How to Stay Friends for a Long Time
Not to toot my own horn, but I would say that I have a pretty decent track record for keeping friends for a really long time. I have a friend who I've known since literally birth, another I've known since we were two, and multiple that I've known since kindergarten, or very early on in elementary school. I love them all so much and am so glad we've stayed friends this long. I'm not 100% how we managed to, but I do think there are some practical steps you can take to ensure a friendship is lasting, so I've come up with a little list of a few of those tips.
1. Pick good ones to begin with.
This may sound obvious, and it may also be easier said than done sometimes, but come on. Don't try to be friends with people who are mean to you, or people who are "popular" just so you can be popular too, and don't befriend anyone who makes you feel like you can't be totally honest or totally yourself. If you have to stay guarded or change yourself in the beginning, that's how it will be for the duration of your entire friendship. And sooner or later that will get incredibly tedious and exhausting, and the friendship will fizzle out (as well it should).
2. Stay through the hard times.
Even when you pick somebody awesome to be friends with, things won't be peachy 100% of the time. But giving up at the first sign of danger is a great way to ensure that you definitely WON'T have lasting friendships. The hard times could come in the form of massive blowout fights, or tiny ridiculous fights, or sometimes even disasters out of your control. For example, when I was in 3rd grade, one of my closest friends was in a nearly fatal car crash. She wasn't at school for weeks on end, and when she finally came back, there were things she had to relearn that meant she'd changed in some ways from how she used to be. But if I'd just given up on her because things were different or hard because of the accident, I would have missed out on the girl who is one of my best friends in the entire world to this day.
3. Think about what's important.
There may be times when someone *better* comes along and you're in awe of them and want to ditch everything and be their friend (I speak from experience, because I've been young and dumb before). But if you can step back for a second and think rationally, think about this: who's gonna put up with all your crap when you least deserve it? Who's still gonna be there for you even when you're not being the best version of yourself? If this new person or new thing or new fad isn't going to do that for you, tell it sayonara. And 9 times out of 10, the friend that's been with you for this many years so far is going to keep putting up with you for far longer than this new rando who just traipsed into your life 3 days ago. (Now, that's not to say you should never make new friends. Just that you should never ever forsake your old ones even when you do).
4. Say yes to plans, even when you don't really feel like it.
This is quite possibly the hardest thing for me. I am deeply devoted to my alone time, and do not always take kindly to being roused from it. This is a personal flaw which I am trying to overcome, because it can put a cramp into friendships, especially newly burgeoning ones. If you keep flaking on plans or saying no because you'd rather just be by yourself, you'll never get to develop the deep, profound friendships that you and I both know you're really longing for. It's true: not doing stuff will always be easier than doing stuff. But doing stuff will almost always be more rewarding and meaningful than not doing stuff. Especially doing stuff with friends. Those are memories that you can think of fondly when you crash into bed late that night after the fun's over, and think about with a smile for years to come. So suck it up and go to that movie you don't really care about, because guess what you DO really care about? The person who asked you to go. If you keep saying no, how will they ever know you enjoy their company and want to be friends forever?
5. Let your friends know what you're feeling.
How frustrating is it when you KNOW somebody is mad or upset or annoyed but they just WON'T TELL YOU, or they'll act like they're not even though you know they are grrrrrrrrrrrr. Yeah, don't be like to other people. If your friend has done something that's hurt you, or something you disagree with, don't just fester in your own self pity or self righteousness. Talk to them and see if you can come to a point of reconciliation and understanding. Nobody wants to be friends with a padlocked door. It's just not worth the effort.
6. Forgive lavishly.
Don't ever hold grudges. And don't ever say you won't forgive someone because they "don't deserve it". Like, that's kinda the point of forgiveness? That they don't deserve it? If you harden your heart about something to make a point and show that you Just Won't Stand for It, well, good for you. But you'll probably just alienate someone who could be a friend for life if you would just give them the benefit of the doubt and talk it out when things go awry. Don't let your pride keep you from beautiful relationships. That would be so so sad, wouldn't it?
Some of my friends I chose myself for whatever reasons (at age five the reasons were probably far more simplistic than they are nowadays, but nonetheless, I guess I had reasons). But other friends became my friends just out of necessity and proximity. That's the case with, well, every single one of my church friends. I grew up with them, I went to Sunday School with them, our parents were friends, etc, but we don't really necessarily have much in common. If you've been told you can't have friends unless you have a lot in common, you've been unfortunately misled though. My church friends are some of my most meaningful, and we're completely different people who come at life from completely different angles. The cool thing about being friends with people who are your total opposites is that you actually get to learn new things and grow as a person, instead of just hanging around with people who affirm everything you already believe.
If you're in a position where you need to make new friends, or even if you just want to know how to refresh your existing longtime friendships, I hope some of these tips were a little insightful. If not, I still had fun writing about this because I love love love friendship!