Words of the Buddha:
Young man, be aware of these four good-hearted friends: the helper, the friend who endures in good times and bad, the mentor, and the compassionate friend.
The helper can be identified by four things: by protecting you when you are vulnerable, and likewise your wealth, being a refuge when you are afraid, and in various tasks providing double what is requested.
The enduring friend can be identified by four things: by telling you secrets, guarding your own secrets closely, not abandoning you in misfortune, and even dying for you.
The mentor can be identified by four things: by restraining you from wrongdoing, guiding you towards good actions, telling you what you ought to know, and showing you the path to heaven [lasting happiness].
The compassionate friend can be identified by four things: by not rejoicing in your misfortune, delighting in your good fortune, preventing others from speaking ill of you, and encouraging others who praise your good qualities.
That is what the Buddha said.
DN31, tr. Kelly, Sawyer, Yareham
Long ago when I was young and foolish, I had a “broken picker”. This mostly had to do with boyfriends; I repeatedly picked men as potential partners who were charming, well-read and entertaining. Then I wondered what the problem was when it all went south – over and over again, including one husband. At last, nearing age 30, I took stock. I asked myself the direct question: what characteristics am I looking for in a partner? I realized I’d been swept away by charm, over and over, and that I hadn’t been looking for character.
What is character? Someone with good character will keep his word when he gives it. He has peaceful and happy relationships with at least some of his family. He has friendships that are mutually satisfying. Once I re-set my radar, the perfect partner magically appeared.
In the same way, we need to be clear about what we are looking for in our relationships, and not be seduced by superficial features, but examine words and behavior.
Likewise, we need to take responsibility for our own words and behavior. If we could choose just one friend, would it be ourselves? Are we a helpful and enduring friend?