It starts with a mutual eye-roll. A shared annoyance of the latest office mishap, an acknowledgement that the two of you – just the two of you – understand. And you lock eyes, and smile. And a tiny ball of unblemished, familial comfort forms and sits gently in your tummy, just because you’re in the company of this particular person. You might not even know their name yet, but something tells you that you’ve found a teammate. Or, just maybe, you’ve found friendship at first sight.
At least, that’s what scientists are calling it. While we have long since fantasised, dismissed and debated the presence of love at first sight among us, now it appears that friendships can share the same instant spark as some romantic relationships. Just as we can fall in love at first sight, we can fall into friendship with a mere glance, too.
It’s the feeling of meant-to-be-togetherness that couples so often talk about in their early relationship days. Despite the usual focus on compatibility, common ground, shared values and ideals – in all relationships – that intangible spark that occurs when two people meet, and the subsequent rush of excitement is hard to ignore if you’ve experienced it. Whatever happens from now feels slightly inevitable – whether it’s a short, intense companionship or the love of a lifetime – but whatever it is, you know it’s going to be a lot of fun.
In a time when we’re less likely to commit to a romantic relationship for life, and when the world appears to have lost its way ever-so-slightly, friendships can mean so much more
And, says Science of Us, friendship at first sight, or “friendship chemistry”, is something that a large percentage of us experience. At least 50 per cent of women and 60 per cent of men believe in love at first sight, they reported from one study, and “at least that many” have experienced “that moment when you meet someone new and feel the friendship blooming in your gut”.
There is some pattern to who feels it most, too. A study in The Social Science Journal found that friendship chemistry isn’t always mutual, but that people whose personality traits score high in areas of openness, conscientiousness and agreeableness were more likely to feel the connection. Women could be more likely to feel chemistry since we’re taught to listen to our emotions and rely on our intuition and more than men, the report says.
Another study argues, quite sensibly, that this could well be simply a self-fulfilling prophecy – if we feel something right at the start of a friendship, whether the connection is something real or not, we are more likely to pursue the relationship and make sure it works. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the friendship is stronger, just that we’re more likely to invest in it.
Which isn’t exactly a bad thing. In a time when we’re less likely to commit to a romantic relationship for life, and when the world appears to have lost its way ever-so-slightly, friendships can mean so much more. So eye-roll together. Smile. Listen to your gut, find the little ball of comfort and hold on to it. It could be the beginning of a beautiful love story.