I like talking about friendships because friendships set the tone for all your intimate relationships, including romantic.
Looking at my closest + long-term friendships of 20+ years, the reason we are friends is not because we like the exact same things. While we have some interests in common, the way we approach many aspects of life are completely different. Different life experiences, different emotional responses, different coping mechanisms…
The reason we have been long-term friends is not because of surface-level interests, but because of 4 core components:
Component #1: Mutual respect
We give each other space to do things our own way. We ask questions and don’t push our ways of thinking onto each other.
For example, if one of us thinks it’s unsafe to let a toddler go down the stairs on their own, the dialogue would be:
Person A: “Are you sure you don’t want to help her down?”
Person B: “No it’s ok. I want her to learn. If she falls, she’ll know better for next time.”
Person A prefers to assist toddlers going down the stairs and not let them fall, but she says ok. She does not try to push her parenting ways onto Person B. Both parties respect each other.
Of course there may be some things you discover about someone that are out of your value system. Like if you truly believe someone was doing harm, that is when one may not respect someone else’s decision.
This is why self-awareness is important. Know where your boundaries are. Know what you respect and what you don’t.
Component #2: Trust
There is honesty. Honest respectful opinions are shared, most often when asked instead of just blurting them out. The feedback is trusted and respected, even if not agreed upon. We also trust each other to do what we say we’re going to do, and show up when we say we’re going to show up. Dependability is important for long term relationships.
If things change or someone is offended, there is clear communication.
Component #3: Good communication
I’m really interested in good communication because I wasn’t taught good communication growing up. The people I have the best communication with have funny enough, also taken classes and done personal growth regarding communication.
The communication style I prefer is transparent, clear, and respectful, so I try my best to be that. I can’t expect everyone to have the same communication style as me, so a big part of learning good communication for me was learning that people hear and express things differently. While understanding that people are different, with my closest friends – I respect the way they communicate and vice versa.
One of my besties recently made new mom-friends because her kids are getting ready to start school. She said one started ignoring her calls and texts because she was mad that she took too long to respond to a text. She said, “I haven’t had someone ignore me because they’re mad since I was in middle school.” Clearly she doesn’t respect this communication style. I’ve had similar done to me, and while that person can be a civil acquaintance (you do you), I don’t care to have them in my intimate circle.
Component #4: A Willingness to Grow
A willingness to take personal responsibility and do better is important in intimate relationships. Everyone is wrong at some point, and each person is their own responsibility. It’s not fair for one person to carry all the weight and put up with your shit. “I’m sorry. I’ll do better.” (And then actually make an effort to do better). It’s not always easy to do, but that willingness is important.
If you want to know who a person is, look at their closest circle of friends. That’s why when dating you learn so much about a person when you see who their friends are. Do they have long term friendships? Did they have falling outs? How do they handle disagreements? What are their boundaries?
The 4 components I have noticed in all my long term relationships are mutual respect, trust, good communication, and a willingness to grow. What about your long term friendships? Besides the surface-level common interests, what is your formula for success?