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The Secret To Longtime Friendship Groups

Why some survive and grow stronger — and others don't.

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Group of friends sitting on a bench and laughing together
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In Michelle Obama’s new book, The Light We Carry, the former first lady talks about her tight-knit longtime friend group, a group of women she refers to as her “Kitchen Table.” Obama tweeted: “The friends at my table come from all different parts of my life — college, Chicago, D.C. and every other period, too.”

Discussing the book in an interview with Robin Roberts, Obama further explained, “In these uncertain times, I had to ask myself, ‘What keeps me steady and upright through hard times? And number one on my list is my community of girlfriends.’ ”

Like Obama, I, too, have a kitchen table filled with women I rely upon through good and bad times. A group of longtime girlfriends from different parts of my life, women I met in high school, college and when my children were in preschool. Our friendships span two, three and over four decades.

Sometimes I can’t believe how long we have known each other. While I have never stopped making new friends, there is something incredibly unique about longtime friends. They knew you long ago. They share your history and link the past to the present. Keeping longtime friend groups going can be challenging. It takes time, energy, trust and desire to sustain a longtime friendship. It's easy for big disagreements, petty slights, physical distance or even apathy to end a longtime friendship.

So, how do longtime friend groups continue to survive and grow stronger through the years? There are a few secrets to remember.

Longtime friendships don’t stop growing

High school connects me to two of my longtime friends, but it isn't what solely defines us. When we get together, we do reminisce about the past but also talk about the present. It’s especially nice because our bonds from knowing each other when we were younger help us to understand each other better as the adults we have become. For example, my friend D. remembers me as a teenager, always scribbling in a notepad and writing short stories. Fast-forward to when we were in our 40s and I had my first article published in a magazine. D. called me and said, “I am so proud of you! I knew when we were kids you would accomplish your goal!”

Longtime friends don’t hold grudges

We all have done things, especially as teens and young adults, that we wish we hadn't. We hurt each other. We have apologized, made amends and moved on. There is no room in a longtime friendship for grudges. If you can't let go and forgive, it may be best to let the friendship end instead of continuing to let a grudge fester.

Longtime friendships require confidence

Each friend in a friend group will have a different bond with each member. Some members of the group will be closer to one another than others. In my case, everyone else in my high school group lives in the New York area, while I live in New Jersey. I know they get together without me sometimes, and I have to be OK with that. It’s not fair of me to get annoyed. They aren’t deliberately or maliciously excluded. I have confidence in my individual relationships and my place in our group.

Longtime friends cut each other slack

Sometimes life gets in the way of plans. Longtime friends don’t get upset if someone needs to bail, even if the plans were made weeks or months in advance. We understand that everyone has a lot going on and we don't make each other feel guilty about rescheduling or not having time for one another.

Longtime friends prioritize one another

Good friends don't take one another for granted. Yes, sometimes a friend must cancel a get-together or will take several days to return a call or text. But for a longtime friendship to be sustained, all members need to value and nourish the connection. If a friend is always making excuses, she may be less invested in the group or may not really want to continue with the friendship.

Longtime friends figure out how to stay connected

I rarely saw my high school friend group in person for many years. We were all so busy with our spouses, kids, extended family and work that it was virtually impossible to get together. But we never let the physical distance create an emotional one. We had long phone calls when we could. The type in which you actually sit and talk rather than multitask. We kept the connections going, and now that the kids are older and life is less hectic, we can see each other more often.

Longtime friends are there for one another

When a longtime friend in the group needs you, you are there for her. Recently, I lost my father. While I received amazing support from all my friends, I was especially comforted by the high school crew who knew my dad when we grew up together. They understood my feelings and grief in a way a newer friend could not.

Longtime friends love each other

Whenever I think about my longtime friend groups, I can't help but smile. Whether supporting one another through a challenge or getting together to have a few cocktails and girl talk, I love being with them and know my life is infinitely better because they are in it.

How long have you known your oldest friend? Let us know in the comments below.

Follow Article Topics: Relationships