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

lonely man sitting at the beach
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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.

Join our conversation (146 Comments).
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Comments:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

     

     

     

     

  3. 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.

    1. 23.1
      Jayne

      Yes! I’ve had this happen to me but because l’d known him for over 20 years l didn’t think it was a red flag, but it happened, he did a runner after 6 months, it left me totally traumatized and l can only put his behaviour and some of the things said down to a borderline personality disorder! Yeah, yeah, l know, golden rule don’t be an armchair psychologist, Weird…

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

  6. 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!

  7. 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.

     

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 31
    Jeremy

    @Callie, one final thought – if you or anyone else can think of a way to get men to prioritize friendship for their own benefit, I would be all-ears.   I’ve not been able to do so.

     

    A story – and forgive the length and possible TMI here.   My sister was recently diagnosed with stage 4 esophageal cancer.   She is 43.   The outlook is grim.   It has been a very difficult time for the whole family, and the burden/privilege to plan for her has fallen on me, as I seem to be the only one in the family who can think outside of a circle.   So I’ve collected money, arranged a caregiver, gotten her into the best cancer centre in Canada and taken care of a hundred little details.   But the thing that has given me the most trouble was convincing family members to go for psychological counselling.

     

    You see, I knew that counselling would be helpful.   All the research shows it.   But try to convince reluctant people who want to hide in a hole that this is so….not so easy.   So how to do it?   Offer to pay?   They declined.   Show them the research?   They are not interested.   Explain how counselling has helped me personally?   They don’t care.   So I used behavioral economics – specifically the idea of loss aversion.   I let my sister and her husband know that I used some of the funds I saved for them to pre-pay for several counselling sessions, and if they don’t go they would simply lose that money.   They went, and were better off for it.   And if you think that makes me a manipulative bastard, I can live with that – it’s the outcome that’s important.

     

    I say this to indicate that I know something about getting people to act in their own best interest.   I tried to do the same to get my parents to go to counselling, but despite every trick I knew, I couldn’t get them to go.   Because I just couldn’t think my way around their instincts – I didn’t have the leverage.   And when I hear them complaining of how difficult it is for them to cope, it is hard not to lay some of the blame on their own failure of insight……yet I don’t blame them, they’re doing the best they can and are only human.

     

    I have the same problem when it comes to the issue of male loneliness.   I would like to find the fulcrum – the way to get men to overcome their instincts – but I don’t have it.   If you can think of it, please share it with me.   Until then, my best advice to men who have difficulty with socialization remains to marry sociable women and be sure as hell to be an excellent partner to those women so they never wonder why they should bother.

    1. 31.1
      Callie

      I don’t know how to get individuals in the moment to do it. I honestly don’t. If someone doesn’t want to do something, as you say, it’s bloody difficult to convince them otherwise. I think changing the larger conversation, giving men permission to have close male friendships, and even more than that, SEEK male friendships, without it being a knock against their masculinity, I think generally changing the way society considers the roles of men and women is the way to ultimately do it. It’s all much bigger picture stuff. And again, people here will accuse me of being too idealistic, but I’m no fool. I don’t think this will change over night, and I think for older generations this won’t make much of a dent. But I do believe that things change, I have seen it in my own relatively short lifetime. And I think having conversations about where we could end up, and discussing wider solutions beyond “find yourself a wife” when offering advice is a first step.

      I believe that pragmatic in the moment advice can be coupled with larger picture musings. I believe that saying “It might make sense for you to find a woman who would do the emotional labour for you, but remember that she is doing something extra to support you and in return you need to go above and beyond in other ways for her. Also it doesn’t hurt to watch what she does in organising a social calendar, maybe even asking her for some advice, and trying it for yourself. Pushing yourself past your comfort zone.” I know that sounds like a lot, but I’ve had a lot of conversations about questioning the norm with some people you’d never think would be interested in such conversations to some pretty interesting and positive results.

      Anyway, I think this too shall be MY  last word on the subject.

      (btw I don’t think you are a manipulative bastard, I think maybe an evil genius 😉 – no but seriously, that was very clever of you and I think you did something incredibly kind in doing that)

    2. 31.2
      Nat

      @jeremy: that psychological tactic u used was pretty clever 🙂 There’ve been times I felt my parents would benefit from seeing a counselor too–maybe I’ll try your method!

  12. 32
    Clare

    Gosh yes, I have seen this up-close – in my brothers, in my guy friends, and in the guys I’ve dated. And while I’d say there are plenty of women who are lonely too, there seems to be a unique kind of loneliness for men. Women can reach out more easily, we tend to maintain closer-knit relationships with anyone, and we usually have some kind of a shoulder to cry on.

     

    Just last night I went on a first date with a guy. He was back home from working on the cruise ships for a few months and he told me about how his friends made very little effort to keep in touch. He didn’t hold it against them, but I could see how it had affected him.

    This guy was good looking and interesting enough. He was also gentlemanly enough to pay for drinks and ask me questions about myself and listen with interest. But he seemed so nervous and tense, insecure even. This was borne out by his text messages prior to our date and also by his text messages when I got home, wanting to know if I’d liked him and confessing to his fear of rejection. This need for reassurance was draining for me in someone I’d known for a couple of hours, which is a pity because if it hadn’t been for this fear so readily expressed, I probably would have gone out with him again. I kept thinking, “For God’s sake man, suck it up!”

     

    I was kind to him of course, and I felt for him. He told me how his fiancee had left him, and I see this all the time. Good guys who are trying to open up and are lonely. Desperate for love, support, companionship, hurt because of being left and let down in the past. People are flaky – we all know this. I think women are just a bit more resilient to it than men. We cry it out with our moms, our sisters and our best friends, while men just seem to suffer in silence. It does make me very sad.

  13. 33
    Mrs Happy

    One thing that frequently strikes me, is that the ongoing maintenance of friendships and social connections requires much more work than some people want to put in.

    For example, about one night a fortnight I get out the family’s calender, my phone, and my emails, and co-ordinate social events for the next month. This takes at least an hour, and is in addition to a few hours every fortnight initiating and responding to a constant stream of catch up texts and emails. I maintain contact with my friends old and new, my oldest child’s school friends’ parents, my youngest child’s preschool and playgroup parents, work colleagues and work friends, and my husband’s family.

    It is all work. It requires me to remember and do things, e.g. Annie is having surgery, I’ll ring and check how she is, and bake her a meal, or, Robert is overseas working, I’ll offer to help his family, or, let’s organise a mum’s night out next week, or a weekend lunch here, I’ll send the emails, co-ordinate replies, book a restaurant.   It takes away time I would’ve spent watching some screen or relaxing or doing something just for me. And it seems to me that most men just don’t bother to do these many extra hours of social and relationship work, including spend the mental bandwidth on thinking of others.   After paid work for the day, and time with the family, and household chores, many men just want to chill. So do I, but after work, after the kids are in bed, after tidying up, I still get out the calender and organise things.

    For some men, after years of doing little to accumulate these connections, when something happens and they realise they have few friends and little social capital, they are at a loss to really understand what it takes to have a support system. They just haven’t put in the time or effort.   What it takes, is constant work.

  14. 34
    Noquay

    A good many of my male friends are indeed very closed off, lonely, as was my late father. The common thread I see here is  an inability or unwillingness to reach out to others in public venues, i.e., the coffeehouse, community events, festivals, meetings, etc. Its as though men have a hard time reaching out to anyone new, that aren’t family members, through work, old school buds, dudes they met in bars. This seems to be a common thread regardless of socioeconomic status, lifestyle, education level. Sad as family can’t always be there, one moves away from hometowns, and bar life is not healthy.

  15. 35
    Elle

    Evan, thank you for your personal honesty in sharing your own feelings of loneliness.   As a successful man that many would say “has it all,” your comments are important. By speaking so eloquently and poignantly about your own experiences, you have made a valuable contribution to the discussion about the importance of male friendships. Even when a man’s life in general is going well, he is still entitled to compassion and support for those areas which are problematic or painful. We can always point to people who suffer far more and far less than we do, but even the smallest of hurts or frustrations ought to receive tender, loving care.

    I guess that is really what it is all about – having relationships in which there is a deep sense of genuine caring. So my only suggestion for men in general is this: the next time you get together with one of your friends, after you’ve exchanged the usual pleasantries, etc., take a deep breath and ask him this question: How are you really? How are things really going for you? Then just listen. You don’t need to fix it or have the answers for him. Just listen. Just care. That in itself will make all the difference in the world to him, and will create the opportunity for you to be cared for, and cared about, in return.

  16. 36
    Josh

    I think dealing with that loneliness of having little to no social support is important in becoming a man. In order to become successful and gain the freedom to live the life that you want it requires a tremendous amount of energy to be put in. You have to believe in yourself 100% fully even if no one else does.   I personally don’t want emotional support from my male friends. I don’t want or need cheerleaders or yes men in my life.

    What I look for in male friendships are other men who are willing to challenge me to be better. I want to exchange ideas and engage in challenging activities with my male friends. I want to see how my male friends react under duress. If they are able to keep their cool chances are they will probably make good friends. Perhaps the biggest problem is that men today looking for friendships through a more feminine model. Although this may work for some men, I think the majority are unsatisfied with friendships that are primarily based on emotional support.

     

    1. 36.1
      Elle

      Josh, I was struck by your very masculine (I mean that in a good way) approach to male friendships. I agree that male friendships based primarily on emotional support probably would not be workable. I like hearing about the male point of view from blogs such as this one.

      Just to clarify for all readers, in my previous posting, when I suggested men ask each other how they really are, I was inviting and encouraging men to allow themselves to be human beings first, rather than having to live up to the classic male stereotype of never showing any weakness, or admitting to struggling in life, as that can be isolating, stressful, and lead to feelings of loneliness, too.

      I understand and respect the needs that are being met by your personal approach to male friendships. You sound like a guy who is going places in life and I admire that. On the downside, however — and please correct me if I am wrong here —   your approach to male friendships also seems t0 require your male friends to live up to a certain set of performance expectations.

      So what happens if a male friend of yours is going through a personal crisis and cannot live up to these performance expectations? Would you distance yourself from him? Would you lose respect for him and would he then also have to deal with that as well? Would he have to pretend everything was just fine to maintain his friendship with you? Is this typical for most men in their friendships with other men?

      Traditionally men were raised with the “big boys don’t cry” approach, forced to deny and swallow their feelings from a young age, to live up to a certain code of masculinity. In the same way that Betty Friedan’s book about the feminine mystique shattered the myth that traditional feminine role constraints were healthy for women, I am hoping that these kinds of discussions about the loneliness of men will help to shatter unhelpful elements of the tough guy male mystique, so men can lead more humane, less lonely lives.

      1. 36.1.1
        Jeremy

        If you look at how little boys communicate with each other, you’ll see that they often compete for informational superiority. They talk about baseball stats to see who knows the most. They talk about movies to see who has seen the scariest one. Because little boys (and the men they grow up to be) are judged based on their place in the social hierarchy. Judged by men, judged by women. Anything they say or do to lower their position in the hierarchy harms their status and their ability to compete – compete in the world of men, compete for the attention of women. Deborah Tannen writes extensively on this subject. This is why men hate to apologize or ask for directions. It is why they don’t like to show weakness.

         

        Read comment 32, first example, where Clare describes a man who opens up about his pain and she admits that her gut reaction was ‘for God’s sake, suck it up.’ There was no second date, in spite of her empathy for him. Because although a woman may want a man who is vulnerable, they need to respect him in order to be attracted to him.

         

        Josh’s unfortunate comment is a product of this hierarchical mentality – men must compete to see who is worthy. Clare’s comment was WHY this mentality evolved – competition for female attraction.

         

        Because, Elle, as much as I agree with your comment in theory, men will not be open to being more human until women stop judging them negatively for being so. Telling a man to show emotion and then losing attraction to him for doing so (he’s too clingy, needy, insecure) exposes the cognitive dissonance. Men who are rejected for showing emotion learn quickly.

        1. Emily, the original

          Hi Jeremy,

          On a completely different note, and harping back to the topic of men and friends, I hung out yesterday with 2 female friends (one is 50, one is 55) who are both actively dating on match.com. Both are divorced. One has a grown son. The other has no children. Neither wants to get married again but would like a serious relationship and both want a man who has friends and outside interests. One said she even asks her dates, “How many friends do you have?” I just thought it was interesting in that we’d just had this debate/conversation about this very topic on Evan’s site recently.

        2. KK

          Jeremy,

          I really feel like your speaking about extremes and then laying 100% of the blame on women. Yes, women want someone they can respect, and while women might be able to respect a stoic pillar of masculinity from a distance, no one wants to be in a relationship with someone who is unable or unwilling to express their feelings. Likewise, no one wants to be in a relationship with a needy, clingy mess. (I’m pretty sure men would be turned off by needy, clingy women as well). What most women want is a man they can respect because of his masculinity AND love because of his vulnerability with her. Balance.

        3. Elle

          Thanks, Jeremy. I see the larger picture now, and am more aware of the intrinsic nature of maleness and how it expresses itself, and how social experiences shape that as well.

          It is true, sometimes women want to have it both ways with men – the strong, silent, masculine type who also chats openly and easily! I read Deborah Tannen’s books years ago. I should read them again to refresh my memory on the subject.

          But there are kind, compassionate women who don’t put down or judge men, or lose attraction for them and label them as “whiners” when they open up, so for men to generalize from one or two experiences is perhaps not carrying the right lesson forward, i.e. there are female “jerks” just like there are male jerks in this world, and their hurtful insensitivity isn’t necessarily representative of all women.

          If we were all kinder to each other, and more accepting, the world would be a better place, that’s for sure. So I hope women reading these posts will take note, and   expand their own sense of what it means to be a man.

          The men in your life will not always remember what you said to them, but they will remember how you made them feel. Be careful and respectful with your words and responses, just as you would like men to be careful and respectful with their words and responses to you.

           

           

        4. Josh

          Jeremy I can understand what your saying the hierarchical model when competing for women’s attention at times can seem unfair. What is your alternative model for determining mate selection? I honestly believe that the provider model was not a bad model. It had its drawbacks; restricting women’s opportunities, a life of extreme hardship for some men, rewarding very feminine women and very masculine men while not rewarding those more in between the stereotypical gender characteristics. At the same time it give structure, roles, and a code of conduct on how to behave with the opposite sex. As well it give a sense of fulfillment of being able to be a good provider or a good homemaker.

          Personally I love competing, especially when what I have to do to win is clearly defined. I don’t mind following old gender roles when it comes to relationships because the rules and expectations are clear and understood. A problem I have with the call for new gender roles is how do I become successful in attaining what I want? Which is a beautiful feminine girl that respects, trusts and loves me. If you can provide a alternative more effective way for me to go about achieving what I want I have no issue with changing my behavior. Until then I will keep doing what has worked for many other men.

           

        5. Jeremy

          @Josh –

           

          Intrasexual competition will continue to exist no matter what, natural selection being what it is.    But realize something – competition eventually gets old, just as we all do.   Even for a highly competitive guy like me.   What once made us happy does not always continue to do so, and the fact that we have out-competed others in the past is no guarantee that we will continue to do so.   Ever notice how few wild animals live to old age, and ever wonder why that is?

           

          What do I suggest?

          Understanding that being one-up in the social hierarchy is not always the way to be happy.

          Understanding that a partner who needs us to be one-up in the social hierarchy is not necessarily the one who will make us happy.

          Understanding that the woman who is one-up in the social hierarchy due to her looks will not remain so, and understanding what that should or should not mean to  our future happiness with her.

          Understanding that occasionally losing a competition intentionally to allow another person the pleasure of winning can sometimes lead to greater happiness than winning ourselves.

          Understanding that conducting ourselves with a deep understanding of human psychology and forward thinking is far more likely to make us happy in the long-term than instinctive behaviors.

           

          And if none of that makes sense to you, and if what you’re doing is working for you, then keep doing it 🙂   Sorry for the rant, Evan.

           

        6. Tanya

          Hi Jeremy,

          You point something out, which I find very  interesting.   Within myself there is a dualistic reaction.   From Josh’s post, I found the primal aspect of me reacting with instant attraction.   However, when a man is vulnerable and open, I find my maternal, nurturing, compassionate instincts come to the fore.

          How can this be reconciled in a marriage or partnership?   Too much of the feminine displayed in a man(open, vulnerable; some may call it whining, ‘poor me/victimhood’) may lead to diminishing attraction, unless, perhaps they are partnered with an Alpha female?   I don’t know.

          I can’t remember where I read it, but someone was saying that during ovulation a woman will be more attracted to very masculine characteristics and energy (assurance of self, unfazed by the opinions of others, someone who knows his values, etc.) whereas when she’s no longer ovulating, she will be desirous of a man displaying the more feminine aspects (care, thoughtfulness, sharing of feelings, etc).   So what ratio will create lasting attraction?   Perhaps it’s entirely subjective, like different puzzle pieces fitting together, but dynamic vs static…

           

      2. 36.1.2
        Josh

        When other men struggle other men want to lift them up. I would allow my friend to wallow and be emotionally for a bit but after a time you have to move on. I would invite my friend out to do things that I know would be beneficial for him. If my friend continued to be emotional I would give him space but i would not coddle my friend.

        I prefer traditional gender roles within the context of a emotional relationship. My life is very humane, I enjoy it. Some of the best periods of my life were when i was all alone and had no on  but myself to count on to complete a task.

        I do believe society has improved by feminism and the removal of some harmful gender expectations. At the same time many people want to throw the baby out with the bath water. As someone who was probably born more aggressive and masculine I feel as if I am holding my breath in today’s society.   Personally I am very skeptical about women who talk about getting rid of the “negative aspects of masculinity”.

  17. 37
    Brenda

    I don’t think this is a gender or age-related experience. I am a 26 year old woman who has never had ANY friends. Literally not a single one. I’ve never experienced the fracturing of social bonds, because I haven’t had any to begin with.  When I was in elementary school, I got playdates whenever my parents were able to arrange it for me, but starting in middle school when everyone was choosing their own friends, I was completely left in the dust. My social life as an adult so far has not been much different from when I was 11 years old. I am very lucky if I ever get a “hey whatsup” text message all year, let alone a phone call or an invitation to hang out. The world of dating and romance might as well be on the moon.

    Working on my social skills, adopting an optimistic mindset and trying to reach out to others hasn’t made a difference. It’s become clearer than ever to me that this is the way my life is supposed to turn out. I was always hoping that when I got older, I would find my group of people. I kept getting older and it kept never changing.

    I think one of the big problems is that people try to console unhappy children with the whole “life gets better” thing, which leads to expectations and hopes that can never be met. More than anything, I wish that someone had told me when I was 13 years old the truth…. that in actuality, most people die alone (an exceedingly small number of people have happy marriages which last all the way up to death) and if you have friends at all, they will all fade away eventually. If I had known this back then, it would’ve saved me so much disappointment and heartbreak.

     

  18. 38
    Jordan

    This is in response to SSarah in the post #20 thread.

    I didn’t reply there, because that thread is long enough.

    Evan opens up about feeling lonely. And what happens? Almost right on cue, someone calls him a whiner. This is the reality of what guys have to deal with.

    Women say that they want men to open up, but yet when men do open up, they get called whiners. Then women wonder why men are silent and don’t open up or share their feelings. Of course men do this to other men too in order to put them down.

    As Evan said, that’s what he gets for being vulnerable.

  19. 39
    Jeremy

    @KK, I’m not speaking about extremes, though.   I fully realize that most women don’t want an entirely stoic man – they want a man who expresses some emotion and vulnerability.   But that doesn’t change the fact that whether or not a woman finds a given man attractive depends on his emotional expressions falling within the envelope of what she considers appropriate/attractive, regardless of what his emotions actually are.

     

    While it is true that men don’t like it when a woman is an emotional mess, the envelope of behavior that men will tolerate in women is FAR larger than what women will tolerate in men without losing attraction.   Because when a woman expresses neediness, men become protective.   The difference is that men still want to have sex with women they feel protective of (and in fact, often feel like a hero for solving women’s problems), whereas women generally do NOT want to have sex with men they feel protective of.   This difference is key.

     

    So yes, most women want a balance of masculinity and vulnerability….but the ratio is defined by the woman, not the man.   Marika wanted a man who called her every day, but lost attraction when he did.   Clare felt empathy for a man who had emotional difficulty, but did not want to date him.   This falls under the aegis of “bad advice women give men.”   The spoken advice –   “Be emotional.”   The unspoken advice “….but only as emotional as I want you to be, and don’t ask me where the boundaries lie because I will lose respect for you if you do.   I want you to just get it.”

     

    I don’t lay all the blame for men’s emotional state on women.   Men definitely have a role to play and strategies to employ.   But it would be very helpful if women would acknowledge their own cognitive dissonance on the subject. The same women who tell men to express emotion later describe how they lost attraction due to perceptions of neediness, clinginess, insecurity.   Once a woman realizes that she wants a man who is both vulnerable and aloof – emotional and unshakable – alpha and beta – she can begin to understand the unreasonableness of her desires and why they might be confusing to men.

     

    In the end, men have a choice – express your emotions and let the woman’s attraction fall as it may, or repress some emotions in an effort to maintain a persona.   I wish more men would do the former.

    1. 39.1
      Tom10

      @ Jeremy
      “Because when a woman expresses neediness, men become protective.”
        
      I don’t know about that Jeremy; I think KK is correct that the majority of men I know are hugely turned off when women become needy. And it’s often then only a matter of time before the relationship begins to unravel; becoming a cycle of her becoming needier and him retreating further away, which exacerbates her neediness…
        
      I think men become protective of vulnerable women, not needy women.
        
      A woman who allows herself to be emotionally vulnerable, just for you, because she trusts you; that’s what brings out his protective side. And ultimately his love and commitment.
        
      And achieving that – allowing herself to become vulnerable, at the risk of being severely hurt – is as difficult for women to achieve, as it is for men to express their emotions whilst maintaining their attractiveness.
        
      “In the end, men have a choice — express your emotions and let the woman’s attraction fall as it may, or repress some emotions in an effort to maintain a persona.”
        
      But some people are able to achieve both; those people tend to fare well in dating.

    2. 39.2
      KK

      I think I see where we disagree on this one topic, Jeremy. What you’re calling women’s cognitive dissonance is what I’m calling men’s lack of common sense.

      Both men and women are attracted to confidence and people who have their act together. While it’s true there’s the exception that some men will be attracted to some women that are a hot mess, it doesn’t take away from the fact that overall, most people are attracted to confidence.

      When I date someone new, I hold my cards close to my chest. I want to get to know someone slowly and deliberately. Once I trust someone, I will open up a little at a time with the very personal information. If it’s well received and reciprocated, we move forward. To me, this is a common sense approach to emotional intimacy and connection. I’m not going to tell some guy very personal information on a first date. And to use Claire’s example, if I were feeling insecure for some reason, I’m certainly not going to tell him that. Lol. Sorry, but that’s not real bright.

      So… even as a woman, who is supposedly not judged negatively for her emotions, I still feel it’s ultimately my responsibility to interact with others in a way that I’m comfortable with. This means I don’t cry in public. I don’t emotionally vomit on strangers or acquaintances. I only share my innermost thoughts with a select few.

      Therefore, in my opinion, it is not cognitive dissonance for a woman to want a masculine man who is capable of emotional intimacy through communication with her. Notice both times I  said WITH HER.

       

       

      1. 39.2.1
        Jeremy

        Yes, I hear you KK, and have no issue with what you’re saying – in fact I agree with it. My issue is with women who say they want a man to be emotionally open (and I am referring to a long term partner, not a new date – to address what you and Tom wrote above), but then when push comes to shove lose attraction to him for doing so. Therein lies the cognitive dissonance. This is more common than you’d think, and happens with remarkably intelligent and thoughtful women, not just female jerks. It happens because of a gap between what they want and think they want.   If this is not your experience, I’m glad of that and wish more people had your experience.

    3. 39.3
      Tanya

      LMFO – thank you, you put it beautifully, Jeremy – I couldn’t help but have a good chuckle, and shake my head at myself!

  20. 40
    Persephone

    Hah, obviously written by a YANKEE!   Come to the South and you will get a million invites to go hunting or fishing.   Or to swig beer on a sandbar for an all night thing where you put out catfish boxes.   I get so jealous of men, because it seems they have more socializing opportunities. With the gals, I can organize trail rides, but they all make these very real excuses, such as child responsibilities.

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