Types of Friends in Your Life

Reflecting on the Types of Friends in Your Life

Because everyone’s community is unique, everyone has different types of friends. But no matter how satisfied, hopeful, or frustrated you may feel with your friendships right now, there are several specific “types” of friendships you likely have.

Want to know what the different types of friends are? Here’s an overview.

How Many Different Kinds of Friends Are There?

There are all types of friends and friendships out there— probably too many to list. But when it comes to the bigger picture, everyone can identify several common categories of people in their inner circle. 

A diagram of the framework with the types of people in our lives. including family of origin, formal community, acquaintance, familiar friend, defined friend, present friendd, historic friend and past friendships.

People change, friends come and go, and relationship dynamics shift with the inevitable transformations of life. Everyone’s support system looks different through different phases. This is normal. And friendships don’t have to remain so black or white.

Through all my research and observations about friendships, here are a few of the types of friends included in my Types of Friends Framework.

PODCAST EPISODE! What is a friend? and the 4 Types of Friends We All Have. It’s one of our most popular episodes for a reason. Listen now.

Family of Origin

Your family of origin is the people you grew up with— the family you were born into. In other words, they’re your blood family or legal family. These are the people who were present throughout your childhood. 

Family of origin includes:

  • Your parents or guardians
  • Siblings
  • Grandparents
  • Cousins
  • Aunts and uncles
  • Some extended family

All these people count as friends. Why? 

Because you share deep story roots with them. You likely go to them for support (or at least have in the past). But note: just because they might be related to you, it doesn’t automatically make them your family of choice.

Formal Community

What groups of people do you share common goals with? With whom do you feel officially involved? These make up your formal community. 

A formal community can include: 

  • Clubs and groups
  • Work teams
  • Business associates 
  • Classmates
  • Neighbors 
  • Sports teams
  • Places of worship
  • Volunteer organizations 

You likely have shared experiences with these people. But there’s room to grow, especially when it comes to feeling a sense of emotional intimacy. 


Acquaintances are people you’re familiar with but don’t specifically relate to. They’re people you recognize and loosely know, but don’t necessarily share significant roots with.

Examples of acquaintances include:

  • People at the gym
  • Casual friends of your friends
  • People in your extended network
  • Parents at your kid’s school
  • Virtual/social media friends
  • Cashiers at the grocery store

You and your acquaintances likely share some experiences from time to time, but you have yet to develop emotional intimacy or deeper story roots.

Familiar Friends

Familiar friends are the people you see in your community but you don’t yet initiate quality time with. Even though you wouldn’t call each other friends, you both appear in the same groups or social events and you’re willing to make conversation when you see each other.

A familiar friend can be:

  • A person you share simple/casual memories with
  • Close friends of your friends
  • People in your fitness class 
  • Neighbors you catch up with 
  • Parents you see regularly at your child’s sports league 
  • People you gravitate toward in a room full of strangers or acquaintances

You and your familiar friends might share a sense of belonging, a common interest, or a main friend group. You likely enjoy each other’s company when you happen to be in the same space, but there’s still potential for developing a deeper bond.

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Defined Friends

A defined friend is someone you probably refer to as a friend or buddy regarding a certain activity. For example:

  • Workout friend
  • Mom friends
  • Drinking buddy
  • Work wife
  • Hiking buddy
  • Concert pals/festie besties

These types of friendships revolve around a shared root experience, like partnering up for foodie adventures or going surfing twice a month. You likely share varying levels of emotional intimacy with them— some defined friends feel close; others fade away when the shared experience comes to an end. 

Present Friends

Present friends are the close friends you’re currently “doing life with.” You are actively present and involved in each other’s lives. 

Present friends are: 

  • People who make you feel deeply supported
  • Friends you share traditions or routines with
  • Your partner/spouse
  • Friends you call to share big news
  • Those you can trust with intimate information 
  • Friends who challenge each other to grow

Some present friends might be lifelong, but they don’t have to be. Society often defines “best friends” as those who have the longest history together. But there are many kinds of present friends, and they can ebb and flow with life circumstances.

Historic Friends

Historic friendships may have felt like close, present bonds at some point, but now it takes more effort to reconnect. Some historic friends are those for which you can say, “We always pick up where we left off.” Think:

  • Childhood best friends
  • College friends
  • Long-time family friends
  • People who were friends for a time, but not anymore
  • Relationships that had a long history

Historic friends are one of the common types of “best friends” people think of. But so-called best friends— what I prefer to call present friends— don’t have to be historic. 

Historic friends share strong story roots, emotional intimacy roots, and many experience roots from the past. These friendships may have changed, paused, or fizzled out for whatever reason but they still hold a significant role in your story.

PODCAST EPISODE! Let’s talk about Chosen Family! I talk with someone who is my chosen family about these relationships, what makes them work, and the importance of Chosen Family in our lives. Listen here.

Family of Choice

Your family of choice is the people you’ve chosen to receive care from and who you mutually care about deeply. 

The term “chosen family” originated from strong community groups that developed among those who lacked society’s expected level of care and support from a family of origin. LGBTQ+ communities, recovery support groups, and cultures facing discrimination helped evolve the concept of chosen family.

Really, anyone can create a chosen family. For example, your family of choice might include:

  • Your partner/spouse
  • Your children
  • Friends that feel like family
  • Personal mentors 
  • Close-knit communities who celebrate holidays and birthdays 

Families of choice share a mutually agreed upon story root. They’re the people you share close bonds and expectations with, who help you when you ask, and who are by your side in times of need or celebration. 


10 Friendship Belief Reframes Cover and screenshots of pages


Reinvigorate your friendships and learn how to create stronger ones by incorporating my Top Friendship Reframes into your life. BONUS! An exclusive look at my upcoming book. Want to bring more purpose and value to the relationships that matter to you? Download the guide now. 

Reasons to Reflect on Different Types of Friends

You might be thinking, “Why should I categorize my friends? Isn’t that kind of judgmental?”

But I’m not asking you to rank anyone here. I’m not suggesting you categorize friendships for the sake of separating people or compartmentalizing your life. 

Reflecting on the current status of your relationships is a way to determine where they’re at— and where you want them to be. How do your friendships feel? How do you want them to feel?

I created this “types of friends” list to help people find value in all their relationships. Not only to find value, but to create more value in their communities. 

Want to be a little more intentional about your connections and a little less overwhelmed with what you think friendship “should” be? 

I’ll be sharing more on the Friendship IRL Podcast. Come follow along and share in those friendship conversations you always wished you could listen in on.

Hi! I'm Alex.

I am just a person who has spent an extraordinary amount of time trying to understand some of the relationships that I hold most dear. I invite you to join in on the conversation below in the comments section below.

Ask questions, leave comments, share critiques or give advice. All are welcome.

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Hi. I'm Alex.

I'm just a gal who cares deeply about community + friendship. Why? Well, I didn't have a healthy support system growing up.

So I built one... out of friends. I believe a healthy support system is the ultimate self-care.

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