I’m a Little Lonely. Most Men Are REALLY Lonely.

If I stop and think about it, it makes me sad. So I try not to think about it.

In high school, I had three best guy friends. We loved each other. Said as much when signing each others’ yearbooks. By the time we graduated college, we were barely in touch. The last time we were all together was my father’s funeral when I was 26.

In college, I had four best guy friends. We loved each other and I thought our friendship was unique and special. It wasn’t. We all went to each others’ weddings in our late 30’s, but after we had kids, it was the end of the show. The last time we were all together was a group 40th birthday party in New Orleans. That was 5 years ago.

I’ve been married for nine years, a father for 6. I work from home in the suburbs. I don’t play poker or golf or drink scotch – I’d rather have a pool party with margaritas and my wife around. There is very little testosterone in my world.

My current friends are fathers in my community – kindergarten dads, temple dads, soccer dads, etc. They’re great guys, but we don’t have the same history. We couldn’t. What 40-year-old guy can spend countless hours talking these days? We have full-time jobs, kids to raise, and endless family obligations. I see the local Dads around once a month. I see my longtime LA friends two times a year. I see my college friends only when I’m on a business trip in their city.

If you have a guy friend, call him and let him know you’re thinking of him.

I’m busy, all right. But I’m a little lonely. And I’m one of the lucky ones. Happily married. Two kids. No commute. Highly active social life with an extroverted wife who knows everyone in town. Shed no tears for me. I’m only using my plight as a way into this viral piece by Billy Baker of the Boston Globe, which painfully identifies how middle-aged men don’t have the same sense of community or support as their female peers.

The results are visible everywhere. Go on dates. Ask your guy friends. Most of them will tell you. There are no fraternities or posses or bro-groups for men of a certain age. There are no men’s networking organizations, no conferences just for men, no Love U for guys.

There is mostly work.

If you’re lucky, you have a wife. If you’re luckier, you have a wife who encourages you to make guy time, like I do. If you’re extremely rare, you have one close friend or a small group of friends you connect with periodically and travel to see every year.

Want to know why guys bear their souls on the first date and want to marry you on the second date? Look no further than the loneliness epidemic, which has quietly swept across America, and is slowly destroying our male population. Disconnected men have no social contact, no warmth, no support, no touch, no one to celebrate successes, no shoulder to lean on during tough times. It’s terribly sad and relatively unreported.

If you have a guy friend, call him and let him know you’re thinking of him.

You’ll probably be the first to do so this year.

Are you a guy who has experienced this slow fracturing of social bonds? Are you a woman who has seen this up close? Your thoughts, below, are appreciated.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Heidi

    Middle-aged loneliness is definitely not gender-specific. I am a 53 year old single woman with no kids. My close friends are all married and very busy with work and family obligations. They have hardly any time or energy to enable closeness for their single friends  (me). It is lonely indeed

    1. 1.1
      Emily, the original

      Heidi,

      My close friends are all married and very busy with work and family obligations. They have hardly any time or energy to enable closeness for their single friends  (me)

      I have experienced this, too, but I’m lucky in that the area where I live has lots of meetup groups. At the very least, you know the people in the groups have an interest in getting out of the house and meeting new people. Then you have to get to know them and find out if they value friendship, and by that I mean real friendship as opposed to friendly acquaintanceship. Someone you would call up and ask, “Hey, I’ve got a scary doctor’s appointment tomorrow. Can you go with me?” It takes time to filter out and find these people, but you can’t maintain a meaningful friendship with someone you talk to once a year.

  2. 2
    Elemental

    This is sad! It’s certainly not the only thing, but I think my exes loneliness was a factor in our divorce. He just had no guy friends – none. We had couple friends, but the only connection these guys had was that they were married to a group of close girlfriends. The guys never really seemed to bond with each other, not sure why. There’s such a thing as too much time together and when I couldn’t meet all his needs his resentment grew and grew. He absolutely hated it when I went out with my girlfriends alone and made sure I knew it. And there was always an argument when I got home. Now, he may have had some control issues as well, but I wonder how it would have been if he’d had a chance to blow off steam with a buddy or two.

  3. 3
    Michelle

    The Billy Baker article mostly seems about how men with children (who also work) are lonely because they have no time left for seeing friends. As a child free, married woman in my thirties, it always seems to me that the people around me who have children have lots of friends, because they all have their children in common and can bond over this. So I also wouldn’t necessarily say that all women have easy access to friendship groups – where I live, it’s equally lonely to be a woman if you don’t have children and so can’t relate to other women of the same age.

    1. 3.1
      Kristina

      Yes. And it is probably hard for child less men as well.

  4. 4
    John

    I’m 59 years old. Raised five kids. Divorced five years ago after 32 years of marriage. Just last week I was at a local club, rediscovering my love of dancing from my high school and college days. Throughout the evening, I noticed again and again, women dancing with each other. They were able to enjoy this expression of movement regardless of whether a male partner was available. It was a reminder to me of how, for a very long time, I have both admired and envied that women can do that. Women can openly enjoy emotional connection with each other and even to an extent, physical connection without ever raising an eyebrow or even a second thought. On the other hand, if men sought to express emotional or physical connection with other men in the same way, it would quickly be construed that they were gay.  In general, society simply doesn’t allow for men to connect with other men emotionally. Men are expected to be tough and emotionless and to “buck up” under the burdens and struggles they face. In my own life, after a faith crisis, a bitter divorce and becoming an empty nester all at the same time, I felt for a long time that loneliness was my only faithful companion. Just reading this article was a little emotionally overwhelming as I thought back over the past five years…the hardest and loneliest years of my life.

    1. 4.1
      E

      There is an organization called The Men’s Division and another called Mankind project which helps men connect. My boyfriend belongs to Men’s Division. It is incredible.

    2. 4.2
      Lia

      Wow John,

      Thank you for sharing that. It touched me and made me think. I have wondered why so many men seem to move on quickly after a relationship ends while so many women take a break before getting out there again. I wonder if it is because we have our friends that we share with and are close to and many men don’t and are longing for connection again.

      1. 4.2.1
        John

        I hadn’t considered that but I think your hypothesis is an astute one Lia. Even now, five years after my divorce and leaving the church that was the center of my life for over 50 years, I can count on one hand the number people, male or female (including my therapist and family members), I would feel comfortable openly conversing and sharing intimate thoughts or feelings with to try to work through my struggles. On top of that, I’m a freelancer and work from home so I’m alone 90% of the time. Like Brene Brown says, we’re wired for connection. It’s a fundamental human need and can be so illusive. Thanks for sharing your insight.

  5. 5
    Danaellen

    Men usually connect through similar activities where they are “doing” rather than just “being” as in conversation.

  6. 6
    ScottH

    I thought there were conferences for men.  I remember my shrink mentioning something about it.

    I can relate to this topic.  Early 50’s, divorced 5 years, one kid in college and the other a senior in HS.  It gets awful quiet sometimes compared to when things were busy with the kids but I can’t say the loneliness is as excruciating as it used to be, certainly not as bad as when i was married or desperately trying to find a partner shortly after divorce.  The memories of how good it was and how happy I was when I was in the honeymoon phase of dating someone post-divorce keep me looking for a suitable and healthy partner where we can settle into something good.  But many times, it feels like it’s just me, by myself and the frustration of mid-life dating makes it very challenging.  I think I’ve gotten very good at managing the disappointments, maybe too good.

    1. 6.1
      Emily, the original

      ScottH,

      The memories of how good it was and how happy I was when I was in the honeymoon phase of dating someone post-divorce keep me looking for a suitable and healthy partner where we can settle into something good.

      But do you have interest in making friends? Friendships are like any other relationship in that they require effort and work to find and maintain. I’ve read other articles similar to the one highlighted in this post written by middle age men who have no social network beyond their spouse and families.

      1. 6.1.1
        ScottH

        I have a couple of friends I’ve known for 25-30 years, one of whom I talk to 4-5 times a week on the phone and is brother-like.  We used to eat lunch together every day for 10+ years.  I have several women friends and I socialize at meetups too.  I’m really not hurting to make friends and I like my alone time too but I wouldn’t mind another guy friend.  It’s a female partner that I’m really longing for.

        1. Emily, the original

          ScottH,

          I have several women friends and I socialize at meetups too.  I’m really not hurting to make friends and I like my alone time too but I wouldn’t mind another guy friend.  It’s a female partner that I’m really longing for.

          I like my alone time, too. Of course, it depends on what a person values, but I’ve never understood people who have no interest in friendship. I have known both men and women who use meetups just to meet a partner and disappear completely once they do. I just don’t want to be the only person in someone’s support network.

        2. Yet Another Guy

          @Emily, the original

          Some people are not just not interested in investing in new friendships.  I have a few friends that I made in the first half of my career and a group of childhood friends, but I have not made more than acquaintances since I married.   I am cool with it because I am not a social animal.  I do not need to be entertained in the company of others.  I can spend long periods of time by myself and not be bored.  However, then again, I am an INTP, and that is characteristic of my personality type.   For some odd reason, I tend to attract extroverts, especially ENTJs.  🙂

        3. Emily, the original

          YAG,

          Some people are not just not interested in investing in new friendships.  I have a few friends that I made in the first half of my career and a group of childhood friends, but I have not made more than acquaintances since I married.   I am cool with it because I am not a social animal.

          Different strokes, I guess. You mentioned meetups being for extroverts. I am an introvert and not super social but I do like to have one fun thing planned per weekend. To be honest, a man having no friends or not having any interest in friends would be a red flag for me. I don’t understand people whose only interest is romantic relationships.

        4. Yet Another Guy

          @Emily, the original

          To be completely honest, I could take or leave a relationship as well.  I have friends.  I just do not hang out with them very often, as I prefer my own company.  I get to do what I want to do 100% of the time that I am not at work or with my children.  That is really refreshing after spending the better part of two decades of my life with a woman.

          I recommend reading a book entitled “The Buddy System: Understanding Male Friends” by Geoffrey Greif before passing judgement on men for how they manage their friendships.  Men are very different than women when it comes to friendships.

          https://www.amazon.com/Buddy-System-Understanding-Male-Friendships/dp/0195326423

        5. Emily, the original

          YAG,

          I recommend reading a book entitled “The Buddy System: Understanding Male Friends” by Geoffrey Greif before passing judgement on men for how they manage their friendships.

          I’m not judging male friendship. If you don’t want to have friends or don’t spend much time with the ones you do have, that’s your choice. I simply said a man not having friends would be a red flag for me. Just like a man who still lived with his mother (and didn’t need to do so for financial or health-related reasons) would be red flag. I value friendship and autonomy, but I’m one person. Other people may feel differently.

  7. 7
    Morgana

    Hey Evan. It’s not just guys. I’m in the same boat. Happily married. A teen-age step daughter heading off to college. Very few friends in my area, and I’m an introvert to boot. I run into more people I know when I travel to foreign countries than I find here in Long Beach or see in L.A. Over and over women I consider my “best” friends disappear without explanation, leaving me wondering what’s going on.

    So I spend too much time molesting my husband or hanging out on social media. It’s rough.

    I get that men have specific challenges, but I think it’s bigger than gender. I’m feeling it, too, especially right now.

    Namaste, brother. Happy Birthday.

    1. 7.1
      Kristina

      I am in Long Beach, too!

  8. 8
    Michelle

    Men built capitalism and the nuclear family – if they are discovering the downsides to being Masters of the Universe, I’m sure they can apply intellect and effort to creating awareness, building networks and gaining/offering support. There must be hundreds of thousands of men in the same position.

    1. 8.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      Thanks so much for your warmth and concern. I feel much better having had this exchange.

      1. 8.1.1
        Michelle

        It is a cause for concern, Evan. Here in New Zealand, the suicide and depression rates for men and boys are highly disproportionate to those of women  So we are seeing the effects of this American phenomenon in our own backyard, and as a Kiwi (and social scientist) it disturbs me greatly. Identifying the capitalist system as being the root cause of many of these effects (work as a focus of male identity and accomplishment, moves away from extended family for work, the goal of “independence” away from an intergenerational home and therefore systems of support and togetherness) isn’t being unkind. From this article and public campaigns in New Zealand, it seems that awareness is spreading of these issues. Therefore it also seems that there is no impediment for that awareness to increase and a social movement to change this for the better can gain ground. It will take bravery and effort for those willing to apply it.

        There are parallels here to awareness campaigns about mental illness, which has been a cause of mine for 20+ years. It can take as little as one gutsy person admitting that they are living with mental illness to start a domino effect of awareness, compassion and acceptance. So something like this column, if forwarded onto our male friends and relatives, could have that same effect.

        I’ve experienced the “lonely man” through my father , who had no friends and found a new companion 6 months after my mother died of cancer, squarely putting his own needs before those of me and my siblings. This was a person who was trained to identify ways to kill human beings in Vietnam but could not acknowledge his own feelings of loss or navigate the world of friendship. I’m sure there are many men like my father in his generation, which is truly sad. However the tools that younger generations possess lead me to be optimistic that transformative change can be made.

        1. Karl R

          Michelle said:

          “I’ve experienced the ‘lonely man’ through my father , who had no friends and found a new companion 6 months after my mother died of cancer, squarely putting his own needs before those of me and my siblings.”

          Is it possible that your father was taking care of your needs … by taking care of himself as well? Airlines instruct parents to put on their own oxygen masks before placing masks on their small children. (The child can handle a little hypoxia … far more easily than they can handle having a parent pass out and die from hypoxia.)

          According to this 2011 longitudinal study (click here) a person has “about a 40% higher risk of death following widowhood than you would otherwise expect.” This risk is most evident in the first 6 months following the spouses death, but it is evident for at least a decade after.

           

          When my wife lost her mother to cancer (long before we met), she was very concerned that she might lose her father next. Similarly, when she lost her favorite aunt to cancer, she feared she would lose her uncle as well.

          In both cases, she encouraged them to get out, date and remarry. I don’t know if the time-frame was quite as quick as your father, but I think it was no more than a year before they were in long-term relationships.

  9. 9
    KK

    Anyone can become lonely. Remaining lonely is an option.

    Even if you don’t live in or near a major city, there are almost an endless number of options to meet new people through meet up groups, support groups, adult sports, book clubs, volunteering, etc.

    I have the most compassion for widows and widowers who are not only dealing with newfound loneliness, but serious grief. That combination can be deadly.

    1. 9.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      I have a rich and full social life. I just miss my oldest and closest friends from high school and college.

      Meeting a guy at a Meetup doesn’t replace 20-30 years of history. That’s all I’m saying on a personal level.

      On a societal level, men without the social life I have could certainly benefit from your recommendations.

      1. 9.1.1
        KK

        I hear ya!

        It wasn’t until my dad retired that he made an effort to get back in touch with his old high school and college buddies. He was fortunate in that he and my mom had lived in the same area most of their lives, so it made it much easier to get together several times a week and doing so brought him a lot of joy.

        Several years ago when my father passed, it was that group of men that told me stories about my dad that I had never known. Really cool stories that I will always cherish. Friendship is a wonderful gift.  : )

    2. 9.2
      Emily, the original

      KK,

       

      Anyone can become lonely. Remaining lonely is an option.

      I agree. You almost have to put the same amount of energy into a social life that you do dating if in fact a social life is what you want.

  10. 10
    Suze

    I agree that it’s not gender-specific. I grew up in another state, and met my partner soon afterwards. Never made the same types of friendships as when I was younger. I have kids but they don’t have many friends due to their ‘issues’, so don’t have the thing where you’re friends with all your kids’ friends’ parents. To make matters worse, my partner is an introvert, and likes to —  needs to — be alone a lot (he’s always reading). I make friends now and then, but it’s a friend here, a friend there, and they don’t know each other. And everyone has their own, busy life to lead. I miss having a group of girlfriends! It can be quite lonely.

  11. 11
    John

    It is difficult these days to make male friends. Most men I know make their wives the center of their world. It is not that their wives won’t let them have a “man’s night.” It is that my married friends are totally unaware that they need male companionship.

     

    1. 11.1
      Fromkin

      Most men I know make their wives the center of their world. 

      Hanging out with friends is hardly purposeful, the way life with a wife is. Divorced and even widowed women don’t see it that same way however.

  12. 12
    Carmelia Ray

    My feedback Evan, because well, you asked. All relationships including your friendships with your guy friends need nurturing. Relationships only dwindle if you let them.

    Question: Would you let your relationship with your wife become like your high school or college buddies? Do you not make every effort to maintain the communication, closeness, bond and physical contact with your immediate family? Do you allow circumstances or situations to drive your partnership? Clearly not. I know the story of you and your wife. Your wife was not the woman you thought you’d ever end up marrying or having children with. Perhaps you decided that your friends were not the type of people you wanted to have friendships with, why else would they not be in your life unless you allowed it?

    We choose who we spend our time with and the connections we wish to nurture. Loneliness as they say is a state of mind. You’ve discovered something missing and now all there is to do is to choose your next guy friend. The same way that you would coach a single, strong, successful woman into taking the actions to manifest her MAN. Her Guy. Her BEST FRIEND, with benefits. Is truly what you need to do when it comes to finding your BFF.

    We recently connected by phone after many years of likes and the odd comment here and there on Facebook and I truly enjoyed the conversation. In fact. I would welcome a call from you every month. Every week if you wanted to. Heck – You and I could probably be FRIENDS in real life. I like you. I always have.

    Now, if someone like ME is open to having and developing that kind of relationship with you, I would imagine there are others. And you should seek the testosterone kind of friendship you’re missing. Make it your mission. For women there’s an app called “Hey Vina.” Where women can look at other women’s profiles to find a BFF. A new girl crew or their next BFF.

    Not sure if there’s one for men. You already said you meet other dad’s in your community. Why not stop and actually get to know one of them? Make the extra effort to pay attention and then create the relationship. As you know Evan, it takes two to tango and someone usually takes the lead.

    Perhaps you seek friendships where your BFF pursues you. Calls you. Maintains the contact. Rather than putting that responsibility and obligation on you. There’s a part of me that wonders if people are really lonely, or if they just don’t want to make the effort because let down and expectations are too high?

    My situation is very different. I often feel overwhelmed, spread too thin and have too many parties to go to, weddings (not so much given I’m also 45), graduations, baptisms, baby showers, house warmings, special occasion get togethers are constantly under my events notification. I have about 5 super close people in my circle and I’m fortunate to have the balance of both estrogen and testosterone in my circle.

    You give so much of yourself to your craft, your passion and GIFT for writing, your love for your wife and family, that your relationship to your already very few guy friends has taken the hit.

    I believe you can have exactly the kind of relationship you occasionally crave with a dude whenever you choose it. You’re probably not that lonely 🙂

    And – thank you for sharing and allowing me to chime in.

    Your friend-ish <3

    1. 12.1
      FG

      If your assumption is Relationships only dwindle if you let them.” I do believe you are wrong.

      I’ll immediately throw in my usual caveats about generalization.

      Men bonds are inherently different from that of women. One good example of this is the huge gap between discussions of intimacy or sexual practices. Men are, for the most part, considerably more guarded / discreet than women are, and this to a degree that is even perplexing or even disturbing. Many exchanges between women, overheard or quoted by a then partner, reach appalling levels of detail. Such disclosure may even reach extents deemed transgressions of the couple’s bond and privacy.

      Getting together to watch a game serves a purpose, but a very limited one. The exchange is innocuous, has little depth or detail, and merely addresses a need for presence. A veneer of togetherness.

      Ever heard the saying that true friends can pick up and catch up no matter how much time has elapsed since their last contact? This can be largely true, but may remain exceedingly superficial.

      In men, as in women, different personalities define limitations. Soul-baring is not for everyone. Intellectual analysis is the realm of a few.

      Go back to The Big Chill. The movie reveals how people used to relate.
      “Wrong, a long time ago we knew each other for a short period of time; you don’t know anything about me.”  And THAT quote sums up divergence with passing years. The crux of the friendship nucleus may still be there. Shared events, history, views, training, and fondness, or a kind of love.
      Often, judgmental interpretations of another’s life will get in the way. You feel they went off in the wrong direction or got derailed. A very personal take, often missing MUCH detail.
      Tried to do something, and failed? My be held against you. Succeeded? May be just as bad. Achieving neither more nor less than your former peers? That may please everyone.
      Unemployed? Thousands of similarly qualified people may get dumped on the sidewalk simultaneously, and other corporations also downsize. To some people, this is a disgrace and the person or their situation / bad luck makes them uncomfortable, so the friend is shunned.

      I have the advantage of being multicultural. From personal observation…
      In the USA, the best of friends, whilst colleagues, are suddenly estranged when one moves away and/or changes jobs or corporations. This is largely reflected in most anglo-saxon spots. Efforts to maintain contact do little to alleviate the problem.
      In French culture, friendships used to be solid, stalwart, quasi unbreakable. With progressive Americanization, this aspect has taken a serious hit.
      In general terms, many psychobabble books advise to summarily dump negative people / influences, which is perhaps a sane mental health and preservation reflex, but there is a difference between temporarily troubled and permanent doldrums. This aspect also means that we seem to recommend being a fair-weather friend.

      The more average / run-of-the-mill a person is, the easier it is to find a mate / partner, and make friends or sustain those links.

      While you are right that lack of effort in supporting / feeding a friendship will eventually spell its dissolution, providing such effort may not always be met with reciprocity. Sure, a lukewarm reception may have nothing to do with you, as your friend’s current context may preoccupy him (recent fight w gf/spouse, trouble at work, etc.). Repeated contacts that feel unidirectional? Or never echoed? At which point do you “pull the plug” and stop trying? We do account for differences. One friend will never call. It’s not in his nature. Oddly, he’ll always express himself with “glad you called”. We get together for lunch, the exchange is very open. We’re different.

      There ARE generational differences. Keep in mind that we hear, see, feel, and adequately perceive that people really are more isolated than ever before as they disappear in their chosen virtual reality. There are reasons.

  13. 13
    Suzanne L Hendricks-Poole

    Well.  Fuck.

    Evan.  You are talking to the wind.

    This has been the age group disparity.  We’ve all loved and lost in a huge way at this point.

    I have loved. Lost. Invested. Taken your advice heart and soul.  But after decades of marriage and serious relationships…I don’t know.

    Much of your advice is for younger years.  My peer group of men?  If they are monied in any way? At 60? Think they deserve a woman of forty.

    I am finding the old axiom of nurse or a purse to be prevalent.  I’m healthy and just not looking for a project or ill

    I’m attractive and get a lot of attention.

    I don’t have a lot of assets, but I have have a reasonable income.

    It’s just too complicated.

    I can’t afford another liar. It would wreck me.  As would disappointment.  So I just have stopped dating this last year

    I wish it was different. And you still are my go to advisor. But I think I am sadly done.

     

    1. 13.1
      elizabeth

      men lie to especially ones on line they win your trust and disappear whats that

  14. 14
    Joelle andren

    Meetup groups changed my life! This organization is in every city and has every activity you want! If it doesn’t you can start one. If you want a specific group and you don’t see it I believe there is someone else that wants it to! So start one! Join one! Participate in one or more….

    1. 14.1
      Fromkin

      Meetups are there. Dealing with groups of strangers does get old though.

      1. 14.1.1
        Yet Another Guy

        Meetup groups are better for people who are extroverts.  Extroverts need to socialize.  I would rather have my teeth drilled without novocaine than have my energy consumed by a meetup group.

         

  15. 15
    Kristina

    I’ve known about this issue for a while now and it breaks my heart.  I personally know four men in my world…oops…make that five who are lonely. They are all individual, different backgrounds, good men but are lonely.   ALL of them feel the pressure to succeed with work.  All of them liked being with a female but four out of five are single.  I know loneliness myself so I try to be supportive.  It’s one thing the feminists are missing…men’s pain.  I wish they could see it.

  16. 16
    Kayleen

    I saw this with my soon to be 3rd ex-husband… but it wasn’t for lack of me trying to support and encourage him to have friends and be more involved and social. I couldn’t understand why after we got married he would spend most nights and weekends sleeping and avoiding everyone (including me), until we separated after 1.5 years. I then realized he suffers from depression and either refuses or is incapable of doing anything to recover. I tried to help, tried to be supportive and loving, but nothing I did was good enough. He finally sent me divorce papers last week. It’s so sad.

  17. 17
    Sam

    I totally have seen this and agree that we should reach out to our single male friends. I’ve seen single men’s loneliness many times and I’ve even commented on it to my female friends and they didn’t seem to think it mattered. But, as someone who values male friends and really tries to include as many friends as possible in social activities, I’ve seen that a lot of my male friends push away after we become great friends and have a solid dynamic. I think I understand why; it seems to be exhausting for them to create strong bonds with women that they know might pull away a little once the woman finds love. But it still hurts me when they pull away.

    All of this to say, the article says to text or reach out to our male friends because chances are no one else has recently, but my question is how do we show friendship and love without a male friend later pulling away? Now I know this is just case specific and I have tons of male friends that are there no matter what, but there seems to be a threshold regarding the closeness of our friendship. The men I’ve become best friends with seem to pull away after 4-6 months and the idea that a text from me would help their loneliness is true but also not the only emotion it would eleicit. Thanks for your advice and response in advance!

  18. 18
    Michelle H.

    I think that’s why our grandfathers used to go to Elks clubs.  Seems like present-day men could use an updated version of that.

    1. 18.1
      John

      Hi Michelle,

      Unfortunately , the Elks club is no longer a men’s only club. They were sued for not allowing women. Well, that is the point; to have men only. Men are different when women are not around. That is what happened with that. It became a “cause” for ending discrimination against women by forcing men’s clubs to allow women to join.

      Here is the link to the story if you are interested:

      https://www.aclu.org/news/elks-lodge-settles-aclu-lawsuit-agrees-admit-women-members

       

  19. 19
    Andrew

    It’s not just the US. I’ve read multiple articles and research from here in the UK that show the same conclusions, and as a 53 yo divorcee of 6 years I can vouch for the accuracy. Apart from work, if my sons aren’t around there are times I would rarely speak to a soul. Why? I have no family other than my sister who only just moved back to the UK after 10 years in Australia, groups/societies I belong to are populated by married couples – mostly older, I’ve lost touch with school and other friends and/or they live many miles away (some abroad now). Add to that being an introvert and you’ve got a recipe for loneliness.

    When I was married it was mostly my wife’s friends and family and their spouses we socialized with, so when that all goes, what do you do? I think it’s probably true that men do make their wives (and family) the centre of their world (true for me certainly) and that women tend to maintain friendship networks that men simply don’t.

    From my perspective now, I can’t see how things will change. In my limited dating forays over the past few years it’s clear to me that if you tell a woman you have no friends and you’re an introvert, you’re marked as ‘don’t touch with a barge pole’!

  20. 20
    Jeremy

    I have no doubt that there are many lonely women out there, as there are many lonely men.  Yet notwithstanding that, I do believe this to be a gendered issue – not so much as to loneliness itself, but rather the reasons WHY a given individual is lonely.

     

    I know many lonely women.  Women who never married, whose old friends all married and with whom they now have little in common.  Women whose lifestyle diverged from that of their old friends and lost the friendships.  IME, what most of these lonely women have in common is that their loneliness comes from a lack of OPPROTUNITY – they want friendships, they crave them, they seek them, they go to meetups and attempt to phone people – but their efforts go unrewarded so they are lonely.

     

    I know many lonely men.  Men who lost contact with their old friends, who got busy with their families and jobs, who invested all their emotional capital into their wives and subsequently divorced.  IME, what most of these men have in common is that their loneliness comes from a lack of INITIATIVE.  There are people out there willing to be their friends, but they just can’t bring themselves to call.

     

    I personally fit into this category, though like Evan, my life is full with my wife, kids, and the broad social network that my wife provides.  But if I were to lose that, I would be very lonely indeed.  And all the insight in the world will not change the fact that some fundamental instinct is lacking in me (and in the men I know) that my wife and all her female friends seem to possess.  An instinct to tend and befriend.

     

    Without that instinct, men are very much like the sharks from the movie “finding Nemo.”  They want to be friends with fish, they don’t want to eat fish, they know that being friends with fish will ultimately make them happier and give their lives more meaning…..but it is almost impossible for them to overcome their instincts nevertheless.

    1. 20.1
      KK

      Jeremy,

      You’re definitely onto something, I’m just not sure it’s quite that simple. Nor am I suggesting that I have it all figured out. I don’t. But I believe lonely women can also lack initiative and lonely men can lack opportunity; or at least that’s their perception.

      Since being divorced, my social circle changed in ways I could’ve never imagined. One of my oldest and dearest friends told me that she no longer had anything in common with me now that I was divorced. She felt if we remained friends, her own marriage might suffer. I was puzzled by this odd conversation because our friendship consisted of daily phone calls and getting together for lunch or shopping. I’m not a bar fly and certainly had no intentions of asking her to go man hunting with me. So now, she calls every 3 or 4 months and we catch up for about 20 minutes until the next time she calls. Out of my group of friends that remained, all but two are married.

      I have every other weekend to myself. I have every opportunity to make plans and sometimes I do. Yet there are many times I lack the initiative. I know it will result in loneliness and I know that it’s my responsibility to take the initiative in order to avoid being lonely, but many times I simply lack the initiative. Many times I’ll turn down offers to get together because I cherish my alone time but it comes with a price.

      Moving on to men…. I am absolutely certain you are correct when you say lonely men lack initiative and no doubt there are lots of lonely men. But what about those men who prioritize their friendships over their marriage and family? I live in the south and a lot of men here love to hunt. During deer season, they’re gone every weekend, much to the chagrin of their wives. Then deer season ends and quail or duck season or something else begins. A lot of these marriages end and the ones that don’t, are usually unhappy marriages.

      The only reason I brought this up is because although there’s more than likely some gender aspect to all of this, (to reiterate) I’m just not sure it’s quite that simple.

       

      1. 20.1.1
        Jeremy

        KK, I’m sure that exceptions exist, and our personality (whether introverted or extroverted) plays a role.

         

        I do know some men who fit Evan’s description of himself.  Guys who are very extroverted – the ones who were very popular in high school and maintained all their friendships throughout the years and still get together for weekly basketball games 30 years later.  That’s amazing, but not the norm (unfortunately).  Because for those guys, extroversion is their instinctive behavior – they recharge by being with people.  And if they are stressed and need to withdraw, they do it with their friends rather than alone.  And I’ve seen all kinds of withdrawal behavior – excessive involvement in social/political groups to the exclusion of one’s marriage, workoholism, poker nights, strip clubs, etc.  Sometimes a guy who looks like he is trying to connect with friends is actually trying to escape his life.  And sometimes the guy who lacks initiative to engage with friends does so because engaging with his family takes everything he has.

         

        Why doesn’t telling obese people about the potential for heart disease and diabetes persuade them to eat healthier?  Why don’t cancer warnings dissuade smokers from smoking?  Why doesn’t telling men about loneliness and mental health issues persuade them to take more initiative to forming friendships?  Answer to all of these questions – because unless we can link un-instinctive behavior to immediate instinctive rewards, most people lack the wherewithal to overcome their inclinations in the long-term.

    2. 20.2
      Emily, the original

      Hi Jeremy,

      I personally fit into this category, though like Evan, my life is full with my wife, kids, and the broad social network that my wife provides.  But if I were to lose that, I would be very lonely indeed.  And all the insight in the world will not change the fact that some fundamental instinct is lacking in me (and in the men I know) that my wife and all her female friends seem to possess.  An instinct to tend and befriend.

      Did you have male friends in high school and college? Buddies you hung out with before you met your wife? You say you lack the instinct to tend and befriend (though from what Evan wrote to Barbara, it sounds like he has the instinct), but did you ever have it? I work with a lot of middle-aged, married guys and many seem to have no interest in friendship. Their lives revolve around their wives, who act as (for lack of a better description) their life cruise directors. Their wives make all the social plans and keep up their social network (which sometimes barely involves his family) as well as dictate their chores on the weekends. I’m not trying to be snarky, but I’m honestly asking why men do that. I’m thinking of one guy who spends all his time with his wife, her grown children, her grandchildren and her extended family. He barely makes an effort to keep up with his own family, so they get ignored because his wife is not facilitating those relationships for him.

      1. 20.2.1
        Jeremy

        I had friends, but not the close type of friendships that Evan described he had. At every stage of my life I had friends and slowly lost contact with them. Most of the men I know are the same. Most of the women I know won’t let a day go by without talking to at least one of two friends by phone or by text. The difference is stark.

         

        When women are stressed they seek  connections. When men are stressed they withdraw. And I’m stressed a lot, so seeking connections is often not in the cards for me.  It may be a cop  out, but I really think the best bet for men is to marry, because the social networks their wives create will be a huge factor in men’s future  happiness.

        1. Emily, the original

          Jeremy,

          It may be a cop  out, but I really think the best bet for men is to marry, because the social networks their wives create will be a huge factor in men’s future  happiness.

          Maybe it’s just me, but I think that is a lot of responsibility to place on another person and too much to ask. I don’t want to organize and run someone else’s life.

        2. Callie

          Once again, Jeremy, you are placing all the onus of men’s happiness on the shoulders of women. I understand this is how it is now, but why, with such self reflection and knowledge, doesn’t it also make sense for men to try to break through their own barriers? “Okay, so I tend to withdraw with stress. Though it makes me uncomfortable, what would happen if I reached out?”

          This is actually why I wish a proper not misogynistic movement for men’s rights could come about. A true support system that fought through the stigma men face in demonstrating emotion, in reaching out, in wanting to have friends. There is so much depression out there that men face, so much that it leads to high rates of suicide. Wanting women to fix that for you isn’t the answer in my opinion, men need to start helping themselves and each other. And of course we women will do what we can, but you guys need to take the lead here.

        3. ScottH

          I totally agree with Jeremy on this one and do not understand Emily’s and Callies’ reactions to this.  Was it Rocky who said to Adrian, “I dunno, she’s got gaps, I got gaps, together we fill gaps.”   Isn’t that the nature of partnership?

          Seems that you guys need to reread the Dependency Paradox in the Attached book.  What Jeremy is talking about isn’t being codependent in an unhealthy way or asking the woman to act like the guy’s mother.  He’s talking about it in a healthy way.

          I expect my partner to depend on me in certain ways and for me to provide things for her and I expect that she will do the same.  At least that’s what I’m hoping for.

        4. Callie

          How is it healthy to say this “I really think the best bet for men is to marry, because the social networks their wives create will be a huge factor in men’s future  happiness”? How is it healthy to depend solely on one’s partner for one’s social happiness, especially when literally this post here that Evan made demonstrates it isn’t at all healthy to do this because men end up quite lonely when either they find themselves single or their wives are out of town or whatever? Loneliness is a massive problem for men, and if one of the factors is that they are not actively trying to meet and make friends but relying on someone else for that, and it’s NOT working (since men are considerably lonelier than women), then why on earth does it not make sense for men to consider possibly they ought to take the bull by the horns themselves and see if there are other ways to have a social circle and emotional support beyond just what their partner provides?

          Also I practice what I preach in my relationships. My boyfriend has many male friends who he had before I came into the picture and who he goes and hangs out with still now. Sometimes I join them, sometimes it’s just a boys’ night. I too have my own friends who I spend time with and he does likewise. Having some independence and not wholly relying on the other person IS healthy. Yes obviously having someone else in one’s life who does fill some gaps in one’s life is definitely part of a relationship, but complete and utter dependence and if not complete misery and loneliness? There is no way you can convince me that’s healthy.

          (also the reason why the women in this thread are reacting this way is that women get a lot of emotional labour placed on our shoulders with very little reciprocity, and guess what, we don’t like it. We don’t mind being supportive of our partners, but if we have to be EVERYTHING for our partners, that’s a lot to ask. Especially when so many men refuse to return it in kind (witness YAG for example who utterly refuses to be emotionally supportive in a relationship). And even though women have been doing it for generations so it seems like this is just the way things are, it doesn’t mean it isn’t hard work and a drain on us. It’s one of the reasons men are happier in marriages than women statistically because men get all the support they need, but women are the ones GIVING the support while not getting it in return. In other words: doing double duty and getting half as much. [A generalisation of course, I am most fortunate to have men in my life who give me fantastic emotional support, so it is definitely possible for men to do it and do it well 🙂 )

        5. Emily, the original

          Callie

          Once again, Jeremy, you are placing all the onus of men’s happiness on the shoulders of women.

          Totally agree.

           

          ScottH

          I totally agree with Jeremy on this one and do not understand Emily’s and Callies’ reactions to this. 

          Well … Jeremy has written extensively about the fact that a man needs a woman to respect and admire him. For me, personally, I cannot respect someone who requires so much emotionally.

          I expect my partner to depend on me in certain ways and for me to provide things for her and I expect that she will do the same.  At least that’s what I’m hoping for.

          Of course, but that doesn’t mean structuring his life for him. From what I remember, didn’t you write that you had several friends (male and female) you keep in regular contact with? I thought I remember you got out and about and were open to meeting new people. It sounds like you have built a life and hope to add a partner to it. I think you have to create a life that someone else would want to be part of. I’m working on it myself!

        6. GoWiththeFlow

          Jeremy, ScottH, Emily,

          I think Jeremy’s statement about men getting married brings up something very important.  In all the talk on this blog in the comments on how men’s genes and behavior have evolved to want to have multiple sexual partners because it’s an effective mating strategy–and therefore marriage is “unnatural”–what is missed is that the reason marriage/pair bonding exists is because it conferred a survival advantage to humans.

          Part of that advantage can definitely include having a spouse who brings with them and maintains a social support network that benefits both spouses as individuals.  Social support, in this sense, is just as important of a skill to bring to a marriage as money or social clout.

          I don’t think this is a bad thing when the marriage works, like in Jeremy’s case.  But it can become a huge issue for a man when the marriage splits and the social support system he relied on was something his wife brought into the relationship.

          For the men who are in this situation I don’t know if the issue is lack of initiative.  Maybe it’s just a lack of basic know how, or rusty social skills.

        7. ScottH

          I don’t think I said or implied that you should accept a guy who has no friends, no social skills, and relies on you to be his everything.  I think it’s ok to reject a guy like that, but it’s up to you to do so if you want to.

          All I meant to say was that most women are more social beings than most men.  I wonder if that is how things evolved.  When we were out hunting, you guys stayed back and did womanly things together in a tight knit group.

          I think Jeremy’s statement might have been taken too literally but clearly, for most guys, one of the benefits of marriage is that women socialize more and we can benefit from that.

          When I was married, one of the very few things that worked out well was that she was the social director for our family.  She was better at it than I was and she liked it and it worked.  And I’m not saying that I didn’t arrange things.  She did, most of the time.

          Would you disagree if Jeremy said that the best bet for men is to marry because of the possibility that regular sex can occur and that can be a huge factor in a man’s future happiness?  or all the other benefits of partnership that are described in the Attached book?

        8. Jeremy

          @GWTF, I totally agree.

           

          @Emily and Callie – I wonder if you might be misunderstanding me (or perhaps we just disagree).  I don’t think that a man should rely on his wife to be his entire social support system in and of herself – that is too much pressure for any one person. Rather, most men rely on their wives to create a social dynamic wherein they will have others on whom to rely.  For example, my wife makes Saturday lunch plans with different families, wherein she talks with the ladies, I talk with the men, and the kids talk with the kids.    I’ve made many friends that way that I wouldn’t otherwise have made, and these friends help form my support network.

           

          And what will this mean for men?  It will mean that married men will be relatively happy and social, and that divorce will affect men disproportionally on an emotional level.  And that is exactly reality.  Callie, I agree that men should take responsibility and try to break through barriers to make their own friends to avoid exactly this issue.  But realize that in spite of making such an effort, many (most?) will fail.  Because humans generally suck at predicting what will make themselves happy in the future and tend to fall back on instinct when stressed.  Men’s lack of this instinct is a major disadvantage.

        9. Emily, the original

          ScottH,

          When I was married, one of the very few things that worked out well was that she was the social director for our family.

          Does that mean you never did anything socially without your wife? If she had female friends, did you always accompany her when she spent time with them? I know there are some couples who socialize that way, but I would think you’d want some separate friendships/interests.

        10. Emily, the original

          Jeremy,

          I don’t think that a man should rely on his wife to be his entire social support system in and of herself – that is too much pressure for any one person. Rather, most men rely on their wives to create a social dynamic wherein they will have others on whom to rely.  For example, my wife makes Saturday lunch plans with different families, wherein she talks with the ladies, I talk with the men, and the kids talk with the kids.    I’ve made many friends that way that I wouldn’t otherwise have made, and these friends help form my support network.

          Actually, now that you’ve explained it, you meant exactly what I thought you did. She sets everything up and puts you in a room with people to interact with.

          Here’s the difference: I’m in a meetup group with a married couple in their early 50s. Their only child is grown and on his own (which of course gives them more free time than a couple with dependent children). Sometimes she goes without him. Sometimes she hangs out with her best friend (who she met in college) and other women from the group without him. He always wanted to be in a band and now he’s in one. He went out on his own and cultivated. The man who manages the band is his longtime friend from college. She goes to his shows but is not at the rehearsals. I’m sure they do things as a couple and have met and made friends through their each other but they also have their own friends and own interests.

        11. KK

          Hi there Miss Emily,

          I think what you’ve described about your friends is what most us would see as a couple who has figured out how to have a healthy balance with their friendships. I also think it’s rare.

          “Actually, now that you’ve explained it, you meant exactly what I thought you did. She sets everything up and puts you in a room with people to interact with”.

          IME, what Jeremy is describing is very common for married men who actually prioritize their families. I think that’s what you and Callie are missing here. Although, I absolutely agree with you ladies, I also know that reality has shown me that men seem to either fall into the family man category or the selfish man category. Take your pick. Lol.

        12. SSarah

           

          Woman here.  I agree with Scott and Jeremy.  It’s alright to say people fill in each others gaps.  It is true in a relationship.  Also, I don’t think men are lonelier than woman.  I don’t have a lot of friends.  I barely have any.  None I could really lean on.  I have tried, but people seem like they have what they need already.  I am not married no kids.  That’s being a woman that’s single.  An ex and I shared friends from high school, ten year relationship.  He manipulated those friends, it was abusive, I basically lost every friend I had up until that point in my life.  I think Evan’s a whiner.  A real big whiner.

        13. Evan Marc Katz

          I decided to let this insulting comment thru just to illustrate the reward for being vulnerable and authentic on my own website. Thanks for the lesson, Ssarah.

        14. Emily, the original

          Hi KK,

          IME, what Jeremy is describing is very common for married men who actually prioritize their families. I think that’s what you and Callie are missing here. Although, I absolutely agree with you ladies, I also know that reality has shown me that men seem to either fall into the family man category or the selfish man category. Take your pick. Lol.

          Yes, I understand what you are saying. The couple I mentioned are no longer raising children, so their time is more their own. But I don’t want children, so I would prefer a man who had some outside friends/interests.

        15. Callie

          “Take your pick”

          And that’s what I’m taking issue with. This notion that “this is the way it is and that’s all there is to it”. I am well aware of this general dynamic, what I’m writing and discussing is not “what do we do since this is the case”, but rather “is there a better way than these two options” and “how can we as a society move forward with more healthy behaviours”. The assumption that since things are this way they must always be this way is a fallacy. I prefer to look at how all genders and how social structures in general could be improved upon. After all things have changed vastly even just in 50 years.

          And btw, I have a guy who hangs with his friends and yet is utterly devoted and committed to spending time with me as well (and I am likewise). So it’s not either or. There are absolutely things in between. What you are suggesting is only one or the other is more like the furthest extremes on a scale. There is a ton of middle ground to be mined, but only if both parties communicate their own personal boundaries, are generous and help each other, and are proactive in helping themselves.

        16. KK

          “But I don’t want children, so I would prefer a man who had some outside friends/interests”.

          Yes, and that should be doable. You and I are about the same age, Emily, so we are more than likely dating men around the same age; slightly older. If they have children, more than likely they are grown (or close to it). The trick, I think, is to make sure that whoever you get involved with not only has outside friends and interests, but plans on keeping them regardless of how serious the two of you become. And IF his ex wife was once his social coordinator, find out how he felt about that and if that’s something he’s hoping for a repeat performance of or not.

        17. KK

          Hi Callie,

          “The assumption that since things are this way they must always be this way is a fallacy. I prefer to look at how all genders and how social structures in general could be improved upon. After all things have changed vastly even just in 50 years”.

          That’s great and you’ve done just that in your own relationship. But you’re missing one important difference. Middle age dating is not anything like middle age marriage.

          What, I believe, both Jeremy and Evan are saying is that they’re perfectly okay with their wives taking care of their social calendar. They’re also saying that despite their full and happy lives that they can be a little lonely sometimes. The reality that the guys they grew up with are no longer an integral part of their daily lives… and if they think about it… it’s sad… it’s their reality… and hey, it kinda sucks.

          But… there’s nothing to fix! Overall, they’re happy.

          Why can’t we acknowledge and validate their feelings?

          IMO, this directly ties into the post on honesty. These men are being honest here. Vulnerable. In effect, you’re basically saying, “No. You should do this instead. You should feel this way. You should see this the same way I do”. That was my initial reaction as well. But it’s the wrong reaction, IMO.

          In all honesty, I am impressed not only with their honesty, but the capability to realize exactly what it is they’re feeling and attributing those feelings correctly. What I mean is that there are lots of people who become a little lonely and have no idea WHY, so they automatically start to blame their spouse, when it has absolutely nothing to do with their spouse.

        18. Evan Marc Katz

          Thanks, KK. It’s nice to be understood thru continued dialogue. 🙂

          THIS is 100% true: “Despite their full and happy lives that they can be a little lonely sometimes. The reality that the guys they grew up with are no longer an integral part of their daily lives… and if they think about it… it’s sad… it’s their reality… and hey, it kinda sucks”

          THIS is not, at least for me: “They’re perfectly okay with their wives taking care of their social calendar.” Part of my point is that I am NOT content being an accessory to my wife’s social calendar. It’s important for me to have a life of my own. But it’s hard to pull off because my wife gets a lot more time bonding with her Mommy friends than I do with guys and seeing old (or new) friends is not built into my life. The idea that I can willfully make that happen with my desire – forcing 45-year-old married men in SF, New Orleans, Boulder, DC and New York to coordinate a long weekend once a year for our families…despite work, school, obligations, schedules, family issues, health, etc… well, let’s just say it hasn’t happened yet.

          If you want a window into my daily life, here it is. Domestic bliss.

          Work out or get kids ready: 7-9am
          Work from 9-5:30pm
          Kids from 5:30-8pm
          Dinner/TV with wife from 8-10pm
          Read and fall asleep from 10-11:30pm

          But since I work from home, I need more human contact. Here’s the last week in social plans for Team Katz. A little busy, but typical.

          Saturday the 22nd – Beach party with family friends
          Monday the 24th – Wife’s cousin and her 6 kids come over from 2-9pm for pool and dinner
          Tuesday the 25th – Wife goes out to dinner with her friends. I put kids to bed.
          Wednesday the 26th – Wife and I drive downtown for dinner and a play.
          Thursday the 27th – Dinner out with the kids.
          Friday the 28th – Stay in and prep for party
          Saturday the 29th – EMK “Make 45 Great Again” party
          Sunday the 30th – Mamma Mia at the Hollywood Bowl

          Objectively, that’s a very active social life that puts me around a lot of people. I like ALL of them. But most of them don’t have HISTORY with me. Factor out my birthday party where I chose the guest list and what you’ll see is that my wife and I are virtually inseparable, but when we do have separate plans, it’s because she has more local Mom friends and my local Dad friends are, like me, working, traveling, and trying to squeeze in time with the family. Twice in the past three months, my family went away to Nana’s for the weekend. That gave me two free Friday nights. I texted 7 local guys to hang out. One time, I stayed in. The other, I ended up seeing a movie alone. No one could hang. That’s what over-scheduling, work, and family does to middle aged married men. It takes a lot of luck, timing and doggedness to make sure guys ever hang out. One person having the passion for it doesn’t make it happen. It takes a village. And my point is that the village is pretty fractured for a lot of men who may crave guy time but don’t want to have to take up golf or poker to get it.

        19. Callie

          KK – I didn’t realise they were happy. I thought they were saying there was an epidemic in Western culture that is male loneliness, and that the solution for that was for men to marry so that women would take on the burden of doing their social calendar for them.

          And quite frankly I take issue with the notion that the solution to men’s loneliness is women doing all the work for them. I don’t think that’s fair to women, and, as we have seen, it doesn’t work out very well for the man either should the relationship fall apart or should a man not end up finding a woman with whom to have a relationship.

          Also of course a man will be content with a woman being a social programmer for him because she is doing all the work. My other concern is about the women being forced into this role because of these kinds of men who refuse to attempt to take care of themselves. Not sure if you’ve been reading such articles lately, but a huge issue being discussed these days is the amount of emotional labour women do for men within relationships and how hard and draining that is for women, and that it is finally something that women are speaking up about. As I’ve said, just because this is the way it’s always been done doesn’t mean it’s the most effective and it certainly does not mean that it is something that both parties are happy with. And just because the guys are fine with it, doesn’t mean the women are.

          “IMO, this directly ties into the post on honesty. These men are being honest here. Vulnerable. In effect, you’re basically saying, “No. You should do this instead. You should feel this way. You should see this the same way I do”. That was my initial reaction as well.”

          Just because someone is open, honest and vulnerable doesn’t mean I have to praise that person and say “Oh I get it now, let’s not question your belief system because you were honest with me.” I remember a guy once telling me that I should never date him (I had no interest in the first place, but he thought highly of himself) because he wasn’t any good. I told him, “Okay good to know. Just so you know admitting that doesn’t excuse the bad behaviour. It’s still wrong whether or not you are honest about it.” He didn’t know what to say about that. Men being honest and admitting they like their wives to shoulder the burden of maintaining their social lives for them doesn’t mean I have to be all “Okay cool, sounds fine and dandy” because they opened up. If I believe the honest vulnerable thing you admitted to is wrong, I’m going to honestly say that.

          I understand very well why men feel as they do and I feel a great deal of empathy for them. I really hate this epidemic of loneliness men are dealing with. I still don’t think the solution they came up with is effective however because it really seems to me that men are incredibly lonely in Western society so clearly something still isn’t working. I appreciate people saying they are lonely, I feel terrible about that. But someone saying, “I’m lonely and so it’s up to women to make me feel less so”? No, I’m not going to go, “Okay well that’s what you want and because you’re being honest that’s what you should get.” I mean if someone was, say, being honestly open about say being being bigoted or racist, sure that might be how they feel and sure that might be them opening up and being vulnerable. But I am under no obligation to accept that attitude a) as fact or b) as a positive.

          And I feel the same way about this particular issue. Loneliness for men is terrible. But their solution of placing the burden of not being lonely entirely on women isn’t working either. Not for women, but also not even for men.

        20. Jeremy

          Evan and I are describing different situations, being on opposite ends of the introversion/extroversion spectrum as I think we are.  For a man whose inclinations tend to extroversion, relying on his own initiative can work, as long as his friends are amenable.  For men who tend toward introversion, they need to ask themselves a hard honest question – is this something I will realistically do for myself?  If the hard answer is probably not, it behooves such a man to marry a woman who WILL do it.

           

          Is this fair to the woman?  Depends…what’s he doing for her.  In the case of my marriage rest assured it is exceptionally fair.  In a marriage of complimentarity such a relationship can work very well for both.  In a marriage of equality where both partners expect to share all tasks relatively equally, it can become unfair very quickly.  So what kind of marriage does each of us want? 🙂

        21. Emily, the original

          KK,

          If they have children, more than likely they are grown (or close to it). The trick, I think, is to make sure that whoever you get involved with not only has outside friends and interests, but plans on keeping them regardless of how serious the two of you become. And IF his ex wife was once his social coordinator, find out how he felt about that and if that’s something he’s hoping for a repeat performance of

          He can have an ex-wife but no kids.  🙂

          I think you can usually tell when someone has no outside friends or interests in that he wants to move you to the center of his existence very, very quickly.

           

        22. KK

          Thanks for the acknowledgement, Evan.  : )

        23. Emily, the original

          Jeremy

          Evan and I are describing different situations, being on opposite ends of the introversion/extroversion spectrum as I think we are.  For a man whose inclinations tend to extroversion, relying on his own initiative can work, as long as his friends are amenable.  For men who tend toward introversion, they need to ask themselves a hard honest question – is this something I will realistically do for myself?  If the hard answer is probably not, it behooves such a man to marry a woman who WILL do it

          The man I described in the band is an introvert. So am I. I have to force myself to interact and meet new people. It is not easy for me. At the end of the day, it’s if you want to do it and if you value it.

  21. 21
    LW

    I used to enjoy having platonic male friends, but just about every one of those friendships has either ended with them getting into a serious romantic relationship or trying to ask me out. I often feel awkward as my male friends have trouble keeping things platonic. I really feel for men but I think that men in general need to support each other, as men are incredibly dependent on women for all forms of intimacy (not just romantic and sexual) in our culture.

    Also, as a woman, I find my friendships with men less satisfying because I am skilled at giving emotional support to them, but they often have trouble returning the favour… and I’ve been hurt many times by insensitive comments from male friends. Even the sensitive, emotional kinds of men are typically have poorer interpersonal intelligence than a lot of my female friends.

  22. 22
    Adreana

    This is why I only surround myself with single, childfree friends….just kidding!

    In all seriousness, loneliness is becoming an epidemic in this country. It’s truly sad but it’s only going to get worse. In the  little free time we have ( since we Americans are usually overworked) ,  we’d rather watch reality TV or hate on the Kardashians over some blog than connect with a loved one. Just do a little experiment and  on click on the profiles of those who claim to be lonely (over YouTube for example)…now if only they’d put that much time maintaining their friendships or making new ones!

    Personally, I never allow myself to be swept up by this tide. I have lost friendships over the years because they got too busy with their kids and spouses (or their careers )and I got busy making new ones. If you get together with your old friends again, you’d probably realize you  don’t like them as much anyway… People change over the years and our values don’t’ match up anymore. I let go of the idea of “long-life” friends a long time ago, and I just enjoy the new friendships I have knowing I can make new ones if  they end..

    Just being ( regularly) social with others helps us feel alive, and I would rather that than have a really close friend I only get to see once a year.

     

     

     

     

  23. 23
    Shaukat

    Thanks for posting this. The following statement was especially insightful I thought:

    Want to know why guys bear their souls on the first date and want to marry you on the second date? Look no further than the loneliness epidemic, which has quietly swept across America, and is slowly destroying our male population.

    I’ve often wondered why this was the case. As excited as women might get after a few dates, in my experience they tend not to get as clingy or needy as quickly as some men. A good part of the explanation probably does have something to do with the type of isolation, and the longing for human contact this gives rise to, which is, I believe, a phenomena unique to men in our modern, atomized society.

  24. 24
    Marika

    This post certainly rings true for me. I’m not saying women don’t get lonely, but in general men are more likely than women to rely on their partners to create their social life. And therefore suffer loneliness when relationships break down. Or their wife goes away.

    I hear your loneliness Evan when your wife & kids go away. Whereas I’m pretty sure if your wife had a weekend to herself – it would be wine, bubble baths, salon time & catching up with the girls!! She’d probably look forward to it 😊  (no disrespect to you).

    I was lonely for maybe 6 months after my divorce. But not from lack of social contact; either a friend or family member was consistently in contact to ask me how I was. If we’re really honest, do we check in on men as much as women? My guess would be no. There’s no chance my ex’s family were checking in on him the way mine were for me. If anything, they were probably angry at him. With good reason, but I did think it was ironic that if they were more supportive, he wouldn’t be the way he was. They helped create his issues.

    I’ll often see a group of older ladies out having coffee in a big group. I’ll rarely see the same with men (unless they play golf). I said on another post that when I see an elderly gent eating alone, I think he’s probably lonely. I don’t think that about women. Maybe that’s unfair, but I do think women are far more likely to create ties and reach out, and it’s much more acceptable for a woman to call a friend, admit to loneliness and get suppprt.

    There are organizations out there for men. And we have Movember here (is it worldwide?), a month for raising awareness of mental health for men.

    I feel for you, guys, please reach out if you need to!

  25. 25
    Yet Another Guy

    Danaellen and Jeremy brought up important factors that have been overlooked by most of the contributors to this blog entry.  The reason why women are able to maintain friendships that are based almost entirely on communication is because they have been gifted with the tend-and-befriend response.  That response results in the release of the hormone oxytocin, which serves to deepen the bond between a woman and the person with whom she is communicating.  Men do not have this response; therefore, men do not bond by talking.  What bonds men are shared sacrifices and experiences (i.e., doing).

    Men bond side by side whereas women bond face to face. This response also dates back to the hunter-gatherer days where a man’s primary roles were to produce and provide protection, both of which were dangerous activities that required side-by-side cooperation.  To see this dynamic in action, watch what happens when two men who have never met before bond almost instantly when they discover that they are both military veterans.  It happens to me all of the time.  I spent five years on active duty in the United States Navy.  Serving in the military is not the same thing as attending college.  I have been through both experiences, and college is nothing like serving in uniform.  Military service is a period of a man’s life where his hide on this the line (men are subjected to combat positions whereas women are not).  It is a period where a man has to be able to work cooperatively, side by side with another man while placing his life in that man’s hands, a man who is often a stranger from a different background.  That shared sacrifice breeds a brotherhood that transcends branch of service.

    The cold hard truth is that we still raise our sons to be expendable. This orientation came about via the producer/reproducer model that existed for tens of thousands of years before feminism.  Men reaped all of the rewards in the producer world because they were subjected to all of the risks involved with being a producer, and one of those risks has always been expendability.   Women are not treated as expendable by society.  In the United States, women are still not required to register with Selective Service when they reach age eighteen.  Four out of five suicides are committed by men.  The overwhelming majority of people killed in war are men.  The overwhelming majority of people killed in public safety are men.   Show me occupation where the risk of being maimed or killed is high, and I will show you an occupation is that predominately staffed by men.  Construction, oil exploration and extraction, mining, and commercial fishing are just a few non-military/non-public safety jobs that I can name off of the top of my head where death is a daily threat.

    There are over two thousand shelters for battered women, but only one for battered men.  Yet, one in three women and one in four men will be victims of physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetimes (http://ncadv.org/learn-more/statistics).  If a man calls public safety to report that he is being battered by his wife or female partner, he is more likely to be arrested than receive help.  Why is that so?  It is so because men are seen as being expendable by society.

    An underage boy who is raped by adult woman who becomes pregnant is held accountable for supporting the child; therefore, being victimized twice.  If the roles were reversed, people would bring out pitchforks. Innocent men are killed in the gang-related drug wars every day, but it is not until a woman or child gets killed that these events make the news.   Both of these situations vividly demonstrate that society sees men as expendable producers.

    In summary, it is easier for women to bond with other women than it is for men to bond with other men because of the gift of the tend-and-befriend response.  Men are not protected in the way that women are because society has always favored reproduction over production.   Men cannot reproduce; therefore, they are expendable.   Men disproportionately reap the rewards in the producer world because they are subjected to the most risk, up to and including death.  Yet, women demand equal access to the rewards found in the producer world without being subjected to equal risk.  In a nutshell, men are lonely because society favors conditions that lead to male loneliness.   Men are seen as being expendable; therefore, they receive far less support than women from society.

  26. 26
    S.

    I just want to thank the men who wrote in here.  It’s not easy to be vulnerable and open about loneliness and it really gives me insight.  I appreciate the comments here.

    1. 26.1
      Malika

      Hear hear!

  27. 27
    Malika

    My platonic friendships with men are among the dearest i have, and we can provide insights to each other which are just not possible in a same-sex friendship. What’s always surprising is that i am sometimes the only close friend they have that does not come from his wife’s or girlfriend’s social network! As their careers take off and/or they move about it becomes very difficult to make the friends with the same intensity that they did during high school and university.

    Even if you have an amazing relationship with your SO, you need the banter and perspective from others in order to lead a full life. And if you’re in a heterosexual relationship it is definitely imperative to have the bond and understanding that can only be found in friends of the same gender. But it is not a natural gift for everyone and our addiction to screens has created a wider gap than ever with our fellow man.

     

  28. 28
    Malika

    One of my male friends has a weekly brobrunch with his friends as they don’t drink alcohol and are a bunch of early birds. They are all recent immigrants navigating a very different culture from their home countries, and it has made settling in here a much easier business. We always talk about the power of female friendships, but it is heartwarming to see them catching up and being there for each other. I wish such a bond for all the men out there.

  29. 29
    Jeremy

    @Callie, as you know, I have no problem discussing theoretical ways to better our society.  And while I agree with you in principle that it would be wise for men to do as you say for their own benefit, it is unwise to ignore human nature in favour of ideology.  I understand that you and your BF each have your own friendships – I hope that continues for both of you.  Your situation reminds me of my own 15 years ago before kids, life stresses, a mortgage, and a mountain of responsibility made a cliche of me, despite my thorough knowledge of the advantages of maintaining friendships and the dangers of isolation.  Stress.  Stress makes us return to instinct.  It is critical that we understand our instincts – our own and those of our partner, to better understand why we behave as we do and how we can engineer our lives for better outcomes, even accounting for our own irrationality.  If we don’t account for our irrational instincts, our expectations of our partners will always fall short.
    The herbivore wonders why the carnivore is starving, standing in an ocean of grass as he is.

    1. 29.1
      Callie

      And I maintain that we all have negative instincts we as humans can and do fall back on and they don’t result in healthy situations. And as humans we are more than just beasts that go only by instinct and that we need to work on ourselves constantly and fight certain instincts that are unhealthy for us. I mean a lot of guys (and gals) would prefer to just sit around and do nothing, but they know if they do that their bodies will get out of shape and become unhealthy so they go to the gym and eat better. How many people do you know when they hit middle age realise, crap, I better start taking better care of myself physically or I’ll be in trouble? I know a lot. So if we are capable of doing things like that physically against our instincts then we are capable of doing things mentally too.

      It IS critical we understand our instincts. And I agree with the end of your post. We need to know our failings so we know how to fight them and how to also forgive ourselves. But to me that doesn’t seem follow your advice that is constantly about what women can do to solve men’s problems. I am assuming you just leave out the male accountability stuff because you are assuming men already know that and are just giving instructions to women here because this is an advice column for women. But it’s sometimes super hard to tell especially considering some of the men here. When one reads so many posts by men here blaming women for everything and taking zero accountability for themselves, it can be hard to assume the best when someone else comes along to advise women once again that they are the solution to a male problem.

      1. 29.1.1
        Marika

        Callie

        I’m lost. How are women being blamed here? This post & the comments are saying women are on the whole better at something (maintaining social ties) than men. So often take that role in a relationship while the man is focusing on other things. Then the man looks up 5, 10, 15 years later and realises he’s lonely.

        No blame. Just often the reality.

        Men who make good, non -selfish, do-the-best-for-his family husbands, are most prone to this. (My Dad retained his friends as he often left my Mum alone with 4 kids). So it’s good for women to be mindful of what their partners may be experiencing. Or a date may be experiencing, in terms of loneliness.

        It’s clear you need to be with a self-sufficient guy, and that’s completely fine.

        1. Callie

          To be clear, Evan isn’t blaming women, I only started responding when I was reading Jeremy’s comments, I take no umbrage with Evan’s.

          Women aren’t being blamed for anything, I never said as much. I’m saying they are being given responsibilities that I don’t think they should be. I believe we should always turn inwards first to solve our own problems not expect the solution to come from without (as it is very clear so does Evan, this entire website is devoted to asking women what they can do and change so they can get a partner). Jeremy is putting a lot on women, essentially saying that the solution to a man’s loneliness is a woman’s responsibility. And I take issue with that. I think women have born the burden of men’s feelings for generations and has resulted in a lot of burnt out women. There are studies out there that show that a married man is happier in general than a married woman and a big part of that is the emotional support the men get vs the lack of such support the women get. You say women are just naturally better at emotional labour, I say that women are taught from an early age how to do it with the expectation that they will have to later on in life whereas men just never learn the skills. I believe men are fully capable of taking care of others and themselves. So I am of the mind when men say that the solution to problems men face is women doing something . . . I’m not so fond of it.

          Absolutely it’s good to be mindful of how men are feeling and the struggles they face, but it’s also good for MEN to be mindful of their own issues as well, and just as proactive as women are being asked to be. I don’t mind advice that says, “Women here are some facts, keep them in mind and do what you can to be kind and generous” so long as it is coupled with “And men, here are some things you do too, and here are some things you can do to help yourselves”.

    2. 29.2
      Callie

      Also just because I disagree with the advice that women are the ones who ought to bear the burden of men’s loneliness, doesn’t mean I don’t understand and empathise with men’s situation. I really really do. It’s just don’t see it as an excuse to then burden someone else. Yes, it’s very hard when men withdraw when stressed, and that male friendship in the west in more recent years has been denigrated by society so much that men are scared to even hug each other (this is a recent development btw, there are so many fascinating articles and photo series online about male friendship from a hundred years ago that show a much more physically close and emotionally intimate relationship than it has become now, you should check them out). My desire to push men to maybe question their own role in their own behaviour and how they might solve their own problems in more effective ways, does not negate my empathy. It simply means that I don’t believe the current modern day solution is working for them. And I am not going to pretend it does just because then somehow it makes me seem more supportive. I want men to be happy, I want them to find a better way. If that means some people think I’m being callous, well I’d rather people find me so and push to find a solution, than for people to think, “Man she totally gets it, she’s a good gal” and the status quo that isn’t working remains the same.

      1. 29.2.1
        KK

        Hi Callie,

        “My other concern is about the women being forced into this role because of these kinds of men who refuse to attempt to take care of themselves. Not sure if you’ve been reading such articles lately, but a huge issue being discussed these days is the amount of emotional labour women do for men within relationships and how hard and draining that is for women, and that it is finally something that women are speaking up about”.

        That is a valid concern.

        So what would your advice be to these women? Shouldn’t they take responsibility for their own lives by setting healthy boundaries that are comfortable for them?

        Just playing devil’s advocate here.

        Men aren’t asking anyone to take care of their social lives. It’s a pattern that married couples easily and predictably fall into. Most women are okay with that. If you’re not, don’t do it.

        “If that means some people think I’m being callous, well I’d rather people find me so and push to find a solution, than for people to think, “Man she totally gets it, she’s a good gal” and the status quo that isn’t working remains the same”.

        Personally, I don’t think you’re callous at all. I simply think you’re conflating wishful thinking that comes from a place of good intentions with reality.

         

        1. Callie

          Oh absolutely 100%. I have always set such boundaries for myself, which is why I have ended up with the partner I have (I even had a nice chat with this very blog post and the comments here with my BF to reaffirm we were on the same page – we most definitely are 🙂 ).

          Women are responsible for ourselves absolutely. In fact one of the things I do with a lot of my girl friends is talk with them about setting their own boundaries and teaching them better ways of communicating with their partners. And at the same time men should learn how to solve some of their own problems. And yes I am coming from a place of let’s work together for a more positive future, but I don’t think it’s “wishful thinking”. I think it is a very pragmatic act that while might not affect the current generation can trickle down to the next. I understand what reality is. I also understand that change doesn’t just magically happen. I can both live in the real world and work towards a better future. 🙂

          And quite frankly, I might be a little idealistic in what I want, and it might have resulted in a pretty sparse dating life because I wasn’t willing to compromise on certain things (happy to compromise on others). But it has also resulted in a wonderful relationship with a partner who I feel hears me, shares my values, and is excellent at emotional labour.

  30. 30
    Tron Swanson

    As per Evan’s request, I’ve ceased commenting–this is a relationship-centric site, and relationships are no longer part of my life. That said, this post is about friendship, so maybe he’ll let me comment.

    When I was in my teens and early twenties, I was desperately lonely, to the point of being suicidal. I’ve never been a big hit with women, to say the least. It was miserable and humiliating. Well, I thought that I was lonely, anyway. Though I didn’t consciously realize it at the time, I made close to no effort to have any friends. (To this day, I’ve basically had one serious friend in my life, and I haven’t seen him in years.) Once I was older, and I’d figured out women a bit more, I found that I wasn’t actually that lonely, I just needed sex. When I was a kid, I was extremely solitary, and I was perfectly content being that way. It wasn’t until my body started needing sex that I felt this “loneliness.” And now that I’m older, and my sex drive has decreased a bit, I feel less lonely than ever.

    It’s strange–I never would have thought of myself as being self-sufficient. I’m more emotional than most guys, and I’m not particularly masculine. Despite that, I don’t feel needy, and I see other guys leaping into bad relationships to avoid being alone. This is probably the happiest I’ve been in my life, actually.

    I’m not trying to minimize or downplay what’s being said here. Loneliness is an epidemic, I’m sure, particularly for men. I’m 99% sure that women and employers and even fellow men don’t see me as a person, they merely see my utility. We’re disposable, as someone said upthread. But I wonder how much of this is actual loneliness, and how much of it is a simple lack of sex.

    One last remark. I’m a Gen Xer, and when the most well-known men in my age group show emotion, they tend to get mocked for it. (Think of the musicians and actors and comedians known for oversharing, or being willing to show weakness.) When men acted macho and aggressive, women didn’t like it. So, we tried to moderate…and now we hear a lot about “fragile masculinity,” indicating that too many women want fried ice.

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