Why Men Fail at Friendship

The Card Players (Les Joueurs de Cartes) by Paul Cézanne, 1892

There have been a lot of responses to my old post “Five Foolproof Steps to Making Friends After 50.”  Only two men have commented about loneliness or the challenges of finding friends, though a few women have commented on how much more difficult it seems for husbands, boyfriends, or other men we care about, to maintain relationships–before or after 50.  But given the importance of friendships in later life to health, longevity, and happiness, this is a topic men need to take just as seriously as women do.  So to all you wonderful guys out there, check out this insightful article “Why Men Are Bad At Friendship (And What To Do About It)”  Your very life may depend on male bonding!  If you’ve struggled with friendships, let us know what makes it tough for you.  If you’ve overcome obstacles to friendship, please share your secrets of success.

7 Responses to “Why Men Fail at Friendship”

  1. Curtis 28. Feb, 2016 at 9:33 am #

    I’m going to weigh in here a bit. I see three things damaging the potential for males to build friendships:
    1. Bromance-the reframing male friendship as homosexual in nature in a society where masculinity is defined by how unlike women you can be.
    2. Male dependence on female validation for their masculinity. Men make women a huge priority over male friendship because sexual and social recognition by women is more validating to men, especially when other forms of validation have been stripped away from us.
    3. Dependence on various addictions to cope with an inability to vent emotions or cope with stress. I’ve personally ended friendships because of alcohol, marijuana, and excessive video game use.
    Men and women have different needs from friendship. Men do not have a deficit of skill, they have a different set of challenges that are not addressed by framing friendship through the lens of female relationships. But once again men are framed as deficient, rather than different.

  2. Kona 29. Mar, 2016 at 9:49 pm #

    Personally, it seems like the older I get the harder it is to find male friends. My wife is much younger than me and works and I am semi retired, manage our property and take care of our 6 yo son. I do the cooking and most of the cleaning. I attend community college part time . I can’t find Guys my age that is like. I am involved in team sports but Im always the oldes and pretty opinionated, so maybe thats the problem. Lol

  3. Kathy 30. Mar, 2016 at 11:03 am #

    Hi Kona, being the primary caretaker for kids can be quite isolating, even more so for dads who take on that role. Glad you’re involved in team sports, and it sounds like you have some insight about potential obstacles to connecting with the younger guys on your teams. As a boomer, I’ve found it helpful to remind myself that just because people are younger than me doesn’t mean I’m the smartest person in the group. I’ve learned to listen with respect to the Gen Xrs and millenials. They may have different ideas, but not necessarily bad–maybe sometimes even better than ours. So maybe experiment with holding back a little on your ideas (which I’m sure are excellent) and asking others about how they think something should be done. It may not be the perfect approach in your eyes, but it could improve your relationships. Also, consider finding some other meaningful activities apart from sports which attract men closer in age to you. Good luck and thanks for sharing!!!

  4. Bill 03. Jan, 2017 at 2:07 am #

    At sixty five I dont get any satisfaction with friends or avtivities anymore.The rhythm of life seems so meaningless now and like a soul drifting on a strange sea the prospect of reaching land seems like having to repeat the actions and words of a worn out life .To trust another after so much betrayal seems impossible.All those years of art,music sport and reading have been completely worked out to the point any activity with a new friend would seem like the acting ritual of a robotic machine devoid of passion and thrilling emotions.Is this the beggining of the downward spiral that ushers in the endstage of our existence?Is it the start of an organic process that has no cure? How does an old man return from this state to join the living souls that celebrate lifes pleasures?

  5. Kathy 03. Jan, 2017 at 9:08 am #

    Oh, Bill–It breaks my heart to hear how you are feeling these days. Clearly you are an unusually intelligent man with many talents, struggling with the transition into this phase of life. I’m a few years older than you, and I empathize completely. There are days when I think there is nothing left to do except get my house and documents in order to make it easier for my daughter to deal with logistics once I’m gone. At other more optimistic times, I’m researching a new career, which may or may not be practical at my “advanced age.” I don’t have any magic solutions, but I do believe that as long as we are living, it’s our job to find ways to live a meaningful life of our choosing. I’m glad to read your last question about how to return to join the living souls that celebrate life’s pleasures, because that suggests you have not given up all hope. I hope you will reach out to a trusted friend or life coach to share your feelings and figure out how to regain your enthusiasm for life. Also feel free to get in touch with me if you would like to discuss further kathy[at]drkathyjordan[dot]com.

  6. Scott 04. Jan, 2017 at 5:19 pm #

    This is a topic that weighs heavily on my mind, being 55, divorced 2x, my kids – who are teens – live with with their Mom during the school year in CT and I live in California – and no, moving closer to them is not an option as their mother is impossible to get along with; we’ve been divorced coming up on 9 years so they are more used to the situation than I am.

    I’ve been in the Sacramento area now for almost 10 years, in the same job, and I’m looking to move because its just damn near impossible to make friends or even find a decent relationship – which is what I want – here. Part of it is California flakiness, I’m from the Midwest originally, but some of this is stuff I can’t do anything about – my height (women in our age group have been conditioned to want tall dark and handsome, while I’m dark and handsome LOL, I’m 5’5″ and fit, but that’s not good enough for most), and my age is a problem for some as they’re afraid they’ll end up being a nursemaid. I’ve never lived anywhere that I’ve seen more unrealistic expectations as here, but the more I talk to long-term friends I’ve got on social media – this is everywhere.

    If I were 6’2″, I would have my pick of GFs. That’s what sucks. Guess what? Its not going to happen. Its to the point that I’ve mulled getting a “Mail-Order” GF from a part of the world that’s not as hung up on how wonderful they are as American women are. And I’m not a disgusting guy. I get told over and over what a nice guy I am but I’m “not tall enough” and these women are attracted to taller losers that abuse them and treat them like crap, but hey – they’re tall.

    I read the Huffington Post article. It doesn’t apply to me one damn bit. The author is a jock – guess what? Although I’ve finished two marathons in my life, one at 53, I am NOT a jock. I’m the guy the jocks broke my glasses – over and over and over again – in gym class. They thought it was funny then, and most of them are still the same a-holes underneath it all that they were at 10, just with bad knees and backs from busting themselves up playing sports when they were young.

    I have no interest in having ANY male friends because quite frankly, jock boys are boring, and I’ve had to put with enough crap about being “gay” younger because I was smart, sensitive, and wanted to talk about feelings rather than my mile or triathlon times. I did a ton of run races and triathlons and quit because I got tired of the constant pressure of competing and then people either saying “You don’t work hard enough, you should be faster” to the Doritos crowd of middle aged people whose primary exercise is getting out of their chair to get another bag of Doritos so they can binge watch the latest edgy show on Netflix.

    It is extremely difficult to make friends if you’re a smart person who’s also a creative. People are already all cliqued up in the Meet Ups, they have their networks. I’m an accomplished musician, but because I’ve not pursued that as my life’s career (I like having my bills paid, and I have a BA and MA) I’m not accepted by other musicians.

    I did have a 6 1/2 year relationship here that did impact the friend making time and I agree that this is a problem in our culture that runs deeper – people have been told their relationships have to be rock solid and that you can’t have any friends. When that ended, I had a “business partnership” with a friend that I ultimately got taken advantage of and that crashed and burned, taking a considerable amount of cash with it.

    But there are days that I wonder – and I’m healthy and active – that it would be just simpler to take a suicide cocktail before I get truly old. Because I don’t see myself in another relationship – women aren’t interested in smart short fit guys – they want a jock boy – the Millenials are less screwed up on this, but I have no interest in trying to snag an early 30something as a companion – because she’s not going to want to be a nursemaid. In a couple of years, my children will be grown and not need me. Work is unsatisfying, and you can only buy so much crap to entertain you. Most people aren’t intelligent enough to be worth spending time with, and the ones that are already have their life networks. Don’t even talk to me about religion, because that’s all nonsense.

    What we have is the here and now, and the here and now sucks. I’ve put in a lot of effort to try and make friends, have relationships, and I would have been better spent my time trying to go further in my career.

    Yes, I’ve done therapy, and they’ve suggested some of this same stuff to make friends. None of it works. Some of us simply don’t fit into this world, and what it really comes down to is eventually the loneliness is so bad that suicide looks more attractive every day.

  7. Kathy 07. Jan, 2017 at 12:14 pm #

    Scott–so sorry about delay in publishing your comment. I had some tech issues. I’ve read your comments twice and I feel really concerned about the despair you are experiencing. I imagine it is so upsetting to have “done all the right things” to find friends and companionship, and not get the results you want. Since you are having suicidal thoughts, please consider reaching out to a health care professional right away. Depression is largely a matter of brain chemistry (not your fault!) and there are medications which could be very helpful. As you’ve already discovered, talk therapy alone is not effective in changing how you feel. Please don’t give up on yourself. You sound like a very smart, attractive and talented man and you deserve to enjoy your life. All my best–kathy

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