When you think about your friendships, focusing only on the people you interact with daily is easy. But when you take a step back, there are so many unique types of friendships; you may be overlooking how many are sprinkled throughout your life.
I’m writing this as I sit in my new office in LA. My husband and I have had a whirlwind few years and have moved several times. Sometimes I think about friends I miss or focus on a “lack” of friends I have in my new life here. But, when I look more closely, I can see all of the different friends I do have. Sometimes I need to make that effort and pick up the phone to call! (what a novel idea nowadays :-)
For this story, I’ve researched, blended in my ideas, and composed a list of several types of friendships. When you see these categories, you might recognize all of the friends you have in your life right now. You also might discover that your cup is fuller than you think.
People come into our lives for a reason. Sometimes we don’t know that reason until many years later. But, it’s great to look back, with clarity and gratitude, at the gifts each friend has brought with them.
The different types of friendships you have (and need) in life:
1. The lifelong friendship.
The lifelong friend stays the course. You’re both committed, have a natural rapport, and have a deeply shared history. Your willingness to stay together and make an effort places this friendship in the soulmate category.
This friendship brings us so many precious gifts. Here, you experience feelings of comfort, happiness, and acceptance. But, this friendship also requires you to step up.
Lisa Firestone, Ph.D., writes about the building blocks that long-term friendships require. Some include honesty, a willingness and ability to work through challenging times, and the mindfulness to continually show up for your friend with a heart full of gratitude for having her in your life.
This friendship calls us forth. Life is full of twists and turns, and not all friendships stay on the rails if neglected. There will inevitably be occasional misunderstandings, but these friends willingly roll up their sleeves and get to work. Firestone says, “Being able to offer and receive feedback from someone you trust is a gift that we can easily overlook.”
We grow through having the courage and willingness to have hard conversations. When you say that you’ve had a lifelong friend, that speaks volumes about who you are: a person who values meaningful relationships and isn’t afraid to commit to them fully.
2. A blessed type of friendship – a spiritual connection.
We all want to feel recognized and understood. This friend sees us without us having to say a word.
Here, you share a uniquely beautiful spiritual connection. This friend knows you and your deepest thoughts and truths. This recognition is a very high and pure form of love.
This friend may not fit into your everyday life. You may have very different lives with not much in common on the surface. But this friend is part of your tribe, offering emotional support even when they don’t realize it.
Your connection is a feeling that surpasses understanding .” You know them deeply that you may not know how to explain.” This friend may come in and out of your life, but you always know how to pick up right where you left off.
She inspires you to grow. This friend was sent your way, to cherish in your own life, as a gift from above.
3. The compatible friendship.
You get along, and there is ease and flow in your friendship. You are both in the same lane, driving in the same direction. Additionally, you can easily see every day and rarely have conflict.
A study done in early 2018 sought to determine if friends have similar neural responses. The results “suggest that friends are exceptionally similar to one another in terms of how they perceive, interpret, and react to the world around them, as reflected in unobtrusive measurements of mental processes as they unfold over time.”
The study validated that friends experience the world similarly and that science proves their compatibility. These friends are again wired and experience the world in the same way. Through the law of attraction, they naturally gravitate toward one another.
Having friends who are “like us” is a rare comfort. You can do life together, side by side.
How many friends can you say that about?
Sometimes it’s nice not to have to explain every detail, and you don’t have to because this friend gets it.
4. The oldest type of friendship – the childhood friend.
This friendship is unique and special. There is transparency and a sense of place with this person. With all of the business and noise of our lives today, it’s refreshing to sit with someone who can say, “I knew you when..”
Last night I went to a close friend’s house nearby, and a group of us spoke of how we carry the details of our childhoods daily. Childhood friends know all about it. They remember how the cafeteria looked, that birthday party at the rollerskating rink. They knew you before all of the events of your life unfolded.
This friendship is very grounding. You know each other’s histories and families, which adds even more dimension.
It’s so fun to get together and have a few laughs, too! How many friends can you share such history with?
5. The “that time in my life” friend.
You went through something together with this friend. Maybe you worked side by side with her for several years and compared notes about your terrible boss. Or, perhaps, this close friend was the neighbor that got you through a tough divorce with daily morning walks.
This friendship may not remain close through the years, but that doesn’t take away its meaning. Can you look back at times and think about how lucky you were to have those friends?
In 2000, I moved to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, with hopeful thoughts about what the future would hold. Within a few months, I surrounded myself with a loving and supportive group of women. I remember feeling genuinely grateful for finding them.
Two years later, I went through an excruciating divorce. In the end, I moved back to upstate new york with my newborn daughter. Now I can see how blessed I was to have those women in my life. I needed their support, and they were there.
I believe their kindness served as an anchor, supporting my mental health. I will always cherish them.
6. The “mixed feelings” friendship – the friend that drifted away.
People come into our lives for so many different reasons. This friend came into your life for a reason, and after serving that purpose, they drifted away.
As we grow and mature, we need different support systems in our lives. It’s healthy to accept this and to let go. Outgrowing a friendship can be a good thing! It can mean that you’re evolving and moving in a new and often healthier direction.
The key is to honor and cherish the friendship for what it meant to you. Also, remember to “bless and release” her, wishing her the best.
7. The casual friendship – the acquaintance.
In a recent story, I wrote about the science of luck and was surprised to learn about the many advantages of having acquaintances in our lives. By maintaining a network of acquaintances, we remain open to many opportunities we may have missed.
Additionally, a study found that even weaker peripheral ties play a role in enhancing our overall well-being.
This study also found that “the more weak ties a person has (neighbors, a barista at the neighborhood coffee shop or fellow members in a spin class), the happier they feel. Maintaining this network of acquaintances also contributes to one’s sense of belonging to a community.”
So, even now, in this world of fast-paced rushing everywhere and having little time to interact, it’s important to take the time to connect (even briefly) with the people in your community network. It enhances your sense of well-being, and theirs too.
8. The intimate type of friendship – the close friend that feels like family.
We all need that friend you can have on the inside of our life, especially when things aren’t going well. This friend knows the inner workings of your life. There is an intimacy between you, and the walls are down.
This friend walks through the door when something painful happens in your life. She offers a healthy friendship – by showing up with a big, open heart. And you’re always glad to see her. She sees your messy kitchen and screaming toddler, and you feel relieved. She’s also the friend you can call at a moment’s notice to take your teenage daughter to an emergency dental appointment in your place (because you are working).
Especially as a single mom, I’m certain my mental health benefited from friends like this!
9. The fun friend – you can’t stop laughing when you’re together.
My mom is a profoundly spiritual person. One day we talked about friendships, and she was telling me how much fun she recently had with one of her oldest friends. She said they laughed and laughed. I said it’s incredible how laughter and joy are central to that friendship. She turned toward me and said, “Does it get any better than that?”
Laughter bonds us with others. We live in one of our highest vibrations when we can let go and laugh. Dr. Robin Dunbar performed experiments to determine the role of laughter in contributing to an overall sense of well-being.
Her studies found that act of laughter releases endorphins that increase our pain threshold. Another finding is that “Scientists know that the act of laughing releases endorphins into the brain that provide feelings of happiness and a heightened sense of well-being.”
Friends we can laugh with are so crucial to our happiness and well-being. We need a friend group like this in our lives.
10. The multifaceted type of friendship – the mentor.
This friend takes you under her wing and shows you the ropes.
The word mentor evolved to mean a trusted friend, advisor, teacher, and wise person.
This person might start as a mentor, but the relationship can evolve into a blossoming friendship.
When I first moved to LA, I met a woman named Kimberly. She told me, “I’m going to take you under my wing and show you this city and all of its wonderful things. I had a friend do this for me, and it made all the difference.”
This friendship offers the opportunity to grow and learn while also connecting and bonding, making it an extraordinary companionship.
Wrapping it up:
After reading these descriptions, can you see all of the types of friendships you have in your life today? In some cases, maybe you don’t talk on the phone daily or even see each other yearly. Still, these friendships remain some of the greatest blessings of your life.
Valuing, honoring, and celebrating friendships is important! Everyone who comes along provides an opportunity to grow and discover more about who we are. We get to have the experience of nurturing a friendship, sharing our lives (and stories), and laughing together along the way.
And it doesn’t get any better than that!
Do you have any thoughts about this story? Are there other friends I didn’t mention? Can you relate to these different types of friends? Let me know in the comments :-)
And, learn new tips and tools to help you in letting the right people in here.
Please share with a dear friend today!
(This story was originally published on April 28, 2021, and has been updated for thoroughness.)