One-sided friendship is good for life

Friendship: 9 characteristics of true friends

What would life be without friends? Friendship, perhaps even “intimate” friendships, help us through dry spells. With lovesickness. When moving abroad. In life crises. Friends inspire us, support us, share experiences and support us. Or they just make you happy. Some friendships last a lifetime. Others dissolve again after a short time because what connects wasn't much. Or because both have developed further - just in different directions. How do you recognize true friendship? How do you win them - and how do you break up with false friends? This is what psychologists and sociologists say ...

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

What is a friendship?

What we mean by “friendship” varies from person to person. Especially since there are all kinds of friendships:

  • Loose friendships
  • Best friends (modern also "BFF" s - "Best friends forever")
  • Communities of convenience (on time)
  • Friendship plus (this is where sex is added, also abbreviated as "F +" or "friends with benefits")

Even researchers find it difficult to define it. The philosopher Aristotle once called friendship “one soul in two bodies”. Others say, "A true friend is the one who takes your hand but touches your heart."

Friendship could also be defined as a voluntary, personal relationship based on mutual sympathy, trust, selflessness and support. However, that is not entirely clear either.

Until the 17th century, the terms “friendship” and “kinship” were even used synonymously. This original meaning has been preserved in some dialects to this day. The same can be said for the term “blood friendship”, which originally also meant kinship.

One thing is certain: We are born with a longing for friends.

When do friendships arise?

Friendships are already formed in childhood, when playing in the sandpit with your "favorite playmate" or on vacation. Others later through puberty, playing sports or at school. Still other friendships arise as adults from study and professional contacts.

When researchers at Aalto University and Oxford University examined friendships more intensively, they found that the age of 25 marks a kind of turning point: by then, the circle of friends will expand. After that it gets smaller and smaller. It doesn't even have to be bad! The friendships that remain with us often develop into an intimate bond - and are thus the beginning of something wonderful that accompanies us for a lifetime: “deep” friendship and familiarity. Because these people know who we are.

It is not uncommon for us to have a friendship for a longer period of time than the relationship with our partner or spouse. No wonder: Those who have friends are demonstrably happier, more satisfied, more balanced - and even healthier. In short: "Friendship should never be taken for granted, because true friendship is almost as rare as great love."

How long do friendships last?

Every seven years we supposedly lose half of our closest contacts. The Dutch sociologist Gerald Mollenhorst once determined this. For his long-term study, the scientist evaluated 1007 data sets from people between the ages of 18 and 65 years. He found that although the number of our close friends remained fairly stable over the course of seven years, the relationships themselves changed. Only 30 percent of the friends of yore were in the same close relationship as before. Only 48 percent were still friends. The rest consisted of a completely new circle of friends.

This coincides with studies by Robin Dunbar. He determined the so-called Dunbar number, according to which we - on average - do not (can) have more than 150 stable contacts. Or to put it another way: "Friends are people who stay when everyone else leaves."

9 characteristics of good friendship

Unfortunately, we often only recognize a true friendship in an emergency - when we really need it. Fortunately, there are some veritable indications beforehand as to whether our acquaintances and contacts are actually true or false friends. You will find nine of these signs in the following (striking) graphics:

Some of these are high standards. Friendship has to endure that it cannot be fulfilled always and at any point in time. We should go through “thick and thin” with our friends. But sometimes that doesn't work. Friends are only human too - with mistakes, weaknesses and inadequacies.

If you want to know what type of person everyone needs in order to develop a good friendship, then read HERE in our free eBook (PDF) more about wisdoms about friendship.

No friends? As dangerous as 15 cigarettes a day

A good friendship is not only fun - it guarantees a long life. Researchers have found that people with functioning social relationships are happier and healthier than those who live in isolation. Even more: a good friendship minimizes the risk of cardiovascular diseases and depression. Friendships work even when they are missing: Having few friends or no friends at all has a huge negative impact on our health.

This is the result of a study by the psychologist Julianne Holt-Lunstead from Brigham Young University. After that, few social contacts are as harmful to health as inhaling 15 cigarettes. Per day. Conversely, people with resilient friendships increased their life expectancy by 50 percent. In addition, positive people in their social environment would increase perceived happiness by a full 15 percent, while negative people cost up to seven percent life satisfaction. Also nice: According to the study, a really good friend who you see almost every day makes you as happy as a salary of around 90,000 euros.

Friendship begin

How do friendships come about? And when do we call an acquaintance “friend”?

Scientists, psychologists and sociologists have already asked themselves these questions. For example, when Nobel Prize winner and American geneticist Jeffrey A. Hall examined this, he found:

  • It takes at least 50 hours together to go from being “known” to being “friend”.
  • Another 90 hours are needed to switch from “friend” to “good friend”.
  • And it takes a full 200 hours of being together to become “best friends”.

But the most important result was: The time together was crucial. The internet and social media like Facebook, Instagram or Youtube have made it easier to get to know new people. Online chats or emails have little or no influence on the quality of friendship. In order for it to become true friendships or “best friends”, we have to spend real and physical time together. Only then does something like “soulmate” arise, say sociologists.

Small circle of friends? Completely normal!

The circle of friendships that deserves this name is correspondingly narrow. Often even much smaller than we think! This is the result of researchers from the University of Tel Aviv and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Please just introduce yourselfhow many people you would call "friends" ... Now please divide that number by two! Voilà, you really have that many friends, say the scientists. Research says that only around half of the people we count as friends would say the same about us. “Friendship, as we call it”, according to the study author Erez Shmueli, “is very often not based on reciprocity”. The proportion of mutual friendships regularly fluctuates between 34 and 53 percent.

The results suggest that "we have difficulty recognizing our true friends," the authors write. Perhaps this has to do with the fact that the realization of a one-sided friendship "scratches our self-image."

5 tips on how to make new friends

A friendship does not always survive crises or (spatial) changes. Even moving to another city or starting a family can break a friendship. Then you have to make new friends. However, it is not easy for everyone to make new friends immediately. Some people are naturally shy or reserved and have trouble reaching out to other people and making small talk. So here are five tips for you on how to make new friends (even shy ones):

  • To become active
    Anyone who does not send signals to others or actively approaches them remains alone. Yes, it takes courage. Baskets are not excluded. But if you don't dare, you won't make new friends either.
  • show interest
    Every friendship begins with getting to know each other. Your counterpart will only open up if you show real (!) Interest. Means: It is purposeless. Ask, show understanding.
  • Stay friendly
    Smile makes you likeable immediately. Likewise, courtesy and charm. By showing your counterpart that he or she is important to you, you will be perceived as particularly friendly. And it's better to make friends with someone like that.
  • offer help
    Friendship lives from give and take. In this order! Wherever you see need exist, offer support. Advantage: You increase the chances that the other will reciprocate.
  • make compliments
    Praise is refreshment for the soul. Nobody can avoid sincere compliments. Above all, this should be done promptly and specifically. And if possible, praise the person, not just their surface.

If you are also thinking of saying thank you to a good friend again: We have a few suggestions! In the following free PDF you will find 11 inspiring tips on how to do this.

End friendship

As beautiful and fulfilling a friendship can be - unfortunately it can also develop negatively. What connects can also disappear. Regular exchange is important in order to maintain the basis of trust. But it is no guarantee of a lasting friendship.

Some friendships break down over time. In some cases, interests just change - and you sort of drift apart. Or the friendship fails because it has become difficult to keep in touch and maintain the relationship. Due to time constraints. For lack of strength. Over distances. There is then no “official end”, the contact simply falls asleep. In other cases, the end is accompanied by violent arguments, bad words, feelings of betrayal and disappointment (in the literal sense).

What connects friends, is not least a common code of values. A kind of unwritten law of what they expect from each other and what they rely on. A one-sided (but one-time) break can give such a friendship a deep crack. A crack that may never be bridged again.

How is it called aptly? “You don't recognize true friends by how they praise you, but by how they criticize you.” If someone feels permanently deceived, the friendship will soon be over. Most of them would then call their former companions "false friends". Rightly.

False friends: when should it be over?

In fact, there are also signals and indications for this, when it is better to end a friendship and “break up”. For example then ...

  • When you are taken advantage of.
    You have often demonstrated your help, helped with moves, comforted you (even in the middle of the night), you were there. But now you need support - but no result: “No time!” “It just doesn't fit very well!”, It says succinctly. If this happens often, you should think twice about whether give and take are still in balance in this friendship.
  • If you are not supported.
    We can only cope with certain situations and phases of life with the help of good friends. Strokes of fate and death, for example. Or when the job eats you up, you become unemployed or when your relationship with your partner breaks down. At times like this we want someone who listens to us, gives us good advice, comforts us, and stands by us. But whoever seeks space and makes himself scarce in our most difficult days, in times of greatest need, cannot be a friend. Because what then distinguishes him from casual acquaintances? You can and should confidently do without "fair weather friends".
  • When you are betrayed.
    Probably the worst betrayal is when your boyfriend or girlfriend chokes your partner. Or when your own (alleged) friends talk bad about you behind your back or even intrigue. Then it comes down to a low blow. We rightly expect loyalty and honesty from friendship. If both are missing, you should part.
  • If you live in constant competition.
    Do you know that? As soon as you talk about a sense of achievement, do you hear a story that somehow tops your cause and overshadows it ?! You never have the feeling that your friend is happy with you. It's always about being even better yourself. A clear case of resentment. In all honesty, do you need someone like that in your life who just competes with you and wonders who is better?
  • When you become unimportant.
    Of course, a friend can do something different from time to time. However, if you keep being transferred and the other person has made no effort to keep in touch with you or suggest an alternative appointment, then the priorities have obviously shifted. Your friendship is no longer paramount. A saying modified by Confucius says: “What you love, let go. If it comes back, it's yours forever. If it doesn't come back, it has never belonged to you. ”You can also do without such friendships.

Overall, however, it is worth investing in friends and friendships and cultivating these relationships. Everyone agrees on that. Because those who have good friends and many friendships get through life more easily.

PS: A collection of selected friendship sayings, touching quotes, wisdom and friendship poems are also suitable for sending a good friend a corresponding SMS, WhatsApp or email with it - supplemented by a few personal words!

More about friends and friendships

[Photo credit:]