Are you a relationship monogamist or a friend monogamist?

Here’s my crackpot theory of the week that must count for ALL WOMEN EVERYWHERE: I believe you can only be one or the other.
Publish date:
July 20, 2012
relationships, monogamy, friendships

When Jane was over for launch, Phoebe and I started discussing the nature of female friendship with her, and it dawned on me that, unlike my love life, I’m a total monogamist when it comes to friendships.

Look what a pair of charmers by BFFs are - can you blame me?

I occasionally make new friends, but not all of the time, and I never have fad friends. I met my best friends a decade ago at university and as far as I’m concerned, they’re as good as sisters. I have a few more longstanding friends that I’ve met through work, flat shares and mutual friends, and they’re all people I’d have at my wedding or spend a fortnight on holiday with without a second hesitation.

I try to practice good friend etiquette – I don’t embark on a torrid friendship affairs with someone if I think it’s going to run out of steam after a couple of months, nor am I a vampire friend who surreptitiously steals other people’s friends from them to make myself feel more popular.

This was taken so long ago I thought it was ok to team Spice Girl highlights with an Alice band

On the contrary – I really like my BFF Hannah’s friend Charlotte, and she lives really near me. But, I’d never start meeting her for dinner or arranging nights out with her without Hannah there, even though we have loads in common and get on really well – that would be weird.

I think (think!) that all my friendships are relatively healthy, mutually beneficial and have no hidden agendas or nasty sides. In total contrast, when it comes to my love life, I’m a little more…flighty.

And lets face it, there’s only so much drama any one woman can deal with.

In contrast to me, Phoebe has been happily married (to Mr Phoebe) for several years, and they’ve been together for nearly a decade.

They have the sort of healthy, loving, mutually respectful relationship the rest of us want (when we’re pretending that the unfaithful misogynist we’ve landed is perfect because ‘he’s so spontaneous’ and ‘really challenges me’ bah!).

Phoebe, on the other hand, is a classic vampire friend – never averse to worming her way into a mutual friend’s affections if she’d like to acquire them for her own, and although she’s not here to ask, I imagine she’s had a few fad friends over the years as well.

It should be noted that while I’m making Phoebe out to be some sort of nightmare friendship succubus, she’s not actually in today to defend herself. So, her friendship dynamic is probably a lot subtler than the Christopher-Lee-as-Dracula scene that I’m imagining, but I think the drift is right.

And, because three times definitely makes something a rule (is that right, did I make that up?), I also asked Jane what she thought. She totally agreed, and said she’s more like me: ‘when I make a friend, it’s totally for life’ (or something like that, I’m paraphrasing a bit, it was a few weeks ago now). I resisted the urge to ask her to name names, vis-a-vis these lifelong friendships, but you get the idea.

I’ve been trying to work out why women (well, three women at least), fall on either side of the man/friend monogamy divide, and one theory is that we all naturally crave stability in one area of our lives, and when we’re getting it, it frees us up to be a bit flightier in other areas of our lives – which is nice.

And look at us now, 11 years later. We haven't aged a day. Except I've turned into Su Pollard.

Or maybe we focus on certain areas of our life in a more negative way – because I’m either single or staggering around some relationship drama, I naturally rely on and maintain my friendships.

Maybe Phoebe’s has actively prioritised her relationship with her husband when she met him because she wasn’t feeling as great about her friendships at that time (ALTHOUGH AGAIN, I DON’T KNOW BECAUSE SHE ISN’T HERE TO ASK).

Or maybe it’s just not possible to put the time, effort and energy into both in a really meaningful way, and at some point, you just have to make a decision, whether consciously or not. Whichever way, it heartens me to think that we’re all essentially monogamous creatures at heart.

And so... which one are you? Or do you think I'm talking a big old load of bull?