“I have a large group of friends, but not all of them are people I consider ‘real’ friends. I’m at a point in my life where I want to focus on friendships that are real and lasting, and I’m OK with letting go of fake friends or acquaintances. How can I figure out which types of people in my friend group are my real friends and which friendships I should let go of?”
There are different types of friends you’ll make in life, but not all of them will stick around. Friendships are important because they enhance your health, happiness, and quality of life, but not all friendships provide the same benefits.
Knowing the different types of people in a friend group can help you identify who your real friends are. Once you learn about the different types of friends, you can begin prioritizing your real “forever” friends instead of your fake or fair-weather ones.
This article will outline 4 different types of fake, fair-weather, and forever friends you might find in your circle so that you can invest in the friendships that are most likely to last.
While it can be painful to learn that some of the people you thought were your friends were never true friends, there are important lessons to be learned from these experiences. Learning how to recognize a fake friend can help you make better choices in the future about the people you select and allow into your inner circle. Below are some of the common types of “fake friends” to avoid.
Toxic friends are friendships that are unstable, unhealthy, and sometimes even abusive. Toxic friendships often involve a lot of conflict and drama, and they can feel like an emotional rollercoaster. Sometimes, the root problem is related to their personalities. Other times it’s because you’re dealing with an emotionally unstable or immature person. Whatever the reason, a toxic friend is usually someone you want to avoid and keep your distance from.
- They start a lot of conflict or drama by gossiping, spreading rumors, or talking behind people’s backs.
- They are emotionally unstable and prone to lashing out, shutting down, or are in a constant state of crisis that requires you to assist or rescue them.
- They are flaky, inconsistent, or unpredictable, and you never know how they will respond or if they will show up when you need them.
- They are emotionally abusive or mean and put you down, make you feel less than, or use manipulation or guilt to make you feel bad or do things for them.
If you’re a guy, you might benefit from this article on distinguishing toxic from true male friendships.
One-sided friendships are ones that aren’t mutual or reciprocal. They are unlikely to be rewarding or lasting. In a one-sided friendship, one person does most of the work to maintain and sustain the friendship.
Sometimes, one-sided friendships can become reciprocal, but only if the issues are addressed and the other person puts more effort into the friendship. If not, it’s best to pull back to avoid getting stuck in a one-sided friendship that will only leave you feeling frustrated, drained, and taken advantage of.
Some of the signs of a one-sided friendship include:
- You are always the one to reach out, contact them, and make plans.
- You always feel like you care more and try harder than they do.
- You view them as a close friend, but they view you as an acquaintance.
- You don’t feel a priority in their life because they don’t make time to talk or hang out.
- You feel like they expect more from you than they are willing to give to you.
A frenemy may be someone who is your friend one day and your enemy the next, or just someone who pretends to be your friend while talking bad about you behind your back. Because this leads to a lot of confusion, having a frenemy can be worse than having an enemy, causing more stress and emotional turmoil. Because of this, frenemies are people you want to keep your distance from or cut ties with.
Here are some signs that may indicate you have a frenemy in your midst:
- Other people tell you they talked badly or lied about you.
- They share your secrets or use them against you.
- They are competitive and jealous of your success.
- It seems like they are out to get you or trying to sabotage you.
- They are passive-aggressive but won’t admit to being upset with you.
- They form alliances to turn other people against you.
Unlike the other kinds of fake friends, social media friends and followers don’t usually cause drama or heartache, but that’s because they’re not really a part of your life… or at least not your real life. Some may be acquaintances from work, people you knew in college, and even distant cousins or friends of an ex you don’t keep in touch with. Social media connections tend to be more superficial in nature and are more likely to be acquaintances rather than “real” friends.
Here’s are some of the fake friend signs that a social media connection isn’t a “real” friend:
- You don’t ever communicate with each other or see each other offline.
- You rarely get a direct private message from them on social media.
- You know very little about each other’s “real” life besides what’s shared online.
- You wouldn’t call them just to talk, catch up, or get emotional support in a time of need.
- Interactions with them on social media are usually friendly but superficial.
Fair-weather friends are friendships that have either never been put to the test or have failed the tests of time, hardship, or conflict. These might include newer friends you’ve made based on common interests, having mutual friends, or people you’re friendly with at work or school.
Some fair-weather friends will pass the test and become real friends, and others won’t. It’s a good idea to go slowly and set boundaries with fairweather friends until you can tell whether they are trustworthy enough to become forever friends.
A fun friend is someone who might always be looking to have a good time together but who isn’t willing to show up in the boring or hard times. A lot of people have these types of friends from college, including their drinking parties, frat bros, or people they used to party with a lot.
As you get older, outgrowing some of these friendships is normal and even healthy, especially when your lifestyles and priorities are really different from your friend’s.
Here are some examples of “fun” friends that may not be there for you during hard times:
- Friends who you used to party or drink with but never had a “‘deep” connection with.
- Friends who only invite you out for fun activities like concerts or parties.
- Friends you only hang out with in groups but never 1:1.
- Friends who want to keep conversations light and superficial.
- Friends who don’t respond or show up when you need help, support, or a favor.
Friendships with benefits can get complicated and messy and sometimes become more about the “benefits” than the actual friendship. Sex can complicate, change, and sometimes even harm a friendship.
For example, if one of you gets into a more serious relationship with someone else, it can spell the end of the friendship or lead to bad feelings. It can also be hard to go back to being “just friends” with someone you’ve slept with, even if you were close before.
Some examples of friends with benefits that may not pass the “forever friends” test include:
- One friend develops deeper feelings and wants a commitment, and the other does not.
- Jealousy when a friend discovers the other is sleeping or interested in someone else.
- The friendship has become mainly about sex vs. quality time or enjoying their company.
- “Normal” interactions and activities with the friend now feel awkward or uncomfortable.
Friends of convenience are friends you make because becoming friends makes something easier for one or both of you. Some friends of convenience might be coworkers or peers you need to work closely with, making it beneficial for both of you to become friendly with one another.
Other friends of convenience could be people you become close to because you see and interact with them a lot, like people at work, church, or in your run club. Some of these will become close “forever” friends, but others won’t.
Here are some ways you can tell a friend of convenience might not be a real or forever friend:
- You became friends because it would be easier to work together on a project or task.
- You only interact with them when you’re in the same place (e.g., at work or in class) but otherwise rarely text, talk, or see each other.
- You make spur of the moment plans (e.g., saying “let’s grab lunch” to a coworker).
- You lose touch with them when circumstances change (e.g., a new job, break-up, or not renewing your club membership).
- You are friends because of a mutual friend or group of friends but probably wouldn’t stay in touch otherwise.
Flaky friends are people who you can’t always count on to show up, respond to your texts and calls, or be there when you need them. They might be those friends who you pencil in plans with because you’ve learned there’s a 50/50 chance they’ll cancel or “forget.”
Because trust is such an important component of a good, strong, and lasting friendship, flaky friends often aren’t going to become your forever friends. Over time, flaky people can become those annoying friends you wish you could let go of but feel obligated to hang onto.
Here are some signs that your friend is the flaky type:
- They aren’t consistent about reaching out or staying in touch.
- They sometimes go AWOL for weeks or months at a time, not responding to texts/calls.
- They aren’t reliable enough to count on when you need help with something important.
- They often cancel, reschedule, or no-show for plans you’ve made with them.
Real “forever” friends are the people who have proven they are loyal, trustworthy, and there for you when you need them. This doesn’t mean they’re perfect or that they’ll never let you down, but these kinds of friends are the ones that are most likely to become your lifelong (or forever) friends. While even the best friendships can sometimes end, the different kinds of BFF’s below tend to be stronger and able to weather the ups and downs in life.
Four different kinds of real “forever friends” are outlined below.
Some of your forever friends have been your friends for what seems like forever, meaning you have a long history together. These might include people you grew up with or some of your closest friends from childhood, high school, or even college. Over the years, you and your BFF might have had times when you talked or saw each other less, but you always remained close.
Here are some of the signs of a best friend (since) forever:
- You have an undeniable bond and connection with them that can’t be cut.
- You have a ton of inside jokes, old stories, and fond memories with them.
- You never have to explain yourself because they just “get” you.
- They know your family and other important people in your life well.
- You can go months without talking without worrying about losing them as a friend.
- You consider them family, and the feeling is mutual.
Ride or die friends are the friends you know you can trust and count on for anything because you know they’d always come through if you needed them. Some of these friendships develop when two friends experience something really hard, scary, or life-changing together. This can form an unbreakable bond between you and another person, even if you weren’t as close before.
Others are just the friends who have proven themselves to be 100% loyal and showed up at a time when you really needed them.
Some examples of ride or die friends include:
- Friends who never backed out when you really needed them.
- Friends who always asked how they could help or showed up without you asking.
- Friends who have had your back and stood up for you when others didn’t.
- Friends who you became closer with after a traumatic experience (e.g., getting in a car accident together or losing a mutual friend to an overdose).
There are certain people you meet in life that you just automatically “click” and connect with, sometimes without knowing why. With these friends, it often has felt natural from the very beginning, instead of progressing through the more gradual process of getting to know each other. These “soulmate friends” are ones you might meet at any point in your life. They often become your forever friends.
Some of the signs of a soulmate friend are:
- Feeling instantly connected or drawn to someone.
- Feeling like you just “get” each other without needing to explain things.
- Sensing a strong connection or bond early on with a friend.
- Having deep and meaningful interactions with them during the early stages.
- You feel like you can be authentic and genuine with them right after meeting them.
- You just “know” that you’ll be friends for life.
While it’s not necessary for best friends to talk or see each other all the time, some best friends do. These are your “constant companion” best friends who you rarely go more than a few days without talking to or seeing. These could be the friends you always call on the way home from work, the first people you text with good or bad news, or the ones you have standing dates with.
Not everyone has the time to have a constant companion friendship, but those who do often describe these friends as:
- The friends who are most involved in their daily life and routine.
- The friends who are on a first-to-know basis with each other’s lives.
- The friends who you can just hang out with while doing chores or grocery shopping.
- The friends you don’t usually go more than a day or two without talking to.
- The friends who people tease you about being “joined at the hip” with or platonically married to.
Throughout your life, friends will come and go, but some will stay and earn their place as a “forever friend.” Having even one true, best friend for life can be more rewarding and meaningful than having dozens of fake or fair-weather friends.
If you’re lucky enough to find a best friend (many has no best friend), make sure to nurture and protect this relationship by investing your time and effort. This might mean letting go of some of the fake and fair-weather friends in your circle in order to focus more on the friends who are real, loyal, forever friends.