If you’ve ever wanted to become besties with Jennifer Garner (and like, who wouldn’t?), there are now blessedly some guidelines to follow. In her cover story for People‘s “Beautiful” issue, she shared the qualities of a BFF that are nonnegotiables for her—and it breaks down to one big do and one big don’t. Tragically, the “do” is not a willingness to belt “Love is a Battlefield.” Rather, the first friendship qualification is having a sense of humor, which like, not a shocker. But the second must-have is a godsend for every boss babe with a crowded Google calendar: A lack of guilt.
“I do not believe friendship should or can come with guilt,” Garner says. “Like a friend who says, ‘You haven’t called me,’ or ‘I saw you out with someone else.’ That is not part of the deal. That breaks the girlfriend code.”
To this, I have two reactions: First, I have literally never considered a guilt-free friendship in my life, probably because I was raised Catholic, and there’s no such thing as guilt-free anything. Second, I love it.
Embracing the guilt-free way to defuse situations you might have otherwise stewed on can seriously set you free and improve relationships that get more complicated with time and age and life—and remain totally important.
As I’ve gotten older, it’s become harder and harder to schedule plans with my friends. Between those who are moving (or have already moved) across the country, those who have jobs across town, and those in serious relationships that monopolize their spare time, it’s hard to actually see anyone IRL. Like, I value my female friendships on a Leslie Knope level, but aggressive schedules and growing responsibilities make them really hard to maintain. So this phenomenon of guilt-free girlfriends and not taking things as a personal offense is a really, really good strategy for maintaining friendships.
But within reason, of course, because something like, “I’m pissed you didn’t come to my dad’s funeral because you had a Bumble date” is probably a worthy complaint for foisting some guilt. Yet, for the objectively pettier problems in life, it might be smarter to approach things from a concerned POV rather than an accusatory one. For example, if your friend has flaked on dinner plans two times in a row, you can chalk it up to conflicting schedules and let it go. If it gets to three times, maybe ask if she’s overwhelmed with work or life, and then broach how the two of you can make plans work.
Embracing the guilt-free way to defuse situations you might have otherwise stewed on can seriously set you free and improve relationships that get more complicated with time and age and life—and remain totally important. After all, Garner tells her 13-year-old self (and me, someone who is 28 going on 12) in the interview, having a squad on your side is essential.
“There is nothing more important, other than your kids—no man, no relationship, no anything—than your girlfriends,” Garner says. “You find your tribe, you take care of them, you treat them with the love and respect they deserve, insist on the same back for yourself.”
And have a sense of humor about things if they cancel happy hour to keep a dentist appointment. Nobody said growing up was easy.
If you want to feel young again, enjoy this guide for throwing the ultimate grown-up girls’ night in. Or, if you’re getting so bad about ditching your friends for your S.O., here’s an expert’s advice on how to balance both out.
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