• Keeping Friends

Does a ‘best friendship’ need to be a monogamous relationship?

If you feel jealous of your best friend having other friends, remember that your relationship with a best friend is unique—and unlike any other relationship either of you have.

QUESTION

Dear Irene,

I am thrilled to have found your blog, and I also loved your article on Girlfriend Celebrations, Avoid These Five Common Pitfalls of Female Friendship. Thank you in advance for providing the advice and support you do.

I am 42 years old and blessed with two fantastic children, a loving and loyal husband, a supportive family, a great new career, and a lovely community. When I became a mother 14 ½ years ago, I really came into my own and developed many healthy wonderful female relationships. There were times when I felt jealous or confused when a best friend of mine began to develop a new close relationship because my nature is to be “monogamous.” In other words, I only need one super intimate friendship at once, and can have other friendships as well, but don’t give those friendships the same time, attention, and preference. I want to desperately change this quality because I’m feeling very alone in my belief system.

I’ve learned that the majority of women seek multiple best friendships—or they want to have one best friend whom they know will always be there in a crisis, but love and seek the emotional high of “falling in love” with a new friend. I liken the scenario to innocently “going to first base” with other men despite being married.

I’m not saying that I want to fully adopt the belief system described above, I just want to learn how to better accept it as the norm, to forgive my current “best friend” for living this way and to learn how to enjoy the possibilities that come along with partially embracing this style. I appreciate your candor and look forward to hearing from you.

Take care,
Candy

ANSWER

Dear Candy:

You sound fortunate because you are juggling a wealth of riches: marriage, motherhood, career, community—and close friendships.

Opting to have one best friend or more than one best friend isn’t a matter of right or wrong. Several of the pros for having multiple best friends are: 1) You don’t have to depend entirely on any one person to have all your friendship needs fulfilled; 2) Having different best friends can be rewarding to you in different ways; each one may bring different qualities to your relationship and your life; and 3) If a best friendship falls apart, you have another close friendship to fall back upon.

While you may be content having one best friend exclusively, you need to understand that there are valid reasons why one or more of your friends may choose not to be “monogamous” with you and you shouldn’t take it personally. These differences are a matter of personality and style.

Remember that your relationship with a best friend is unique—and unlike any other relationship that either of you have. You don’t need to change your ways but don’t try to change your friend either. Be forgiving, rather than jealous, and allow your friend the space she needs to express herself in a way that feels right for her. If you make her feel guilty or like she is doing something wrong by befriending other women, you will only drive her away. If her life is happy and full, like yours, it will only make her a better friend.

Hope this is helpful!

My best,
Irene

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Category: KEEPING FRIENDS

Comments (7)

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  1. Diana23 says:

    Would welcome new comments and curious about others who previously responded dealt with are dealing with the issue of preferred exclusivity. Since my original reply 3 years ago, the woman who I still consider my best friend and I have gone through not major issues, but about 3 years ago, a situation where she saw I was bothered when she mentioned she was going out with her 2 lifelong besties and she and I hadn’t done anything in quite a while at the time. Since then, I shouldn’t blame her, I know she either doesn’t mention if she’s doing something with another friend or couples or just says she went out with her husband to find out later it was with a friend. Now we’ve traveled, spent time together dinners, concerts, etc. on a fairly regular basis, but definitely not the multiple times a month we used to. I realize now that was a lot especially as we’re both married, I have kids and we have pretty busy lives. She shares do much personally, except for bringing up stuff with other friends – and she honestly only hangs out with a few people. We both have small circles of truly close friends although many acquaintances. It’s funny because we have a mutual close friend who has gotten very upset when my best friend and I have done stuff without her so I don’t mention those things to her. I have other good friends but she is truly my best friend and while I know I am one of hers – and in fact I’m the one she comes to in a crisis – I still get jealous at times. It’s so stupid and we are over 40. I know different friendships bring different things, and I’m definitely the more demonstrative one, I have no doubt how important I am to her. She just doesn’t need or want exclusivity. I have no choice but to respect that, but it’s still tough sometimes after 3 years. It’s not a matter of cultivating other close friendships – I have several and love them dearly. I just don’t need to be in communication with them so often. I guess I answered my own question lol, but after all we’ve been through, deep down I know I have a fear that I’ll be “replaced”. How has anyone successfully dealt with any similar situation? I went to therapy and actually have dealt with it better since I stopped going!! Thoughts???

  2. Lyla says:

    I want my best friend to have a great support system, other than me, but what I don’t get is the [email protected], mean behaviors some of you have described. What a ridiculous way to act with a best friend! There really isn’t any excuse for giving the cold shoulder (always a stupid action) or demeaning any friend. If these “friends” are so insecure they have to divide or withhold love, maybe they have a personality disorder. Ignoring or belittling a friend is weird! Asking one to change or thinking they will change a lifelong method of operation is ridiculous, perhaps impossible. Change is hard and few want or think they need to change.

  3. Teresa says:

    Unfortunately, jealousy over friendships does not diminish with age. I am losing my best friend because she is close to a new lady. The two of them leave me out often. If I hurt the other friends feelings, my best friend will jump to her defense and shut me out. She even told me they were going on a picnic with several other people and they were deliberately leaving me out. This best friend also wanted me to try to get this lady to like me so we could all be friends but the other lady and i do not hit it off. So i am ending this friendship. It hurts but I do not want to have to make myself over to please3 my best friend’s other friends. I am in my fifties.

  4. Diana23 says:

    Very late seeing this blog and topic but just what I needed. I too am married (but struggling), fantastic kids, successful career and poured everything into my family until about 5 years ago when I realized as an adult, although I had lots of acquaintances, I did not have the one or two truly genuine close female friends I realized I needed. Luckily,
    I have been blessed with a handful of beautiful good girlfriends in recent years, all different. I do have one best friend now… we are extremely close, but am just realizing that I prefer to be exclusive with her and am having trouble when she chooses to spend time with other friends, especially her lifelong best friends who she didnt see often until recently. I am trying to be confident and secure in our friendship…, she’s given no reason for me to doubt her commitment to our friendship. But I am super jealous and am trying to keep those feelings in check bc I don’t want to damage our friendship. And I feel stupid bc I’m feeling this in my 40’s!

    • Fiona says:

      I struggle with this exact same thing…and I`m 50 on friday. I havent found a solution yet except to try to keep my jealous feelings in check, and not let it destroy our friendship, which is very close. I am really fortunate that she has not walked away from me, because I surely deserve it often.

      • Ashley says:

        Fiona, still struggling here too but working to manage through. Just read an article on Emotional Dependency, and while I never think I can fall into some “category”, it described how I act, feel and behave… Only with my closest friend, not with anyone else. This friendship is so important and I. Don’t want to what we have by being jealous. The article referenced that you can have a close friendship without being exclusive, don’t have to be in touch daily, and actually should welcome opportunities to hang out in groups of mutual friends, and be happy when she spends time with and develops other close friendships and not feel threatened. Makes sense but easier said than done!

  5. Belle says:

    I’m so glad this topic of exclusive friendship has come up. It is difficult to share a friend for whom you have had an exclusive best friend relationship. I have been on both sides of this fence. For me, this became a problem because my best friend never invited me out with her new friend. I often felt left out as my close friend described the outings and good times she was having with her friend. I wanted to be invited to join them and didn’t see why we couldn’t all go out together. By never inviting me along, it felt like my close friend was choosing her over me. Did she think by inviting me I would try and steal her friend or that the new friend would like me more? This is an example of women showing their distrust for one another. And here’s the thing. I don’t blame them because women can often be disloyal. I began to give my friend the cold shoulder and when prompted I shared my insecurity. She said she understood but never changed anything. The friendship fell apart.

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