There are friends who stay for a season, and there are friends who have seen you at your worst fashion choices and most successful moments in your life. They might not have been there for you when you were being picked on back in kindergarten, but they’ve been around long enough to understand that you are the way you are because of what happened back then. Lifelong friends are difficult to come by at the best of times, and it’s important to cherish them. But how do you know the difference between a friend that’s around for a brief period of your life, and one that’s going to be there for the rest of it?

1. You go on without seeing each other for months

… And yet when you do meet up again, the conversations you share aren’t stilted and awkward. Instead, they’re filled with overlapping words as you try your best to catch up with each other in a time that you’ve had to fight for in order to see them again, even if it’s just for a couple of hours. It’s always a wonderful feeling to be able to meet up with a lifelong friend and just swap stories as if you’ve just met yesterday.

2. They’re not afraid to confront you

When you’ve been through the worst of times together, there’s really nothing that can hold them back from spitting out straight truth to you. And you know it’s the same with you for them. Lifelong friends understand that a misguided sense of propriety isn’t helpful in the long run for anyone, and they also know that you appreciate the honesty they’re willing to spill, at the risk of perhaps offending you. It’s not easy to be able to confront a friend, but if there’s anyone that can and will do it, it’s a lifelong friend.

3. You have jokes that span over a decade or so

This one just goes without saying. Because you’ve known each other for so long, there are tons of inside jokes that you share, from the times when you had to participate in a school play, to meeting each other once a year during summer break and you’re constantly adding to that repertoire.

4. They’ve been with you through your many transitions

From dubious clothing choices, eccentric music tastes and even the different way you take your food then and now, they’ve seen it all. Frankly, you’re surprised they’ve stuck around this long, but then again, you’ve been there for their confusing messes as well, so maybe it’s a bit of loyalty and a bit of, “Well, both of us have blackmail material, might as well stick together at this point.” They’ve been with you as you went through countless music and fashion phases, and at this point, they’re only mildly surprised at your newest choices. But they’ll usually preface that with a, “Wow, I should have seen that coming.”

5. No matter what, they’ll always be there for you

A lifelong friend is hard to come by, because it usually means a lot of ups and downs in a relationship, and it’s understandable when someone walks away from all of that. Which is why a friend that sticks by your side despite all of that is worthy of being given the title of a lifelong friend.

6. They teach you what true friendship is all about

It’s not always about the good times, flying high and riding fast on memories filled with screams of laughter. It’s not always about the quiet moments in between, sharing snacks and spending hours indoors bingeing on movie marathons. It’s knowing that you’ll continue to share your lives together five, ten, twenty years down the road, even when you’re not as young and life gets a little more difficult to cope with. It’s the understanding that there’s always someone backing you up in your corner, even if they’re halfway across the world. It’s true friendship in its beautiful mess, and only a true lifelong friend can teach you all about it.