I have had five steady girlfriends for the past 15+ years. While our friendships have ebbed and flowed over the time we’ve known each other, I still see all of them on a fairly regular basis and feel that I could count on each and every one of them for just about anything. My husband, on the other hand, has a mere two. Friends, that is. One is a work colleague with whom he shares a drink after work every couple of weeks. The other is a buddy he’s known for years but nowadays only sees for the occasional lunch or Jimmy Buffett concert.
But my spouse is hardly alone in his male loneliness. According to a recent article in the New York Times, “The Challenges of Male Friendships,” most men find that their pool of friends shrinks in direct proportion to their advancing age. And as they retire, stop playing sports and spend less time warming barstools, there are also fewer opportunities to meet new buddies to replenish those diminishing friendship coffers.
One of the primary reasons that men’s friendships are not as enduring as their wives’ is fairly obvious (at least to me as a woman). Men rarely talk about anything personal. A guy could be friends with another guy for 30 years, and, while he probably knows his buddy’s favorite brand of vodka and football team, he may not know the names of said friend’s kids, much less how he feels about an upcoming surgery or his mother death. By being emotion-shy, men simply can’t achieve the level of intimacy that women do.
Men also often rely on the women in their lives to initiate social interactions, like inviting friends over and spearheading happy hours and dinners out. Because the wife is responsible for bringing friends to her husband, a divorce or death can mean the demise of the husband’s social network as well.
That brings me back to my husband. A few years ago, I introduced my husband to a couple who I’ve known for years and he instantly hit it off with the male half of the couple. My friend has told me the feeling is mutual. I’ve encouraged my husband to call the guy, invite him out for a beer or whatever men do when women aren’t around, but he’s been hesitant. (Apparently, men don’t text each other “Let’s get together,” just because.)
Tomorrow we’re stopping by to see this guy as he convalesces after back surgery, which will give the two wannabe buddies a “reason” to see each other and will hopefully inspire them to repeat the fun without us girls. We might just have to wait for football season!
Share your experiences with male friendship.