When we are young, we seem to have no shortage of “best friends.” As we mature, however, the nature of our friendships changes. Having or being a best friend is not as simple as labeling someone a BFF (best friend forever). There are other more important factors.
1. Being emotionally supportive is probably the most important element of any adult friendship. Best friends refrain from unnecessarily criticizing each other and tend to be nonjudgmental.
2. A best friend will listen to you and thoughtfully respond rather than react to what you’ve said even if you have triggered something in him or her. The ability to hear what another is truly saying is one of the best parts of friendship.
3. You can tell who your real friends are when you need help with a move or a ride to the airport. Best friends go out of their way for those they care about, and it feels good to both parties.
4. Thoughtfulness is a great quality that deepens and strengthens any friendship. Being able to see someone else’s needs and doing what you can to fulfill those needs is a bonding experience. Our best friends do things for us that no one else would think of.
5. Reliability is another great trait in a personal friendship. When you know you can call on a friend to bail you out of a jam 24/7, it makes you feel better and increases your confidence.
6. Best friends are accepting of you and your flaws. They don’t expect perfection. When you aren’t at your best, they are understanding rather than critical. If you’re having a bad day, someone who cares for you will ask if they can help or let you be alone if that’s what you need.
7. A friend gave me a cocktail napkin that said, “Friends are therapists you can drink with.” A good friendship is therapeutic, but a good friend is not the same as a drinking buddy.
8. A good friendship can define you both and help each of you navigate this thing called life. Your friend is a mirror who reflects back to you who you are to them. Your good parts shine, and those pieces that need improvement are not judged but understood.
9. Sometimes we all need a shoulder to cry on, and having a friend you feel comfortable doing that with is a gift. For some people, it’s hard to cry alone. Having someone you can really let your pain out with is very helpful when you are dealing with difficulty.
10. Best friends have your back. Knowing you can trust another person with your well-being will allow you both to explore and enjoy new things.
Having a best friend is heartwarming and life-affirming. A best friend is there to help pull you up and never put you down. You have to be willing to give what you want to get, but I don’t know anyone who thinks a good friendship is not worth that effort.
Barton Goldsmith is a psychotherapist in Westlake Village, Calif.