I've seen it with my husband, and many of the men 40 and over that I know... there is something missing. As we work our way through the ups and downs of midlife it is even more noticeable to me. Many midlife men do not have great friends. I don't mean acquaintances, people they work with, or male counterparts they know from their kids schools or athletic teams. I mean true friends. According to sociology professor Lisa Wade, American men are starving for friends. They do not have the intimate friends they need or want. Many definitely don't have strong male friends to help them through a crisis. I started thinking about this as one hardship after another has unfolded the last few months with strong males that I know and admire. Some have lost jobs, others have lost loved ones, and this week I spent a long time talking to one of my dearest male friends who just found out he has stage 4 lung cancer. It got me to thinking who do these men reach out too? Can a wife fulfill the male fear and worries? Do women and men feel the same types of insecurity? I don't know the answer but I feel like something is missing for many men. Even after I talked to my male friend through tears I felt raw. My husband reached out to me to make sure I was okay, as he knew I was having a tough time. But in the end I had to call a girlfriend to dig me out of the horrible grief I was feeling. This made me start thinking who is digging these men out of their grief? Do they even know how to get relief? What I have found is very concerning. Everything you read says you can live a longer and healthier life with strong social connections and friendships. Studies show that loneliness accelerates age-related issues and that it is just as harmful to your health as not exercising, smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and alcoholism. Believe it or not loneliness is even twice as bad as being obese.
Why is it so hard for men to make friends? I know some go out and join groups or volunteer, but that seems to be camaraderie. Great for fellowship and bonding but still not what my daughter would call a BFF. My theory is they don't like to spill their guts. The more intimate you are... I believe the more connected you are, and that's something men just don't really do. It's as if they always have to be "ON" talking about work, sports, the latest news issue. Maybe there is so much pressure to test wits and war with words? I 'm really not sure... I need to do a polling with some men. I will admit that in Saint Louis the men that grew up in this area are pretty connected with friends from high school and college. I don't know if it's the carry over from so many single sex all boy Catholic high schools but it's a gift, I don't think they realize they have. When men move away from their stomping grounds or even when they get married, it's not uncommon for them to become lost when it comes to friends. Their focus has been supporting a family and the work force, and we women know they aren't the best multitaskers. We women invest a lot of time to cultivate our friendships regardless of what we are doing. Not sure men know how to do that or realize how important friendship is as you age. There is research out there that states when men hit their 30s, many cling to their high school and college friends. If those don't last or no longer exist, men have a hard time forming new friendships. So where does that leave men? Plan A, they can pick up the phone and reach out to those high school and college friends, because chances are they could use the call from an old friend. The next choice we'll call Plan B, is to start from scratch with your current surroundings. If you are a man reading this or a concerned female with a man in mind, www.askmen.com has some great tips on how to meet and make male friends. NO, not a guy to pound beers with... real male friendship.
Let's circle back to my other concern? As I said all this came rushing to my mind as I was talking to one of my closest male friends fighting cancer for the second time in his life. Can a woman really get to the heart of the matter with a male friend? Then there is the age old question... Can men and women REALLY be just friends? I am here to tell you that my best friend is my husband. But I became friends with Sean years before I ever met my husband. My answer to the age old question is YES men and women can be friends, if they are aware of boundaries. I'm not the only one who believes that... so does David Coleman a relationship expert, who suggests that there are some strict criteria, six to be exact, that determine whether you can have a platonic male female friendship. Even so, I truly don't believe anything can replace a strong male to male friendship. Women... we need to not to get in the way of male friendships, we should encourage them. Now this doesn't mean late night syndicates or bars, that's not it. That single guy friend isn't the answer either... These new BFF's should be close to where you are in your midlife journey. They should have similar values, and they should respect your true best friend your spouse. There is a belief that as men reach a point where the past is longer than the future, they may be ready to go deeper. Don't give up on the bromance my male friends.
Keep looking forward so you don't miss what God puts in front of ya!
Matuschka's Midlife... Telling it like it is...