The actress, activist and mom of three graces this year's cover of The Beautiful Issue
Jennifer Garner is often called “the girl next door” — the celeb everyone would love to count as a friend.
In her own relationships, this year’s The Beautiful Issue cover star knows what’s important when it comes to the girlfriends in her life.
“Sense of humor,” she tells PEOPLE in this week’s cover story. “And a lack of guilt. I do not believe friendship should or can come with guilt. 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.”
The actress, 47, who is mom to her three kids, Violet, 13, Seraphina, 10, and Samuel, 7, with ex-husband Ben Affleck, especially appreciates her friendships with other mothers.
“Oh my gosh, I was the world’s most anxious first time mom that ever lived, and I really did it in a vacuum,” she explains. “I didn’t have girlfriends around who were having babies at the same time. I wasn’t part of a moms’ group with my first. I was so isolated that I really missed out on everything.”
Now Garner has a wealth of support from her tribe. “From girlfriends modeling for me or seeing something and thinking, ‘Oh, I’m going to cherry pick that from you’ and ‘I love the way you handled that’ and ‘I want that sentence in my brain’ and ‘I need to write that down,'” she says. “Because that’s what it is when you are parenting in a community. I mean the moms at my kids’ school are the moms that I look up to and try to emulate.”
As such, the actress — who recently celebrated the 15th anniversary of her beloved role in 13 Going on 30 — had some words of wisdom when asked what advice she would give to her 13-year-old self.
“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 most importantly, “If something goes wrong, if you can let it go, let it go. If they’re not serving you, let that friendship go,” she adds. “See if you grow together, [or] if you grow apart, but your girlfriends are the key to life.”