I've made a few posts here and there (I'm still a newbie to AoM), but I really want to put my thoughts out here, in one post, coherently. Many of you seem to share my perspective about the importance of male friendships, so I thought I should get your advice on a situation I'm going through right now.
In sort, I am lonely. I've always distinguished between "being alone" and "being lonely", but more and more these days, I must admit that I am lonely, not alone.
I'm 29, a Ph.D. student who's almost done, almost going to be a prof, in academia. My best friend of 15 years (we met in high school) is engaged, and will be married next summer. I'm thrilled for him, I'm his best man, but at the same time, I can't help but think that he and I have already started drifting apart. We're black-and-white. He's blue collar (works in construction), I'm white collar, his movie interests are just terrible, he lives in the suburbs with his fiance, I live downtown. Yet, with all these differences, we've always been close, talk to each other about things that most guys don't talk about, and I would honestly say it's a "true" friendship, not simply a "bromance". And while I know that he and I will never lose our friendship, a part of me fears that, mostly because we're hanging out less and less. I know it's normal, it's part of growing up, but it still scares me nonetheless. I haven't talked to him about how I feel yet, mostly because he's been busy, I haven't seen him in 2 months, and I feel this kind of talk requires us to be in-person, not on the phone or via e-mail.
I've also tried to start other friendships, with the guys who are in my grad program. They're nice guys, but they don't really seem to be interested in hanging out outside of school/work. We've grabbed dinner and watch movies a few times, I've really tried (honestly), but nothing seems to work, as in, we're not "clicking" in the friendship sense. I like them a lot, but it seems like these guys will always be co-workers, and not "friends".
I'm single. There's this girl in my program that I like, we're friends, but we've never "formally" dated. At times, at my age, I feel I'm late in the game when it comes to relationships (as in, my best friend is engaged, I don't even have a gf). While I like her very much, I feel that if I do get into a relationship with her, it's for the wrong, selfish reasons, like to satisfy my craving for some intimacy or social need, and not because I see a future for us together. Frankly, I don't know. Like I said, I like her a lot, but I don't want to "use" her if my goals for a relationship are ultimately selfish.
And so, I am lonely. I have heard of the "lone cowboy syndrom" -- and it's not like I'm a stereotypical guy who fears intimacy, in fact, I crave intimacy and desire strong male friendships -- but it's just like, life has dealt me the cards I have, and... I am lonely.
I try to bury myself with my school work, doing well in my dissertation, so this is a good thing in a sense. But I fear that I am losing my best friend (even if rationally, it isn't true), and I fear that I will not have a loving relationship with a gf in the future, and these two things scare me.
I don't know. I don't have a specific question to ask, but just really wanted to get my thoughts out here. There are some things I can't say to my friends or parents (like some of the things above), but maybe because we're all anonymous (more or less) in AoM, I can. I would welcome any encouraging words, or any advice you may have.
You've already posted this question, though this time you put out more information about your situation.
Were you not happy with your answers? There's also old posts on this subject and good discussion, especially from guys no longer here.
Carl is right. There was a great discussion on this very topic about 5 months ago. Good stuff. However, I don't think you'll be happy with a re-warming of an old post, so we can start again.
I think the bottom line in your post is that you are searching for someone to connect with. Am I right? And that is a noble goal. I would say that the majority of people at this site are looking to make a connection--that's why they are here.
So the question is, how do you form a meaningful friendship with others?
Hi Carl and SB,
Yes, there was a great discussion on the "lone cowboy syndrome" from back in April. I read it all. Most of it was about homosexuality, but a lot of stuff on friendships and other relationships nonetheless that I found helpful.
But I started this thread not exactly to re-hash an "old" topic. And as Carl even recognized, what I wrote here is a lot more than what I have written before. And, in this thread, I'm not solely focusing on friendships, but on life in general.
But SB, are you asking me specifically to respond, or are you asking to get me to start thinking? The thing is, I have thought about it, but the answer to that question eludes me. How do we become friends? I had a thread a while back about making friends in adulthood. But is hanging out with a guy, however you define "hanging out", the necessary connection to friends? I also mentioned that I do want to form strong, intimate friendships -- and I have one of those, with my best friend -- but I also know I can't rely on just one person. No one could ever replace him, but I'm trying to form other bonds too. But as much as I want to, the other guy has to as well.
A lot of posts (even outside of AoM, simple Google search) has all too focused on the message of getting us guys to open up. But I guess, my question is, what about for guys who do open up and are able to express their vulnerabilities? What if there are no guys you can do this with? You want to, but the other guy doesn't. No article on the web, even on AoM, has really addressed this. And because I'm searching for a meaningful connection -- whether in male friendships or relationships -- but can't find someone, hence the lone cowboy syndrome, which I think works on my side of the coin. This is even more depressing, since I know I want close friends, but can't.
Right, there has been quite a few threads recently about making or expanding friendships. This interests me because I can't seem to do it either. I asked you to respond to get you thinking, but also because I am looking for the answer! The general consensus seems to be that you make many acquaintances, feed the ones that look to develop into good friendships, then work like hell to maintain them.
It seems that you have an opportunity with this girl...ask her out and see what happens.
Friendship, as I was taught in college psychology, needs the following to develop:
Frequent contact, and I mean physically, not online.
Shared goals, experiences and/or interests. The best friendships come from school days, or, I'm discovering here, the military or some other sort of service.
Perceived similarity. I don't mean "oh, this man is a mirror image of me" but "yea, I feel that way too, he's my age so he's going through that too" sort of thing.
In our society, adulthood does not automatically provide this combo, actually, it makes it very difficult to happen. And the hard part is that you may want to make that work, but that relies on others doing the same, and the odds someone you will click with is out there doing just that are small.
I continue to work at it, it's become a hobby where the fruit is very barren; like having an olive grove in New Jersey.
I disagree. Not with you, CB, but on the idea that these few things together will mean you are friends. I think friendships, like any relationship, needs some "spark" or "chemistry". I've mentioned this in one of my earlier threads.
The guys in my grad program I certainly see everyday. We have shared goals, whether it's career/academic goals, and a few of the guys have very similar interests as mine. So we are similar in so many ways. YET, I would not consider them friends. I believe friendship needs something more.
My best friend David, for instance. As I said, we're black-and-white. We are two completely different people. On the surface, you would think that we shouldn't even be friends, but we are. Why? I believe that those differences actually help bind us together. We learn from each other. We shed a different perspective on each of our lives. I don't expect him to see things as I do, but when we meet half-way, it works pretty darn well.
But that's not to say that these differences aren't always painful. Sometimes I feel that these differences will force us to drift apart. Maybe this is just my emotional system talking. Rationally, I know we'll always be friends. But it's just a fear. (And oh, I'm one of those who believe that "true" friendships are for a lifetime, just one or two, while most other friends, even periodic "best friends" can come and go.)
So, in conclusion, I can't say that these things you talk about, Carl, is what makes people friends. I'm sure these things would apply to people you work with. But are you friends with them? I doubt it. You may like them, but your close/best/true friends are something more, something greater.
Maybe there's no answer to this question, it's one of life's mysteries. I'm leaning more and more to accepting this conclusion, rather than drive myself crazy (and lonely) trying to find the "right" answer.
And to an extent, it's kind of like the old saying, that the destination isn't what matters, but it's the journey that matters. So it's the journey about learning what friendship is that's key.
My two cents.
Why would you want to hang with someone you don't enjoy?
I believe some of the chemistry in male friendships is having the freedom to say what you tink without always having to 'self-censor' based on who you are communicating with at home or in a workplace.
When I am with my friends, I just want to be myself. Can't do that at work...can't say whatever you think around your kids....or people you have casual 'situational friendships' with in this complex and politically correct world we live in.
Having friendships with other dudes allows you to tallk to men as a man. Gives one a sense of freedom to be able to speak like a man without being 'judged' constantly......
Those are the friendships I would chose to have. I don't think it is 'spark' or 'chemistry', I think it is the ability to be able to speak freely (and be understood to not be an ass) without the constant judgment society puts on men. Friendship allows freedom of thought in a non-judgmental fashion amongst equals.
That is what I was taught, and yes, it is more complicated than that. I needed to preface with that, sorry.
It's like giving instructions how to ride a bike: sit on bike, then pedal hard, steer so you don't hit anything, use brake to stop or slow down.
I agree about chemistry. Something drew you guys together, even though on the outside you are very different people.
You are right; I am not friends with anyone I work with, nor have any meaningful friendships come out of any previous jobs (though I was successful at resuscitating one, whether it will be a deep friendship is unknown). In middle age I am realizing you can see someone nearly every day for years and years and still not be good friends with them.
Kinda sad when this sinks in, but you are right in not agonizing about it.
Time to get back to my olive grove, lol.
Good thoughts, but I'm not sure I agree with you all the way. I am of the belief that you can form lasting, tight friendships without being in the same place. Historically, men have maintained great friendships through writing letters. Pen pals can grow very close.
I think the main trigger in striking that bond is shared emotion. Think about your grade school friends. You were close because of the daily experiences and the emotions shared. Its much different with work mates. Older men are not as emotional as when we were teens, so we can work with guys for years, sharing the experiences, but fail to share the emotions, therefore not forming the close friendships.
And correct me if I'm wrong; from my distant memory of grad students, they are very different from their undergrad counterparts in that they have both feet in adulthood. They don't live or even necessarily eat together, don't participate in college sports teams, and work independently on their thesis's. No more group cramming during mid-terms in the library.
You are already limited in the amount of time you spend with your colleagues and many are already in relationships with someone else, even living with them. Almost identical to any working adult; am I right?
You are too funny, Carl.
Friendship takes time...I mean, the fitting it into your schedule time from work, chores, family, etc. etc. Many spouses are not supportive of their partners to have them away from the home pursuing their own independent friendships, unless they are self-actualized themselves and actively encourage what is best for the emotional health of the other spouse. Most men simply do not have the time, while raising children, to devote to outside friendships. When family obligations diminish after children attain adulthood, one has more time to devote to maintaining healthy 'outside the nuclear family unit' friendships, if both partners are emotionally healthy and not threatened by a friendship that is outside a 'relationship'. Time away from the wife to hang with any buds - sometimes women have issues with this and believe themselves to be ignored.
Then there's the whole gay thing, Wayne.
I tell my wife I've going out for a beer with so and so, someone she has not met, or knows well, and there's the attitude I'm going out on a "date".
It's in jest, even my girls will joke that way. But the jest hides something; unless it's my own insecurities projecting on them.