I am grateful to have an amazing set of friends. Whether they’re encouraging me to put on my Big Girl Panties, or celebrating my bold move to Los Angeles, they are always supportive and fill my life. Time and distance do not matter. When you have true girlfriends you can go months without seeing each other and no love is lost. Just like that I am back at The W in SoHo, sipping on Apple Martini’s (pinky up) with my girls.
How can we maintain positive friendships for years? With effort, love and acceptance. As women, we go through many life stages. The days of sharing an off-campus apartment in college are over. So are Saturday nights out in Times Square or Hollywood or South Beach. We move on. We grow up. Rent or own a fantastic new pad in the Upper West Side or South Beach. Some of us even get married and have children. Still, we maintain a bond. The friendship transitions. We grow as individuals and…together.
Growing together is one of the key components to a successful friendship that overcomes it all, including baby drool and a new love. Here are five things successful friendships have in common.
Accept and learn.
The first step to a successful friendship is to accept your friend as is. That means no judgement. You let them be who they are. Whatever your girlfriend offers, take it. Whoever she is, accept it. She isn’t a project. Neither are you.
Take one of my friendships as an example. My friend, Karla, is a beautiful, educated woman in her twenties that just so happens to be sexually free. When we first began building a friendship I judged her choices (ouch). I dug in, questioning her behavior like a psychotherapist would a “problem child.” Soon, I learned the issues were all mine. I was judging her due to my hangups with sex. Once I realized this I let her be who she is, and our friendship is stronger now. So she also taught me a lesson. Great friendships teach us about ourselves and push our boundaries. It’s a beautiful thing.
Be your authentic self.
You have to be you. A friendship can’t work otherwise. You can’t accept someone and love them for who they are, if you don’t know who you are. We must be honest and vulnerable. It’s the only way to build a bond that lasts after the gray come in.
When we place expectations on others we want them to do what we desire. The thing is our expectations are about us. I can’t force someone to be the same kind of friend that I am. That’s why it’s so important to have a variety of friends that fill your life in different ways. I have a friend who is a great listener; when I need to vent, I call her. I have another friend who cheers me up with her hilarious tales of motherhood. When I need to laugh, she’s my girl.
This doesn’t mean you can’t express your needs. If you want something, say it. All of my friends know that my birthday is my Personal National Holiday. So they show up – or else!
Have a common thread.
Much like in romantic relationships, you must have common interests with your girlfriends. The interests may vary but having a common thread regarding activities and life goals matter in the long run. The commonalities build an instant connection. Me and my girlfriends love to sip on cocktails. I have other girlfriends that bring out the artist in me with their love of writing and theater. And they’re all go-getters because I am a go-getter. We all want to succeed and live better, richer, and more luxurious lives. Just like our friendships, there’s no stopping us.
Check your ego at the door.
To maintain a healthy, long-lasting friendship you must celebrate each others triumphs. Share contacts. Be a cheerleader. If cheering isn’t your thing, be a boxer. Help her knock out obstacles with words of support, love and encouragement. Use your strengths to balance out her weaknesses.
That’s how friendships flourish. That’s how girlfriends who once grooved on the dance floors of Milan transition into girlfriends on rocking chairs, sitting side by side.