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Friendship language forges bonds

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Posted: Monday, November 4, 2013 6:00 am

Relationships are hard.

Not just with your significant other, though those are notorious for their ups and downs. Any relationship with anybody is difficult and takes work — you need to learn when to speak up, when to let things go and what buttons not to push in order for a healthy relationship to blossom over time.

Time is the key element. But when you've established rapport with someone and you become better friends, you begin to understand them in a one-on-one basis. You develop your friendship language — an understanding that makes interpersonal relationships worthwhile.

Maybe it's a phrase or an allusion to a long-lost inside joke, but you begin to develop expressions that only one other person — your friend, partner, significant other — understands.

A long-time friend of mine whom I have known since we were five years old goes to school at Temple University. Because we go to school so far away from one another, we miss out on experiencing a lot of the collegiate rites of passage together. But over the many years of our friendship, we've stayed close through the deep bonds forged and our prolific friendship language.

If I receive a text on a Friday night that reads, "Everything is illuminated," I know that he's probably out at a party, and when we're together and the song "I Will Survive" comes on the radio, it is an unspoken rule that we have to drop everything and dance.

Both instances are inside jokes or experiences that we've laughed about — sometimes as many as 10 years ago — but they never lose their meaning to us. Understanding someone on a deeply personal level often allows you to open up and appreciate being understood by others.

Forging bonds of friendship — and the subsequent secret language that develops — is a priceless side effect of caring about another human being. Over the weekend, a friend of mine received a compliment, during which the person complimenting her used the words "just right."

She replied, "Oh, you mean like big bear and little bear?" To the average observer, her response was probably nonsense. But I knew right away that she was referring to the story of "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" in which the expression "just right" is used repeatedly throughout the story. When I pointed this out, she and I laughed at the fact that you would have to know her to understand what it was she was trying to say.

It was friendship language at work, and it was hilarious.

Sometimes, especially as a college student in a society that is increasingly isolated by our technology addiction, having a friend who understands your own strange way of speaking is comforting beyond belief. I value the different languages I've developed with the friends I've made in my life.

From my high school partner in crime who will still drop an appropriate "Drake and Josh" quote in just the right situation, to my former college roommate who knows more about cheese than any other person I know, learning intimate details about a person builds your friendship into a mutual respect and care for another human being.

When you begin to appreciate someone for all that they are — and sometimes, all they they're not — the benefits you reap far surpass that of a friendship built on lies or false pretenses. Being able to communicate with someone through a look or an esoteric phrase comes with time and understanding, and the friendship languages I've learned remain invaluable — from age five all the way to 21.

Sometimes speaking with someone in movie quotes or a series of onomatopoeia looks weird — it is weird. Most other people won't get it. But that is truly the beauty of having an understood language with another.

If everyone could understand it, why would it be special?

People are strange, and they spend so much time trying to pretend that they aren't. We seem to value normalcy above all else. But sometimes, it's more fun to communicate outside the lines, and there is no purer form of that than friendship language.

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