or many of us, making and keeping friends seemed to come easily in childhood. Connecting with another person might have been as simple as riding your bike down the street to a neighbor’s house. But things got more complicated entering high school, and college for some, and now, in the “real world” it can seem like there aren’t too many friends out there to be had.
This problem impacts people of every gender, but it seems to impact men especially. In a recent study, adult men reported having significantly fewer close friends than women, a trend that has been on a downward slope since the beginning of the century. The lack of close male friendships seemed to be made even worse during the COVID-19 pandemic when people across the world found themselves to be isolated from those that they care about.
But as we begin to come out of the immediate effects of the pandemic, many men are still finding themselves without many friends in part due to social stigmas associated with male bonding. It is proven that friendships and close relationships are important in maintaining a healthy and happy life, so men can and should try to reach out to others, particularly other men, to ensure that they are setting themselves up for a fulfilled life. However, making friendships can be much easier to do in theory. Read on for more about the importance of having male friendships and how you can connect with others to lead a healthier and happier life.
Why are social relationships important?
While some people are comfortable in solitude, the number of people who don’t need friendships to thrive is low. Most people need multiple friendships to be happy, or at least happier.
Why is this?
Friendships help give people a sense of purpose, and in a world that often seems to lack it, this can be hugely helpful in giving you a sense of direction. Having friendships can help you spend time in your community outside of the demands of work or school-related duties. It can also help you practice empathy and caring for others. But perhaps most importantly, having friends feels good. Connecting with others and having a good laugh is fun, and that counts for a lot.
But friendships are also important for more than just your mental health. In addition to helping relieve stress and encouraging increased self-confidence and self-worth, friendships can also lessen the chance of adults having certain medical conditions such as high blood pressure or obesity.
If having good friendships can be good for your mental and physical health, then they are most certainly worth prioritizing in your life.
Why can it be more difficult to make friends as an adult?
When you leave school, whether that be high school or college, or both, you don’t have an immediate group of like-minded people surrounding you. There is not an easily accessible way to meet those you might connect with if you’re not forced to be in the same class or club together.
And when adults are not forced to do the things they don’t have to (i.e, going to that dreaded Calculus 2 class), they probably won’t do it. So, meeting someone new isn’t going to be likely unless you’re open to being chatty with others at the water cooler on your lunch break.
Adults tend to get caught up with work and chores, sometimes so much that they forget to take time for themselves and have fun doing what they want to do. It’s a lot more difficult to take a sewing class when you’ve got to do laundry or when you’ve just gotten off of a long day at work.
It’s hard to prioritize making friends post-school, but it’s so well worth it. Especially so if you don’t already have an existing network of people to lean on where you live.
Why men specifically should prioritize friendships
For men, some of these issues regarding making friends are turned up a notch. While everyone can get swept up in adulting, men have an extra boundary when it comes to making friends. This boundary is social stigma.
For many men, reaching out can be viewed as a vulnerability and a weakness. And in a culture that prioritizes male masculine strength, this is often avoided at all costs. However, reaching out is not a weakness—in fact, it’s far from it.
Extending a hand to someone is an indication of compassion, that you as an individual care about others and that you would like to be cared for yourself. For some, reaching out can even lead to learning about a shared issue such as struggles with substance abuse. There is no weakness in this type of communication, only strength in building connection and community. For men who want to expand their social circle or for men who are simply dealing with loneliness, letting yourself be vulnerable is a great start.
Male friendships are also important when dealing with some gender-related issues. Of course, any problem can be experienced by any person of any gender, but some events, like becoming a father, tend to be experienced by people who identify as male.
To use that example, your partner will likely have a different experience than you should you both become parents. They probably won’t know what it’s like to be a father. In this case, it’s a great idea to have other male friendships you can turn to. Being able to connect with your friends over big life milestones is important and affirming.
And if your partner can understand the experience of what being a father is like, you still want to have some other male friends you can turn to. Romantic relationships are fantastic, but everyone needs their own time, space, and people to process with every once in a while.
How can men make friends with other men?
While we all wish there was a simple set of instructions that would make connecting with other adults easier, all we can really do is follow a few simple principles to ensure that we are putting ourselves out there. Take a look at some good pieces of advice to follow when searching to make male friendships:
1. Put yourself out there
Don’t be afraid to try out new activities, places, and even people. You might not be a fan of Friday Night Football, but maybe you’ll meet some people who have a shared similar interest if you go to a game.
2. Tried a shared activity
Men tend to have an easier time bonding with other men when there isn’t the pressure of constant conversation that meeting up in a bar or restaurant might demand, which is totally understandable! Instead, try to opt for a meeting up over a shared activity such as a hike or a baseball game. It will take the pressure off of your hang-out and also give you something to discuss.
3. Be patient
It’s hard to feel lonely, but making friends likely won’t happen overnight. Meaningful relationships take time to develop but keep in mind that they will develop. In the meantime, try to have patience and know that the best is still yet to come.
Making friendships as an adult is difficult. It’s even harder when you’re trying to make male friendships as an adult. But if you keep your head high and remember the importance of meaningful social interaction, you’re bound to have some success and be well on your way to having close male friendships that might just last you for life.
4. Work on being vulnerable
Vulnerability is tough to practice on a day-to-day basis. You’re probably not too keen on sharing the intimate details of your parents’ divorce with your coworker, and it probably won’t be the time or place to share that type of information.
Instead, to practice being vulnerable with others, try sharing some details of your life with those you might not otherwise speak in depth to. For example, if you took a trip over the weekend, consider sharing what the plane ride was like, or even better, something humorous that happened on said trip.
Small interactions of vulnerability in routine social situations like discussing your weekend with a coworker will help you become more comfortable sharing more intimate details of your life with future friends. And who knows, maybe your coworker will have a funny travel story too, and that can be something the two of you laugh about before the morning meeting.
5. Let yourself be happy with smaller-scale friendships
On the subject of office talk, consider casual friends when on your journey to making long-lasting relationships. Casual friends are often overlooked when the subject of friendships is discussed, but they should not be. Chatting with a coworker or with a barista can give you a nice happiness boost along with your espresso in the morning.
Especially when dealing with loneliness, taking any positive social interaction is a welcome win. Try not to be picky with your friendships and let them come as they do, even if it’s not immediately the close friendships you might be looking for.
Male friendships don’t often come easily, but they will come into your life eventually. Especially if you continue to try new things and put yourself out there, you’re bound to find some friendship success.