Friends and Close Friends

Another damaging result of our limited way with feelings is that we often find it difficult to have close friends. The women in our lives–girl-friends, wives, partners, relatives, and other friends–often look at us with wonder.

"My son has no friends at all." says one woman I know. "He seems to have acquaintances at work, but no real friends. The thing is his father has no friends either. I am my husband's only friend." She also expresses her sadness for her son and husband, as well as the pressure she feels to fill all her husband's friendship needs.

But you know what? This tendency to isolation, to be a loner, is something many of us feel from time to time. In fact we often go back and forth between wanting very much to be part of the crowd, and wanting the crowd to stay far away. The goal is to avoid isolation as an on-going state.

Of course, most of us do have friends. What too many of us don't have is close friends, "close" meaning one with whom I am able to be myself completely – vulnerabilities as well as strengths, seriousness as well as humor, caring as well as disagreement, anger as well as joy. What keeps us from achieving this kind of friendship? Is it not the fear I’ve mentioned before? Somehow this kind of intimacy with another guy is weak and suspect. (My book, Nothing’s Wrong treats the causes in more depth.)

"The problem with our Western culture," writes theologian Edward Sellner in a 1998 "Common Boundary" article, "is that a man's desire for…communion with other males is the source of much suspicion. While other societies acknowledge this need, [much of] Western culture…is fearful if not outright condemnatory of it." If this is so, what led us to this illogical and uncomfortable place?

Again, fear. And we came by it logically. Probably most of us can recall experiences of shame beginning in childhood and continuing perhaps even to today, experiences that taught us to fear and avoid the expression of care toward another male. When we showed strong feelings–especially gentle, kind, understanding, or tender ones–we were often mocked and bullied. We learned quick.

If there is only one change that you make as a result of reading these articles, please make it this one. Please! Determine somehow, some way, at some time to regularly get together with friends; that is, if you don't already do it. This simple decision may look innocent and common but it is a profound investment in mental and emotional health.

  • This getting-together can take many forms. Find one (or more) that is just right for you. Here are some examples:
  • Sports: Have a regular time and place to meet your buddy–or several–for a game of racquetball, golf, bicycling or whatever.
  • Food: Meet with a group of friends for a regular meal at one of your homes or a restaurant.
  • Group: Join or start some kind of group that meets regularly: book group, support group, investment group, hobby group, etc.
  • Poker: Gather a group of guys who love poker or any other game and meet on a regular basis to play and drink some beers.
  • Church: Join a group of friends in your church which meets regularly around some topic of interest to you.
  • Clubs: One of the many service clubs (Kiwanis, Rotary, Toastmasters, etc) or other kinds of clubs offer opportunities to get together regularly with other members.

Did you notice the word that is in every example? "Regular." The emphasis is on regular connecting, rather than on habitual isolation. The movement is away from feeling competitive with other guys, toward feeling connected with them socially. And this isn't just fun, statistics prove it's healthy. Social interaction improves health.

© 2010 David Kundtz

Related information: Issues, Feeling Books: anger, assertiveness, depression, fear, forgiveness, general, grief, joy, loneliness, shame

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We know too much and feel too little. At least we feel too little of those creative emotions from which a good life springs. - Bertrand Russell


David Kundtz is a licensed family therapist in Berkeley, California. He presents seminars, workshops, retreats, and conference presentations in the areas of men's emotional health, stress management, and spirituality. He is the author of Managing Feelings:  An owner's manual for men and has recently completed a second book, Nothing's Wrong: A Man's Guide to Managing His Feelings. He makes his home in Kensington, California and in Vancouver, British Columbia. You may contact David at E-Mail or visit his web site at www.stopping.com

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