All cherished relationships in our lives start with the first encounter – the moment of freshness when a brand new individual is introduced into our world. While many float away, there are the special few that truly impact our lives for the better. These are the friends that enhance our lives, the ones that come with a comfort level that allows us to be immediately honest and pick up right where we left off. Shasta Nelson, friendship expert and creator of GirlFriendCircles.com, describes the gift of intimacy between platonic friends as “Frientimacy” – the reward of time invested, love proven and a deep knowledge of your female friend.
True frientimacy does not merely happen- commitment, dedication and passion for friendship are all vital in establishing a female friendship that is truly intimate and authentic. Healthy and valuable girlfriends play a significant role that in creating a more fulfilling life. Like animals who mate in the Spring, we often can feel the “love in the air” as the daffodils start blooming! But this Spring, rather than only focus only on romantic love, let’s also grow the love in our lives through friendship.
When it comes to romance, we know that there is a lot of ground between being interested in someone and getting married to them. We have terms like “going on a date” which we know is different than “dating.” We implicitly acknowledge that it takes time before we can both simply assume that we’re hanging out this weekend without asking each other. With female friendships we lack non-romantic language to articulate those stages, but they still exist.
The following are the five stages of friendship, you can think of them as the landmarks worth a photo op on your road trip to true Frientimacy:
1. Curiosity. This is where every friendship begins. There has to be something that attracts you, gives you a sense of willingness and increases your desire to have more.
2. Exploratory. Every potential friendship requires time together. For some of us, that time happens automatically (at a play group, a choir rehearsal, yoga class or work), but for many of us, we’ll have to initiate it and pursue it. For it doesn’t matter how much attraction you may feel in that first stage – if you don’t spend time together then a friendship it will never become.
3. Familiarity. We frequently want to experience this comfort level with someone upon first meeting them, forgetting that it takes time to build. In my experience, I find that it takes most women 6-8 times with someone before they reach this stage.
4. Vulnerability. This stage is tricky since there is a ditch on either side: rushing to it too quickly or avoiding it all together. But over time we should be revealing more of ourselves with less of a filter and decreased insecurity.
5. Frientimacy. This last stage is for those who are your BFFs. And notice that I made that plural. Best doesn’t speak to quantity as much as quality. It’s like when a magazine says “Best moments of last year” and lists ten. There is enough research out there to suggest we need between 3-5 people in this category. Don’t limit yourself. On the other hand, not everyone you interact with needs to move into this last stage.