Qualities of a Healthy Friendship / by lee tilghman

Friendships are one of the most gratifying parts of a full, rich life. 

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There's no doubt friends are special - they help us get through life. Moreover, a study by Harvard showed that friends can help us decrease anxiety, bounce back from sickness and disease more quickly, and may even extend our life by 15%! I mean, if spending more time with your bestie wasn't already justified enough, this article will definitely help you.

When I moved across the country from NYC to LA, I knew nobody here. I left all my besties and safe friends in New York and ventured to a new part of the world. It was frightening, gratifying, and confidence-boosting all at once. 

Today I'm going to share 4 important aspects of a healthy friendship with you, using my friendship with Alison Wu as an example. 

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Me & Ali's Story 

Nowadays, its not odd to make friends through Instagram. I remember seeing Alison Wu's smoothies on Instagram in January 2016. Yes, I was drawn to her work and aesthetic, but that was not all. There was something more to Alison that I was instantly drawn to. As we began direct messaging, I found we had a lot more in common. We had similar senses of humor and the same goofy, positive outlook on life. Soon, we were face-timing weekly. Then, we made the "big step" and decided to meet in person in March 2017. I wasn't even nervous, I knew that we'd get along just fine. Ali flew into LA to stay with me and we decided to meet at Whole Foods. We spotted each other for the first time, screaming and running towards each other in the citrus aisle. To say there was an instant connection is an understatement. It felt like we had known each other for years!

 Our first time meeting IRL! March 2017

Our first time meeting IRL! March 2017

 Hangin' in J Tree - February 2018

Hangin' in J Tree - February 2018

2 years later, and our friendship is as strong as ever. We've done events, worked on projects, celebrated holidays and birthdays together. Though Alison and I live in 2 separate states, we try to see each other 4-5x a year, alternating trips between California and Portland. We write letters, text, FaceTime weekly, and DM on instagram throughout the day to stay in touch. We cheer each other on, collaborate on projects, and talk about work stuff that only we can understand. It's really nice to have a friend in the sphere who I really connect with IRL.  I can really be my true 100% authentic self with her all the time, and man, is that a nice thing to be. 

All friendships are different and beautiful in their own way. But the sentiment is still the same: as I go through life, I realize how my friendships hold me up in ways nothing else in the world can. My friends offer me unwavering support, honesty, and call out me out when I am at fault. Most importantly, they make me laugh and feel loved when I'm in my darkest moments.

There are many aspects to a healthy friendship.  Below are just a few that Alison and I contemplated together that we believe to be helpful and beneficial in keeping up a healthy friendship. 

Communication

Every good friendship needs a solid base of communication. Just like romantic relationships, it takes clear communication on both parts in order to express the needs, desires, and boundaries. Checking in, reaching out. It can be so easy to lose touch with friends in the digital age, as sometimes we consider "following" someone on social media a way to stay in touch. But there really is nothing like a phone call, a deep Friday night FaceTime session, text, or even hand written letter to let your friend know that you are thinking of them and there for them. 

And with every friendship, there will come the inevitable disagreements. I can't stress how important communication is when it comes to getting over those (sometimes difficult) hurdles! Hurt feelings, overstepping boundaries, and disagreeing on things can sometimes be solved just by letting the other person know how you feel. It can be hard to have those conversations, but it's important if you want the friendship to last. Alison and I have had our disagreements and fights, and looking back, they came from a place when we were not properly communicating to one another. It's a process!

Vulnerability

I think vulnerability is another huge part of cultivating healthy friendships. It's not feeling the need to seem 'strong' and like you have your sh!t together everyday. Most of us already brave the world 99% of the time trying to seem like we have all of our stuff together. It's important to have a friend that you can just cuddle up with and be like, "I need you to know I'm struggling right now, it's tough, and that's ok". Whenever I talk to Ali, I know I can be my truest self, and say, "Hey. I'm not doing that great right now", or "Yeah, life's been tough lately and here's why." I've told Alison some really deep and personal stuff that I haven't told many because I am not afraid of her judging me. I know she has an open heart and the truest of intentions, so I do not feel scared or judged. That's a gem of a friend right there. 

Quality Time

Life changes, people move, we get new jobs, new relationships. But a good friendship involves both parties putting in quality time. Luckily in 2018, our best friend can live across the world and we can still keep in contact through channels like FaceTime and instagram.

What really builds up our friendship though is the in person time. We try to take a few trips a year together, just us 2, usually involving lots of matcha and nature. I always leave our weekends together feeling like a new person: revitalized, energized, inspired and confident. That's how every friend should make you feel. 

 my girl!

my girl!

Trust

Oh gosh, this one is so important. What is a friend if you can't trust them? My closest friends are on my team, no matter what. I know that they would never do anything catty or say mean things behind my back. This level of deep trust and knowing is incredibly enlightening and makes me feel warm and eternally loved. And at the end of the day, that's really all we can ask for. 

To read the rest of the post and hear Alison's thoughts on our friendship, head over to Wu's blog!

What are your favorite ways of maintaining healthy friendships? I'd love to learn and hear from you guys.