THE BLOG
05/31/2009 08:51 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Does a best friendship need to be monogamous?

QUESTION

Dear Irene,

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

Have a question about female friendships? Send it to The Friendship Doctor.

Irene S. Levine, PhD is a freelance journalist and author. She holds an appointment as a professor of psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine and is working on a book about female friendships, Best Friends Forever: Surviving A Break-up With Your Best Friend, that will be published by Overlook Press in September, 2009. She recently co-authored Schizophrenia for Dummies (Wiley, 2008). She also blogs about female friendships at The Friendship Blog.