Now, I'm pretty lucky in this respect, because I can spot subterfuge a mile off in a relationship, but it's really difficult to track sometimes.
It's hard to think that our friends might not always have our best interests at heart. Or that they might be using us for something else. Our connections. Status. Money. Or even as an emotional download. None of the above are healthy.
But it's so important to have fulfilling friendships
Don't use the threat of toxicity ward you away from genuine connections. That way they win.
You know what the greatest compliment on earth is in this day and age, in 2019?
It's not 'you look hot in that dress', or 'nice indoor plants', or even 'love your artisanal collection of stationary'. No, the greatest compliment is always received when you're at your best friend's house having dinner with their family on a Tuesday night in summer. It's when her mother announces that you are now part of the family. It also means that you technically have to do the dishes once a week now, but you don't care about that just at the minute.
This is a very loaded moment
Arguably, this is the first time that the relationships you have been forming outside of your family are actually coming to fruition. And they are working. These bonds, they're being validated. Basically, before I start getting too nostalgic here, the confirmation that your best friend's family loves you is one of the best things on the planet. If I could bottle that feeling and keep it forever, I would. Don't try me.
It's a very similar feeling to when you're told that 'my parents would love you', or 'mum asked about your dissertation the other day, she hopes it's going well'. These small gestures of affection that reveal how much you play in your friends' minds – and even in their family! One of my closest friends surprised me the other day for my birthday when her mother was revealed to have sent up a card as well as her own present. I was close to tears, no word of a lie.
As such, the only thing that can truly rival this feeling is in the initial confirmation that you and your best friend are in fact, best friends. Oh yes, there comes a point in any good relationship worth its salt that you have … the talk.
Who are we? What are we to each other? Commitment?
With best friends, this starts out by sending each other a few memes with the words 'best friends' in them. For example, the classic templates include: 'tag your best friend ….' Or 'you know you're best friends when…' in comparison with what a mere 'friend' may offer. This then is recognised as a gesture of testing the waters of friendship, and double-checking that the other person is also on board.
There's nothing more awkward than having an unrequited best friend. You know, when they are your best friend but you aren't theirs… that hurts, man. Truly. However, this is why we try to read the signals ahead of time while we're getting to know our friend more intimately anyway. It saves time in the future.
Hopefully, though, in the future you can settle down with your best friend and reflect on all the great memories and nostalgic good times when you were younger.
That's friendship, Not the other nonsense
When they start asking for things and 'forget' to repay you. Slippery slope, chaps. Slippery slope.
There are some people that are just gold dust. You could be walking around the town without your head screwed on and they'd be the first to notice and tell you 'dude, you look lost'. They have this marvellous habit of finding you. Particularly when you didn't even realize you were wandering. I know not all those that wander are lost – Lord of the Rings told me as much. But you need those people in your life that notice when you're moodily staring into space in the cocktail bar. They ask you if you're okay even when they probably know you're not but they know you need to hear yourself say the words. 'I am not okay'.
We all need that 'I am not okay' safe space friend.
Having your mum or dad or sister on speed dial is one thing
Having your old primary school best friend across the world might not cut it anymore. But your person – some version of a platonic soul mate maybe – needs to be there to recognize and truly see you. To listen to you and actually hear what you're saying. Who counts down the days to your birthday so that they can give you really thoughtful presents and a card that will make you cry.
Then when you get the heart emojis in response and feel your heart grow six sizes because friendship is truly something that no one should be without.
I firmly believe that you can live without a lover or partner. You can't live without friends. Honestly, you can't.
It's the moments when you all get tipsy before the club and they slur and ask if you know that you made them cry with the present.
As if you didn't bottle that feeling when you saw the response and indebted it to memory thereafter.