Boys are told that "manning up" and growing up include letting their soft sides go and never displaying weakness or vulnerability.
Friendship is essential because it enables us to connect with individuals who hold similar beliefs or pursuits. Friends provide us with emotional support as we strive to live meaningful lives and also provide assistance when we are struggling. According to a 2021 study from the Survey Center on American Life, less than half of males say they are content with their friendships, and just around 1 in 5 claimed they had gotten emotional support from a friend in the previous week, compared to 4 in 10 women.
Judy Yi-Chung Chu, a professor of boys' psychological development at Stanford University in California, said that the decline in male friendships starts around the middle to late teens and becomes more pronounced in adulthood, per CNN. All beings have the intrinsic ability to develop very personal relationships with others. In order to survive, we require these ties, according to Chu. Dr. Frank Sileo, a psychologist with a practice in Ridgewood, New Jersey, pointed out that, men who put their relationships first are warding off loneliness, one of the health risks that are most detrimental to people. “What (men) are at risk of losing is this sense of not being alone in the world or not being alone in their experience,” Sileo said.
Now, let's look at some of the reasons why men tend to make lesser real friends.
1. Why is it so hard for men to develop friendships as adults?
Dr. Niobe Way, the author of Deep Secrets: Boys' Friendships and the Crisis of Connection, claimed that each of us is born with two distinct sides: the hard side, which is stoic and independent, and the soft side, which is vulnerable and interdependent. Boys are told that "manning up" and growing up include letting their soft sides go, which is a belief that neuroscience, social science, and developmental psychology all demonstrate are detrimental to boys. And, the urge for males to become tougher and never display weakness, which prevents them from making friends, can make them feel lonely, violent, and angry, said Way. “Boys don’t start emotionally disconnected; they become emotionally disconnected,” Way added.
2. Men should find emotional support beyond their partners
According to Way, heterosexual males seeking intimacy may resort to the women in their life and their love partners because they perceive them as being better at developing connections and feeling comfortable sharing their vulnerabilities with them. It's crucial to have a supportive community since it's not always possible to get over difficulties by confining them to a single individual or one particular connection, said Way. “A male partner thinks it’s a betrayal to talk to another person,” Way said, “but the female partner is saying ‘please do it, please get other perspectives.’”
3. How to start building friendships
The rules of the partnership may occasionally require avoiding the intimacy of face-to-face interaction, said Way. Find an activity where you can interact side by side for a common goal, such as the gym, work, or a community initiative, Sileo said. The key, according to Sileo, is to put in the time, energy, and intention. It's essential to turn up and invest time if you want to develop those meaningful friendships. “Quality counts here,” he said. “If you can have a handful of friends that are quality, that’s better than having a slew of friends.”
At the end of the day, effort and patience help in building strong and everlasting relationships, for any human being. But sometimes it can be hard as adults because we don't have schools or we aren't a part of any baseball or football team where we can find like-minded friends. Men should put building friendships as adults at the top of their priority list, just as many men seek to eat well, exercise, succeed in their jobs, and have children, as Sileo said.
Cover Image Source: Getty Images | Morsa Images