American Men’s Hidden Crisis: They Need More Friends!
I found this really thought-provoking piece last month and wanted to share it with you.
I think it’s a valuable explanation as to what’s wrong with men, why they act the way they do, and why relationships are so very important to them.
“Of all people in America, adult, white, heterosexual men have the fewest friends. Moreover, the friendships they have, if they’re with other men, provide less emotional support and involve lower levels of self-disclosure and trust than other types of friendships…When asked about what they desire from their friendships, men are just as likely as women to say that they want intimacy. And, just like women, their satisfaction with their friendships is strongly correlated with the level of self-disclosure. Moreover, when asked to describe what they mean by intimacy, men say the same thing as women: emotional support, disclosure and having someone to take care of them.”
Being different than most men was a character building experience.
You’ve seen it yourself. Men who live a solitary life. They work. They drink. They watch football. They try to get laid. But they don’t share anything with anyone. They have no practice because there are often negative ramifications to being vulnerable.
“To be close friends, men need to be willing to confess their insecurities, be kind to others, have empathy and sometimes sacrifice their own self-interest. “Real men,” though, are not supposed to do these things. They are supposed to be self-interested, competitive, non-emotional, strong (with no insecurities at all), and able to deal with their emotional problems without help. Being a good friend, then, as well as needing a good friend, is the equivalent of being girly.”
This is so true and it’s one of the ways in which I’ve always been different than most men. I was heavily influenced by my mom, who is SUCH a good friend that she’s a bit of a martyr. And because I was inculcated with the notions of being kind, empathetic, attentive, and giving, I’ve had a harder time with men than I ever have with women. I was the guy who sent his male friends birthday cards well into their 20’s. I was the guy who went through periods of depression and anxiety, only to find that my male friends either clammed up or disappeared. I was the guy who would want to talk about meaningful things while watching football, only to be teased by my guy friends, who really wanted no part of it.
“Of course, not all men buy into these prescriptions for male behavior, but these expectations do influence most men’s friendships at least a little bit. They mean that, to make good friends, men have to take risks. In a context in which being a man is good and being friendly is being womanly, each time a man tries to form intimate bonds with another man, he potentially loses status. Men who want truly close friends have to fight the instinct to protect their standing above all else. This isn’t easy, as they’ve been told for a lifetime that their status as male, and their place in that hierarchy, is a significant part of why they’re important and valuable human beings.”
I’m not complaining. Being different than most men was a character building experience. I realized that I didn’t mesh well with stoics, macho types, and people who didn’t have easy access to their feelings. It’s part of why I dated so prolifically from 25-35 – I never felt fully connected to most of my friends, despite the fact that they’re great guys.
All of this has given me immense insight into what it’s like to be a woman trying to date these same men – yearning to hear a hint of self-confession or vulnerability, only to be told, “Nope. Everything’s cool.” These days, the male friends in my life are a lot more like me – driven, competitive and opinionated, but willing to discuss feelings as well. The more guys I meet like this, the more I learn of other men who have also assimilated their masculine and feminine sides.
This gives me hope that there are men like this out there – not just for me, as a friend – but for you, as a single woman. Similarly, I hope that you now have a greater sympathy and understanding for uncommunicative men. To some degree, they didn’t have a chance to be otherwise.