How To Form Lifelong Friendships

One of my best friends lives in Australia, so I only get to see her every two years when she comes to visit the UK. We speak now and again on the phone or message each other, but live very different lives, in very different time zones.

This makes regular communication a bit difficult but as soon as we do meet up, it feels as if we have never been apart. We talk about everything, and I feel a strong sense of familiarity, warmth, and trust when I am with her.

That’s the magic of friendship and I know that even though she lives thousands of miles away, I can call her a true friend.

This relationship is a good example of how we can have lifelong friendships even with people we hardly see. There is a bond there that neither time nor distance can break: one which was formed many years ago. Friendship really is like a good wine that takes time to mature but if it is strong enough, it won’t let you down.

As a friend quote says, “True friends stay with you no matter the distance or time that separates you from them.”

The truth is that we all need meaningful relationships in our lives and friends are perhaps the only people who we can truly be ourselves with.

Unlike family members, colleagues, or other acquaintances, friends are people who you can rely on through thick and thin.

No matter what happens, they will be there for you because they want to be, and not out of any sense of obligation or duty. That’s the nature of friendship, and if you have managed to make friends like this, you should hold onto them.

Forging such friendships takes time, effort, and a genuine desire to live up to your side of the bargain. After all, you can’t expect others to be your best buddies if you aren’t also committed to the relationship 100%.

It’s a two-way connection based on mutual trust, understanding, and loyalty that we need to work on to create those long-lasting bonds. This article is dedicated to exactly that, and I’d like to begin by looking into how you can nurture a deeper relationship with new friends who may turn out to be lifelong allies.

Firstly, it’s a good time to consider what being a good friend means to you. How many of the things below do you think are essential qualities someone needs to exhibit in order to call them a friend?

  • Honesty
  • Love
  • Giving
  • Compromise
  • Forgiveness
  • Faith
  • Support
  • Dedication
  • Respect
  • Thoughtfulness
  • Loyalty
  • Anything else?

The above list is quite demanding, isn’t it? We expect our friends to portray most, if not all of the above, but we have to be prepared to offer the same if we want the friendship to last the passage of time. If you are in the process of making new friends, which of these qualities are you able or willing to bring to the relationship? Can you be a good friend?

It takes two to tango, and you can’t expect the other person to offer you the hand of friendship if you aren’t prepared to reciprocate. Fairweather friends will come and go in your life: they are OK to hang around with when everything is rosy, but when the going gets tough, they disappear.

The point here is to create bonds with people who won’t bail on you when you need them, which is what true friendship really means.

Your negative past experiences may have left you feeling distrustful or disappointed, making you cynical about forging new relationships. That is perfectly understandable but you have to get over those negative preconceptions if you want to move forward. We all need friends in life, and you can’t make new ones if you are stuck in the past.

Some of your difficulties may lie in the present, believing that everyone else already has a close circle of friends. This can make you hesitant about reaching out to someone, without realizing that many people simply hang out with others so they don’t feel lonely.

It could be that you have gotten so used to being alone that you don’t believe you need anyone or can’t break the habit. It’s OK to live alone, but having friends can bring so much more into your life if you are prepared to open up to new possibilities

A lot depends on where you find yourself at this moment in time, as well as how old you are. 

Many of us will have found ourselves in a strange town, school, neighbourhood, or even a social situation at some point in our lives where we knew absolutely no one. Instead of seeing that as a negative, we can use it as an opportunity to get to know people, and once we have begun to forge those new friendships, we can work on making them even stronger.

How do we do that?

There are some basic requirements of friendship, if it is to stand the test of time. When you think about your old friends, no doubt you will have memories of sharing both the good and bad times. They may have been the only ones to support you, encourage you, and be there to support you when no one else would.

Hopefully, you did the same for them, creating a strong bond that you still cherish, even if you have lost touch with them now or aren’t able to meet up with them. Hopefully, you will know what it feels like to have that one person in your life who you can trust without hesitation, someone who you got along with so well that you miss them even today.

You can create strong friendships like this, and you will find 15 pointers below on how to do so:

Befriend yourself first

You know that this is paramount, don’t you? As I’ve said many times before, if you don’t like yourself, it’s going to be tough to get others to like you. Self-acceptance is the key here, forgiving yourself for your past mistakes, and acknowledging who you are.

Choose your friends wisely. One of my favorite quotes is, “Just because you are thirsty, it doesn’t mean that you should drink poison.” Being alone is no fun but making bad choices about who you strike up friendships with can be catastrophic.

You can choose who to befriend, so make it based on your needs, wants, and likes. Stick around those who give you joy, love, and fulfilment rather than people who bring toxicity into your life. This applies to virtual friends too, who can have just as much impact on how you feel.

Be yourself

You may not be liked by everyone, and that’s OK. The people who do like you are the ones to keep in your life. A true friend will allow you to be yourself and accept you as you are, without wanting to change you. 

By the same token, don’t expect others around you to change or be something they aren’t. This isn’t the foundation for a friendship based on mutual respect and honesty.

Practice empathy

You may not be able to solve any of your friend’s problems, but you can show that you understand how they feel.

Sometimes, that’s all we need in order to feel better, so put yourself in their shoes and let them know you feel for them, even if you can’t fix what’s wrong.

Be kind

Kindness is a very underrated virtue in a world defined by big gestures, money, and status. But it’s the simple acts of kindness that touch others the most because those actions come from the heart and are totally altruistic. 

You will know how it feels to experience the kindness of others, so be the one to share a kind gesture with a friend and enjoy doing so. You will never regret it.

Give your time

There is nothing more valuable in life than time. I recently read that a true friend is the one who spends time with you even when they would rather be somewhere else. 

In some ways, that rings true, because friendship requires a certain amount of sacrifice, which may often be your time. By making time for your friends, you are showing how much you really care about them, and that is priceless.

Don’t take them for granted. You wouldn’t expect a friend to ask you to abandon your own needs in order to fulfill theirs so don’t do it to them.

No one likes to be taken for granted and this leads to a feeling of being used. Show your appreciation for anything a friend brings into your life but respect their boundaries while doing so.

Say thank you

Part of showing gratitude means saying thank you: two words that can say so much. They let the other person know how much you appreciate them and you can do it in a number of ways. 

Leave them a nice message, buy them a small gift, or treat them to dinner. Whatever it is, it will reinforce the bond that you have and show them what a positive difference they make to your life.

Say sorry

We don’t always do the right thing, but we can always apologize for that. Being honest about your mistakes and having the courage to say a simple ‘sorry’ is the mark of a true friend. If your friend needs to apologize to you, accept it with grace and let them know you forgive them, instead of making them feel even worse. 

In the book “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, Dale Carnegie said, “If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.” In other words, when mistakes are made, do not deny them or try to find excuses, simply admit them and apologize. Because this is such a true statement, it was one of my favourite readings. Apologies seem to work in almost any situation, according to my experience. If a mistake is made, or if someone has been wronged, or if a person wishes to leave a situation, an apology works well.

Accept and move on

Nurture trust. This is the number 1 reason why many friendships break down, never to be patched up again. If you can’t trust your best friend, who can you trust? When someone confides in you, it is an unspoken rule that you never betray them or break their confidence to anyone. 

This also applies to more practical issues like turning up on time, collecting those cinema tickets, or doing anything that you have promised to do.

Ride the storm

True friends won’t abandon you when you need them the most, and you need to be there for them too when they need it. No matter what situation they are in, how bad they are feeling, or what problems they face, being there is the other side of the friendship coin.

It’s not only enjoying the good times together but also weathering the storm when things get rough.

Respect your differences

Your friend doesn’t have to agree with you on everything or hold the same views. If you can be open-minded, you are recognizing their individuality and allowing them to be who they are without judgment. 

This is the liberating essence of friendship and something you no doubt will appreciate yourself. Letting those differences exist without feeling the need to be right all the time is the best way to avoid conflict and arguments.

Be a good listener

Lending an ear to a friend is one of the most important gifts you can bring to the table. You don’t always need to give advice, find solutions, or provide feedback. 

Simply by hearing them out, you are offering them a space to express their worries or concerns, as well as their hopes and dreams. Listen with intent and let them know you hear them, without having to say a word.

Celebrate their successes

When your friend achieves something significant in their life, celebrate with them and show genuine happiness for their accomplishments. There is no room for rivalry or jealousy in friendships so enjoy their moment of glory as if it were your own. They will appreciate that more than you know.

Accept their choices

Sometimes, we need to make choices in life that have the potential to ruin a long-standing friendship. Even if they have to move to Australia, that doesn’t mean that you need to stop being friends. 

Encourage them to pursue their dreams and wish them well, without taking their decision as a kind of personal rejection. If they are a true friend, their happiness is important to you, and vice versa.

Setting boundaries

One thing I do want to touch on in relation to bonding with others is to remember that you need to maintain boundaries. Although you want to be there for them and will run at the drop of a hat if they need you to, it’s also crucial that you set boundaries. 

Just as in any healthy relationship, the dynamic will not work if you allow codependence to form. What does this mean?

It’s very easy to let a friendship develop into a codependent relationship in which all borders have disappeared and there are no personal limits. These limits are crucial because they help us to remain independent and able to see to our own needs and feelings.

When they don’t exist, we become too dependent on our friends and lose the ability to think and feel for ourselves. You cannot expect anyone individual to meet all of your needs and if you do so, this can lead to a loss of identity for both or either of you.

This dependency on another person can be harmful to your overall well-being, like a drug that you become addicted to. Usually, the friendship will shift from one of mutual respect to that of ‘giver’ and ‘taker’ and you could find yourself on either side.

Maybe your friend always needs rescuing, or you spend most of your time trying to fix their problems, while your own are ignored. You might begin to feel exhausted after hanging out with them or are unable to find peace of mind as you are too busy meeting their emotional needs. 

They could rely on you too much, leaving you feeling suffocated and dreading the time you have to spend with them.

All of these examples can signal the end of a friendship, so it’s vital to be aware of the dynamic and change the relationship if you feel the need to.

You can do this in several ways:

Think about how you got here

When did you or your friend start to manifest these codependent tendencies? Was it triggered by something specific or were warning signs there from the beginning?

Practice the act of putting yourself first

See to your own needs and wants first. If you don’t feel like going bowling tonight, it’s OK to say “no.” This gives a clear message to your friend that you are prioritizing your needs and also shows them that it’s acceptable to do so.

Find the balance

Explain to your friend how you feel and see if you can work together to reset the balance. If that isn’t possible, then the friendship may not be sustainable.

Be your own person

Although it’s wonderful to have friends in our lives, we don’t need to be connected 24/7. If you feel that you are over-relying on your friend to fill your life, try to find some other interests that don’t include them and let them know your motivation for doing so.

Good friends will stick with each other through thick and thin, but won’t be totally dependent on the other. Seek to create friendships with healthy boundaries in which both of you are aware of each others’ needs.

That authentic, trusting connection will mature over time, based on mutual respect and a genuine desire to see the other person is happy and fulfilled. Be there when needed and ask the same in return, safe in the knowledge that you have an unshakeable bond that truly enriches your life.

Good friends come in all shapes and sizes and if the bond is strong enough, it will last forever. They bring a unique quality to our lives, helping to shape the people we are today and often determining the people we will become. When I think about the friends I have now, I am very conscious of the fact that I don’t dedicate enough of my time and energy to them.

This is probably something we all have in common, as our busy lives get in the way of spending quality moments with those we love to be around.

It’s all about how much effort we make and what results we expect to get for our endeavours, so stay with me as we delve into how to make the most of our treasured friendships.

Key Points:

  • Being a good friend demands specific qualities and actions.
  • Friendships are built when we understand what being a friend means.
  • Follow the 15 pointers to create strong friendships.

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