Are Best Friends Actually Bad For You?

Is this relationship not meant to be? (Photo by Touchstone Pictures)Imagine surviving school without your best friend.

For the students of Thomas’s Private Day School in Battersea, London, having a bestie is an idea that should become extinct, according to the Ben Thomas, the school's headmaster.

After parents recently complained that their children were "no longer allowed to have best friends," Thomas told the London Telegraph, “There is sound judgment behind it. You can get very possessive friendships, and it is much easier if they share friendships and have a wide range of good friends rather than obsessing too much about who their best friend is. I would certainly endorse a policy which says we should have lots of good friends, not a best friend."

Thomas added that girls in particular were more likely to form cliques and exclude others.

Sound familiar? Films and television shows such as "Heathers," "Mean Girls," "Clueless," "The Craft," "Beverly Hills 90210," and "Gossip Girl" (and the list goes on) are satires of the perils of best friendship, but they also ring true for anyone who's lived through junior high. While these groups have potential to be cruel and exclusive due to the fickle nature of growing up, they're also an integral part of the socializing process. "For kids, having a best friend is crucial for learning how to socialize, share, and conflict resolution," says Beverly Hills-based psychologist Fran Walfish, Ph.D. "Then, as people grow into adults and start pairing off, their spouse becomes their best friend and friendships tend to equalize in priority.

And for adults, is hanging onto a bestie a bad idea? For one thing, being somebody else's everything is a lot of pressure. Just like you wouldn't expect a guy to embody every trait you're looking for in a partner, it's not wise to treat your friendships the same way. According to Walfish, since people have different strengths, it may be unrealistic to expect just one person to be your shopping buddy, confidant, problem-solver, and travel buddy. Even if you do find those qualities in a single person, demanding such high performance out of her (and them from you) creates unrealistic expectations. If one of you lets the other down, it can feel crushing.

What's more, best friendships may not be long lasting. It's common for female bonds to wax and wane throughout a lifetime due to changing jobs, locations, interests, significant others, and kids. What you want from a friendship at age 20 may be totally different than what you want at age 30. There's nothing wrong with that, but if your bestie hasn't evolved to suit your ever-changing needs, that can create tension.

The best solution, says Walfish, is to consider yourself the best friend you have and the people in your life as wonderful supporting players. "If you're lucky, you'll end up with a close-knit group of friends who are all important to you but for different reasons," she says.