We all need human connection. Without it, we feel isolated and unhappy. But this connection extends far beyond a friendly hello at the grocery store, or small talk with your colleagues. We all yearn for meaningful friendships that last.
But what makes relationships last a lifetime? Keep reading to find out what every friendship needs, including top tips from researcher and social worker, Brené Brown.
Romance and Platonic Relationships Can Both Stand the Test of Time
When we talk about lifelong relationships, we tend to think of romantic ones that are bound by marriage vows.
And while it’s important that many married couples to remain together – as long as it’s in the best interest for both individuals and their family – it’s also important to develop long lasting friendships outside of marriage.
If you expect your spouse to be your one and only lifelong friend, you can place a lot of undue and unnecessary pressure on them to provide all of your deep, social needs.
So, to ensure that your romantic commitments and friendships last a lifetime, it’s important to develop and cultivate these qualities:
1. Keep Your Independence and Individuality
According to psychologist and author, Esther Perel, “neediness is the enemy of long-lasting desire,” and while independence is a crucial ingredient for romantic relationships, it’s also important for friendships, too. That’s because when you become too needy and depend too much on your partner or friend, you can drain and tire them.
What’s more, you can easily become less desirable and attractive in both romantic and platonic relationships.
Why is independence and individuality so important? It’s because it demonstrates that you care and respect yourself and value your own self worth. This in turn helps you to be an ideal partner in love and in life.
2. Don’t Expect Friends Too Be Perfect and Make You Happy
One of the biggest reasons why we give up on friendships is because we expect imperfect people to be perfect. It’s important to remember that good people make mistakes, slip up and yes, even hurt us.
Now, if your friend habitually hurts you and shows no interest in changing their ways, you probably need to move on and find more supportive companions. But in many cases, you just have to forgive human error and move on together. As the saying goes: if you don’t bend, you’ll break.
3. Stay Connected
Whether you live in the same city, or whether you move apart from each other, it’s imperative that friends stay connected. And since communication is so personal, be sure to find the best medium for the two of you.
Some people aren’t great at phone conversations but can text all day. Other people love video calls, or old-fashioned hand-written letters. There are so many communication options available to us today, so just be sure that you find at least one and stick with it.
This can help friendships endure even when distance and busy schedules keep you apart for long stretches of time.
And don’t forget that you and your friend might not need to stay in constant contact. In fact, that’s the beauty of some friendships: you can pick up where you left off.
4. Be Empathetic
In his article, entitled, “Empathy: The Ability that Makes us Truly Human”, Steve Taylor, Ph.D. writes that “empathy is the ability to ‘feel with’ another person, to identify with them and sense what they’re experiencing.”
This ability to be empathetic allows you to have a “psychic and emotional connection” with other people. This can go a very long way in any relationship.
We all know just how powerful it can be to receive empathy and support from a friend during both difficult and joyful times. It helps us feel understood, valued and validated in our experiences.
5. Find People Who Show Up No Matter What
In an episode of Oprah Winfrey’s SuperSoul Sunday, Brené Brown explained a very important concept from her book, “The Gifts of Imperfection.” She teaches that it’s important that we carefully choose the people we open up to and share our secrets and shame stories with.
How can you be sure you’re going choose wisely when it comes to friends who will stick around through the thick and thin? Be sure to avoid these six types of people:
- People who feel ashamed of you and confirm how horrified you should feel
- Friends who respond with sympathy rather than empathy
- Friends who need you to be the pillar of worthiness in their life
- Friends who are so uncomfortable with vulnerability and even scold you
- People who refuse to acknowledge your experience and say you’re exaggerating
- Friends who try to one-up you with a worse story
6. Be Trustworthy
When people entrust you with their darkest secrets, it’s up to you to safeguard and protect these, rather then share them as juicy gossip. When you break someone’s trust, you ultimately betray them and this can easily destroy the foundation of a long-lasting friendship.
Therefore, when friends disclose private, intimate and deeply personal stories, look at them as precious jewels. Don’t give them away easily, or at all!
7. Find People You’re Compatible With
During our teens and early adult years, we typically shift and grow as we develop our own opinions and beliefs. During these potentially tumultuous years, it’s easy to grow out of some friendships. And that’s okay. It’s only natural.
As we grow, we have a clearer idea of our values and then we can find people who share those same values.
When you do, you will be able to create relationships that offer consistent support and compatibility, rather than criticism, judgment and misunderstanding.
8. Practice Presence and Non-Judgment
Similar goals and values can be a powerful common ground. But you can still have strong friendships without identical values. But in order for that to happen, you must have an open mind and a non-judgmental attitude.
Your friend may have different political views (or any other issue), but as long as you can allow this without becoming threatened or upset, you can have a friendship that’s not only long-lasting but also very democratic.
9. Find People You Can Be Vulnerable With
According to Dr. Brené Brown, “vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, accountability, and authenticity.”
If you can’t be vulnerable with your friends, you can’t be yourself. Instead, you can easily fall into the trap of self-censorship, and start to discount your worth and deny your experiences.
Rather than engage in these self-destructive behaviors, look for people with whom you can be vulnerable with. And don’t be discouraged if you don’t find tons of vulnerable-worthy individuals. They’re worth their weight in gold and when you find one or two, value them and give them priority in your life.
Long-lasting relationships are so important. They provide us with much-needed human connection, meaningful experiences and they help us feel like we belong. Look for these nine qualities in both yourself and in others to ensure you have deep friendships for years to come.