The stages of friendship

I’ve had the notion of friends on my mind recently. We all have many friends throughout our lives, and with them, you come to know the stages of friendship.

At the moment I’m going through a friend break-up, and I’m pretty upset about it. I won’t delve into details, but if you don’t invite me to your wedding even though I’m the reason you met the guy and you think Donald (the idiot) Trump was a good president, then I think we’ve outgrown each other.

Friends – we all need them

Life would be quite boring without friends, don’t you think? Even just having one or two good friends can make life interesting.

But making friends is weird, especially as an adult, because you have to make a conscious effort. It’s not like in school where you see each other every day and it just kind of happens. It’s more like, ‘Hey, you’re cool, want to hang out?’ And then you have to deal with scheduling conflicts for two weeks, and during that time you have to decide whether you’re desperate enough for another friend or not.

But maybe that’s just me.

There are a couple of stages in a friendship (four or five, depending on whose research you read). You should gradually move through these stages. It’s unhealthy to move through them too quickly because then you may ignore red flags.1,2

Stage 1 – Strangers

This is the stage when you maybe know a person’s name or face, but you don’t actually know them. Also, you wouldn’t necessarily greet one another if you see each other out and about.3

This stage is also when you’d make an initial impression on someone.3 Personally, I try not to swear in front of strangers (I have a potty mouth) because I’d like to pretend that I’m a decent young lady.

During this stage, you can decide if they want to get to know the other person better. From here, you may become acquaintances.3

Stage 2: Acquaintances

This is when you know someone because you may have met through mutual friends, but you didn’t really get around to having a conversation with them.4 Sometimes you may not even have mutual friends, you may have met at school, a night out, or as part of work or a hobby.3

So, when you see them in public you greet them and have a bit of small talk, but it doesn’t really go beyond that.3,4 These interactions are quite superficial, which is fine because you don’t see this person often.2,3

If you like your new acquaintance, you may decide to invite them to spend more time together, like going for coffee. From there you would form a casual friendship.3

Stage 3: Casual friends

These are people you like to have fun with, but you wouldn’t schedule hang out time with them if it wasn’t convenient. You have shared interests and enjoy hanging out together, that’s about it.3 Also, casual friends will usually meet in group settings and often in public spaces.4

These aren’t people you’d talk to often, although you’d invite them to certain events or parties. You like them but not too much just yet to decide to let them into your inner circle of trust.3

You wouldn’t open up as much to your casual friends as you would with a close friend. You’re not comfortable to let them see the real or unflattering version of yourself.3,5

This is also the stage when you discover more of what you have in common with your casual friend.5

Casual friendships can develop quickly if you see each other enough and have a bit in common, like common activities or interests.2

You want to get to know this person better before you decide to make them a close friend.5

Stage 4 – close friends

During this stage, you become part of the other person’s life, and you talk comfortably about deeper things like your goals and dreams.4

Close friends are those people who understand you, or at least try to. These people are part of your circle of trust. Naturally, it takes some time for someone to become a close friend.3

Most people don’t have a lot of close friends, because it means really opening yourself up to someone and building trust.3,5

Stage 5 – Intimate friends (aka besties)

Most people only have one best friend. You share secrets and really help each other through tough times, and make memories in the good times. You would spend a lot of your time with them and trust them with your life. These people are basically like family. They give and take advice and are deeply ingrained in our life’s story.2,4,5

Best friends are the people who have really connected with you on a deep and personal level. These friendships can last a lifetime.2,3

This is the person you trust the most and you want them to be as happy as they want you to be They see you when you are your lowest and carry you through, and you’re not ashamed because they don’t judge you. But they’re always there when you’re having your happiest moments.3 It’s like a friend-soul mate.

For me my best friends would be someone would gladly I introduce to my mom, and who I can spend hours with, even if we just both sit and do our own thing in silence.

It takes time to form deep friendships, but it’s worth the time and patience because you may just end up with your friend soul mate.3

The stages of friendship

When they end

You will have friends at all of these stages, and some may move up or down, and some may stay at the same place for years. Life is crazy like that.

However, some friendships end; and it can hurt like a bitch when friendships end or slowly fade. (See the start of this post)

The frequency with which you see each other also contributes to the longevity of your friendship because you need to keep that emotional bond strong. So, if you don’t see each other much, your friendship will struggle. It’s for that reason that it’s easier to have a friendship with someone who lives nearby or who you work with.6

Sometimes (usually with intimate or close friends), once an emotional bond is in place you don’t need to see each other that much to keep the friendship going, but the interactions with have a great quality to it.6 Note that this isn’t always the case. Most of us have to keep working on our friendships and make plans to connect.


Friendships are so important in life. No matter how anti-social you are, you’ll still have one or two friends. They help you through life by giving emotional support and guidance.2,6

Building a new friendship takes time and a foundation of trust needs to be built before you can call a person your close or best friend.

Do you have a story about an unlikely friendship you formed, or how a friendship ended abruptly? I’d love to read about them in the comments.



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I used these sources: