Soul friendship requires:
- Love. Obviously you have to respect and enjoy each other enough to want a deep bond.
- Permanence. This means that if I babysit your child and s/he runs out into the street while I'm distracted, gets hit by a car and dies, you don't just hate me and drop me from your life. You can hate me, but you work with me to get back to a loving relationship until we either get there or one of us dies. And vice versa -- no matter what you do to me, we continue an active relationship until death (and hopefully past it).
- Trust and Honesty. This means two things: first, that we share our thoughts and feelings without 'prettying them up'; second, that we make the following commitment -- if I say something that hurts/offends you, you MUST tell me right away, and vice versa. Because it is on little offenses that rifts get their start.
- Openness. This means that we seek to learn more about ourselves and seek to share that with each other, continually. Nothing is hidden; instead, we offer truths to each other freely. This is not a passive quality.
This is something that I did not realize last year... I thought openness and honesty were one and the same. Openness is much rarer than honesty, and absolutely essential to a soulfriendship. This is where Ashley and I fell apart.
- Willingness to Change. This means that you must be prepared to make some compromises and alter yourself in some ways to better fit the other. One of those ways is exploring the other's interests, even if they seem uninteresting to you at first. I'm lucky in that very little bores me: I have always found it fairly easy to develop a true interest in something my friend is passionate about. I'm usually not willing to bother for those who are not soul friends (or potentials), though, because I tend to obsess, and I try to limit my adoption of obsessions. This also means that you are willing to modify your behavior in slight ways in order to better fit with the other.
- Sacrifice. By this I mean sacrificing your time, effort, and care for the other. Being willing to drop everything if the other has a need, even if that need is merely emotional, and even if that need means a whole lotta effort (like helping move).
- Humility. This means dropping your pride and asking for what you want/need, and being willing to accept loving prodding in sensitive areas.
- Similarity. This doesn't mean merely similarity in tastes or personality -- it means similarity in the level of maturity. If one person is significantly further along in development, that person could easily be put on a pedestal, and the other could feel inferior or treated like a child -- there needs to be a similarity so that the friendship is balanced.
This, believe it or not, is something that I did not realize until last year. I ended up hurting Ashley, unintentionally, because she had put me on a pedestal and expected perfection from me, and I ain't perfect by a long shot.
I've asked people before, and had success with Ben, and despite what anyone would think, I consider my soulfriendship with Kaylene to be a success, despite it's short life (I think of us as on hiatus rather than over). But I have had so many failures that now I'm scared to ask. Instead, I long to find a person who will already be ready; I won't have to try to convince her of the value of soul friendship, and she won't have to grow rapidly for my sake. In this matter, we'll fit together perfectly, and then we can help each other grow in other areas. It may be unrealistic, but it's what I want.
Last time I posted this, I got a lot of responses saying that it's harsh or unnatural to ask someone this, that it should naturally develop. I agree that the bond should develop naturally, but I'd be offering all that stuff I mentioned. I am capable of giving that; for me to actually give it is quite a gift, and I think the other person should be aware of the gift I'm giving them and willing to give it back. It's like a marriage; usually you get to know them and bond with them before you ask them to share the rest of your life. Proposing a deeper, more committed relationship is the next step, and is neither harsh nor unnatural, but an expression of love that believes it is stronger than death.