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How do you know if you have a real friendship? Different times in life call for different kinds of friendships. But, is it okay to, sometimes, just want a friend to have fun with, with little to no commitment expected?

“Sure it is, and that’s why we should have different friends for different purposes – not all friends should be your best buds,” explains Dr. Gilda Carle. Dr. Carle holds a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership, with a concentration in social psychology. She has conducted Relationship Wellness training for Columbia University Medical Center.

Having fun-time friends is all fine and dandy when a person just wants to go out, let loose, and doesn’t seek any kind of emotional support.

However, when the dust settles and real life calls, most of us seek a feeling of deeper connection and understanding from our social circle. Perhaps there was a close death in the family, or you are going through a difficult job transition. Or, maybe you just want to be around someone who gets you with little to know struggle for recognition.

Knowing you have a true blue friend can be immensely rewarding, but not always easy to recognize in busy day-to-day life. Here are some tips to recognize a true friend:

  1. Real friendship doesn’t always happen overnight

It’s important to realize that most friendships take time to show their true colors, notes Dr. Carle. Like anything worthwhile, recognizing the significance of a person in your life, takes some patience and getting used to the person and who they are.

“It takes about a year to really get to know somebody, so it may not be that clear in the beginning,” expresses Stan Tatkin, Dr. in Psychology and a professor at UCLA, as well as a Secure Functioning Relationship expert and author of Wired for Love.

In other words, take your time divulging personal or sensitive details to someone. Get to know them and how they respond to others and different aspects of what you share with them.

“We always tell people to Sherlock other people – that is, really keep your eyes open: listen, watch, pay attention to details, and gather information, and begin to make a determination about this person; what you can and cannot do with this person,” explains Tatkin.

This isn’t to say, don’t trust others, but simply put, invest some time in getting to know someone. Once you have been able to achieve a more holistic perspective on who someone is, pay attention to the details.

  1. Your best friend is not two-faced in anyway

Let’s face it, if someone is willing to talk behind everyone and their dog’s back, chances are, the person will do the same to you. Why wouldn’t they?

“A true friend is going to keep what you say private and not share it, not leak, and not poison the well, and certainly not embarrass you in anyway,” notes Tatkin. This need for ultimate trust makes perfect sense. You want to feel secure with someone that you share your most vulnerable secrets with.

Be sure to pay attention to the friend in question. Who do they or do not talk about? If he or she is going to share your secrets, permission should always be expressed first. In essence, transparency is key.

  1. A true friend is available for a variety of circumstances

A real buddy isn’t only available when there are self serving perks involved. Life isn’t a continuous peaking rollercoaster, but a variety of ups, downs, and all around in between kind of times. A person who really cares is available for all (or at least) many of these times.

Is your friend hanging with you only when you have fantastic parties to go to?  If you’re single, is your friend only interested in you when you have guys for her to meet? “In other words, if your friend is there for the peaks, but gone for the valleys, that’s not a friend,” explains Carle.

  1. Your friend is willing to open up

Have you ever experienced being with someone who isn’t willing to let themselves ever be vulnerable or authentic? They tend to look great or  always have a perfectly clean house. If anything is wrong, they glaze over it with “Everything is fine,” when you ask how they are doing. These people are hard to get to know.

Does this person keep things close to their vest or do they open up to you? “If they don’t open up with you and they seem secretive, if they hold things away from you, that might make you afraid to open up to them,” says Tatkin.

A fulfilling relationships includes give and take. This give and take needs to include messy life stuff –  not just the stuff that makes us look good.

  1. Reciprocity is key

Nothing is worse than listening endlessly to someone divulge all of their life problems, but when it comes to your turn to share, the “friend” in question no longer seems interested. This lack of reciprocity is unfulfilling and a sign that you do not have a true companion at hand.

“True friendship (like a love relationship) should be fully mutual and collaborative, and that means two ways,” notes Tatkin. You don’t need to love doing all of the same things. There should be middle ground. Both of your needs and interests are being explored or at least talked about and listened to.

At the end of the day, you’ll know deep down if you have a real friendship based on how you feel with the person. Remember, “Communicate and associate with your friend often, not just occasionally, because nurturing requires time,” explains Carle.

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