They say that if you keep someone in your life for seven years, you’ve got them for life.
That is particularly true in the case of friends, as is the case with many lifelong friendships around the world. When do we make these friends that last a lifetime? Very often it’s when we are young at school, college, or in the forces — when we’re thrown together and have time and space to get to know each other. Or it could be with work colleagues, in a sacred space that neither family nor bosses can enter.
These friends have seen us through fallouts with others, through puberty, adolescence, heartbreaks, marriage, and sometimes, even divorce and death. They’re the ones you either see or talk to regularly, or if you don’t, you can pick up a conversation with them as if it was yesterday, and not a few years since you last saw or spoke to each other. You hope you would do anything for them if they needed it or if you saw something useful to do (and they for you), but it isn’t really a relationship based on need, duty and expectation. It’s based on recognition, familiarity and above all, comfort of companionship.
You can see great examples of lifelong friendships in the world of celebrities with the friendships of Nicole Kidman and Naomi Watts (friends since high school, keeping their friendship going after over 25 years), Robin Williams and Christopher Reeve (their friendship lasted 31 years until Reeve’s tragic death in 2004), and Oprah Winfrey and Gayle King (spanning 40 years).
It’s not just celebrities. Recently, there was a lovely story about three women in Washington DC, who raised the bar when it comes to being ‘best friends forever’ — they’ve been friends since they were able to understand what the term meant, and have just celebrated turning 100 years old together. They also remembered their fourth best friend who passed away just the month before, having a painting of her by their side at the church service for their birthday celebrations. They built careers for themselves and remained close friends through adulthood. They mourned together when they each buried their husbands and elderly children.
Why do these friendships last? It’s not rocket science — they last because both sides of the friendship want it to. People who have long-standing friendships “are flexible and forgiving, realising that no person or relationship is perfect,” explains Irene Levine, PhD, a psychologist.
“Lifelong friends not only know the person you are, but also the person you were,” she says.
They make time for each other, they don’t have unrealistic expectations of each other, and they’re adaptable. That said, they appreciate a lifelong bond (because it’s not everyday you have one), and at the same time also understand that you can’t force these things.
New or old, friendships are important. As the old saying goes: “Make new friends but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold.”