Falling in love—beginning a new romantic relationship—costs you 2 friends, according to this story from the BBC reporting on a study by evolutionary anthropologists from Oxford University. As the BBC’s Jonathan Amos explained,
[The] researchers asked people about their inner core of friendships and how this number changed when romance entered the equation.
They found the core, which numbers about five people, dropped by two as a new lover came to dominate daily life.
The story makes abundant sense: being in a relationship requires time and energy, and being in a romantic relationship requires even more. Strike that. Being in a modern romantic relationship requires a whole lot more. It wasn’t always so. As Digby Anderson explained in Losing Friends, romantic relationships—and the family—have come to be seen as “the repository of all virtues.”
It wasn’t always so, though. Friends played a key role in our ancestors lives, and (based on my reading of Stephanie Coontz’ Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage), I question whether romance and marriage can bear the weight we moderns place on it. What if, instead of attempting to find our “best friends” in marriage—and what can that mean in an age where “BFF” is bandied about in a decidedly unforever-like fashion—we found romance, affection, and familial ties in marriage, and then spread our companionship among our families and friends?