This Is the #1 Secret to Staying Best Friends Forever, from 8 Pairs of Lifelong Pals
Friends are proven to be good for your health, but the ones who stick together for the ages are something extra special. Here's how eight pairs of besties—one for 70 years!—told us they've stayed connected for life.
It’s one of the simplest yet most profound facts of life: There’s just nothing like a good friend. That person who would rescue you from a broken zipper in a dressing room, or captain meal-planning when tragedy strikes and you now need to feed a crowd when you’re already emotionally overwhelmed. ” (If that strikes a chord, so will this powerful story from Reader’s Digest.) Best friends are like stars: Shining light into dark places, showing up for you regularly—and, as the saying goes, even when you go awhile without seeing them, you always know they’re there.
David A. Merrill, MD, PhD is a psychiatrist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center and director of the Brain Health Center at the Pacific Neuroscience Institute in Santa Monica, CA. Dr. Merrill highlights an increasing theme in sociological and public health research: Feeling surrounded by social support can lengthen your lifespan. “Prioritizing and maintaining close friendships is one of the best things you can do for your health,” Dr. Merrill says, while complementary research—including a study done by the healthcare carrier Cigna—also suggests that chronic loneliness is a greater health threat than obesity or alcoholism. “People sometimes underestimate the power of friends,” Dr. Merrill says. “Lifelong friendships can provide immense mental, physical, and spiritual health benefits, and you never want to take those for granted.”
With that said, Dr. Merrill recognizes it can be tough finding someone you can be really vulnerable with—but, he adds, it’s worth it when you do. We tracked down eight pairs of forever besties from around the country who’ve been friends for 20, 30, even 70 years (!) about how they’ve maintained their bonds.
Plan regular family dinners together
Donna Goldman, 73, Lincolnshire, IL & Nancy Berg, 73, Vernon Hills, IL
Friends for 69 years
Starting as backyard playmates in 1954, Goldman and Berg had no idea that the little girl they rode bikes and played games with every day would become a pillar of their life—helping each other through births and deaths, new jobs and losses, and every major life event that happens over seven decades on the planet.
One secret to their friendship’s success was fostering their families to become friends, too. As newlyweds, Goldman and Berg started hosting regular family dinners together. They invited their spouses, parents, children, cousins—whoever was around at the time. Not only did this give them time together, but over the years it became a tradition that made each woman an integral part of the other’s family.
This friendship tradition continues to bring happiness to not just the besties, but to their families as well. Donna’s granddaughter, Leslie Goldman, grew up attending these meals and calls the pair an inspiration and a beautiful example of the power of female friendship.
Bonus tip: Talk or check-in daily or at least weekly. Goldman says the pair still speak daily, offering encouragement, advice, and support—”Without ever judging. That’s important!”
Video-chat instead of texting
Beth Sanders, 40, Arvada CO
Jenny M., Florida
Casey S., California
Friends for 28 years
This trio bonded as college roommates. After each moved to a different state following graduation, they realized that they’d have to get creative to keep their friendship strong. “We live in three different time zones, which makes talking on the phone hard. So instead, we use the app Marco Polo,” Sanders says. “It’s like texting, but instead of sending words you send little video clips of yourself talking. It works great because we can watch or record videos wherever and whenever.” These gals Marco Polo the little things —videos of random wildlife, pretty rainbows, new haircuts—to “20-minute soliloquies where we tell stories with tons of detail. Sometimes we even cry.”
Texting is quick and easy, but this kind of video chatting facilitates not only shared updates, but the experience of each other’s facial expressions and tone of voice. Being able to share moments in real-time has kept them not just connected, but an intimate part of each others’ lives.
Bonus tip: Take regular friend trips together. Sanders says getting away from their families and jobs every few years just to be together has given them time to remember old memories, and to make new ones.
Listen…without giving advice
The friends: Alexandra Williams, 64, Santa Barbara, CA and Thomas Mann, 61, Toluca Lake, CA
Friends for 40 years
Mann started out as a tenant, subleasing Williams’ room while she was traveling in 1983. When she returned, she and her roomie liked Mann so much that the three found a new apartment that would allow them all to stay together—and they’ve remained friends ever since. “We’re so tight that my family considers him part of the family,” Williams says. “My dad even made him a Williams Family t-shirt for our family reunion.”
Williams and Mann say the key to their decades-long friendship is listening. “Being present means listening without giving advice unless it’s asked for. This doesn’t mean we will always agree, but it means we know we will always be there to comfort and commend each other.”
Bonus tip: Show up for the important moments. “We always make an effort to show up for the big things—happy and sad,” says Williams. “We are supportive of the other person’s endeavors, both personal and work-related.”
Less social media, more together time
The friends: Abbie Speed, 26, Orem, UT, and Allison Johns, 25, Saint Louis, MO
Friends for 20 years
A children’s church class was where Speed and Johns first met as rambunctious six-year-olds…but even at such a young age, their connection was immediate. They grew closer throughout their school years, but it’s in adulthood that their friendship has really blossomed. “At this point in our lives, we’ve been living far away from each other longer than we were ever together,” Speed says. “The thing that keeps us best friends is that when we do meet up, we pick up exactly where we left off! No small talk or awkward moments of trying to be polite.”
In fact, these two are so comfortable that their time is spent just being together rather than trying to document every moment. If you’re asking, Is it even a friendship if you don’t tag them in every post or story story?, they say keeping the focus off social media, and instead staying fully present, allows them to soak in the time they have together.
Bonus tip: Accept the other person’s quirks rather than trying to change them. “We are just unapologetically ourselves,” Speed says. “We speak in weird accents, we quote the Pink Panther, we raid each other’s fridges…we maintain a level of comfort with each other that we don’t have with anyone else.”
The friends: Sanam Pejuhesh, 45, Louisville, CO and Delara Doroodian, 45, Brentwood, CA
Friends for 34 years
“Our meeting story is pretty funny,” Pejuhesh says. “I was 10 and rollerskating through my neighborhood with my little pomeranian. A woman stopped her car next to me and rolled down her window. She started speaking in Farsi and told me she knew of my parents and she wanted me to come meet her daughter. So I just skated along behind her to their house. Delara was out front raking leaves. We started chatting, and the rest is history.”
To fight growing apart as they grew up, these pals have made an effort to grow together by collaboratively learning new things—whether that’s reading a book together or learning to rock climb. “I think it helps a lot that we both love personal growth and are each doing our own work. It helps us peel back layers with each other, give each other really solid advice and call each other out on our mishaps,” she says.
Bonus tip: Prioritize your best friend like you would your romantic partner—even though they live in different states, Pejuhesh and Doroodian talk every single day. “Remember that your best friend is your soulmate—keep growing and evolving together!” Pejuhesh says. “My relationship with Delara is the healthiest relationship I have ever been in, in my life.”
…Or, don’t feel pressure to stay in constant contact
The friends: Kristen, 48, eastern TN, and Carrie, 48, western TN
Friends for 29 years
Kristen and Carrie became fast friends in 1994 during their intensive nursing school program. After graduation, each moved to different cities and—proving that what works for one set of friends isn’t the secret for another—they’ve maintained their bond by not trying to stay in contact all the time. The truth is that real life can make communication tricky.
Especially given the demands on healthcare professionals over the past few years, this pair doesn’t allow “perfect” to be the enemy of “good.” Kristen and Carrie practice zero pressure when it comes to keeping in touch. “We have times when we don’t speak much or at all, and no feelings are hurt,” Kristen says. “Recently, we talk maybe once a month. But the point is to have the kind of relationship where you don’t have to be in constant contact to know that you love each other and will be there. We are both so busy with family and work, and it’s nice that our friendship is not high-maintenance. I don’t have to talk to her all the time. I know if I need her, she’ll make time for me, and vice-versa.”
Bonus tip: Be open and vulnerable. Even if it’s been weeks or months since their last chat, they dive into the deep stuff and don’t try to hold anything back.
Schedule regular dates
The friends: Alison Mosca, 59, Dansville, NY, and Dena Paratore, 58, Rochester, NY
Friends for 45 years
These pals met in 1978, the first week of their freshman year of high school when they paired up as lab partners in science class. There’s one secret to their friendly “chemistry” (we had to!) that’s sustained them through movies, children, job changes, serious illness, and other big life events: “We meet for dinner at least once a month and take a trip together every few years,” Mosca says.
Bonus tip: Communicate, even if you don’t have much to say. “We try and text every few days,” Mosca says. “Even if it’s just something small like a funny meme, it lets her know that I’m thinking about her.”
Embrace a shared hobby
The friends: Kris Roberts Olsen, 59, Columbus OH, and Beth Wolf Frilling, 59, Coldwater, OH
Friends for 60 years
Born the same year to parents who were neighbors, Olsen and Frilling were destined to be besties. “We walked to kindergarten together every day and every day of school thereafter, and then walked together at our graduation from high school!” explains Olsen.
After high school, the pair kept in touch…but it wasn’t until they both discovered running that they resumed their daily chats. “We decided to train for a half-marathon together. Even though we didn’t live by each other, we would check in with each other to stay accountable for our runs,” says Olsen. “We loved it so much that we ran a second half-marathon soon after. Now it’s become our thing.”
Bonus tip: A lifetime of inside jokes and memories—like the time two of Olsen’s sisters married two of Frilling’s brothers!—keeps their bond strong. Says Olsen: “We often remind each other how much we share in life! Our friendship is priceless.”
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David A. Merrill, MD, PhD, psychiatrist at Providence Saint John's Health Center, director of the Brain Health Center at the Pacific Neuroscience Institute in Santa Monica, California, and professor emeritus of psychiatry at UC Berkley
American Journal of Public Health: "A Prospective Study of Social Isolation, Loneliness, and Mortality in Finland"
Cigna, Ipsos: "2018 Cigna U.S. Loneliness Index: Survey of 20,000 Americans Examining Behaviors Driving Loneliness in the United States"