoking cigarettes.
So what does it take to keep a friendship alive throughout your adult years? Many experts agree that there are three things lifelong friendships have in common. These three things aren’t particularly difficult, but they are essential for maintaining any friendship.
Mutual sacrifice is paramount in relationships. One study published by the American Psychological Association shows that willingness to sacrifice in a relationship is linked to stronger commitments and higher satisfaction.
This doesn’t mean you have to give your first born child. Sacrificing a little bit of your time to give your friend a call or picking up the check at lunch will do just fine. Not only will your friend feel valued, but they may also feel inclined to reciprocate by giving you a call or picking up the check the next time—further strengthening the friendship.
Communication is essential in any friendship. Of course, every friendship is different; some friendships need daily communication to function, others need only a call every few months. The key is not frequency, but consistency. It’s easy to let the busyness of life get in the way of checking in on a friend. Technology comes to the rescue. A scheduled reminder to call or FaceTime a friend can help you keep your relationships thriving. It doesn’t get much easier than that.
According to a study done by Florida Atlantic University, similarities are at the center of friendships. Friendships begin when two people have something in common—shared workplace, mutual friends, hobbies, same neighborhood. But life and people change quicker than leaves in the fall. After moving to a new job, you may not have much in common with your co-worker and friend of 10 years. Or after losing interest in the book club, your friendships there may fade away.
The friendships that last a lifetime are the ones that adapt to life’s changes. As the interests central to your friendship change, find new commonalities to replace them. This can be as simple as trying something new together—try a new game, join a new club, go to a new restaurant, or talk about a new topic.
Maintaining friendships isn’t as hard as it seems. If you can make small sacrifices, keep in touch, and find common ground, you should have no problem keeping the Monica to your Rachel or Chandler to your Joey around for life (I may have watched a few too many episodes of Friends this past weekend).