The most important thing I’ve learned about friendships over the years is what a good friend looks like. If you know this, you’ll have good friends and you’ll be a good friend. It took a lot of trial and error for me to learn how to recognize a truly healthy friendship. Bonds I thought were unbreakable shattered when shit hit the fan. Ties I thought were super strong unraveled slowly with time and circumstances. It is a process that can be painful, yet oh, so rewarding.
To help you in your process, I’ve written down some things I think are pillars of a healthy friendship - so you can either attract it into your life or be grateful that you already have it. You’ll notice they are similar and interwoven - because they all come from the same loving, healthy place.
Pillars of a Healthy Friendship:
All in all, does she have your back and do you have hers? When someone is trustworthy, you won’t question her motives. You know that if she says she’ll do something, she will. If she hears someone bad-mouthing you when you’re not there, she’ll either defend you, or at the very least walk away from the conversation. You can count on each other and you know it deep in your souls.
Can you handle all the humanness for each other? Good space holders don’t want to change their friends. They have patience and grace for human shortcomings and will work with mistakes. (This is not to be confused with being a doormat). You can tell each other anything and feel safe from judgment. You keep each other's secrets and don’t hold onto them as ammunition for down the road.
Do both parties say what they mean and mean what they say? An honest friendship means there are no lies. It means you can tell your friend, “No, I don’t feel like hanging out tonight,” and know it will be ok. It means your friend can tell you, “Hey, I love you but I think you’re acting cuckoo right now.” It means you can be pissed at each other, have a heartfelt conversation, and move on to be better friends for it.
You don’t need to agree on everything, but can you work to understand each other? An empathetic friend can imagine herself in her shoes and find all sorts of grace for whatever you’re going through, whether she would do it the same way or not.
All that said, there are some things that can’t tell you whether or not you’re in a healthy friendship, yet seem to get used as metrics all the time. Here is a list of things that really don’t matter all that much in a friendship:
-How much time you’ve spent together Sure, time has a way of bonding us. I cherish the friendships I’ve had since I was a child - they are special because we’ve witnessed so much of each others’ lives. However, time is not at all the key factor - just a bonus. I have equally deep and loving friendships with people I only met a couple years ago. I have some pretty shallow surface friendships with people I’ve known for over a decade. The time doesn’t matter so much as the trustworthiness, space-holding, honesty, and empathy.
-Whether or not you do the same activities Of course it’s nice to do activities with your friend that you both love. (In fact, that’s how we make friends sometimes.) Again, however, it’s not the most important factor. I love to work out and go on hikes. I have plenty of friends that don’t love those things -- so we meet for drinks and bond other ways. Many of my friends have kiddos and I don’t -- that doesn’t mean we can’t connect. One of my best friends plays the mandolin beautifully. I certainly don’t, but I love watching him play. Surround yourself with diverse people who may think differently politically, religiously, or spiritually. As long as the pillars above are in place, it could make for a very rich and dynamic friendship.
-Age Chances are, many of your friends will be in the same phase of life as you are. However, don’t discount a friendship with someone because they are older or younger. There is a lot we can learn from people in different generations. My workout buddy is in her teens. We talk about boys and muscles and dogs and all sorts of things. I’d like to think I’m a role model and a mentor to her AND she brings an amazing youthful energy to my life that keeps me on my toes. I also have my own mentor who is 25+ years older than me. Her wisdom is incredible and I love learning from her. On the other hand, I can help her with her computer or run errands for her. All the pillars are in place and I would call her a good friend, despite the age difference.
So peruse these two lists and consider your current friendships. Do you feel safe, heard, seen, cherished in them? Do you make your friends feel safe, heard, seen & cherished? If so, you’re doing it right. If not, you can look forward to much better friendships now that you’re aware of what they look like!
Here are some pieces that fall in with our theme this month!