It’s no secret that male friendships provide many benefits, and it’s a curiosity that men don’t work harder to keep them up. I think it’s a lot more difficult for guys to maintain friendships than it is for women, and this can matter quite a bit in various ways.
Male friendships provide men with another outlet from their primary relationship, which is desirable. Instead of leaning on their spouse for their emotional or social needs, men who develop friendships and keep them usually report more satisfaction than guys who don’t.
Men can also develop and expand their identities by spending time with friends. Too often, guys get caught up in a work-home cycle, and tend to forget about themselves as people outside of those roles – as husband, father or employee. Keeping different senses of self is important, and a good investment, because, unfortunately, one of those things may end in the future (marriage, job), and then men are left with hopelessness and not knowing who they really are.
Women generally are more known for keeping up relationships, which take work, but I challenge men to do the same. To keep friendships alive takes work, and if both parties aren’t interested or unwilling to put the work in, the relationship can’t survive or thrive. Both parties have to be willing to be engaged, be proactive about setting up activities or “man dates,” and being available on some kind of regular basis.
Do you do what it takes to keep up your male friendships? Do you want to? As I’ve gotten older, and my time has become more important, there are some friendships that I’ve let slip away, and others that I’ve developed. I think my friendship circle has grown stronger in quality, if not in quantity.
Keeping up male friendships is hard, but worth it. The thought of getting into my middle age and beyond without friends is a scary thought, and the last thing I want for my golden years is to be alone and friendless. I know many men in their 60’s and 70’s who are coming to retirement, and don’t have much outside of their marriage to speak of. They haven’t spent the time developing themselves as people through interests or friendships, and end up being more susceptible to loneliness or depression.
The key to developing better male friendships is to increase depth. Men usually bond around superficial things, like sports, stocks, and common interests, while not really learning about each other as people. It’s developing that depth of friendship that ensures a stronger connection, and without it, can make things seem shallow, especially when a crisis or problem hits and you need your guy friend for more.
Not many men require it, or think it can happen, but a lot of guys want emotional availability from their guy friends. I think it’s been taboo for a long time, to expect that from other male friendships, but the world is changing and taboos are breaking down around traditional male bonding. We can get a lot more out of our male friendships if we can learn to connect a little bit more with men on that level, or, at least, to keep up the regular work it takes to keep a relationship going in spite of our busy lives.