There’s no two ways about it; friendships can be tremendously hard work. In the same way that building the foundations of a healthy relationship requires give and take, so too does having a decent friendship that goes beyond a few chance meetings at social (pre-COVID) gatherings and the promise of meeting for a coffee that never happens.
When I was school-age, I didn’t really know how to do friendships. As a natural introvert – something which has lessened over time – I wasn’t capable of pushing myself into situations where I could meet new people, meaning I spent a good chunk of my time with the same small group of girls. Despite the fact that, ultimately, we didn’t have a great deal in common other than the fact we’d been placed in the same class.
By the time I got to college, I’d evolved past some of my social anxieties and made my first actual group of real friends; most of whom I still see, or did, on a regular basis (pre-pandemic). Over the years as we’ve grown up, matured and developed drinking habits due to the general stresses of ‘adulting’, we’ve had to learn to adapt. The very nature of being a grown-up, not seeing each other every day and the demands of work and family mean you have to work 10 times harder to stay in touch; meaning you’re forced to acknowledge the fact that those who don’t keep contact going – however infrequent – are likely going to fizzle away like disappointing bath bombs.
With everything going on this year and the fact that the UK is on lockdown 2.0 throughout November, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to what keeps friendships going and the telltale signs that you’ve found a good ’un. So, as usual, here’s my take…you know you’ve got a solid friendship, when:
You can pick up the thread right where you left off
Just like those couples who can finish each other’s sentences, friends who can pick up the phone to one another after months of no contact, without so much as a moment’s hesitation, are a rare breed.
Of course, the very existence of WhatsApp means you can look back on your old threads and essentially ‘recap’ in order to pick up where you left off, but you get the gist…
You can sit around doing practically nothing and still enjoy each other’s company
A Netflix binge is not just the mainstay of couples.
At 33, my interest in venturing out to pubs and bars has definitely started to wane. A global outbreak of coronavirus hasn’t helped. Prior to being locked down, one of our favourite things to do as a couple was to visit Chris and Liam, have a couple of drinks, some food, and collectively change into pyjamas to watch a shite Channel 5 documentary.
As you age, the overwhelming urge to be part of the crowd and stay out until all hours dwindles; or at least that’s been my experience. There’s nothing quite like the feeling that you can slob out with like-minded people who won’t judge you for wearing comfy pants.
You don’t let opposing views get in the way
I can say without a hint of uncertainty that I don’t always share the same viewpoint as my friends, and the same is true of them with me.
There are certain subjects that some people consider off limits among friends, including politics. Nobody likes butting heads with people they care about, but if you can have those challenging debates and come out the other side not thinking your mate is a total arsehole, you’ve probably got a pretty solid friendship.
You’re not afraid to cancel plans (Zoom or otherwise)
By this I don’t mean acting like a total douche and cancelling every other week.
I mean being able to tell your mates that you can’t make it for legitimate reasons, without being afraid of repercussions. Too many of us are held to ransom by what others think of us, but when you have a strong friendship with someone who knows you really well, you’re not afraid to show your humanity.
Friendships aren’t perfect and someone who gets that will understand that plans can be rearranged; unless you sack off something significant like a wedding for no good reason. Then you’re back into douche territory.
You can share a good 80% of your private thoughts and feelings without judgment
Anger, jealousy, vanity. Never attractive qualities.
But when you’re with a friend who knows you inside out, you can flirt with some of the less attractive aspects of your personality without fear of never seeing them again. A really good friend will even tell you when you’re acting like a dick, which is really valuable and helps you to keep your feet on the ground at times when you might otherwise be inclined to let your negative traits run wild.
Have I missed anything? What do you consider to be the secret to a long-lasting friendship?