Friendships are important, and to a lot of men they don’t come naturally. We’re already not very good at communicating and being open when we’re in a relationship with a woman, but now I’m supposed to do those things with men? I’m a man…I’m not supposed to do that!

After a couple posts dreaming about a perfect world in which I never offend people and never have anyone disagree, I’m excited to finally sit down and write down some opinions. I’m ready to jump into the stereotypical waters where I make sweeping generalizations about my gender. Let the assumptions and accusations fly!

I wanted to make my first post about men and friendships for a couple reasons. The first is that I can avoid having to talk about women for a little longer, and second because it’s a relationship that all men have at some point. Some good common ground to start on. For the sake of this discussion, I’m going to ignore marriage and children, because that adds another complicating variable to the mix. I’m also going to ignore extrovert vs introvert. That probably affects how large our social circle is and how easily we make friends (and to some extent keep them). I think I’ll save how to build authentic friendships for another day. Today we’ll stick to why.

When we’re young, we have friends because we see those same kids at school every day. Maybe you both like the same thing (the sandbox rules). As we reach Middle School we definitely start to value friendship more, but on a fairly selfish level. Having friends makes you cool, and if you don’t have friends, or have the wrong friends, then that new thing called “social status” can way pretty heavily on an adolescent. That continues into High School, but people come into their own. There are still the “cool” kids…but all the weird kids find each other, and in my experience, High School was an easier social exercise than Middle School. Then we graduate, adult life begins, and the meaning of friendship changes. We no longer see friends every day simply because of circumstance. Now, friendship requires intentionality. Instead of friendships falling in our lap, we have to pursue them.

I think there are obvious benefits to friends. They’re people to spend time with, laugh with, and enjoy hobbies with. Most of us would rather do things with people than alone (more on you alone people in a second). But what does an authentic friendship look like? To me, that means moving beyond the surface. Deep and meaningful male friendships are the ones that support each other through the struggles of life. They make us better men because of real conversations. We hold each other accountable when we’re not living up to our potential. And all of that is really hard for most men, because we don’t like to talk about how we feel. Don’t get me wrong, we feel things. It’s probably less than women, but there are feelings inside, and most of the time that’s where they stay. In our heads, in that inner dialogue we have with ourselves. That’s not bad, and a healthy self-awareness is full of inner dialogue, but if we’re afraid to move past surface level friendships, we’re missing out.

So what does an authentic friendship look like? It’s not a big cry fest. You don’t have to check your man card at the door. You may have to check your ego. It means asking about their life, showing concern for what they have going on, and admitting that you might not have everything figured out. It’s having a close relationship that makes life better, and makes you better.

To the lone rangers that aren’t interested, I get it. In a way, trying to form deep friendships is a lot like dating. You have to put yourself out there, and sometimes you get rejected. Or someone you thought would be a great friend turns out to not share the values that you do. It’s messy. Being alone is easier. But perhaps you’re not living the fullest life you could be. More on this in a future post.

What is it about forging deep male relationships that you find difficult? Or for the lone rangers, what are you doubts that pursuing authentic friendship is even worth it?

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Nathan Charlton
A husband and father of three, he is first and foremost a Christian, but will openly admit he doesn't have everything figured out. His passions include writing, spending time with his family, and any game by Blizzard.

10 COMMENTS

  1. I agree with what you said about friends when you’re an adolescent. A ton of friends are friends because of the circumstance. You hit it right on the nail when you mentioned that once we grow up friendship requires intentionality. Beautiful.

    Anyway, luckily I have a couple of best friends that I consider my brothers, and I couldn’t picture living without them. I truly believe that having a “bro” that you can talk to about anything improves you as a man. Since I realize this, I even go as far as asking them about my flaws. I literally ask them where can I improve to be a better person. These relationships with them took time, of course. I love them both and I consider them family, so we’re all equally open with each other. I believe these relationships are important because, like you said, men have a tendency to bottle things up. Hanging out with my “bros” gives me a sense of belonging, relaxation, and escape that I find necessary in order to maintain my overall wellness.

    • Thanks Bryan! I’d love to hear about how you formed those relationships for a future post.

      And it’s great to hear from people that have found value in close male friendships. I think another good post would be about why some men feel it’s “unmanly” to have a close friend like that. Maybe because it’s stereotypically a female thing? Or perhaps they think it has to be all touchy and feely, and it doesn’t. It’s about being honest!

  2. Nathan,
    I like the way you are starting with the man looking at himself as an individual in your first post and then moving to the next level with friendships. This is a nice build into the husband and father territory.

    Bryon,
    I think asking your trusted friends for some
    Input on how to be a better human is very wise. I do this with my wife and son but not always my buddies, time to adopt this practice more often with the men that I love like family too.

    My best friends are all men that I met as a single man (Most in my teens and 20’s), I think because we bonded for who we were as individuals . It has been tricky trying to duplicate that bond now as a 54 year old married man with a 9 year old son, when everybody needs to connect as a family unit. Now days the husbands, wives and kids all need to bond to get close enough to really do some male bonding between the husbands. So for me these days, it seems like I have a lot of great acquaintances but still the same five bros that would take a bullet for me (And visa versa) from friendships that were forged 14-40 years ago. Men I can be real with without making excuses or being judged.

    Truth be told, I probably need to be more open if I hope to see this pattern change in the future.

    • Wives and children really mess everything up, huh? 🙂

      Ignoring all that like I did…developing deep friendships is already hard! Then you throw in more personalities like wives and kids, and now you’ve got a lot of moving parts that don’t always work together.

      If we wait around for that perfect match though, we could be waiting awhile. Maybe that’s where guy only time comes in. It’s hard to make time, but definitely simplifies things.

      • Every Tuesday I get together with a friend of 35 years and another one of 14 years for our guys night out. Wednesday is date night with my beautiful bride Laura.
        What is missing is the game nights and vacations with other families. I grew up in a house like that and kinda thought it would be the same as an adult.

  3. Do you think all (most) men have authentic male friendships, or do you think some reserve those “deeper” connections with women whether it be friendship or romantic?

    I may be naive here, but there are a few men in my life that I don’t think talk to other men when they have struggles. I think (and I could be wrong) they either a) don’t talk about it at all or b) open up in their female relationships. Do you have men in your life like this? Or am I just lucky? 🙂

    • I didn’t mention it…but there’s definitely a spectrum here. From barely knowing someone, all the way to telling them your deepest thoughts and feelings. My gut says most men don’t go very far on the sharing deep feelings part.

      I bet they do with significant others, but outside of that relationship, I think most male relationships tend to stay away from emotional content. For me personally, I have a friend or two that I would share pretty much anything with…but that wasn’t always the case. And like you said, I bet there are some that feel more comfortable talking to a woman…like that’s a more “normal” thing to do. And then there are some that probably have no one to share with…those thoughts and feelings just get bottled up.

      I think there’s something unique about two men being able to share how they’re feeling about their marriage, or their kids. Husband to husband. Father to father. But I don’t think it’s something many of us are good at seeking out. I’m the one talking about it, and I’M not good at it! 🙂

  4. My two best friends from 4th grade through high school stopped being my friends after graduation. Literally, from that night on.

    It was devastating to think that all those years of investment I had put into those relationships was, for their part, just a matter of common circumstances… being in the same place every day.

    Then that same truth was revealed from the boys I sat in church with since we were in diapers together. That one really stung.

    Now, I really long for that kind of relationship… the one in which you can laugh about those days as kids together, along with the new shared experiences of today.

    But all the new guys I come across are settled into those lifelong friendships already. Seems awkward for me to butt in, and even if I did, part of me is afraid to. I remember the pain of putting so many years of effort and trust and love into guys who walked away from me like a passing stranger.

    I think we need those strong male bonds. I also think they’re hard to find in true authenticity. Consider yourself lucky if you have one.

    • I hear ya. There is absolutely fear of putting yourself out there, only to not be accepted. And when you’ve been let down before, it can be hard to feel like trying.

      At least with any relationship you start now…it’s not out of convenience. It’s intentional, and I wouldn’t be afraid to put that out there early on.

      I feel too picky sometimes, or wonder how I could possibly fit another big relationship into an already busy life.

      And it’s really weird how this sounds so much like talking about dating, haha. Good luck buddy…praying for you!

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