Men Can't Make New Friends - Or Can They?
Men can't make new friends and this is what it ends up looking like:
Ok, "can't" is a bit too strong of a word there. But it is definitely not easy for men to make new friends as they age. We actually start to struggle with that as soon as we leave the close confines of our school years.
Why Men Struggle To Make Friends
We tend to bond over shared activities and as we get older we have less time for those because of work and other responsibilities (partnership, home ownership, kids, aging parents, etc.).
Friendships - the real ones that help us actually feel connected - are based on sharing how we feel. Most men are not comfortable with feelings, let alone sharing them.
Men are rewarded for playing the role of "Provider", which often results in us using up most of our energy in our work, either professionally or personally.
Science has shown that men literally aren't wired as well as women are for creating and sustaining interpersonal connections (i.e., friendships).
Why Friendships Matter
Studies show that social isolation leads to higher mortality rates, higher risks of dementia, and higher incidence of cardiovascular disease.
Lack of regular social interaction can even cut your lifespan by as much as 30%.
Friends make us happier people.
Then there's this quote from a Boston-area psychologist who studied what affects friendship for older men:
From childhood on, Dr. [Jacqueline] Olds [says], “men’s friendships are more often based on mutual activities like sports and work rather than what’s happening to them psychologically. Women are taught to draw one another out; men are not.”
Consciously or otherwise, many men believe that talking about personal matters with other men is not manly. The result is often less intimate, more casual friendships between men, making the connections more tenuous and harder to sustain.
How-To: Men's Formula For Making New Friends
There's actually a super easy way that men can use all of this to actively build new friendships. It involves doing "shoulder-to-shoulder" activities - connecting with other guys around some kind of activity. Normally that might be playing sports or watching sports or ummm something else with sports. During a pandemic, we've gotta find other ways like an online group or a socially distanced walk.
To simplify it, I'm going back to my old IT days to write some pseudo code:
SET FriendGoal = 5 SET FriendCount = 1 IF IsMan=Y AND Age>35 AND FriendGoal < FriendCount BEGIN WHILE FriendCount <= FriendGoal DO (EXECUTE ShoulderToShoulderActivity) SET FriendCount = FriendCount + 1 ENDWHILE ENDIF PRINT "Have New Friends" END
My code might not be perfect, but I hope you get the idea. Said another way:
Men can make friends by finding a group activity that interests them and other men like them. They don't have to jump in and start talking about their deepest, darkest feelings. But they do have to get real in some way to create a bond with another human. Let's call that person a "real friend".
Which reminds me of this major caveat... when I talk about "friends" I don't mean "work friends" or "your partner's friend's partner friends". I mean "real friends", the guys who you'd sit around a camp fire with for hours, just shooting the shit, without missing a beat. Those are the friends you want and need.
So men, go ahead and dare yourself to make new friends and be more connected. I know you can do it. And I know it will make you healthier and happier.
Jim Young is a friendly guy, who has made more "real friends" in the latter half of his 40s than you can count on all of your fingers and toes. He lives in Western Massachusetts where he works hard, actively parents his three teenaged kids, does live improv shows (pandemic or not), and regularly dares himself to connect with the world around him in new ways.
Jim's a coach and facilitator whose mission is to help people - especially men - create more connection in their lives. If you'd like to chat with him about friends, connections, improv, or whatever else, you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you know a man who is looking to make new friends while creating more happiness in his life, have him check out thecenteredcoach.com/3dmen.