Over the last week or so, I noticed several men commenting on social media about the same article. What was it that grabbed their attention? It was a Boston Globe story titled:
“The biggest threat facing middle-age men isn’t smoking or obesity. It’s loneliness.”
Why would that subject have struck a chord with them?
Because, when you get down to it, most men don’t have many close friends. They may be around people all the time. At work, many are talking with others a great deal. But, they have few deep relationships, and they often don’t even notice how much is missing from their lives.
“Almost to a man, the men were so caught up in working, building their careers and being more involved with their children than their own fathers had been, something had to give. And what gave was connection with male friends. Their lives just didn’t allow time for friendships.” (The Lonely American by Drs. Jacqueline Olds and Richard Schwartz)
Could that be you? Answer these questions to evaluate if you could use more close friends:
- If you were suddenly gone for a month, would anyone beyond family or coworkers notice?
- Recently, have you had any conversations with other men that did not have an agenda?
- With what friends can you share a personal issue, confess a fault, or express emotion?
- How many friends do you have that you can totally trust and completely be yourself with?
- This week, do you have any events on your calendar that involve sharing with other men?
“The pursuit of status, power, wealth, and autonomy leads to rewards in work and play but at the expense of loving, caring friendships.” (Lonely at the Top: The High Costs of Men’s Success by Thomas Joiner)
How to Have More Friends
People are designed for meaningful relationships, and most women do that somewhat naturally. The first step for men is to become aware something significant is missing if we don’t have close friends in our lives. But, some guys may not know how to have more friends. What can a guy do?
Be willing to go deeper – Several years ago, I was with some other men talking about normal guy things, and I noticed something. Other than work, hobbies, sports, and “what my kids did,” what do most men talk about? After a while, the answer came to me: nothing!
Men tend to relate to each other at a relatively superficial level much of the time, and they don’t even notice it. They likely have little experience sharing emotions or being vulnerable, certainly with other men, and it’s more familiar staying in the guy talk comfort zone they have hung out in all their lives.
But to have real friends, you need to be, well, real. Begin taking steps, and move on from there. Start talking about deeper subjects with other men, such as your hopes and dreams for the future. Practice being more transparent, even vulnerable, with the issues and problems you are facing.
Be intentional investing in relationships – Friendships take time to develop, and many men are busy. One of the best things guys can do is to schedule a recurring activity with one or more guys so relationships can develop naturally. If you want to have more friends, put it on the calendar!
You can also lay out a plan for relationships to invest in. Think of acquaintances you want to become friends, and a set you could develop into close friends. Then, do something about it.
Learn to give more than you take – Listen more than you talk, and practice empathy in your relationships. Do things to help other men even when they are inconvenient. Commit the emotional energy to be there for other guys when they have something going on in their lives.
As an adult, I moved about every 5 years, leaving most relationships behind. Our sons are grown, so I don’t have their sports events to connect to other guys anymore. I work from home, and I’m an introvert. It will take effort to ensure I have close relationships for the next season of my life.
Studies have highlighted “not investing in friends” as one of the biggest regrets people feel as they get older. I don’t want that to true for my life. But, it’s up to me to do something about it.
Question: How many close friends do you have now, and is that how many you would like to have?
Action: Pick one relationship to invest in and schedule something with that person next week.