One of my besties and I were talking the other day about female friendships, and made an observation—there are thousands of books on how to have a great relationship with a guy, but very few on how to have a healthy relationship with your friend. It’s one of the issues of my upcoming book, THE PERFECT MATCH: how to be (and have) a good friend.
Women value friendships tremendously. I myself spend a lot of time with my friends and invest a lot of energy into my further-away friendships. I’m sure it’s the same with you. And sometimes friendships don’t last. Not everyone is meant to be a person who’ll be at your bedside as you die, after all. But how do you tell the difference?
Being me, I researched the subject to death and came across a few rules that made a lot of sense to me. So without further ado…
Ten Rules for a Healthy Friendship
- Guard against jealousy. Everyone has different talents and blessings, and not everyone will hit the same marks at the same time, or ever. If your friend finds the perfect man the very first time she visits Match.com, don’t be jealous. It’s okay to want what she has. Just don’t resent her for getting it.
- Don’t compete. You know that saying, “a little healthy competition”? I don’t think it’s healthy, not with your closest friends. Measuring someone else’s success by your own doesn’t make you feel good, does it? I mean, there will always be people ahead of you and behind you. If you’re always wondering why she got ahead, or worried that she’ll catch up, will that help you enjoy each other’s company?
- Make time. You can’t be true friends in theory. Granted, I have some friends I don’t see for years at a time due to geography. Some I see almost every week. Not all my friends get the same amount of time, but I do put in the effort to see them.
- Give them enough space. Being friends doesn’t mean she should include you in every event she ever attends. “What do you mean, you had dinner with Kathy last weekend? I was home! I would’ve gone, too! Why didn’t you call me?” Does that sound like someone you want to spend time with?
- Listen. I had a friend who loved to hear herself talk. Always had a story. Her stories were always very detailed and, indeed, endless. When I finally did get to talk, I always had this sense that she was merely waiting for me to finish so she could tell a better story.
- Support. Ask your friend how her new job is going. Call her on Mother’s Day if her mom died last year. Did she just get a divorce? Let her come over and vent about her ex-husband.
- Intervene. Friends don’t let friends merrily cartwheel down the path to disaster. This one gets dicey, because it can be tough to know when you should mind your own business, and when you should speak up. But if your friend seems to be engaging in behavior that could result in really bad things, it’s your moral obligation to say, “Look. I’m concerned.”
- Be loyal. Is there a worse feeling in the world than to hear a friend dissed you? The temptation to gossip can be great sometimes, but how noble the friend who says, “You know what? She and I really close, so I’m not comfortable talking about this.”
- Communicate. I had a friend who was really, really mad at me after I had to cancel a visit. The thing is, I didn’t know she was mad until months later, when she just kind of exploded. And that’s not healthy, or mature. If she’d said, “Crap. I really, really was looking forward to seeing you, and I’m crushed this won’t work,” we could’ve had a conversation about it.
10. Actions speak louder than words, so be the friend you want. It’s not enough to say, “You’re my best friend!” You have to show it through the many things you do for your friend. Be thoughtful, in other words, and don’t take your dear friend for granted.
So who’s your best friend? What makes her great, and how long have you known her?