What Makes a Good Friend? 5 Things to Look For

Self on 01.13.12
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Photo: Britt Reints

When I was in high school, I chose my friends based on who would sit by me at lunch and who was in the same extracurricular activities. When I went to college, I became friends with the girls who had been randomly assigned by a computer in the housing department to live near me in the dorms. As an adult, my standards for friendship weren't much higher. Not surprisingly then, I found myself in my late twenties with a lot of relationships that weren't exactly good for me, and some were downright toxic.

Now, as a slightly older and wiser woman, I am a bit more discerning about the people with whom I choose to build relationships. OK, so age has less to do with my new-found standards than a handful of really bad experiences, but the result is the same: I'm blessed with a small circle of trusted girlfriends who encourage me to laugh, cry, and be the best version of myself.

What makes someone a good girlfriend?

1. A good friend has other friends.

good friends
Photo: Britt Reints

I am not the only person in any of my friends' lives; I'm not even the most important. They all have other friends and family members they value, and most have family that are higher on the priority list than I am, just as my husband and kids come first for me. They also have jobs, hobbies, and lives that extend beyond the bounds of our friendship. Sometimes this makes it hard to get together, but it also makes for more interesting conversations when we do.

Knowing my friends have other priorities in their lives makes it easier for me to have meaningful relationships and interests of my own; I never feel guilty for leaving someone out. That might sound like a no-brainer to most people, but I've had friendships in the past that were all-consuming, leaving little room for anything (or anyone) else.

2. A good friend can - and will - say, "No."

good friend
Photo: Roland Laskis/Creative Commons

I recently spent the night with my best friend while my family and I were passing through her town. I woke up horribly sick and realized we'd have to stay in town an extra day. When I suggested going to a hotel to avoid infecting her family - including her two young children - she agreed that it was best. She will be horrified if she reads this because she felt awful for going along with my hotel plan and not insisting that I stay with her, but I sincerely love that she was able to put her family's health first.

The fact that my girlfriend was able to say no (or rather, yes, go to a hotel) assures me that when I am invited to stay it is with completely open arms and no resentment. A good friend trusts that you'll respect their boundaries and will allow you to set your own.

3. A good friend is not a clone.

good friends
Photo: Pink Sherbert Photography/Creative Commons

When I was young, I had a lot in common with my friends, almost too much. The problem with hanging out with people who have very little differences is that there's no room for growth or learning. While some similarities and shared interests are good, I find that the relationships I value most are with women from whom I have a lot to learn. These friendships are based as much on respect, awe, and inspiration as they are an ability to quote the same movies and laugh over a pitcher of margaritas.

4. A good friend is comfortable with imperfections.

good friends
Photo:  Scarleth White/Creative Commons

I love that my girlfriends are willing to share their struggles with me. They tell me about the times they yell at their kids and their failed attempts to change their diets. I know about their plastic surgeries and their decisions to embrace a larger pant size. My girlfriends aren't perfect, and for the most part they're OK with that.

Confident, comfortable women are so much easier to be around than someone who is constantly working to maintain a flawless image. A woman who embraces her own imperfections inspires me to make peace with my own, and I have faith that she'll love me just as I am.

5. A good friend doesn't have all the answers.

good friends
Photo: Britt Reints

Almost all of my girlfriends are older than me and, truth be told, they are wiser and more level-headed than I am. None of them would admit to that, however. Instead, they offer advice when asked and more often share their experiences. They trust me to figure things out on my own. I imagine at times it's been infuriating to watch me stumble through life a few steps behind them, but never once have they suggested that they knew better how to run my own life. That faith has been such a gift, and it was the light that sparked my own faith in me and in others.

Do you feel like your friends are as good for you as they are fun to hang out with? What do you think makes someone a good friend?

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