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9 types of old friends and why they matter

Life-long friends add a beautiful layer to your life. Something separate from your family, romantic relationships, and career.

They provide the support that can keep you healthy—mentally, emotionally, and physically—over the course of time.

Personally, the best thing my old friends have given me is a sense of security. That no matter what happens—good or bad—I have people with me every step of the way.

In this article, I’ll go through nine types of old friends and why they matter. I’ll then explain how to nurture your old friendships, and then make the case for cutting loose some of your toxic friendships.

Let’s begin.

1. Childhood friends

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Your childhood friends were the first you ever had.

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You met them at kindergarten, as next-door neighbors, or your parents were friends with each other. You spent the most memorable times of your growing years with them.

And during your countless sleepovers, you solemnly promised that nothing can ever tear you apart.

If you’re lucky, they may still be a part of your life now.

But most often than not, that promise gets broken. You end up in different groups or suddenly you have nothing in common.

You might still see them in your hometown visits. But whether or not you still spend time with them, your friendship with them is still one of the most important of your life.

Why they’re important:

According to research, preschool friendships are important in the development of social and emotional skills, which then contributes to our sense of belongingness that we carry well into adulthood.

Childhood friends are important because they are our first social connections. Our interactions with them affect how we behave socially for the rest of our lives.

But more than that–for me, at least–childhood friendships are my link to my child-self. They are a reminder of the time when I was wildly imaginative, innocent, and free.

As an adult who carries grown-up obligations and responsibilities, it’s important to be reminded that you shouldn’t always take life seriously.

2. High school friends

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There’s unfortunately no denying it:

High school can be tough. Some may even say it is hell. I certainly thought so a few times.

But do you know what always made it bearable?

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High school best friends.

Some of the craziest, stupidest, and most magical memories of your life were made in high school. This was an era of awkwardness, intense crushes, and explosive emotions—all shared with your high school best friends.

Even now, they’re still the most special people in your life.

Why they’re important:

A 2017 study shows that the quality of your friendships in high school affects your mental health as you grow into young adulthood.

According to Rachel K. Narr, the study’s lead author:

“Forming strong close friendships is likely one of the most critical pieces of the teenage social experience. Being well-liked by a large group of people cannot take the place of forging deep, supportive friendships.

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“And these experiences stay with us, over and above what happens later. As technology makes it increasingly easy to build a social network of superficial friends, focusing time and attention on cultivating close connections with a few individuals should be a priority.”

If your childhood friends helped shape your social behavior, high school friends affect your ability to connect. Your friendship with them taught you the benefits of being in a close group and just how crucial support is from someone outside of your family.

3. College friends

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I don’t know about you, but college for me was an age of liberation.

Suddenly, I was away from everyone and everything I ever knew. The freedom was exhilarating. But the thought of being completely alone was scary, too.

This is likely the reason why we depend so much on our college friends.

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Author and Dartmouth assistant sociology professor Janice McCabe estimates that a college student spends 15 hours a week in class and 86 hours with college friends.

It’s only normal that you share the most enlightening times of your life with them.

Why they’re important:

According to McCabe, college friends help in providing “academic and social support.”

Our college friends were the ones we shared the most enlightening and intellectual conversations with. We questioned our existence with them, we voiced out our doubts about the future.

Yet they’re the ones who comforted us while we were drunk and slumped at our dorm bathrooms.

For me, my college friends are important because they watched and supported me while I was figuring my life out.

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4. “Old” old friends

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Schools ensured that we were always placed in age groups. Everyone in class and almost everyone we interacted with was the same age as us.

However, we do sometimes connect and click with someone older than us.

Perhaps they’re only two years older, or maybe five. Either way, they represented a “mentor” role at some point in your life.

They were someone cooler, more cultured, more worldly. Yet they never looked down on you. Instead, they guided you through the most painful moments with only a piece of kind advice or two.

Why they’re important:

Older life-long friends are important because they have a different perspective on life. They have the benefit of life-experience that we lack. And that perspective benefits us massively.

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According to Mark Vernon, author of The Meaning of Friendship:

“Age-difference relationships are quite unlike that because you occupy different spheres of existence. But perhaps they’re all the more valuable for those polarities.

“Older people not only have the benefit of experience, they’re also less afraid of the opinions of others — so are more likely to say what they think. Their view often throws something unexpected into the mix.”

Older friends teach you valuable lessons. But do you know what’s the greatest thing they teach?

They teach you how to listen and how to trust someone who has already been there.

5. Old friends from work

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Not everyone at work is nice or someone you can click with. Politics and work culture often lead to awkwardness or even conflict.

However, you’re bound to meet one or two colleagues that just “get” youAnd if you spend the daily 9 to 5 grind with them, they’re likely in your life a lot.

Even when you change jobs or move away, you still talk or make time to meet each other. It’s a bond you simply can’t shake off.

Why they’re important:

A Gallup survey says that close relationships with workmates increase productivity and employee satisfaction by 50%. And that if you have a best friend at work, you’ll likely be 7 times more likely to be engaged with your job.

You’ll enjoy your work life more if you have good relationships with your colleagues.

More importantly, to a lot of us, our jobs are a “retreat” from our home life. This means that we usually let steam off with our workmates.

Working together under pressure can also create a bond filled with trust and loyalty. And those are two things we need in our lives.

6. The old “frenemy”

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Frenemies can add value to your life, even if it might not look like it.

It’s someone from high school or at work that you don’t necessarily like but still managed to be inside your social circle.

Your encounters with them may have bordered on toxicity. But that doesn’t mean you won’t learn anything from them.

On the contrary, frenemies you met from a long time ago—with the right mindset—can teach you a lot.

Why they’re important:

A little conflict and competitiveness don’t hurt anybody. In fact, they can be motivators.

Frenemies can push us to be more assertive. Even their offhanded rude comments can make us want to prove ourselves more.

They also teach us the value of taking the high road. After all, you don’t have to attend every argument you’re invited to.

Either way, you don’t have to entertain their negativity in your life. But you can accept the lessons and motivation they unwittingly give you.

7. Family friends

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They’re just not your friends, they’re friends with the whole family. In fact, they might as well be family.

You take vacations together. They’re always invited to family gatherings. And they know everything that’s going on within the family.

Family friends are special because they serve as an extension of your immediate family, yet they provide a different perspective of what’s going on. They don’t take sides, but they give insights that sometimes are hard to see within the real family dynamics.

Why they’re important:

Not everyone is lucky enough to get close family friends—ones who are deeply engrained in your family history.

But if you are lucky enough to grow up with such people, you know how they add more flavor to the mix.

Family friends feel like they’re family, but they’re more your friends than anything else. You get some cool people in your life who don’t judge you and may even support some crazy decisions.

It’s just a lot of fun when they’re around.

8. The old friends you barely see or talk to

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…but when you do, it’s like no time has passed.

Sometimes, life gets away from us and we forget to catch up with the real people who matter.

But that’s the beauty of old friendships.

Old friends understand that life gets busy. They respect the fact that you have priorities. But when you do reach out to them, they appreciate it and it’s like you never stopped talking in the first place.

You don’t need to constantly talk to consider yourself good friends. The best friends in the world are those who can reconnect with you easily, even though many things have changed.

Why they’re important:

Old friends you barely see can often give you the biggest insight on exactly how much you’ve changed.

They’ve known you at a different point in your life. They can remind you just how much your life has progressed for the better, teaching you to be more grateful about where you are now.

But most importantly, for me, old friends remind you of who you were.

You see, we always change. We learn lessons along the way that can either make us bitter or stronger. And sometimes, a little reminding can push us in a better direction.

Old friends can see that. And they understand a part of you that you may have already forgotten. Sometimes, looking back to an old perspective can be beneficial to where you’re going next.

9. Old friends you want to reconnect with

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There’s no shame in losing friends.

The fact that we lost in touch with someone who was once so dear to us may make us feel like we don’t deserve another chance with them.

But that’s not true.

Sure, you should take responsibility for losing them in your life, but don’t use that as an excuse that things are completely far from over.

Ask them to catch up for coffee. Give them a call. Chances are, they’d be willing to reconnect, too.

And if you manage to repair your old friendship, you’re in for a great treat. There’s nothing more fun and meaningful than getting to know an old friend you haven’t spent time with for a very long time.

Why they’re important:

I think it’s always a good idea to rekindle old friendships. Especially if the friendship was a high-quality one.

It teaches us not to fear rejection. Sometimes it works, and sometimes you realize you’re no longer the same people.

And that teaches us that it’s okay to change. That sometimes, people grow apart. But at least you tried.

If things go well, however, you can experience the wonder of rekindling a strong connection with someone who has evolved.

How to nurture old friendships

Old friends matter. Having them in our lives is proof that special bonds exist outside of the family.

You don’t need to be related by blood to be considered family. And that makes old friends extra special.

They’re the family you choose.

But how do you make sure that these relationships remain strong? In this busy and hectic life, it’s so easy to lose great friends, no matter the history you share.

The good news is:

It’s not complicated. Here are some simple ways to make sure your old friends don’t ever feel left out:

1. Proactively communicate

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This is perhaps the most common reason why friends drift apart from each other. It starts with little things—forgetting to reply to a message, missing calls, until you find yourselves not talking for weeks, months, then years.

Why?

According to clinical psychologist Dr. Lisa Firestone, comfort is the enemy.

She explains: “The familiarity and comfort we feel with another person can sometimes leave us crossing lines or forgetting to show gratitude.”

She adds: “Slipping into a routine can leave us more likely to take friends for granted.”

Don’t take your friends for granted. It doesn’t have to be long conversations or weekends away—they just need a few minutes of your time to know you think of them.

2. Try to remember the little things

I’ve always been a firm believer that it’s the little things that matter.

Honestly, when I think of my best friends, I don’t think about the grand travels we made or the fancy restaurants we ate together at.

I remember the long talks during sleepovers, the road trips going nowhere, the funny, stupid gifts they gave me for my birthday.

You see, people appreciate it best when you remember the little details about them. It shows that you take notice, it shows that you care not just when it’s great, but when it’s simple.

Don’t sulk just because they missed a party or stood you up that one time. Remember all the times they were there for you when it truly mattered.

3. Be honest

Yes, honesty is a crucial foundation for a solid friendship. In fact, it is when you are dishonest that the toxicity takes place.

Dr. Firestone says: “Keeping an honest dialogue helps prevent you from building up cynicism and boiling over in a moment when you feel triggered.”

Longevity in friendships happens because two people are always honest with each other. A friend who always talks to you straight allows you to live life in authentic honesty, too.

4. Handle conflicts in a healthy way

This certainly is something I had to learn as I grew older. It comes with the maturity to realize that you can’t control everything, and you have to accept people as they are—not who you want them to be.

Now, I am surrounded by the most supportive and empowering friends anyone could ever wish for.

Conflicts still come up. No matter how much your friends have in common with you, they are still different people. And anyway, you should want friends who are the complete opposite of you.

They enrich your experience and perspective in life.

5. Always choose compassion

According to Dr. Firestone: “A good rule of thumb when it comes to our relationships is to care more about doing what’s right than being right.”

And I couldn’t agree more.

It’s easy to judge our friends for their actions and decisions. But judgment is not what they need. If we truly love our friends, we should give them compassion.

If you are lucky enough, they will reciprocate it a hundred times more.

Cutting loose toxic old friends

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So far, I’ve only talked about the incredible benefits of having life-long friends.

But I think it’s also important to talk about the other side of it:

Toxic friendships.

Here’s an important thing realization I’ve come to:

You shouldn’t keep friends just for the sake of keeping them.

Sometimes, we maintain relationships with people for the sole reason that we’ve known them for a long time—even when they’re no longer good for us.

We make excuses for our long history with them. And we use that excuse to justify their toxic behaviors.

But here’s the deal:

Don’t settle for friendships that aren’t bringing any positive value in your life.

Even when you’ve known them your whole life.

It’s okay to let go of an old friend when they’ve become a constant source of sadness, anxiety, worry, or depression.

If they’re always dragging you down, judging you, and making you feel bad about yourself, then they are not worth keeping.

You must love yourself first. This involves choosing your well-being and peace of mind over someone who cares very little for them.

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Written by Genefe Navilon

Genefe Navilon is a writer, poet, and blogger. She graduated with a degree in Mass Communications at the University of San Jose Recoletos. Her poetry blog, Letters To The Sea, currently has 18,000 followers. Her work has been published in different websites and poetry book anthologies. She divides her time between traveling, writing, and working on her debut poetry book.

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