Wednesday 21 November 2018

So how many friends are 'enough'? The BFFs theory

The cast of Sex and the City (from left), Cynthia Nixon, Kim Cattrall, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kristin Davis
The cast of Sex and the City (from left), Cynthia Nixon, Kim Cattrall, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kristin Davis
Holly and Jane
Suzanne and Sara
Roz and Rachel
Sex and the City

Aoife Stuart-Madge

Is the notion of a tribe of pals unrealistic, and quality over quantity what really matters when it comes to friendship?

Think back to the Carrie Bradshaw-era, when urbanites in impossibly high stilettos, wearing giant flower pins flitted around in tribes, attending club openings, shopping for Manolos and debating their colourful love lives over cocktails and cappuccinos.

The reality was perhaps not as glam as Sex and the City, but for the friendship tribes of the early noughties, friends were akin to family. Single 20 and 30-somethings travelled in packs, living together, holidaying together and eating together.

Fast-forward a decade, to the time-zapped Twitter-generation, and most people just don't have the time to cultivate large groups of friends. Post-recession, the world of work is more cut-throats than ever, which often means working through lunch, working overtime and even working weekends.

Even when we do have spare time to catch up with our friends, there are the 879 other Facebook friends all demanding our attention, too.

The upshot is that friendship groups have downsized, with people choosing to invest what little free time they have in one or two close friendships over spreading themselves too thinly around a group.

"Some of us may find a couple of friends who are really on the same wavelength with us, and their schedules and availability mesh well with ours. We begin to rely on them to meet the majority of our social needs," says Professor Suzanne Degges-White, PhD, a counsellor and author of Friends Forever: How Girls and Women Forge Lasting Relationships. "We may not have room in our lives for a large number of friends,"

Actress Megan Fox recently admitted she has only time for one real friend. "Her name is Mindy. I don't feel lonely or isolated. I have one really great friend and that's all I need," she said. And she's not the only celebrity rolling in a pair: Rihanna's best friend is Melissa Ford, her 'personal assistant' but in reality her childhood friend and constant companion.

Then there's Nicole Kidman and Naomi Watts, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon...even the six-strong Friends crew has been culled to just Jennifer Aniston and her best friend Courteney Cox.

Irish model Roz Purcell also has one person on who she relies: her best friend and sister, Rachel. "We even live together," says Roz. "She's the person I can share everything with, good and bad, and no matter what, she will listen and give time to it.

When I was living in New York alone, I was very lonely and Rach was the one who, without fail, would Skype everyday and always kept me going."

Rather than see our friendships as a family, they have become more like a romantic relationship, suggests Professor Degges-White. "Some of us easily trust others while some of us are much less likely to trust another so quickly. Past experience in friendships, just as in romantic relationships, really affects how we approach the next one."

Popular blogger Suzanne Jackson says that despite her 28, 000 Twitter followers, her best friend Sara Ward is one of the few people she truly trusts. "Working in the fashion industry, I stumble upon a lot of fake people who are only out for themselves.

"It makes me appreciate Sara all the more. I could call Sara at 4am in the morning if something was wrong and she would pick up the phone and stay on it until the early morning, as I would for her. We laugh together, tell each other everything and we have the utter most trust in one another."

As well as having that best friend who we've know forever and can call in a crisis, some people find it helpful to invest in a 'work' best friend too, says Professor Degges-White. "We need to be connected to people who understand where we are on our life paths as well as those who know us as someone other than the roles we play," she explains.

Something former Miss Ireland, Holly Carpenter is familiar with. She, too, prefers to count her best friends on one hand: her childhood friend, Aoibhinn, and her 'work best friend' fellow model Jayne Higgins.

"If I was having a problem with work or needed career advice, I would call Jayne because she understands the pressure that comes with modelling. It's nice to have someone who is in the same boat and who has been through the same things. It can be kind of lonely, and only people who've been in your shoes can really understand," says Holly.

"Whereas I've known Aoibhinn since I was born. We went to the same crèche, same primary school, same secondary school. She's the person I would call if I had a personal problem or boy trouble. They each tick their own box."

And just like a romantic relationship, Holly says you only get out what you put in. "It's like having a boyfriend, you have to make sure you see them and that they know you care about them."

 

What’s your friendship style?

1 How many best friends do you have?

A Only one close best friend

B Several best friends in different areas of my life

C I have more than ten ‘best friends’

 

2 When are you most likely to call your best friend?

A When I need a laugh or a shoulder to cry on

B When I need a partner for Zumba or someone to mind the kids at the weekend

C  To find out the address of a house party

 

3 What would make you dump a friend?

A If they betrayed my trust

B If our schedules started clashing

C If I hadn’t seen them in a couple of weeks

 

4 Your best friend suggests a girly weekend away. Your initial reaction is:

A “Amazing! Forget everything else, I’m in!”

B “Ah, I’ve already plans with the girls from work.”

C “Sure I’m booked up every weekend until next June, when would I get away?”

 

5 Something awful happens to your best friend. You:

A Rush to her side, knowing she needs you desperately

B Call to see if she wants you to come over

C Presume someone else is minding her in her time of need

 

Mostly As

You’re a... friendship lobster, you  mate for life.

“You are totally fine with having a couple – or just one – really good friend. If this is someone who listens, supports, encourages, and truly understands you, then one friend can fulfil your need for social connection. You may have other people in your life who you could call if needed, but you are genuinely satisfied with a single close heart-to-heart type of friend, and that one good friend may be all that you need.”

Mostly Bs

You’re a...friendship grasshopper, you jump between a couple of close friends.

“You realise that your friends have their own lives and that relying on just a single friend to be there every time you need them is unrealistic. You recognise that creating a widely diverse friendscape (landscape of friends) is similar to having a varied portfolio of investments. But you also know that having good friends is just like having money in the bank when you consider the security and value they add to our lives.”

Mostly Cs

You’re a... friendship butterfly, you flit randomly between wide social groups.

“You need to feel like your life is one big party and don’t feel complete unless you have a large collection of friends. You’re known as a social butterfly, party animal, ringleader, queen bee, or people-person – but you might be too busy ‘collecting’ friends that you are not taking time to really devote to relationship development. You must be willing to let yourself be authentic, genuine, and vulnerable to enable an acquaintanceship to develop into friendship.”

Professor Suzanne Degges-White

Irish Independent

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