Friendship is incredibly powerful. While so much focus is placed on romantic relationships, non-sexual relationships can have arguably as much benefit to a person’s mental health and happiness as a committed couple. All forms of social support are beneficial for development and wellness, and close friendships are a perfectly valid way of receiving that support.
That is why it is almost tragic that men, especially as they get older, appear to lose those close male friendships. Research has shown that many men do not develop or maintain male friendships as adults, especially when compared to women that not only maintain larger social networks – they tend to make a considerable effort to preserve them.
Why Male Friendships Are Important
Many men – especially married men – tend to consider their wives their best friends and rely on them to coordinate their social lives. Indeed, it is sometimes considered less masculine to focus on male to male relationships. Men are far less likely to call other men without good reason, or “just to catch up,” and they are more resistant to opening up about their personal problems when they do chat.
It may not always feel like this is a problem. But in my Long Island couples counseling practice, it can quickly become a more apparent issue if the individual’s wife passes away or they go through a divorce. Yet even while happily married, the effects of not having strong male friendships can be present, even if they are not noticeable. Research has shown that men need these relationships just as much as women, yet we live in a culture that is less likely to acquire them.
- Support – At their most core level, friendships provide a level of social support that is critical for happiness. When you go through any challenge, having more people by your side that will support you through it has been proven to help with stress coping, and improve life satisfaction.
- Confidence – Many men struggle with confidence, and look for tricks and techniques to try to improve their confidence levels. But one of the strongest factors correlated to confidence is deep friendships. This is likely because on a subconscious level, men with deep friendships know that if they mess up or make mistakes, their friends will still be there for them.
- Growth – Friendships also play a key role in personal growth. Indeed, men and their wives/partners are not going to share all of the same interests. Men that share similar interests with other male friends are more likely to work towards those interests and achieve their goals and plans.
Male friendships remain an important part of living a more positive, happy life. So if that means that you need to reach out to old friends unprompted, spend more time with the men that are already in your life, or engage in activities that can help you cultivate male friendships, it is something that should be considered a priority.