According to scientists at the Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology at Oxford University; ‘If you go into a romantic relationship, it costs you two friends.‘
Previous research by Robin Dunbar, the head of the Institute has shown that typically we have a core set of five friends. But if you have a boyfriend or girlfriend you only have four, bumping off two and replacing them with your new love.
‘This was a surprise for us. We hadn’t expected it,’ said Professor Dunbar.
Which was a surprise for me to read, because you can’t watch your friends date, fall in love and eventually get married, without witnessing or experiencing this phenomena first hand.
Some people manage it better than others. Single people accept that friends with significant others have to put those significant others first. We’re not stupid or so completely selfish that we demand their wholehearted and unswerving devotion at all times.
We kind of do resent being entirely dropped though. It’s like being dumped. You’ve spent years with this person and bared your souls to one another. Then all of a sudden you’re persona non grata, because you’re not the love of their life. Just the person who’s poured them wine, passed them tissues, taken round DVDs and chocolates, laughed hysterically with them for no particular reason and so on and so forth. It’s hard to relinquish that role to someone who’s not known your friend for as long as you have. And to be happy about it.
Especially when you know that some of your no-longer-single friends have managed to share the loss of available time across all their friends equally, so you don’t feel abandoned, or singled out as ‘the one who got the chop when the new man came on the scene’. Those are the friends who you genuinely do feel delighted for, and who you get to share the excitement of a new relationship with. The ones who let you meet their new boyfriends and socialise together.
It’s different every time, so I hope I’m not making any sweeping generalisations. And it’s a tricky line to not be the bitter single woman, resentful of her friends’ new-found happiness.
Still, I’m not sure exactly why Professor Dunbar needed to conduct this research – will he come up with a cure for this phenomena so you get to have a boyfriend AND keep all your friends? – or how he can possibly not have known that this is the way it is. Perhaps he’s only got friends who are already married? No danger of being dropped there.
OO! And maybe that’s where the road to happiness lies – become one of the special four friends of a happily married person and you’ll have a friend in them for life.