It requires daily or weekly attention to maintain foreground friends, so there are necessarily a limited number of slots (four to a maximum of six). Some of these can be filled in by your romantic partner, parent, sibling, or child. Because they are in the foreground, foreground friends are the ones who have the greatest impact on your health and wellbeing, for better or for worse.
What are the hallmarks of good foreground friends? First and foremost, they make you feel better about the world and about yourself. They are there for you, listen to you, and while they don’t always agree with you, they get you. There is a sense of reciprocity and reciprocity in terms of help and commitment. And most of all, you basically enjoy being with them, just as they enjoy being with you.
People who don’t belong in your foreground are the ones who don’t seem really pleased when something good happens to you and show a touch of glee when something goes wrong. Another clue is that they are boastful, self-righteous, error-prone, or irritable in conversation – or keep bringing the conversation back to themselves. And stay away from anyone who is not defending you, when someone else is slandering you, or worse, intruding on you.
Susan Heitler, psychologist and author of The Power of Two, which looks at friendship in the context of marriage, warned that you should also look to yourself when making decisions about who to populate your post-pandemic world : “Maybe it is you, not necessarily the other person, who makes the relationship asymmetrical” and unsatisfactory.
You cannot have good friends if you are not a good friend yourself. Do you only report when you want something or have nothing better to do? Are you the one who is argumentative or always talking about yourself? Do you say or do things to lessen your friend’s joy? Are you too demanding? Prejudicial? Emotionally unavailable?
Of course, nobody is always a perfect friend. We all have our less-than-admirable moments. But a solid and good friendship is one in which the two of you are able to deal with intentional and unintentional hurts.
“It’s not the lack of conflict that determines the success of a relationship,” says Mahzad Hojjat, a professor of psychology who studies friendship at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. “This is how the conflict is resolved.”