30th July marks World Friendship Day which has naturally got me thinking about the very topic of friends. I don’t have loads of friends anymore. Gone are my younger days when I looked to the group of high school students I was a part of to define who I was and I definitely place quality over quantity as I have gotten older as I have mentioned before in ‘sometimes size doesn’t matter’
Having said that, I genuinely enjoy going to new places and meeting new people as I you never know when you will bump into your next new friend and there’s always room in my life for the people who make it better just by being themselves. But what makes the difference between meeting an acquaintance and forming a friendship? Why do some interactions end where they begin and others continue and develop?
A recent article in Psychology today cited four aspects which draw people together as friends; common interests, a shared history, common values and reciprocal effort. I do agree with these but there will definitely be incidents where on paper, someone meets all of these criteria but in reality, the friendship doesn’t really gel. I guess it’s similar to online dating in that you may score high on compatibility but low on actual connection and the reasons for that will vary from person to person but for me I also place things such as humour, listening, respect and trustworthiness highly when it comes to my friends.
If I make a friendship with someone who can listen without judging, laugh with as well as at me and whose beliefs and conduct I respect (regardless of whether I agree with it or not) then the chances are we will be friends. I like to think that in turn, this is the kind of friendship I offer too and judging by the wonderful people I have in my life, I think that serves me well.
One of my very best friends Caroline is someone who I met through work when I returned from maternity leave. She helped me through the early years of coming to terms with a life I never expected and she knows the good, bad and the ugly about me both as a mum and a person. She listens without judging me and tells it like it is which is something I do for her too. We make a great sounding board for each other and know that the answers we get won’t always be what we want to hear but what we need to hear. I think it takes a special kind of friend to be brutal with you at a time when others may choose to indulge or agree with you for fear of upsetting you further. We also laugh such a lot, the kind that makes your face ache, we share similar body hang ups and we both seem to find that there’s too much month left at the end of the money which means we always ‘get’ the pressures of parenting and socialising. We don’t see each other all the time but when we do, its just so lovely. Like putting your slippers on after a day in heels.
My other close friend Sophie was also a work colleague and unlike Caroline she’s not a parent yet and doesn’t have the same financial worries as me. Yet she totally gets my struggles and has been such a fantastic support for me and the boys over the years. We have been on holiday together and she saw me at my hangry worst (that’s hungry + angry for those who don’t know) and still loves me so I think she’s a keeper! Again, we are honest with each other and even though we are both busy we try to make time for each other even if it’s a quick dinner after work every few months. We laugh lots and shes the one I am most likely to be nursing a hangover with, I don’t know if that makes me the bad influence or her but either way it just works.
But then I have friends who I am just beginning to make memories with. I met Terri at a blogging convention and although she’s much quieter than me (its not difficult) we are freakishly similar as people and we really understand each other. We are motivated by the same core principles and we speak to each other daily Monday to Friday as we understand how lonely it can be working from home. We live about an hour apart so we don’t get to enjoy gin and cheese as we would like to but she’s definitely the virtual work colleague I couldn’t be without and I’ve already floated the idea of a Christmas works do for the pair of us! (Any excuse for cocktails)
Then I have the friends who I may not see or speak to for years but love to catch up with. Take Tracy for example. We met about 23 years ago and she knew both of my grandparents who aren’t with us today so when I see her I feel a connection to us all and its just so lovely. She also gives the BEST hugs!
I asked a few other people what made a friendship special for them and the responses were lovely.
Jo ~ Cliche I know but my husband is my best friend. We met 9 years ago through a mutual friend and married 2 years later. He’s the only person who I can tell absolute anything to and I know he won’t judge me. He’s supported me through my toughest times. We laugh together and we cry together, that’s what best friends are for right?
Jen ~ One of my best friends is amazing. I suffer from quite severe depression and anxiety and she knows just when I need to chat about it but more importantly when I need to just have a good giggle and have my mind taken off things. She lives 170 miles away and we don’t see each other often but speak as often as we can. She is one person that I know I could ring in the middle of the night of I was desperate and she would answer and be amazing. I met her on an internet chatroom 12 years ago and now I would be lost without her. I can tell her anything she never judges and always makes me feel like I’m not alone. Toni is too far away for a regular hug but a chat on the phone makes me feel just as hugged.
Amy ~ Laura and I had been best friends literally since we were born just 9 days apart. She is the best friend in the world because she never judges me. I can be completely honest with her and no matter what I say she won’t think badly of me – she’ll just be there for me. And of course I’m there for her too.
Rebecca ~ No matter how long you go without talking, neither of you blame each other and when you do chat, you have a proper chat up and a giggle and its like you never went that length without talking!!
Lisa ~ When I met my closest friend Vicki I found her quite animated and confident (I’m an introvert). I wasn’t even sure we’d be friends. Fast forward almost 10 years and we’re a perfect fit. We’ve travelled together, run our first marathon together, worked together, and navigated loss and having children. She is honest, kind, and funny, and ready to celebrate my ‘wins’ as her own. They say that everyone should have an ‘anytime’ friend – someone you can call at any time, day or night – and she’s certainly that (she’s been tested!). I am who I am because of her love and unwavering support.
Leigh ~ I think real friendships are the ones that you can count on at the worst possible times. Loads of people can be your friends when times are good but real friends are the ones that roll their sleeves up when things are falling apart or getting on top of you.
Beth ~ Understanding and supporting your feelings and past. I have three best friends and they are all so supportive of my feelings. I have depression and anxiety and they are amazing with me. They are always there for me and I know I can message them at any time. Having a friend and someone to talk to is really special to me.
Laura ~ There’s a quote I love that says “Friendship isn’t about who you’ve known the longest. It’s about who walked into your life, said Im here for you, and proved it.” That sums up true friendship to me.
Jessica ~ I know one of my closet friends whatever is going on in her life she will always be there for me . It doesn’t matter how long you have known that person either some of my closet friends I have made over the last couple of years
Lucy ~ I met a “mum friend”3 1/2 years ago at baby group, after I became a mum for the first time and felt completely out of my depth, overwhelmed and a little bit vulnerable. Granted it’s not been the longest of friendships but I see/talk to her more than I do some of my oldest friends. There is a lot to be said about a friendship where someone is going through almost exactly what you are at that time. I turned up about an hour late for a play date today and didn’t even need to apologise. She could tell straight away it must have been a tough morning with the kids and was so quick to jump in and help me out. We met when we both had our first babies and now have 5 kids between us! And through our friendship, our little ones have also made super strong ties, it’s like the friendship that keeps on giving! We became “mum friends” at baby group but we’re not just mum friends now, we’re friends for life.
Claire ~ The best friendships are those that just pick up where you left off, no matter the time or distance between you. My favourite friendship quote is “a good friend will help you move house. A best friend will help you move a body” ?
I guess regardless of the source, duration or distance of our friendships we value all of the people in our lives who take the time to care. Life has an annoying habit of getting in the way sometimes so your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to contact a friend right now and tell them that you appreciate them. I think we focus so much on having great friends and sometimes forget to take the time to be one. I’d love to know who it is that you appreciate and why! Pop me a comment below.
To all of my friends near and far, I raise a glass of gin and enjoy some cheese and crackers on your behalf! You’re welcome.