How to build friendships that will stand the test of time

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Humans are social creatures, so it should come as no surprise that maintaining close friendships over the years has been linked to a longer, happier life. Many people prioritize romantic relationships and starting a family over social friendships, but friendships may be the most important relationships you can cultivate in your lifetime. To ensure your friendships stand the test of time, here is some advice to keep in mind.

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Listen

One of the best ways you can be a better friend is to talk less and listen more. It's tempting to treat your closest confidantes like your therapist because they know you so well, but dumping all your problems on your friend can be a burden. While there may be seasons in which you lean heavily on your friend, don't forget that friendship is a give-and-take and you should support them as well.

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Embrace your differences

You and your friend might have been from the same small town, been in the same life stage or held the same values and beliefs when you first met. However, people's lifestyles, preferences and opinions can change over the years. Be open to the way you can learn and grow from having a friend who's not exactly the same as you.

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Be honest with each other

While many of us tell lies of omission or little white lies to spare each other's feelings or keep the peace, it's important to show your true self to your closest friends. It can be uncomfortable to be vulnerable, but opening up about your struggles and fears is how you can more deeply bond with and relate to someone.

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Talk about the small things

Friendships should be fun. When you know each other well, it's tempting to skip the small talk, but a friendship can get bogged down by discussing nothing but heavy topics all the time. It's OK to tell silly stories about your day or discuss something that makes you passionate, like your workout routine or a new dessert recipe. These lighthearted conversations can be therapeutic and help you stay connected to each other's day-to-day lives.

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Trust, don't assume

Friendships have their ups and downs, but one major way to avoid fights or falling-outs is to trust that your friend is operating with good intentions. A hurtful comment might've been meant as constructive. Or your friend might flake on a coffee date not knowing that you're in desperate need of a shoulder to cry on. It's healthy to let them know they made you feel, but take a step back to remember they care about you before assigning them blame.

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Forgive

You know your friendship is on a firm foundation when it can weather a storm. Build your friendship on trust by being patient, compassionate and forgiving when your friend slips up, and they will treat you with the same respect. Forgiveness is actually good for your mental and physical health and can make your bond even stronger. Though every friendship has its disagreements, constant negativity and criticism could be a sign your relationship is actually toxic.

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Take advantage of technology

With modern technology, you and your friend can be worlds apart and yet be able to video chat as if you were in the same room. If you're not able to make time for hourslong talks, text messaging and chat applications are a convenient way to stay in touch. Share videos of major milestones, fantastic photos from your last vacation and more.

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Actually speak to one another

Technology can be life-changing, but it also has its pitfalls, including giving you the illusion of intimacy with people you follow on social media. Reading and liking a friend's post isn't the same as really being involved in their life. Message, call or meet up with them to really check in on how they're doing beyond what they portray online.

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Make firm commitments

As adults, we're almost always in the middle of a busy season. Whether it's work or kids or planning a bucket list trip, there's always something to do besides spending time with your treasured friends. Your friendship might have been more spontaneous when you met, but now you need to be more intentional. Even if you have to pick a date weeks or months in advance, schedule times for your friendships and treat them like any other major commitment.

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Swallow your pride

There will be seasons in which you and a lifelong friend drift apart. You look up from your busy life to realize you haven't spoken in months, or maybe years. It's never too late to rekindle a friendship. Don't be too proud to pick up the phone. Even if your friend dropped the ball on your relationship or couldn't put in the necessary time or effort, that's not worth losing the bond you've built.

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Pick up where you left off

Once you've reached out, you might have quite a bit of catching up to do. Overcome any potential awkwardness by simply picking up where you left off with your friendship. Give each other grace rather than being offended if you're not completely up to date on each other's lives. It's possible you'll ask about your friend's aunt only to learn she's passed since last you spoke, or you might be curious about a child who they now have a strained relationship with - good friends should be able to catch up on weighty topics compassionately.

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Reminiscence together

Chicago Tribune writer Mary Schmich wrote, "The older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young." As you age, it's beautiful to have someone who knows your history as well as your loved ones, such as your parents and siblings. They also knew you when you were a little wilder and freer and still discovering who you wanted to become, so they can help remind you of pivotal people, times and experiences in your life.

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Make new memories

Like with any relationship, it's important to keep things fresh and interesting. If you and your friend have fallen into a bit of a rut, it might be because you're too stuck in the past or too comfortable with the status quo. While chatting over coffee or going shopping together is great, it might be time to tackle an outdoor adventure, chase the country's most stunning vistas or go on a fun weekend trip together. If you need inspiration, you could start with the most captivating coastlines in the world.

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