How to Be a Good Girlfriend
The art of the wingman is a much-lauded skillset. Being the best partner to your significant others, from the office to your personal life, calls for individualized prowess. We're celebrating female empowerment by shining a light on some of our favorite traits from the women in our worlds. Taking cues from the mavens hailing from the top of our speed dials, here are the best traits to possess in every category of girl bond. Behind every great everything is a great woman, right? That seems fair.
Work-wife bonds are thicker than blood. Given you're both caught up in the hustle, burning the midnight oil, and maybe even routinely backburner-ing your personal lives to crush it at the office, you'll have plenty of mutual respect and team building to bolster your relationship. Hold each other accountable for complaining. Keep each other vibrating on a positive frequency. Be impeccable with your word. If you give your word to anything from a project to a meeting time, make it happen. Establishing a reputation of trust and reliability is the ultimate professional currency. Having someone in your career you can always count on to have your back, that's gold. Joint spa treatments and the occasional staycation are also highly recommended.
Science says there's a formula to a successful, lasting relationship. It involves honesty and open communication. Turns out complaining can be beneficial in a controlled environment. According to mathematician Hannah Fry, "The best predictor of long-lasting relationships is how positive and negative a couple can be to one another." Fry's data suggests couples that go the distance "allow each other to complain, and work together to constantly repair the tiny issues between them." She adds, "In such a case, couples don't bottle up their feelings, and little things don't end up being blown completely out of proportion." The more empathy you have for your partner, the deeper your ability to approach conflict from a perspective that doesn't make anyone "wrong." We like the stance that it's healthier to be kind than right.
We could wax poetic about our goddess lady friends for many moons. For the BFF, there are a few obvious duties. You're a triage specialist on call for breakups, moving day, late-night pizza cravings, and pet-sitting. You're the de facto plus-one for work parties and social gatherings wherein a second-in-command is required. You can be trusted to report back from the front lines on relevant news and social happenings (BuzzFeed videos of note, Harvard Business Review must-reads; Margiela flash sales) while simultaneously serving as a human filter (Does she need to know about the model her ex just flew to Thailand? Nope. Block that IRL and digitally). To quote a real-life text from one of our number ones, "That voice in the back of your head telling you you're a dime and you deserve a Kennedy is right." Hyperbolic compliments are where you live.
If you run with a crew, odds are your differences are what make you better, stronger, closer. Yet every now and then, those same idiosyncrasies can spark into a baby powder keg of drama. Keep things chill by having a group policy that embraces peaceful confrontation. No gossiping. No ostracizing. If Tina has a problem with Natalie's incessant Venmo requests post–girls' night out, Tina can say it (civilly) to Natalie's face. Hold each other accountable for staying authentic. When you voice a problem, lead with a compliment (or three, as is the corporate America management–favored model) and follow it with a tangible solution. Other musts include group Airbnb rental vacations, impromptu favors, and reserving judgment on 90% of life experiences.
Though we live in a post–Ryan Gosling world where Western dudes proudly wear the label of feminist on their sleeve, it's my personal experience the bros still benefit from a soundboard for everything from interpreting their girlfriend's moods to navigating the Sunday scaries. Job one as wing woman to your male buddies is bringing the emotional intelligence to the table. Science is still hotly debating the differences in empathy and emotiveness between the female and male brain. Whether it's neuropathy or behavioral conditioning, there's no circumventing the fact that looking at a problem from a different point of view often leads to a solution. As friend-girl to the men in your world, you're the inside man to all things female. Help them pick Mother's Day gifts and/or remember when Mother's Day is.
A new study suggests remaining tight with your former flame may nod to a form of narcissism. That theory remains unproven, though we're not kicking it out of bed. If you've managed to navigate the live-well-and-prosper breakup model, odds are you've both checked your egos at the door and arrived at the mutual conclusion you're not meant for romance. Our two favorite rules for keeping anyone in your life with whom you've had a difficult past: Don't take anything personally and don't make assumptions. Ask questions. Read The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, and master the art of setting boundaries out of love. It will serve you in all things.
To your besties who have uprooted to a separate coast, time zone differences can put a significant cramp in communication. From the friend who jetted to Australia on an adventure quest to the one who relocated to Portland for work, I can attest to the emotional potency of care packages. A word to the wise: Learn how to label things for customs while shipping internationally. "Business documents," in our opinion, is a wide umbrella. Who's to say American Vogue and a detox bubble bath aren't "research"? (The magazine is a pretty ubiquitous inspo source, after all.)
And now, it's easier and cheaper than ever to keep in touch with your geographically farthest of kin. Load up your smartphone with apps. Visit when you can. Send letters. Even the briefest of handwritten notes is worth a thousand digital words.
Gifts don't hurt either. Here are a few of our favorite things to shop for your BFFs and loved ones: