My mother told me I was lucky if I could count all my real friends on one hand! Must have been fifteen or so years ago now, when it occurred to me after a string of disappointing intimate relationships that maybe she was right—again. That it might be wise to invest more time in creating some deep and lasting friendships, as they theoretically seemed to have greater staying power and could be in many ways equally fulfilling, perhaps in some ways even more.
I must add that, up until that that point, my history with friendships was rather sketchy and my role models even more so. My mother barely trusted women (her best friend slept with my dad) and my father, well, made a lot of offers people couldn’t refuse. Childhood aside, the relationship skills I had gathered afforded me as many pleasant and happy memories as traumatic or forgettable ones. Over the years, many of the friendships had been more fragile than I liked, and oftentimes out of balance one way or the other. Either I was too needy or too unavailable, or our lifestyles were not totally compatible—being a single mom certainly didn’t help. Yet, the ones I did maintain (for whatever length of time) offered a mutual comfort that, when absent, left me yearning for that very specific kind of connection that only a platonic camaraderie offers—one that, no matter how compatible, a sexual relationship does not.
Finding this handful of friends is, in many cases, no easy task; especially given the cultural fad of vapid, disposable, let’s-do-lunch, I-love-you-after-five-minutes, overweening, entitled, texting, emotionally handicapped, walking wounded human beings most of us act like. And that’s before you even get to hello. Finding your peeps, as they say, isn’t as easy as it seems but, like all good things, is definitely worth the work!
So, how do you tell if someone is got the right stuff to be your new BFF or just a GF? I figure that most of our same propensities arise when it comes to friendship as they do in an intimate relationship—except, of course, Le sexe. It’s safe to say that we are looking for many of the same things in a friendship that we are looking for in a relationship. With a few exceptions:
Someone to hang out with (you actually like)
Someone you have something in common with (aside from Le sexe)
Someone who will listen to your incessant or inane whining should it arise, however untimely
Someone who will show a genuine interest in you and your life, however ordinary or dull
Someone who has a high tolerance for your weaknesses
Someone who will have your back if ever need be
Someone you can count on (from OMG I have nothing to wear to my high school reunion, to OMG I have breast cancer and need someone to hold my hand during chemo)
Someone who will tell me the truth even if I don’t want to hear it (with compassion when needed)
Who doesn’t care if I am 10 pounds overweight (fill in the blank)
And still love me if I decide to shave my head, take up drumming and move to India for a year
Finding these select few, these magical, unconditionally (most of the time) loving phenoms can take some sussing out. Once you have decided that you want some great ones—who, if you’re lucky, just may be around throughout your lifetime—here are a few things to keep in mind. They just might make your journey a little easier done than said!
Set your intention—it works with friends too. Maybe you want to make two or three new good friends in the next year. Set achievable goals.
Set forth your criteria. What do you want? I wanted girlfriends who were self-sustaining, had a daily practice of self-care, who were on a similar spiritual track, and who had impeccable communication skills, etc.
List your non-negotiables, the things that just won’t work for you. One of mine was, “If you are upset you need to tell me directly and not make unilateral decisions that affect me as well.”
Interview well, ask good questions and wait and see if their actions match their words.
Don’t settle (even if you’re bored or desperate, you’ll be sorry you did!).
Tell the truth, even when it’s uncomfortable, better now than later, I always say.
Set your boundaries regarding money, men, and all things sacred!
Give as much as you get and make sure it flows the other way too!
Take your time, no need to rush, getting to know a new friend is fun and should be savored, and trust is built over time
Most of all, be silly, be yourself, and have some fun!
And remember, great relationships, including friendships, begin within!