My boyfriend and I were laying in his bed a few weeks ago, talking about hypotheticals as one does when their anxiety and boredom entangle. We started talking about our friends.
“If we got married tomorrow, who would you have in the wedding party?”
I expected him to rattle off a long list of names and have trouble deciding on just four or five. To my surprise, he named three men, thought a little more, and named one more. Easy as that. When I pressed my boyfriend further on how he decided so quickly, he put it simply.
“Yeah, I have a lot of friends. But not many of them are deep friendships,” he said.
He suddenly made my list of few friends feel a lot less small. I’d always felt insecure that I wasn’t the best at managing a large circle of friends. Yet, I felt some sort of pressure to do so anyway.
Two words stuck out to me that my boyfriend said. Deeper friendships. And I’ve been thinking about them ever since.
For those of us that feel a lack in our social lives, I’d argue this: maybe, what we’re missing isn’t more. Perhaps we’re craving something that casual friends to grab drinks with won’t fill. Maybe what we’re actually looking for is substance; a connection we’d want to stand beside us on one of the most important days of our lives.
Maybe you don’t need more friendships, you need deeper ones.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean that more friendships are better. The part of friendships that we all benefit from is intimacy. In other words, we want to connect with a person in ways we don’t connect with our family members, colleagues, acquaintances, etc.
And while close friendships are important to human health, they’re not always the easiest to make. Taking a friendship from the “grab a drink” kind of friend to one that you’d call in a time of need isn’t the easiest for people.
In a 2017 TedxTalk, Shasta Nelson talked about the three things any friendship needs to become a more in-depth connection: positivity, consistency, and vulnerability.
Let’s talk about each a little more.
Think about a friend that, after hanging out with them, you felt drained. Maybe it’s because they always talk about themselves, or perhaps they bring out the worst qualities in you. Whatever it may be, it causes you to feel a distance from them.
For either person to see the friendship as beneficial, your positive interactions need to outweigh the negative ones. As Nelson puts it: you need five positive interactions for every negative one.
This includes times that you lean on someone for emotional support. Just like you need someone to be there for you, you also need to be there for them. And you both need interactions that don’t take an emotional toll on either of you.
Consistency To Build Trust
As weird as it sounds, you have to log enough hours with someone to form a deep friendship. Spending time together creates familiarity, which fosters trust.
If the goal is to create intimate friendships, you’ll only be willing to do that with a person you know well. If you only see someone once every now and then, that interaction time isn’t enough to know how they’ll react to certain things we say.
No one wants to feel like they’re walking on eggshells with the other person. Until you figure out if the other person can talk about deeper subjects without fleeing or being judgemental, you’ll both hold back in the friendship.
The only solution to this is consistency.
Even if you have both positive interactions and are consistent with them, you still need vulnerability to take your friendship to the next level.
This doesn’t only include sharing that you’re struggling with anxiety, it also includes talking about your fears, dreams, passions, failures, and successes. Vulnerability isn’t just about the note so pretty things, it’s also such your unfiltered excitement with someone else, and not being scared you’ll come off as bragging.
The goal of vulnerability is to feel known. No matter the information you share, you want the other person to understand what happened, accept your feelings, and still love you.
A combination of all three of these aspects of a relationship will help you create an intimate bond with someone that we all crave as humans. We might be taught that big friend groups — like the ones we saw in movies and in the media — are important, but the quality of the friendship is what matters most.
With deeper friendships in your life, you’ll feel happier and less alone. Plus, you’ll have fewer texts to keep up with.
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