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WHY MEN NEED MALE FRIENDS
Joseph Mansfield, LCSW
Let's face it. Men generally have no friends or generally shallow male relationships. This is quite tragic! Women, God bless them, really do friendships in a wonderful and healthy way. They can be our teachers in this area if we are lucky enough to have a woman in our life and are willing to observe how they do it. My wife has been a great teacher to me about friendships over the past 30 years. She actually has active close friendships with women today that she had before she met me.
Now don't freak out at this next statement. Friendship is about intimacy. To most guys, this concept really goes over like cold cakes. Intimacy is scary. Closeness between men can be terrifying and conjures up taboo possibilities and walls of homophobia. But intimacy is really just plain being yourself and sharing what's going on in your inner process. Most men don't feel an "inner process" happening and thus are really out in left field in this department.
Here's the main point and will require a rather large leap of faith on your part. Ready? Developing deeper and more genuine male friends will enhance your finding or "major league" upgrading, your existing love relationship! Your garden variety guy generally puts all of his personal eggs in one basket, his "Main Squeeze" relationship. Where this generally fails is that , realizing that men are already at a deficit in relationship to women, they expect to meet all of their emotional needs in this one limited area! I mean --Hello? Do you see the futility of this arrangement? it's like wanting to improve your nutrition by only using one tricky supplement, and ignoring several other sources that will contribute to your overall improvement.
Since this is a new concept for so many men, here's how to deal with the gap that you face. Open your eyes and just check out your existing life orbit. Look in your neighborhood, at church, at work etc. This is not rocket science. Look for basically healthy men without major character flaws or self destructive habits. Old friends who've gotten out of touch are another good source. At first just do simple shared activities. Stay away from alcohol and competitive sports. Okay, you'll say, what next what's the big deal. Listen to the other guy carefully. Be a great listener. Don't discuss your work hassles or your relationship peeves. Just keep on trucking and things should develop. There can be magic between men. There's things for men to share and just plain get a good laugh from that don't occur in the company of women. Just try to have fun. Risk when you can, by honestly sharing what's on your mind. Ask for the other guy's perspective. The major task of being a good listener with our friends is to let them know that we hear them and that we take them seriously. Don't try to fix their problem or offer unrequested advice. This is one of the chief complaints about men from women. They don't listen!
A man's overall life goal should be to get committed to rehabbing his basic human emotional and spiritual life in the context of truly relating to both men and women. Men should take this task on with grace and determination. Just because we were programmed by misguided and short sighted men and cultural stereotypes, it doesn't mean we are locked into shallow self protective old habits forever. Male friendships are a beautiful and healing source of life giving energy, satisfaction and inner security. The ultimate benefit from our male friendships can be our ability to be more able to keep our love life on track in an improved way.
The main skill men need to master is to know what they personally need as well as to be able to identify what hurts and to be able to communicate from those places. This takes repetitive practice. Women are constantly developing their inner experience with their girlfriends, sisters, co-workers etc..
It's time for men to take their place of equality with women. After all, we have hearts, needs and dreams too. This isn't about "The Wizard of Oz" concepts of "If I only Had A Brain" or "If I Only Had a Heart". It's really about getting free tutoring in the most important potential for all human beings. These tutors are women. Their lesson is the value of friendship. Luckily, they're everywhere. Men just have to look and learn.