When I turned 40, I felt an intense need to evaluate everything and everyone in my life in order to determine what was and what was not working for me. Was I really and truly happy? The answer was a resounding NO for a number of reasons, but needless to say; that was the year that I got divorced. I also let go of some toxic relationships that had been masquerading as friendships for years. Ironically, I have a friend who just turned 30 and another who is turning 50. They are both feeling very introspective about the state that they are in at this time in their lives. What this tells me is that no matter how old you are, there comes a time in your life (maybe several) where you evaluate everything: Your significant other, your job, your passions and, inevitably, your friendships. It was an interesting process for me because I had a hard time letting go of people who had been around for a long time. And then once I determined that some people were just not good for me to maintain relationships with, I started cutting everybody off the minute I detected behavior that I felt was not representative of a real friend.
After I went through my phase of cutting everybody off, I learned that true friends can and will hurt your feelings, piss you off or mess up sometimes. It can sometimes feel like they are aren’t being a good friend, but this is life. If you’re able to communicate what you’re feeling and the person gives a damn and tries to fix it – then that’s what really matters. As long as they aren’t doing something treacherous, the hallmark of true friendship is being able to accept each other as you are and work through the rough patches – making the friendship even stronger. I’ve been thinking more about friendships lately and here are some traits that I believe are important.
- Friends don’t judge or discourage you
They may have opinions about some of the crap you do, but they don’t set out to make you feel bad about it. They want to help you be the best version of yourself and you should always come away from an interaction feeling loved, understood and supported.
- Shared interests
You don’t have to love ALL of the same things, but you need some type of common bond. If you don’t have one, you may find yourself going along with things or going to events that you really don’t want to for the sake of the friendship. And then you’ll become resentful when you start to feel like you’re compromising more than they are. It’s so much easier when you both get excited by the same things and can really have fun together.
- Friends are empathetic
Ever call up a friend to vent and before you know it, you’re listening to all of THEIR stuff? Well, as difficult as it may be, your friend should give you the space to be upset about whatever it is you’re going through. They need to actively listen, put themselves in your shoes and take themselves out of the equation. Good friends also know when you just need to get something off your chest and when you want advice or solutions.
- Friends are trustworthy
When you tell your friend something, you need to know that it’s going into the vault and you never have to worry about it getting out. If you have a friend that is constantly involved in and gossiping about everything and everybody, you want to make sure that you’re not one of her hot topics. When there is no trust, the friendship won’t be able to grow very much and will eventually become stagnant.
A friendship that can end never really began.
- Friends are selfless (or can have selfless moments for YOU)
I was recently upset about a situation and I was talking to my friend on the phone. I started to cry a little and I’m sure he heard me sniffing. He didn’t ask if I was ok or if I was crying, he simply asked me if he could bring me my favorite dessert to my job to cheer me up. Considering that he doesn’t drive and lives on the opposite side of the city from where my job is, that meant a lot to me. I knew he would do it without a 2nd thought and that knowledge instantly made me feel better.
- Friends push you to be more accepting of yourself
We are all guilty of negative self-talk. When you do it, if there is someone around who loves you, they will probably counter that negative talk. They won’t hesitate to tell you how awesome you really are and they will mean it. Seeing yourself through someone else’s eyes can be very beneficial and good friends help you do that.
- They make the friendship a priority
I had a friend who invited me to a party once. She invited about 10 other women as well. She went around the room and introduced everyone. “Mary is a psychologist who works with children with special needs. She loves House music.” She did this for everyone. When she got to me, she said, “Girl, I don’t know what the hell you do.” It was an eye-opener for me because I realized that she had never taken an interest in anything that I had going on. Yet, I knew where she worked, I knew some of her co-workers, I knew many of her other friends, I knew about her love life, I knew her favorite things to do and the list goes on. She knew none of these things about me. I was not a priority for her and that’s ok. Not every friend is going to be your BFF.
- Friends are present
Ever been pouring your heart out to your friend, only to see that distracted look in their eyes? Or they’re glued to their phone and not really paying attention to you. They may only perk up when they find a way to insert themselves into the conversation. I have experienced this and it’s truly frustrating. When you’re sharing with a friend that truly cares about you, you can feel that they are present and listening to you. I remember griping about a situation with a project that both my friend and I were involved in and she asked me if I wanted her to help. I told her NO, that it was no big deal. She knew that it bothered me more than I let on and she made a phone call that actually rectified the situation. Without me asking. That’s meaningful.
- Friends really listen
Sometimes you just talk and talk when you’re comfortable around someone. You can talk about your day, that lady that cut you off on the highway, how crazy your kids are acting and a good friend will actually listen to you and remember what you said. I remember randomly mentioning something about my finger being sore and my best friend said, “Was that from the time you hurt your finger playing volleyball in 2015?” Really?
- They make the situation better
Something bad went down. You’re talking to your friend about it. Is she empathizing or is she making the situation worse? There are time that you need to be inspired and motivated to act and other times, you need to be talked off the ledge. If you feel worse after having confided in a friend, that could be a problem. You want to gain insight, release some tension and share your experience with your friend. You don’t want to end up worse off than you were before.