I remember the moment when I first noticed the ‘friendship click’. It was back in 2019. I’d left my friend after a short couple of days in rural Italy. We spent those days basking in the sun; attempting handstands in the outdoor pool, shooting bugs in the luscious gardens, and gorging ourselves on Italian food. And during all those carefree moments, we caught up on the pages of time that we’d missed from each other’s lives.
We’d only known each other a year, having met on a two-month-long conservation project in Croatia. Afterward, we had jetted off to our new adventures, keeping in touch through regular voice messages. Despite the distance, our friendship had grown as we’d shared our struggles and opened up about our realities. But after finding the opportunity to catch up in Italy, I felt like something had changed.
What is the ‘friendship click’?
As I boarded the train after a tough goodbye, I felt a ‘click’ — a sense of security that we were going to be friends for a long time. It was a quiet moment of contentment and warmth. I’d not been aware of this feeling before; it was the first time I’d noticed it, yet I do feel I have a similar connection to friends that I’ve known for years. I’m not talking about one of those early moments where you vibe with an acquaintance such that you feel a good connection and all of a sudden you’re besties. It is something deeper. Something that takes time and effort and trust. Since that moment I’ve felt that click with several other friends and I can’t get enough of it.
The thing about a feeling is that it’s something physical and you may never understand it. For me, the friendship click is a sense of comfortability. In conversation with a friend about our definitions of love, I realised that perhaps it is my platonic version of love for a friend: The click is that moment when I realise we’re in this friendship for the long-run. I know that with some people it won’t come and some it will; until I feel it I don’t know who will be sewn into the comfort blanket of my life. Nonetheless, I have made some guesses about what a friendship in my life requires to get to that click point, based upon what I value in my friendships.
The possible ingredients for a ‘friendship click’
Looking back through the people for whom I’ve noticed this click, there is a test of time behind those relationships. I think for me there needs to be a minimum of a year. I admit that’s arbitrary but just like in love, you need to know that the person is loyal and that they will stick around in your life, no matter what happens.
Another component is effort. If a friend takes the time out of their day to send me a simple message then it’s clear that they’re thinking of me, and vice versa. I think of my friends more than I message them, so I’m assuming that it must work that way for most people. Mutual investment in a relationship is important — be it friend, family, or lover.
That investment is all the more important when there are challenges to overcome. The most common challenge that I face with friends is distance; there are many benefits to international friendships but by far the toughest part is the fact that we can’t simply drop by the other’s house for a coffee. Instead, we have to utilise virtual technologies for connection. It’s harder to be friends with distance — especially after so little time spent in person. I’ve spent a total of six days with another of my international friends (who I’ve known for almost two years) but through our mutual investment in the friendship, I know that he’s a friend for life. Overcoming the distance demonstrates that we are both in it for the long run.
But there is an overarching key that is most important in deepening my connection with a friend.
Vulnerability might be key to the ‘click’
When I was spending time with my friend in Italy there was a key moment where I plucked up the courage to share a song with her that was written about a deeply personal and recent moment in my life. It was a vulnerable moment for me and my friend embraced my fear and hesitancy wholeheartedly.
Despite the great many benefits of being vulnerable in our relationships, it is also incredibly difficult in a society that seems to shun ‘weaknesses’. However, with shared vulnerability comes a deeper connection and a trusting relationship. Building up an open, honest communication sheds the fear of judgement, makes me feel more human, and is a crucial component of my friendship click.
I think the reason that I am more highly aware of the quality of my friendships is a result of my past experiences. In my final year of university, I experienced a depressive period where I withdrew from my social life. After struggling with the washing machine of my negative thoughts for a couple of months, I sought counselling. Although I sobbed through the entirety of the first session, it became clear that I’d built up a narrative in my head that wasn’t true.
After that session, I started reaching out to friends; they said they’d missed my presence and it dawned on me that I did belong and I was and wanted and interesting. This moment was pivotal because it kick-started my personal journey with vulnerability and closer friendships.
Many of you may have heard of Brene Brown, a leading professor and researcher specialising in vulnerability. Her research demonstrated that vulnerability is “about being honest with how we feel, about our fears, about what we need, and, asking for what we need. Vulnerability is the glue that holds intimate relationships together.” Although vulnerability is a buzzword in popular culture, the crux of it is to authentically share your emotions and desires, knowing that whatever the response you remain worthy of belonging. Although I’ve been working on my vulnerability in my relationships for the past couple of years, I know that I still have some work to do. But so far I have seen that it only enhances my friendships and inches me closer to feeling that click.
If you’re still none the wiser about the friendship click then maybe it is a nuance of my own awareness. I’ve spoken to a few friends who haven’t felt the friendship click that I describe. Perhaps my past experiences, where I was insecure about my friendships at university, have instilled a greater awareness about security in my friendships.
I do, however, know that my growing ability to be vulnerable in my relationships is a key component to feeling connected with others. It takes time for someone to earn my trust such that they are worthy of my vulnerability.
I look forward to the moments when I can once again travel to catch-up with friends all over the world. When I can embrace them without PPE protection and feel those carefree moments of pure warmth and love. When we can continue to expose our deepest thoughts and hidden struggles under the watchful eye of the sun. After all, the sun exposes itself to us all, at some point, no matter where we are in the world; maybe it is a good reminder to dive into deeper relationships with vulnerability. And hopefully, you’ll eventually notice a click too.
(Thanks to Trevor Carlson for help with editing.)
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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