Lack of married men in friendship groups: It’s a cliché, but as a professional matchmaker I can confirm – generally speaking, men just don’t talk about their emotions in the same way as women.
Psychology has long described that women naturally tend more toward opening up about their feelings, their anxieties, their worries. They are far likelier to act as social mediators. When a (heterosexual) man gets married, it can often seem that he loses his friends. Is there any truth to this?
Do men even need friends?
With a long-term partner – then wife – a man has a permanent sounding board. Many women will bear witness to a vulnerable side of their husbands that is unseen to the outside world. Spending every day and sharing every thought with a woman with whom he feels such a profoundly deep connection may well lead to a man thinking about his friends less and less. After all, many of his basic social needs are being met by one person.
By way of contrast, women are by far the more gregarious sex. Women often find it beneficial to open up to a variety of different people within their social circle. This allows them to experience not only varying opinions but also a greater sense of communal warmth and security. Men are far less inclined to feel the need to divulge to a variety of people. Women may bear the emotional bulk of their marriage, and so be drawn to speaking to and opening up to others who are similarly in tune with their emotions and their situation – namely, other women.
For married men, the only person he may be emotionally trusting with is his wife. This may be because he is simply not close enough to anyone else or because his pride is too strong. ‘Male pride is a powerful thing,’ says Professor Damien Ridge of the University of Westminster, who specializes in masculinity and men’s wellbeing. He explains that, while people in general find it harder to stay in touch as their lives become progressively busier with career and family, the phenomenon is more commonly observed in men. ‘Loneliness in older men is a real issue,” he continues. ‘Compared to women, the men who see me for psychotherapy are much more emotionally isolated. Sometimes, the only person they have opened up to is me.’
The value of men’s friendships
It is massively beneficial to a man’s mental health to recognize the deep bond between him and his wife. He will often open up as he never has before. Unfortunately, the natural consequence of this connection can be the loss of his male friends, as he may feel there is simply no point spending time with anyone else anymore.
As time goes by, it becomes increasingly difficult and awkward to reignite the flame of an old friendship. That means no-one to call upon when times are tough, no-one there when they’re feeling the worst – not even someone there for when they are feeling their best.
Women are less likely to be in this situation because they tend more towards maintaining the relationships in their lives. Men often rely on their wives for the building of friendships around their marriage, constructing long-term relationships with fellow couples. For this reason, many male divorcees find themselves socially and emotionally isolated.
Married men need to recognize the value of their male peers: such friendships are not trivial just because they are based on matters such as shared sports, hobbies, jobs, childhood – these are the building blocks of what it means to be a person, period. To share these things speaks much more deeply about who that man is as a human being, what he values, and to share these traits with another man is special, the importance not to be underestimated.
Married men would do well to emulate their wives and put time aside to nurture their friendships before they lose them altogether. A weekly call, going for coffee, an outing – it does not take much to keep the friendship afloat and a man’s emotional wellbeing, external of the marriage, socially satiated.
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