1. Getting to talk about your life as much as your friend does. Even if you’re a great listener with even greater solutions to problems, the crux of your friendship should not be you acting as their unpaid therapist. There are people who ALWAYS have an issue they need to vent about, and if you chime in with your own struggles, they’ll just find a way to brush past them and reconfigure the convo to be about them again (the most useless talent ever). No adult has the capacity to keep these people in their lives long-term.
2. Having an even ratio of asking each other to hang out. LOL @ those people who bemoan being “too busy” to ask you to hang out and tell you that you’re better off just hitting them up every single time, as if you don’t also work full-time and have better things to do than orchestrate weekend plans. Friendship isn’t about one person carelessly lounging on a Sunday morning waiting for the other to text them possible brunch locations.
3. Knowing that they’re genuinely happy for you when you succeed. Sometimes, the bubbliest, most exhilarating people to hang out with grow immediately cold when you tell them you got a new job right when they’re having a bad day. So long as you’re not bragging 24/7 about a new boyfriend when you know your friend just went through a breakup, they should be able to congratulate you with genuine excitement in their voice. Who needs a so-called BFF who only roots for you when her own life is perfect?
4. Finding time for you when they’re in a relationship. Gone are the days of forgiving your college BFF for abandoning you the moment she’s locked down a new bae and decided to devote all her time to spooning on his twin top bunk. Real friends (and not-terrible adults) understand how awful it is to make someone feel like a temporary placeholder for a significant other.
5. Not being stressed about them meeting your other friends. It’s normal to have a variety of friends, some of whom may not love each other as much as you love them separately. But if taking someone to a party makes you sweat through multiple layers of clothing because you know how abrasive and judgy they can be around strangers, are you really having fun? It’s not hard to find a friend who is generally polite to other people!
6. Being able to have fun without drinking. Don’t get me wrong: 2-for-1 marg nights with your closest crew are the absolute best, from the over-ordering of drunk snacks to the hungover morning group chat. But if you can’t just grab coffee or ice cream without feeling like every sentence you utter is stilted without the aid of a vodka shot, it’s really hard to see this person as a best friend you can talk to at any time, wine glass in hand or not.
7. Spending a vacation together without hating them. Vacations can really bring out the differences in people, especially if you’re the type who gets up at 8am to go exploring but your bud is more of a “sleep in ’til 1pm” kind of person. But if you two literally can’t compromise on anything and have two entirely opposing ideas of what you want to do on a weekend off, no amount of cute Insta selfies will help you forget that you kind of wish you hadn’t written out a four-day itinerary and spent $500 on plane tix when all your friend wanted to do was go out to the same cigarette smoke-infused club every night.
8. Feeling like their criticism comes from a purely kind place. You know the difference. There are the “friends” who’ll drunkenly call you socially inept as a joke, and there are those who sit you down and have a mature, honest conversation with you when you mess up. Only one of those makes you feel better in the end.
9. Getting an apology instead of a blow-up. Texting a friend that their flippant comment the other day hurt your feelings CAN feel a little awkward, but it shouldn’t make you worry that they’ll suddenly hate you and accuse you of being against them. “Hey, this made me sad!” “Hey! I didn’t know, I’m sorry!” Easy!
10. Having a (mostly) drama-free friendship with them. Long-term friendship isn’t without its occasional spats (from which you both grow closer). But being paranoid that you’re the center of gossip whenever you leave a group hang is legitimately a bad way to live. That shit will shorten your lifespan, I swear. Plus, people who can badmouth someone for 45 minutes but haven’t read a full book in years are the most boringly insignificant people this world has to offer.
11. Truly not being afraid to air your biggest secrets. Worrying that you’ll be denounced as a bad person or harshly judged for your personal stories or opinions is, well, not real friendship. That goes double for not being able to trust that a secret is actually between you two and ok, fine, their S.O. because you know they tell them everything.
12. Knowing they can be reaaaaaal honest with you. Look, you just want to know if the text to your crush was too over-react-y (it wasn’t) or if you have a speck of parsley in your teeth (you do).
13. Generally agreeing on the same core values. As you get older and more confident, it (hopefully!) gets really damn hard to overlook ignorant comments or political views you find problematic. Sure, you can talk out your disagreements, but if half your time together is wondering if you should call your friend out or tensely trying to explain your views to someone who doesn’t seem to care at all, what is the point???
14. Feeling like your company is enough. Everyone’s hung out with that bud who texts while they’re with you or gets restless when it’s just you two and not a group hang. Age makes you realize that you were never the loser too uncool to spend time alone with – they were.
15. Respect for each other’s life changes. It doesn’t matter that your weekly tradition was grabbing wings; if you suddenly become a vegetarian, a good friend will be down to get Thai food instead of rolling their eyes at your choices. You’re growing up! You’re going to change. You need friends who will support you taking night classes and not seeing them as often, or saving money and not being able to go out as much. New habits are tough enough on their own to enforce without throwing irrational judgement into the mix.
16. Feeling like you’re growing together, not apart. Sadly, getting older means that you might struggle to find anything in common with some of your old high school friends, or even your go-to college squad. The friends that stay close may live halfway across the country, but still seem like they’re finding themselves just as much as you are, instead of staying stagnant and only interested in talking about people you haven’t thought about in five years. Catching up with your true BFF feels like so much has changed, and yet, nothing at all.