“Is this a real friendship?” is a question we might be left asking after a change in our emotional intimacy roots.
Think of all the times you’ve felt disconnected from a friend:
- “They used to share about their work problems with me.”
- “A true friend would respect my boundaries.”
- ” True friends remember small details.”
- “Feeling comfortable at her house is a sign of friendship, but I don’t feel that way anymore.”
- “If they don’t know that about me then how can I call them a real friend?”
- “Real friends care about my mental health.”
It’s natural for all of our friendship roots to change over time. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s enjoyable when they do. Quite often many of our friendship problems arise because friendship roots have changed.
QUICK Recap of emotional intimacy roots
When you spend time with friends (shared experience/interest roots), you have the opportunity to learn new things about each other, create memories, find commonalities, and share in small + big intimacies.
You collect emotional intimacy roots over time – all the roots that build supportive friendships.
- Details you’ve noticed
- Memories you’ve made
- Shared/overlapping history
- Big + small intimacies
Some Examples of Emotional Intimacy Roots:
- Knowing a friend loves donuts and surprising them with their favorite kind.
- Reliving your high school football glory days with one of your oldest pals.
- Texting a friend – “My high school soccer team made the state finals!” You both played in high school, but didn’t play together at the same time.
- “Wait! You know S too?!” You share a mutual friend, but one knows her from work, the other from High School.
- Even though you don’t have many dancing skills, laughing with total disregard and letting loose on the dancefloor.
- Checking in on a friend on the anniversary of a traumatic event with a text that says, “Hey! I know you might want to be alone today, but I am thinking of you” to make sure he knows their is a supportive friend available if he needs one.
- A friend asks, “Will you be my child’s emergency contact with school? That would mean if they get ahold of me, you might need to go pick the up in an emergency. Knowing there is a backup would save me a lot of stress.”
Growing Strong Emotional intimacy roots
Frequency, range, and closeness
Frequency increases the number of details, memories, shared history, and intimacies you can collect.
Range means that will have more variety. You’ll do the same activities but in different contexts prompting different conversations and new information.
Closeness, as in, feeling like we are “on the inside.” We have details, memories, and intimacies very few people know.
Growing OFFSHOOT ROOTS
Offshoots are particular memories that stand out within a generic memory.
Quite often roots have themes –
“Sharing about work struggles.”
“Taking family trips together.”
“Watching your kids grow up together.”
A decade-long work friendship will have a strong root surrounding all your memories of working together. Yet, some specific memories stand out – the company meeting where your friend got an award or the event you successfully pulled off together with 24 hours’ notice.
When roots wither, things have changed and change can cause discomfort while we update our information.
Details – Information is outdated. A friend used to love cupcakes, but now can’t eat them – so showing up with them isn’t going to elicit the same reaction it once did.
Memories + Overlapping history – A friend wants to move on and doesn’t want to bring up a memory you normally talk about. To maintain this supportive friendship, you realize you need to not discuss that memory any more.
Big + Small Intimacies – People have changed, and they have new boundaries around previous intimacies you shared.
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Similar to withering emotional intimacy roots, emotional intimacy roots die.
Your closest friend from High school – her father passes away. She calls you immediately and asks if you would be willing to fly in for the funeral.
The day of the wake, you are fumbling around for serving dishes, and their neighbor breezes in and asks, “What can I help you find?” Your best friend just moved into this house, and you haven’t spent much time here. Back in the day her house was basically your second home and you knew where everything was in her kitchen.
You tell the neighbor, “I’ve got it,” but soon she knows this kitchen way better than you do.
You might be frustrated this new friend feels more comfortable in your best friend’s house than you do. There’s nothing wrong with this – you’ve just had a root die and losing a root here and there is bound to happen. Your friend needs a variety of supportive friendships during this time — you provide memories no one else has of her father and her neighbor can show up in small ways to care for her. They are all valid ways to show your friend she is surrounded by supportive friendships.
Anytime you are connecting with friends you have the opportunity to grow emotional intimacy roots by filing away new details, updating old roots, making memories, and sharing.
You can also regrow emotional intimacy roots by allowing outdated roots to die and collecting new information.
Emotional Intimacy Roots Keep Us Connected
Roots hold our friendships together.
Emotional intimacy roots hold our friendships together by prompting us to initiate contact and giving us connection points to keep our time together comfortable.
- “Remember when we both broke our legs at that swim meet? I tried to retell the story – must be one of those stories where you had to be there.”
- “Thinking of you! Losing your job is so hard. Here if you need to talk.”
- “I just ate the best chocolate cupcake! Made me think of you.”
I HEAR THIS ALL THE TIME:
- “I want close friendships.”
- “Where do I find friends I can talk to about anything?”
- “How do I find friends I can do anything with?”
- “I want a tight-knit social circle.”
Those close and supportive friendships exist because of the web of roots you have built. We can’t show up for our friends in meaningful ways if we haven’t paid attention to what is meaningful to them.
There’s a lot of focus on the end goal – finding close friends.
But our oldest, closest friends – we are fondest of them because of our journey together.
When it comes to new friends – don’t cheat yourself out of the journey – the messy, funny, hilarious moments are the best memories and the details that bring us close. You can build that with new friends at any age.
Curious how to keep a friendship strong? Read about the other types of roots.