How To Stay Friends For 20, 30, 40, 50 Years, According To Longtime BFFs

Long-term besties share their secrets for keeping their bond strong and staying friends forever.

Some friendships are not meant to last forever and that’s perfectly OK. But those that can withstand the ups and downs, cross-country moves, hardships and other changes over the years are truly something special. No matter how much time has passed between texts, phone calls or visits, with a best friend, you always pick up right where you left off.

Below, 12 pairs of besties, whose friendships have spanned anywhere from 15 to 57 years, share their how-we-met stories and the secrets to their lasting bonds.

Dingding and Leilei: 15 years
"I have been friends with Leilei since we were in high school in China. We became friends because we adored each other’s style and shared a similar sense of humor. During the early stages of our friendship, we spent the majority of our time together, shopping for all kinds of things, ranging from keychains to pet turtles. We never lived in the same city again after high school, but coincidentally, lived a similar life path. We helped each other with many things from outfit opinions, to dating advice, to getting through some really difficult times in our 20s. We didn’t talk as frequently as before but we were always supportive of each other’s big life moments. Eventually we both met our significant others during the same summer and moved into stable relationships around the same time. Nowadays, we are both busier than ever with career and family. But over the years, as an only child myself, I feel like I've always had a sister in her." — Dingding Hu
Maggie and Emmely: 20 years
Maggie H.
"The moment we're together, it’s like nothing has changed. My husband said to me after he met Emmely, 'Wow! You two act like sisters.' What makes something like this work is being able to show someone your most vulnerable side and they show theirs in return, yet you never fear they'll use any of it against you. Together we’ve navigated broken hearts, being separated by 2,000 miles, shared countless hours of laughter and memories. We’ve fought, we’ve made up, from prom up-dos, to having the chance to do her wedding up-do. This girl is my best friend, my partner in growth, my family. Twenty years is just a drop in the bucket!" — Maggie H.
Tom and Mary: 22 years
Tom W.
"I’ll never forget the first moment I saw her, it was the second and third grade production of 'The Cookie Lady,' circa 1997. She walks in, in her iconic green Oakland A’s jacket with matching baseball cap, I was like, 'Woah, this chick is cool!' I wasn’t destined to be a theater kid, so I was stoked that she whispered my only line to me when I forgot it during our live performance. We were inseparable in high school and spent our last moments of living in the same town together before she left for her first year of college. We haven’t lived in the same city since, and yet we make the effort to see each other and are able to jump right back into where we left off. Relationships are hard; they are also dynamic. I think one of the most important aspects of Mary's and my friendship is that there is room for growth and change."Tom W.
Bronwyn and Marie: 24 years
"I met my best friend Marie over 24 years ago thanks to a playdate my dad and her mom arranged for us. I didn’t live in the small northern California town where they did, so when I would leave my mom in Seattle to go visit them, it made it so much easier because Marie was there. She taught me how to have fun without spending money, how to make art out of anything, what bands I should be listening to and a lot about queer culture. We learned how to keep in touch through writing an ongoing comic strip, sharing mix tapes (yes, tapes!), and scheduling internet hangouts on AIM. I moved around a lot and even though we’ve lived in different cities our entire lives, it’s always felt natural to stay connected. I believe people can have many soul mates and Marie is definitely one of mine. She is the most artistically talented person I know and is currently heating up Portland as one of the best new drag queens on the block. She makes all of her own costumes and it is such a joy to watch her step into this new form of self-expression!" — Bronwyn Lundberg
Jan-Kristòf and Sheively: 25 years
Jan-Kristòf L.
"We met in first grade back in Haiti. Then Sheively moved to Atlanta and I moved to New York. That's when we lost touch with one another. Then MySpace actually brought us back together in our late high school/early college years where we reminisced about all the good times we had in Haiti. What kept our friendship alive is the blunt honesty we always had with one another. There were times where some hurtful words were exchanged but we both knew it was to build each other up. We would go from heated arguments about different social issues to playing old Haitian songs from the '90s or talking about episodes of 'The Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers.'Sheively then moved to New York and we got an apartment together. So many memories from our childhood were amplified during those years living together. He eventually became one of my groomsmen when I got married. In the end, respect, communication and honesty are the keys to our friendship. It's safe to say he will be a great uncle when my husband and I have children." — Jan-Kristòf L.
Kayla and Tomorrow: 25 years
Kayla D. and Tomorrow H.
"We met at the age of 4 while attending the same private school. Grace is one of the keys to our long friendship that has lasted through school, babies and marriage. Seasons change and sometimes not simultaneously. Our friendship has had its fair share of ups and downs but we extend grace to each other and meet each other where we are in that moment with no judgment. Through the good times and bad, sometimes you just need a friend to be there and understand. We have husbands and children now and sometimes schedules don't sync, especially since I live 400 miles away. But if she needs me, I'm there and vice versa! Don't ask questions or judge, just show up!" — Kayla D.
Camille and Lauren: 30 years
Camille W.
"Lauren and I have been best friends since literally before I was born! Our mums are friends and when Lauren was born and my mum went to visit her at the hospital, my mum revealed she was pregnant with me! We’re still best friends to this day and that was 30 years ago. She moved away to Asia when we were about 6 but we’d write to each other and always had very happy reunions over the years until she came back home when we were 11. A key ingredient for our friendship was having so many memories together. We grew up together and even though we are so different in personality, having that time together has bonded us for life.We still quote movies we were obsessed with as teenagers, still laugh about embarrassing crushes we had and we’ve been through some hard times together, deaths in families and illnesses. There’s a real loyalty between us, a very strong bond of protection and love that I see lasting for the rest of our lives. We’ve lived in different countries for most of our adult lives but every time we see each other, we go back to giggling and we become like kids again. We’re both very proud of each other for what we’ve achieved in life and with the help of technology like WhatsApp, we can be in communication all the time." — Camille W.
Patty and Gigi: 35 years
"The secret to my 35-year friendship with Gigi is that we allow one another the space to be on our individual journeys while maintaining a commitment to our own personal growth. Our friendship has equanimity: We both contribute to and receive from the central source of friendship. We listen with compassion, advise unconditionally, laugh with vigor and trust that we hold the best intentions for one another."Patty Blue Hayes
Lisa and Tom: 43 years
"I was 13 and had just moved into a new house in a new neighborhood, and word apparently traveled that I was available for babysitting. The mom in the house on the corner called to ask if I could watch her kids on an upcoming weekend night. When I arrived, the first person I met was a boy about my age. It turned out he was two years younger than I, and his parents didn't consider him mature enough to babysit. So I watched his siblings, he hung out, and over the course of the summer, we became fast friends. A few weeks ago — 43 years after that first meeting — that boy and I met for lunch, as we try to several times a year. He is one of my oldest friends, and no matter how much time passes between our opportunities to get together, it takes no time for us to catch up. Our lives are dissimilar. He's a successful executive in his family's business. He’s been married to the same woman since his 20s; they have four grown kids, travel often and enjoy an active social life. I also have grown kids, but I live the happily introverted life of a communications professional who largely prefers books to people. So, on the surface, we'd have nothing to talk about, but we're never at a loss for words. What keeps our friendship strong? Aside from a genuine regard for one another, I think our shared history plays a large part. I grew up in an unconventional family, but with Tom, I never have to explain those relationships. He remembers my dog and the curiously huge rock in my front yard. He once drove my family's station wagon backward, as fast as it could go, down our street. I, nerd girl that I was, got Tom though a few classes by doing his homework while he told me jokes. I remember how hard Tom's dad, then a young man, worked to get his business off the ground — and now it's one of the most successful in our city. And I can still see the face of the baby sister that Tom's family lost when we were teenagers. As we all travel through various stages of life, many of our friends tend to be situational. I love the fact that I can barely a remember a time when I didn't know Tom. Although I don't call or text him as often as I should, when the big things happen, he's one of the first people whose voice I want to hear." — Lisa Lavia Ryan
Brenda and Allison: 44 years
"I graduated in 1974 from the High School of Performing Arts in New York City. My best friend Allison was a year behind me but we ended up becoming best friends since we both were blessed with being able to continue in theater. As the years went by, we also ended up in the same Broadway shows, including the original production of "Dreamgirls" and "Jelly’s Last Jam." We’ve even had several business ventures together because Allison is the type of friend who ALWAYS says, 'Sure, how can I help?' when I come up with my crazy ideas! We can go without speaking for months then with one phone call, it’s like we spoke yesterday. I am blessed to have many friends of 20, 30 years, but there’s just that special thing Al and I have that’s lasting! I love her dearly!" — Brenda Braxton
Mary Ann and Linda: 54 years
Mary Ann Mitchell Holand
"Linda and I have been best friends since third grade. That’s 54 years of friendship. We met in third grade at St. Joan of Arc Catholic grade school in Indianapolis, Indiana. From the start, we had a heart connection. We were in Girl Scouts together, shared all our hopes, dreams and disappointments with each other. Linda still lives in Indianapolis and I have lived in New York City/Connecticut for 38 years. We can go months without speaking or seeing each other and pick up right where we left off. From the time we were young girls we loved to dance to all our favorite Motown artists and to this day we have our own dance parties! Linda lost her husband to Huntington’s disease in his early 50s and her only child to a massive heart attack at age 23. I am a seven-year breast cancer warrior so we both have always been there for each other in good times and bad. In spite of life’s heartaches and challenges, we always find the humor in everyday life and love to laugh. I’m talking those deep belly laughs that make your stomach hurt! We’ve lasted longer than most marriages! I love this person with every ounce of my being and I know we’ll be going strong years from now, God willing. Linda is my best friend, my confidante and, without a doubt, we will always have the other’s backs." — Mary Ann Mitchell Holand
Anne and Nona: 57 years
"We started kindergarten together at Moorestown Friends School in New Jersey. The secret ingredient is unconditional honesty and acceptance without judgment, through thick and thin, for sure!" — Anne Rosenberg

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