How to create and maintain strong friendships: The importance of strong bonds and tips on staying close

Friends make up a huge part of most peoples’ lives, but over time, friendships can fade and drift apart if they aren’t maintained. Fostering and putting effort into friendships is key to making sure those relationships stay strong and close. 

That being said, it can be hard to know where to start if you haven’t seen it exemplified in other relationships. That’s why we’ve laid out the importance of maintaining friendships through care and dedication. 

If you’re wondering how to make and keep friends as an adult, we’ve also given you some tips on how to go about creating and keeping up those strong bonds.

Why Is It Difficult to Maintain Friendships?

It can be difficult to maintain friendships for a variety of reasons. Sometimes people can find themselves in a bad relationship, something that was once intimate and caring, but has now been lost or broken.

What happened? Was it you? Was it them? Was it the situation? Something else? The truth is, it could be none, one, all of the above or more. Things happen, and some of it is out of our control.

However, there are still common threads between different abandoned relationships, such as:

  • Growth and evolution. Sometimes, we grow out of the people that initially became friends, and the growth that has changed us means that we no longer fit together like we used to. Though this can easily lead to tensions and confusion, it can also be an opportunity to grow and improve together, using adversity to become closer.
  • Changes in lifestyle. Time is not infinite, and when life changes and gets busier, it can cause certain relationships to fall by the wayside in favor of other seemingly more important things. It can help to identify consistent undivided time weekly to meet that would allow for more meaningful time spent together.
  • Needs not being met. This can mean a variety of things. Perhaps you’ve realized that someone has a past of not meeting your needs, and you no longer have space for people that don’t fill you up in your life. Maybe your needs have changed over time and your friend is no longer capable of meeting them. You may have even made new friends that fulfill the needs that other friends used to, causing you two to drift apart. When you feel these things happening, it’s worth taking the time to assess how much you value those friendships and considering how to adjust the dynamic to suit everyone.
  • Incompatible interests: When you first meet someone, it can be easy to get along if you are both personable and amiable. However, when two people don’t share interests or even values, it can be hard to find common ground. Planning activities or avoiding  certain conversations can put strain on the relationship. It can be helpful then to reassess your commonalities or mutual areas of interests if you feel yourselves drifting apart.

These, among other things, are many of the common issues people come across in friendships. With care, consideration, and attention, though, these issues can often be overcome, making the relationship even stronger than before.

“How to Keep Friends” Psychology: Is There Science Behind Friendship?

There is science behind friendship—traditionally, social psychology has been the branch of psychology behind how to keep friends. That said, friendship psychology is a relatively new field that studies how friendships are formed and maintained. 

Scientists have found that friendship can be just as important to our psychological health as exercise is to physical health. Spending time with friends and those we love releases endorphins in the brain, peptides that increase feelings of well-being, make us happy, and improve our overall mental health. By boosting the endorphins in our brains, friendship plays a scientifically significant role in living a healthy and balanced life.

How Do You Make and Keep Friends for Good?

There is no one way to keep friendships for good. In fact, not every friendship is meant to, or even should, last forever, as much as it might pain us. 

“Be yourself” is some of the oldest advice about making friends, but to keep friends, there may need to be a bit more to it. In order to maintain strong friendships that feel fulfilling, joy-filled, and intimate, the best thing you can do is strive to be the best version of yourself. 

Friendship is about understanding, support, communication, and trust. It involves seeking to understand, whether in quiet, joyful moments or loud and passionate altercations. But, by working toward being the best version of yourself, you can more accurately describe your needs and wants to someone else, giving them the opportunity to care for you in the best way possible. 

This is an excellent way to foster closeness, and communicating and being vulnerable is one of the best ways to make a friendship strong. It takes away opportunities for misunderstanding or overthinking to occur and frustration and bitterness to grow.

Whoever your friends are, though, their actions are ultimately out of your control. They may not choose to take those opportunities, choosing to drift farther away instead. They may not choose to work toward being the best self they can be. The only one you can control is yourself. Therefore, you may sometimes have to learn how to let those friendships go, or learn to put distance between you and the other person if you feel consistently misunderstood or disrespected by them. Not every friend has to be a close friend, just like not every friendship will last forever.

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6 Tips for Maintaining Strong Friendships

Though not every friendship will or should last forever, that doesn’t mean there is nothing you can do about it. In fact, putting effort into friendships is an excellent practice that is incredibly necessary for cultivating strong friendships in your life, as well as making yourself a good friend. Here are six tips for building and maintaining friendships:

1) Create and capitalize on time together.

Of course it’s nice to have those friendships that don’t require a lot of time or upkeep—especially when the two of you are miles and miles apart or on complete opposite schedules. 

That being said, strong relationships do require staying in touch and spending meaningful time together. So, at the very least, check in with your friend when you can: agree on weekly phone dates; text them here and there to let them know you’re thinking of them; and if possible, schedule some time to simply hang out!

2) Be honest with each other.

Another key to strengthening your friendships is being open and honest with your friends. Expressing the way you feel and listening to the other when they do so is key to a healthy relationship. You need to be able to express how you feel—even those negative feelings like disappointment and discomfort—so as to keep that bond from weakening. 

If you instead keep those feelings bottled up, you’re likely to foster some ill will towards your friends, and your relationships will suffer. It may make you feel anxious or uncomfortable, but it’s best to confront your emotions openly instead of brushing how you feel under the rug. Then, you can work out the issue together.

3) Show them that you care.

If you hope to create strong, lasting friendships, you should continue to show your friend that you care about them. This doesn’t require you to take drastic measures, but simply find ways to express your love and appreciation for the other person: treat them to pizza on their birthday, tag them in cheesy memes, and bluntly tell them that your friendship means the world to you. You might assume that they already know you care for them, but even if they do, it’s always nice to be reminded.

4) Embark on new experiences together.

It may seem like a given, but friendships are supposed to be fun! It’s important to create times and experiences where the two of you can bond and have real fun together regularly. 

Relationships are strengthened by meaningful experiences and unforgettable memories. So make the effort to spice up your friendships by embarking on new adventures side-by-side: sign up for an intimidating exercise or cooking class together, plan a trip to a new town or even new country, or simply switch up your typical weekend outings. This variation will revive your friendships and create an even stronger bond.

5) Provide support and encouragement.

Friendships aren’t all fun and games—they do require you to put in some work, such as when your friend is having a horrible, no-good day. Say they’ve just broken up with their boyfriend or girlfriend or were fired from their job. It’s your job to be there for them and provide them with whatever they need, starting with support and comfort. 

Additionally, it’s your duty to give them encouragement as needed. Encourage friends to do what you know will make them happy, like taking that job or moving to a new city. Whatever the case, make it apparent that you’re rooting for them.

6) Treasure the little things.

Real, strong friendships aren’t extravagant—they’re built simply on connectedness, kindness, and love for each other. That being said, it’s important you remember to embrace and rejoice in the little things. Appreciate those phone dates we talked about earlier. Enjoy every second you get to spend with them, even if you’re simply meeting for coffee. Treasure every little piece of your friendship—the extraordinary love, the undying support, and the irreplaceable memories.

Table of contents

Why Is It Difficult to Maintain Friendships?

“How to Keep Friends” Psychology: Is There Science Behind Friendship?

How Do You Make and Keep Friends for Good?

6 Tips for Maintaining Strong Friendships

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  • Clinical writer
  • Editorial writer
  • Clinical reviewer
  • Update history
Laura Harris, LCMHC in Durham, NC

Laura Harris, LCMHC

Laura Harris is a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor (LCMHC). She specializes in anger, anxiety, depression, stress management, coping strategies development, and problem-solving skills.

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Theresa Welsh, LPC

Theresa Welsh is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) with a passion for providing the utmost quality of services to individuals and couples struggling with relationship issues, depression, anxiety, abuse, ADHD, stress, family conflict, life transitions, grief, and more.

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Hannah DeWitt

Hannah is a Junior Copywriter at Thriveworks. She received her bachelor’s degree in English: Creative Writing with a minor in Spanish from Seattle Pacific University. Previously, Hannah has worked in copywriting positions in the car insurance and trucking sectors doing blog-style and journalistic writing and editing.

We update our content on a regular basis to ensure it reflects the most up-to-date, relevant, and valuable information. When we make a significant change, we summarize the updates and list the date on which they occurred. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

  • Originally published on 01/05/2018

    Author: Taylor Bennett

  • Updated on 05/03/2023

    Author: Hannah DeWitt

    Reviewer: Theresa Welsh, LPC

    Changes: Updated by a Thriveworks clinician in partnership with our editorial team, adding common reasons why friendships can be difficult to maintain; included information about the psychological benefits of having good friendships; put in additional information about how best to foster strong friendships as well as why friendships may need to be let go; article was clinically reviewed to double confirm accuracy and enhance value.

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