How to Tell If Your Friendship Is for Real

friendship women

So, funny fact. That friend you think is a friend? She might not REALLY be.

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This isn't about us being judgy. It's about science. And new research from Tel Aviv University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says that only about HALF of all friendships are genuine. We just THINK the rest are, especially if the person is of a "higher status" than we are and we really want it to be true.

Ouch.

See, a true friendship is one in which there's a clear two-way street. You call your friend to vent about your boss. She texts you about the grouchy cashier she just had at the grocery store. You bring her dinner after her baby's born. She surprises you on your birthday with a sweet bouquet of flowers on your porch.

In science-y terms, you have a "reciprocal" relationship. In real-life terms, you care, equally and clearly, for each other.

"Friendship is based on give and take, just like dancing with a partner," explains psychologist Elizabeth Lombardo, PhD, the best-selling author of Better Than Perfect: 7 Strategies to Crush Your Inner Critic and Create a Life You Love. "If there's too much giving by one person, the relationship gets out of balance and it becomes more of a maternal/caregiving interaction. When the 'taking' is one-sided, it becomes more like a child."

With that in mind, are these three common friendships real -- or not so much?

#1: You have a friend who always shows up to your parties, BBQs, and neighborhood events, yet never has YOU over. At all.

True friendship or not? Maybe, says Lombardo.

Before you write off this pal, you need to take a closer look as to how she treats you.

"Some people are simply better hosts than others," Lombardo points out. "The question is, does she invite you to other activities, such as going out to lunch or catching a film together? How much does she interact with you, like calling and texting?"

If this friend doesn't do any of those things and shows up and mooches off you anytime there's free food and booze to be had, "it may not be a real friendship," says Lombardo.

#2: You have a friend you see frequently because your kids are besties, she lives close by, etc. You know you could count on her in an emergency, but don't really have much else in common.

True friendship or not? Not quite ... says Lombardo.

But it could be one day.

"Right now, it's more of a neighborly connection," Lombardo points out. "True friends know each other and interact for reasons more than when something is needed."

More from CafeMom: 10 Ways to Stay Friends When Life Gets In the Way

#3: You're friends with someone on Facebook who is super-open about her life, so you're constantly posting comments to her page, whether liking her Mexico vacay or commiserating about her job layoff. You don't post nearly as much on FB.

True friendship or not? Nope.

"If this is the only interaction you're having, it's probably not," Lombardo explains. "In addition to the lack of interaction and effort she's putting into the relationship, she's sharing a lot about herself while you are not."

Remember, genuine friendships require give AND take. "And not only of supporting each other, but sharing what's going on in your life," Lombardo says.

The good news is, if you do want to take a friendship to the next level, "there's so much you can do," Lombardo says.

Make a point to grab a cup of coffee or go for a walk together. If you don't know each other that well yet, take the pressure off a bit by learning something new together, be it Chinese cooking or rock climbing.

You can also volunteer together. "Helping others out while you interact is a great way to feel good about yourself and each other," Lombardo says.

And don't be shy. Sure, you're probably wondering and worried if she likes you, "But guess what? She's thinking the same thing," assures Lombardo. "Everyone has insecurities, so just go for it."

 

Image via iStock.com/Todor Tsvetkov

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