1. Don't Date a Friend's Ex
This rule applies to dating as well as friendship. If your pal went out with someone, that person is now off-limits for you. This is true for a couple different reasons. First, you need to support your friend through their breakup. This means that when they are angry and hurt over something their ex did, you need to have their back, which includes listening to them, being empathic, and standing up for them if need be.
The second thing is, when your friend is finally over their ex, it would be weird for them to see you with this person. More than that, it may bring up all those issues that your friend worked so hard to get over.
Are there exceptions to this rule? Sometimes, but only after enough time has passed that it wouldn't be difficult for your friend to see you with their ex. This can happen when they have fully moved on and wish both you and the ex well. If you're in doubt about dating a friend's ex, talk to them first.
2. Don't Steal Friends
Some folks recommend stealing your friend's pals as a way to increase your social circle, but consider this scenario: You introduce two friends who up until then had not known each other. The three of you have a great time, but soon after, you can't get a hold of one of the friends. Your calls and emails are ignored, and you find out later that your friend has been hanging out with the other pal you introduced them to. Your friends felt sheepish about doing this and never returned your calls. Your friend is now doing things with your other pal that they used to do with you. In the meantime, you're sitting at home.
Would that make you feel good? Probably not, which is why you'd never want to do this to someone else. It's a nice thing to introduce friends to each other and even encourage them to get to know each other, but it's an unwritten (until now!) rule that you should include the friend who introduced you for awhile so they don't feel left out. It's okay if eventually people become friends on their own, but when they instantly meet someone and then cut you out, they are stealing your friends, and that just isn't cool.
3. Take Turns
Ideally, friendship is about sharing, which means that you each take turns deciding which activities to do, where to meet, and who should pick up the tab. But taking turns is about more than that. Friends need to share the limelight, give and receive empathy equally, and never take each other for granted. A tall order, to be sure.
While relationships are never one-hundred percent equal all the time, the goal should be that you go out of your way to:
- Meet your friend halfway
- Split or pick up the check
- Step back when they receive attention
- Make sure you provide support when they need it (and not just when it's convenient for you)
- Listen during conversations (don't make it all about you)
4. Stand By Your Friends
Nothing is worse than a fair-weather friend, or someone who is by your side when things are good but bails when the going gets tough. Even when you don't agree with the things your friend is doing, you can still sincerely care about them. The true definition of friendship means that someone will stand by you. This includes:
- Standing up to gossip about you
- Giving you the benefit of the doubt
- Being available for you when things are tough
- Defending you when someone has wrongly accused you
- Providing insight to someone who doesn't yet know you
5. Don't Blow Them Off
Friends show up when they say they are going to, but it's also more than that. You want to demonstrate that you can be someone your friend will be able to count on for the small things (showing up for lunch) and the big ones (when they go through a divorce, lose a parent, or get fired from a job.)
By that same note, don't be the friend that cancels at the last minute or waits to RSVP until you're sure you have no other plans. In short, do the things you say you're going to do.