It happens all the time: Guy falls in love with girl; guy stops hanging out with his buddies; guy stops going out altogether; guy starts spending all of his time traipsing around Target picking out sheets and towels with his new girlfriend. There’s also the reverse scenario: Girl falls in love with guy; girl stops gabbing on the phone with her BFFs; girl ceases to go out; girl and her unhealthy co-dependent relationship become the hot topic of conversation at all of those ladies’ nights she is no longer attending.
According to a recent study done by Oxford scientists, the reason this occurs is not—as we always presumed—because people are self-absorbed, totally whipped assholes, but rather because humans are only mentally and physically capable of maintaing four to six close relationships. So when a new boyfriend or girlfriend enters the picture, it means not one, but two inner circle homies are going to get the axe—basically because a significant other requires so much time, energy and maintenance. Evolutionary biology expert Professor Robin Dunbar says that men tend to have four to five close friends, while women tend to have five to six, but whether it’s a guy getting a new girlfriend or a girl getting a new boyfriend, the end result is the same: Two friends get fired.
More disturbing is that Dunbar says a person’s precious five friend positions don’t necessarily have to go to actual people:
“You can only have five slots for deeply intense and meaningful relations. Those individuals don’t have to be human. They can be your dog—or your favourite chrysanthemum plant. They can be people in an entirely fictional world—they can be soap opera characters. They can be God or they can be saints.”
In other words, Twilight vamp Edward Cullen is probably taking up a lot of valuable friend slots right now.
You’re probably saying to yourself, “Whatever—I have a girlfriend AND I have 576 Facebook friends,” but obviously the vast majority of those 576 friends don’t fall into the Deep and Meaningful friendship category. According to Dunbar, social networking sites are about showboating, not close relationships, and men “collect” friends on Facebook in an attempt to look cool and attract women. (You mean all those guys trolling Facebook and friend-requesting every young, hot girl they see aren’t looking for real friendship? No.Way.)
So the next time you get romantically involved with someone, take a good long look at your posse of friends and think about which two are going to go. You might decide that the chick dragging you to Bed, Bath & Beyond is not worth your two college roommates, or you might conclude that you’ve been wanting to break away from those losers for ages. You could also just try a little harder to maintain your friendships, but that’s probably just crazy-talk.