5 Stages of Friendship, Most People Stop at 3

It’s been said that friends are people who make our lives better just by being in it, and we couldn’t agree more! But have you ever wondered how someone goes from being a stranger to a best friend? Or why some friendships, no matter how strong, eventually fizzle out and leave you wondering what went wrong? 

While there’s no widely accepted theory about the formation of friendships in psychology just yet, there is a natural progression to it that’s easy to see. So let’s break down the 5 universal stages of friendship, why most people stop at 3, and what you can do about it: 

Stage 1 – Acquaintances

Picture this: you’re in a new class or starting a new job. You exchange smiles with some people, maybe make a few jokes or some small talk, but that’s about it. These are your acquaintances. You know their names, you share a few pleasantries, but beyond that, you’re still in the “stranger danger” zone. 

All friendships start out this way; you become acquaintances with someone for the convenience of it. At the earliest stage of becoming friends with someone, what matters most is the impression you make. When you make a good enough impression on someone, you’ll pique their curiosity and they’ll become interested in possibly going to the second stage of friendship with you. That is…

Stage 2 – Casual Friends

Casual friends are like the cozy sweaters of your social circle; they’re friendly, polite, comfortable, and low maintenance. You see them every once in a while, go out and have fun with them, but you’d never call them up after a break up or go out of your way just to see them. No, with casual friends, it’s all about shared interests, fun activities, and enjoying each other’s company. 

Some people become casual friends for years without ever developing a deeper friendship, because we tend to be more selective of our close friends than we are of our casual friends. Being in this stage is like testing the waters to see if this friendship is worth investing in. 

Stage 3 – Close Friends

Now we’re talking! A step above our casual friends, close friends are the ones who’ve earned a spot in your inner circle. But building this level of friendship takes time, and most of us are careful about who we let into our lives and allow ourselves to be vulnerable with. 

Some people become close friends because of certain experiences that bring them together, while for others, it may just happen naturally over time as you become more comfortable and familiar with one another. Either way, a strong, mutual bond of trust, commitment, and emotional connection needs to be cultivated. 

But when they do, you know you can always count on your close friends to be there for you when you need them. They listen to your day-to-day rants; they’re there for all your birthdays and celebrations; they lend you a shoulder to lean on; and they’re a part of a lot of your weekend plans. 

And while it’s true that not all close friends end up becoming life-long best friends and some of them may drift away from us as life goes on, the friendship you share with a close friend is still worth cherishing. 

Stage 4 – Intimate Friends

If you’ve reached the stage beyond close friends, then congratulations are in order! This is the pinnacle of friendship, the highest level anyone can achieve, and it’s a pretty big deal. Having a deep, intimate friendship with someone means you’re best friends, usually for the rest of your lives. 

By this point, both of you have experienced each other closely for so long that it feels like you’ve been through it all together — the highs, the lows, and everything in between. They keep all your deepest, darkest secrets and know things about you no one else does. 

A best friend is the one person in the world you trust the most and whose happiness is just as important to you as your own. They’ve seen you at your best and worst and love you all the same. Not only do you understand and empathize with one another, but you also feel bonded to them in a way only time, history, and deep platonic love could ever allow. 

The main difference between close friends and intimate friends is Stage 5…

Stage 5 – Rekindling the Friendship

Remember how we said that there are 5 stages of friendship, but most people stop at 3? Well, this is the reason why. 

Casual friends come and go, and close friends sometimes drift apart, but a best friend stays with you forever. This isn’t because you never fight or lose touch with them. Actually, if you’re friends with someone long enough all of this becomes inevitable. No, the true difference between a close friend and an intimate friend is that no matter how much you drift apart, you always come back together.

We all know life is a whirlwind of busyness and unexpected change. Yet, for those deep friendships, the connection never truly fades. It’s a bond that withstands the test of time and distance. So you know that whenever you hit a rough patch, you’re not worried. You know they’ll be there, ready to laugh, cry, and make memories, no matter how many curveballs life throws your way.

So, as you reflect on your own friendships, ponder this: What can you do to cultivate deeper connections? Share your stories and insights in the comments down below! Thanks for reading!


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