(reprinted from January’s edition of “Mentality” for men)
Being the social beings that they are, women are generally more predisposed than men to seek out the support of their close friends when there are problems or challenges. Women are better at seeking out friends, and knowing how to support themselves by doing it.
On the other hand, men are not wired this way. Guys in our culture tend to have more superficial relationships, based on common interests, hobbies, work and sport. Men do have “guys’ night”, but usually entails some male bonding activity through watching sports or playing poker. Men bond with activities outside of their emotions, and our culture has never been supportive of men relating to other men in any other way, especially emotionally. Look at the abundance of “bromance” movies in the last couple of years, such as “I Love You, Man.” Culture, or more specifically, Hollywood, usually needs a comedic vehicle in which to introduce the idea of men connecting on an emotional level. It’s just too “weird” or “uncomfortable” without the humor. It’s kind of sad, because a lot of guys have nowhere else to turn for support.
On a practical level, many men do state that they want more male friendships. They often don’t know how to go about getting them, or aren’t willing to put the work in to maintain friendships. Again, this is where women do it better than guys. They can not only seek out social support from friends, and learn how to meet their needs in this way, but have the ability to maintain friendships and invest the time and energy than it takes to keep them going.
The older a guy gets, the harder it is to “teach a dog new tricks.” It just becomes “too hard” for a lot of guys to risk seeking out new friendships, and spending the time and energy that it takes to preserve them. Sometimes it’s just a little scary to reach out.
We say to ourselves that we want more friendships, but sometimes we aren’t willing to put the work in that relationships take. Friendships are similar to intimate relationships or marriages in that way: they’re good when you put the work, time and investment into them, and atrophy when there’s no investment. Even if you just “synch” with someone, you still got to put the work in to maintain friendships.
Fear is one way that we get stuck from advancing towards generating an up keeping friendships. Sometimes, fear prevents us from taking the risk of seeking out new male friendships or reigniting old ones. Laziness is also a common roadblock towards developing friendships. We don’t want to put the work in, or “have other things to do,” which is another way to say that we are prioritizing certain things in our lives over developing more room for personal friendships. It’s just one choice over the next choice.
Friendships don’t just come to us; they take a lot of work, energy investment, and mutual willingness. it’s the same as keeping a marriage healthy, and it’s a way of helping keep yourself healthy by learning to meet your needs as a man. Guys need the support just like women do, and friendships are a great way to get that support when they’re mutually satisfying.