Don't get me wrong, I'm all for coupledom. I think two is a great number. With two people, you can sit at the bar, eat some peanuts and actually hear each other talk. With two, you can take a road trip and not have one person in the back seat, deafened by the wind and, ultimately, left out. I know a girl who makes a point of having dates with everyone, not just her boyfriend. She meets up for regular one-on-one sessions with her friends, and I love her for it. People can act differently in a group setting, so sometimes it's nice to focus on a person without having to contend with his or her public persona.
In the romantic sphere, I prefer the number two as well. Sure, there are trends nowadays to swing with other couples or to embark on threesomes-but, while I am sure orgies can be a lot of fun for some, I myself am a little more old-fashioned. I think that, in matters of the heart, two is just the right number. I am with a particular person because they delight me, surprise me, challenge me, enhance my happiness. For me, committing to monogamy feels pretty natural-with the right guy, of course.
All of this to say that I am a full supporter of relationships, whether I am in one or not. When single, I don't brood and bitch in the corner about the happy couples. Sure, seeing lovebirds on the bus may have made me a little lonely from time to time, but it also gives me hope that love is out there.
However-and this is a big however-there are certain things that couples must avoid if they want people to be their friends. I think the biggest problems arise when someone's identity becomes inextricably tied to another person. I have actually had work correspondence with people who think it is appropriate to have shared email accounts. No offence, but I have zero inclination to email [email protected] When a work email goes out, how can the sender know which person has received it? If the message is to a friend with a joint email address, then it is even worse. What if you had something to tell Janie, but it wasn't meant for Mike? What if, God forbid, Janie actually wanted to talk to you about Mike and the problems they were having? It can get even nastier. I had a friend who would get suggestive emails from a married man-from his shared email account.
Why I am so against the shared address? Because sharing an email account presupposes that the couple is on the same team-whatever she hears, he hears, and vice versa. Sharing email is just smug (Bridget Jones can be thanked for that one, "the Smug Marrieds"). It is presumptuous to think that your friends are going to like both of you equally. Maybe they will-if you are lucky enough to be a fantastic duo-but it can't be assumed. Your friend was most likely closer to your half of the couple, and from time to time wouldn't mind talking to that just that half. I didn't even like it when my parents shared an address. What if I want to moan a bit about boy problems to my mum? What if I want to ask my dad about my mum's surprise party? I'm equally turned off when I see a letter addressed to "Mrs. David Appleby." Not only did my mother lose her last name in the marriage, but apparently her first name as well. It just doesn't sit well with me.
A wonderful single friend of mine was invited to dinner at a couple's house. She was closer to the guy. His girlfriend sat across the table from her and said, "Oh, it must be nice for you to eat with us, since I guess you eat alone a lot."
And that's just in matters of correspondence. I have seen the same in social settings. A great friend of mine went home for the summer and hooked up with her boss in the factory where she was working as a seasonal employee. He was the strong silent type, so when they came to Montreal for a visit, I never really got to know him. I understood that they were coming for a romantic getaway, but at no point did they let the other person out of their sight. It was great to go out with them together (well, kind of), but when I asked her out for breakfast so that we could actually catch up, guess who tagged along? The boyfriend sat there, arms crossed, and just watched us talk. I felt totally uncomfortable and hyperaware of every word that dropped from my mouth (and what I was saying wasn't very interesting anyway, because I was self-censoring). I never got to ask how they were doing as a couple and I didn't really want to talk about myself. They are still together now, many years later, but she and I have lost touch. Whenever I saw her, we had a silent chaperone. That ruined it for me.
I think we all have to be careful to not become an insular "we." When couples alienate their friends, they're bound to lose them-and end up just hanging around with other couples-in many cases, not even people they like. A wonderful single friend of mine was invited to dinner at a couple's house. She was closer to the guy. His girlfriend sat across the table from her and said, "Oh, it must be nice for you to eat with us, since I guess you eat alone a lot." It was a rude comment, and untrue-a quick way to lose a friend, I'd say.
So, happy couples, take note: the pronoun "we" should be used when talking about concrete things, things that actually happened. We went to the park. We saw this great movie. We have been together for a year. But when couples start to talk about subjective things in the "we" voice-We've been feeling really tired this week. We don't like spinach. We're really sorry that you've been single for so long-they are at risk of losing not just their friends, but themselves.