When you go through a major loss, face disappointment, or just feel down your likely natural first reaction is to reach out to someone you love. Whether you need a shoulder to cry on, cheering up, or someone who is happy to just sit with you. Essentially, a real friend!

What makes someone a real friend, though? How is it that some friendships stand the test of time and distance and even when you haven’t seen each other for weeks (or months) you still feel as close as ever when you’re together?

The Japanese have a term for it, one that literally translates to family but refers to the bond of friendship – kenzoku. It indicates a deep connection, a kindred spirit, someone whom you share similar desires and commitments with. It’s difficult to form bonds like this, but we can be certain of what signs indicate real friends.

1 – Through Thick and Thin

A real friend won’t abandon you in your time of need – they will stand beside you no matter how dark your path becomes. They can celebrate with you when you’re on the up and equally commiserate when life has gotten difficult.

Fair weather friends are a dime a dozen, but those true friendships will weather the storms of life and at the end, you’ll both still be standing (hopefully side by side). Real friends care about you and your wellbeing.

2 – Full Acceptance

You might chew with your mouth open or have an endless list of annoying habits, but your true friends can live with it. Beyond that, they’re happy to accept you exactly as you are.

They don’t need you to change to meet their expectations – they are happy to accept you as you are, flaws and all. They see beauty in imperfection and are happy to lay insecurities to rest. They will love you, in spite of your weaknesses.

Real friendships don’t come with conditions attached.

3 – Always Willing to Help

You will never need to face the tough times alone when you have real friends. They will be there to have your back, even if it means dropping everything. When you hit a rough patch, they will be there in an instant to pick you up, dust you off, and help you to the finish line (even if it means carrying you).

They understand that life can be mean and dirty and that you need support.

4 – They Make Time

A real friend will make time to see you and they won’t cancel plans a million times in between times. We all have busy lives to lead and it can be difficult to clear time in your schedule, but a real friend will find a way to make a play date with you. They won’t just toss you aside when life is hectic, they will find a way to include you in life.

5 – Total Comfort

Real friends feel at complete ease with each other. There’s no need to force the conversation and throw in a fake laugh, conversation flows (or it doesn’t and you’re both okay with hanging out in silence when that’s how you feel) and it’s effortless.

Real friends don’t make you feel too uncomfortable to open up, they don’t judge your decisions, they simply offer support and let their walls down so you can, too. They can be honest with you without breaking your heart. You can share just about anything without fearing their reaction.

Real friends want openness and honesty, not secret feelings and thoughts. You can be as silly or as serious as you want without even thinking twice.