Men need intimate, vulnerable, and deeply connected friendships with other men. Not having them is literally killing us, having us kill ourselves and others, and putting too much strain on our female partners.
A great article based on research just came out on the topic. I'll link it below.
Here is what I'm taking away.
Over and over again, studies show that friendship and relationships are a core component of the human experience. They create and support our happiness and mental and physical health.
But according to research, less than 50% of men are satisfied with their friendships.
While many men I know are very committed and disciplined regarding exercise, career success, their marriage, and being fathers, few prioritize their friendships and relationships with other men. Most men I know, coach, and meet share some degree of separation, loneliness, or absence of deep emotional intimacy and connection with other men.
We have conditioned men away from expressing feelings and being vulnerable, which is where human connection is established. We have prioritized the tougher characterizations of the masculine and ignored the softer sides. These sides provide for love, connectedness, and well-being.
The article says,
'"We gender relationships as feminine," Chu said. "If that's a feminine thing, it becomes a weakness or a liability if (men) admit to needing friendships."
Characterizing the gender of these experiences has a clear impact, Sileo said. Men who were more emotionally restricted, focused on power and who scored high on surveys measuring homophobia are less likely to have intimate and close friendships, he said.
And the drive to toughen up and never show vulnerability that restricts men from friendships can lead them to loneliness, violence and anger, Way said.
"We live in a culture that clashes with our nature," she said. "If we raise children to go against their nature, we shouldn't be surprised if some of those children grow up to struggle."'
We are seeing the impacts of this all over our society, burnout, depression, over-stressed, anxiety, rising suicide rates, increased gun violence, and ongoing health-related issues. So many of us (men) are unwilling to be close to anyone other than our partners. Many of us aren't even willing to open up and be vulnerable to them.
On the Alchemy of Men Retreat, we heard various men share that their wives, who they'd been married to for years, had never seen them cry. That their kids had never seen them cry. Many shared they had no place to share their heart, struggles, or feelings because they felt too afraid to or felt it showed them weak.
The research shows that even if we are willing to open up to our partners, they cannot be the only ones to support us, as it puts too much strain on the relationship.
'"A male partner thinks it's betrayal to talk to another person," Way said, "but the female partner is saying 'please do it, please get other perspectives.'"
We need empowered male friendship, connection, and support.
The last piece of this article stood out to me and hit home. Until recently, I felt like I knew a ton of people. Like I had a lot of friends, men, and women. But if you asked me who I felt close to, I didn't feel close to anyone. So while I knew a lot of people, I could always be around people if I wanted, and it seemed like I had a lot of friends, I wasn't truly or deeply connected.
"Quality counts here," he said. "If you can have a handful of friends that are quality, that's better than having a slew of friends."
It is not that all the people I knew weren't quality; they were great people. Still, our relationships weren't the quality that was needed. They were mostly surface-level, sports, work, and general safe conversations.
This is why Bob and I are continuing to build and create more around the Alchemy of Men and will soon be launching The Alchemy of Men II - A 2023 Summer Retreat.
Men, we need this. Our society needs this. Our kids need it.