• Keeping Friends

The Seven-Year Expiration Date on Friendships

Published: May 28, 2009 | Last Updated: November 30, 2020 By | Reply Continue Reading
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It’s always exhilarating to make a close friend—a soul mate—someone you understand and who makes you feel understood. When this happens, it feels like the bond will last a lifetime. Yet most friendships, even the best of them, don’t last forever.

Research by Dutch sociologist Gerald Mollenhorst at Utrecht University confirms that the large majority of friendships tend to be fleeting. He found that both the friends we make and the ones we keep are more likely to be determined by opportunity rather than personal preferences. Many relationships fall apart because people no longer have the opportunity to be together in the same context, e.g. a school, an office or a neighborhood.

The sociologist surveyed 1007 men and women between the ages of 18 and 65 years and was able to re-interview 604 of them seven years later. Over that time, the size of an individual’s social network remained strikingly stable (in terms of numbers) but there was a lot of turnover: New friends replaced old ones and only thirty percent of the original friendships remained. The influence of social context (where they met) on longevity was remarkably similar for friends and acquaintances—irrespective of the closeness of the relationship.

One take-away message: If a friendship is meaningful, it needs to be nurtured.

Do most of your relationships have a shelf life?

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