Good friends make hard times easier and great times even better. There’s no better feeling than being surrounded by people with whom you can share every part of your life. One of the best things you can do for yourself is build a network of people who support you, have fun with you, and love you unconditionally.
It takes a long time to find those people. I’ve considered lots of people good friends in my life, but only a handful of friendships have stood the test of time. People change and grow apart—that’s part of life. But finding those few people who you just know will be in your life forever is a wonderful thing.
We’ve all dealt with toxic people—they can drain the life out of you. I’ve maintained friendships with these types of people for long enough that they took a serious toll on my mental health. As we grow older, toxic people become easier to recognize, but we still end up wasting energy on people who don’t deserve it. The friends who are worth your time and energy are out there, but they might be hard to find—as someone who spent years completely without good friends before I found my people, I’m certain of that.
How do you know who those people are? How can you tell if you’re surrounding yourself with people who are truly good for you?
Here are a few ways to tell whether you’re spending time with the right people.
Good friends are open and honest.
If you’ve known each other for a while and you’re still hesitant about opening up, you might not be clicking as much as you think you are. I’ve met people whom I’ve instantly gotten along with so well that they learn everything about me at lightning speed. Some people are more open than others, but everyone should feel comfortable being honest with their close friends. If you’re hesistant, try to analyze why—are you worried that they’ll judge you, or that you can’t trust them? If so, they’re probably not someone you want to be spending time with.
Another important thing to consider is whether they’re honest with you. Just like all relationships, friendships require give-and-take. If they’re steering conversations back to the weather and answering in one word when you ask them how they’re doing, you’re probably not that close with each other.
Good friends are supportive.
It’s a no-brainer, of course, but it’s one of the most important qualities of a friend. They’ll always listen to you, and they’ll definitely have moments of brutal honesty if they think you’re making a mistake. But if they really care about you, they’ll consider your happiness first when they give advice. Their advice is always good, because they know you and what’s best for you. They care about what you want because they care about you, and you do the same for them.
Support is something we all need in life, no matter who we are. If someone you consider a friend abandons you during tough times, they’re not a true friend. You deserve better, because the presence of caring and loyal friends who build you up when you need it is one of the best parts of life.
Good friends know each other profoundly.
Aristotle said that “friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies.” Truly close friends have been through ups and downs together, and have helped each other through it all. Your closest friends know you better than anyone—that’s why they give the best advice, and they can always tell when something’s wrong. Friends know each other down to the core, and care deeply for each other despite their flaws.
This sort of deep connection is lifelong. I can go months or even years without talking to certain friends, and yet the dynamic will always be the same when we reconnect. It’s an interesting phenomenon, since people can change so much in so little time—but my best friends are the ones I don’t see very often, because it feels like no time has passed whenever we do get together.
Good friends forgive each other.
I’ve made a lot of friends over the course of my life, and I’ve lost quite a few as well. Sometimes I’m spending time with someone I don’t really connect with, and when we have an argument I find myself feeling relieved. Everyone argues, and everyone makes mistakes, but true friends work through it and grow from it.
Here’s a personal anecdote: my best friend and I, as young teenagers, had a heartbreaking falling out and stopped talking for a year. When we finally reconnected, we forgave each other, and our friendship went back to the way it was. We haven’t argued in all the years since, and I have no doubts that she and I will be friends for life. Everyone should be able to have a lifelong bond with someone like that.
True friendships aren’t stressful. You put in the effort to maintain them because you want to; because you and the other person both value the bond you have. It’s important to know that you’re surrounding yourself with the right people, because it’s not worth wasting your time. Friends make life infinitely more fun, and you deserve good ones.