A couple of articles to get thoughts going:


...in middle age.

...in the gay community.

(If you have other good articles for other sub-groups or aspects, sure, post 'em.)

As for me, I relate to the "in middle age" part, as I'm just too busy to have any sort of regular -- or irregular -- time to get together with a friend.  Difference is, I don't really miss it, for now at least.  I feel some unease as if I should miss it.  

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Reminds me of a poem I wrote several years ago - before I got married. I published it in the comments thread in "Dead Poets". The title is "The Empty Seat"

There’s an empty seat beside me; vacant by my choice.

I chose to live alone and free, with no companion voice.

I savored solitude and silence, unbound by another’s will.

But lately in the seat I sense a void that joy could fill.



There’s an empty seat beside me, though many there have taken rest.

And some clung to it dearly when I tired of it’s guest.

But I’d given my disclaimer when beauty settled there -

I‘d remind her who she knew I was, when she started the affair.



There’s an empty seat beside me that I dread when I come home.

Temples grayed and youth has fled, my selfishness outgrown.

Each night I retire to an empty bed and wonder - is it too late to meet

A partner I could love and wed, to fill the empty seat.

A couple of articles to get thoughts going:

I just skimmed the two articles. They seem to be about two different kinds of problems.

The first article is about how close relationships (families) tend to crowd out friendships for men. In other words, it's not actually about loneliness. It's more about one specific type of social isolation: Lack of friendships.

The second article was more diffuse: Larger issues of social isolation, difficulty finding stable relationships, etc.

Anyway, my point is that there are different types of "lonely." As the first article pointed out, you can be in a fulfilling relationship with a significant other (or family) but be socially isolated in terms of friendships. Alternatively, you can have lots of friends and acquaintances but lack a significant other. Or you can lack both.

Research seems to indicate that having lots of friends and acquaintances but lacking a significant other is generally healthier than having a significant other but lacking friends. Of course, lacking both is the least healthy state. (And having both is presumably the healthiest state.)

Could be because there's more of a strong biological impetus for physical relationships with a significant other, so that people are more willing to put up with a dysfunctional relationship with a spouse due to the desire for physical companionship, than they are with a friend who's a complete jerk.

Basically, yes, something like that.

The problem is called "enmeshment." One or both partners can have poor emotional boundaries, and a couple problems can arise: For example, other relationships get crowded out (friendships, extended families), and as a result one or both parties become increasingly isolated. Or in other cases, the stronger personality in the relationship can swamp or suffocate the weaker personality.

There have been psychological studies showing that couples who revolve around each other are less mentally healthy than single people with friends. Link to study: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/living-single/200811/the-fragi...

I believe so, the idea that having a partner is the sole raison detre for existence is actually quite unhealthy both in a practical and a spiritual sense, a partner is more like an asset to an already satisfying life.

For that matter, most men historically of accomplishment who I'd consider role models had a deeper overarching purpose for living than merely "finding a partner", and their partner was to them basically someone with whom they shared a deeper purpose and satisfaction, not the "sole purpose" itself.

I agree.

Ha, good article on middle age.

I have some old friends. I have a wonderful wife, great family.

I enjoy people I work with (more or less), and my show has even brought me some limited notoriety locally, along with some awesome contacts in my industry.

And I'm lonely as hell. I can't watch two buddies help each other out in the gym; like a starving man watching others eat.

I don't see any solution; life for middle-aged, middle-classed white males like me is simply too busy and compartmentalized. Especially those with no former baseline of male contact.

I drink, and talk to my imaginary buds when no one is around. Better than nothing.

Hmm; good hourly analysis,

I find everything I've done to get out and meet people actually adds to the problem of finding time to "hang out".

Ironic, lol.

Thanks for the suggestions.

In a rural area such stuff is hard to come by, and does cost money.

I have a kid in college and one on the way there; we are pinching pennies every way we can. 

Thought more about your hourly assessment; travel time. In a rural area everything is scattered about; there's time spent traveling to and from work, gym, kids school and activities. Community service. I've had to ease off on some possible friendships simply because they are too far away. Not sustainable.

Brett McKay wrote a couple articles about male friendships up at the main AoM website. Here's the title and first paragraph from one:

Title: Making and Keeping Man Friendships

Several weeks ago we posted an article about the history and nature of man friendships. Several readers added comments in which they lamented the difficulty in both making and keeping man friendships, a sentiment I fully sympathize with. Once you’re out of college, and especially if you get married and move, it becomes rather hard to make new friends and maintain the bond with your old pals. I struggle with this problem myself, and so while I won’t claim to be an expert with all the answers, I have spent some time talking with other men and brainstorming ideas for how men can make and keep solid man friendships. [...]

Link to the article: http://www.artofmanliness.com/2008/10/28/how-to-make-friends/

Especially those with no former baseline of male contact.

If you simply have no experience of male friendship in the past, it can be rough to make male friends; you don't know what's expected and all that.

Myself, I'm ex-military so I have those experiences to fall back on: Observing and enjoying the bonds of friendship that spring up in that environment.

Anyway, I would suggest following the advice in Brett's article and do things like joining organizations where you can observe how males interact. Then mimic.

Not sure how I fell into those relationships to do it again. Is it all just chance?

Well, if you grew up with male friends or had male friends in college or in the military, then friendship often seems like something you just "fell into" naturally. But a lot of friendships arise from a background of several years of shared experiences and interests. You get thrown together with a few other people into an environment where you have to interact with them whether you like them or not (on playgrounds, in dorms, in classes), and friendship bonds arise. Multiple years of shared experiences and interests will result in deep friendships even among people who are otherwise very dissimilar in nature and values. (See my blog post on how emotional bonds work: http://community.artofmanliness.com/profiles/blogs/how-do-emotional...)

Naturally, it's going to be difficult to recreate all that familiarity and friendship from scratch with a new circle of acquaintances in a new setting, especially when you have a wife and family taking up all your time. Even if you can find another couple who interact well together in a foursome with you and your wife, it won't necessarily result in a deep friendship bond between the men.

Anyway, my advice: Leave the wife and family behind for one afternoon a week and join an organization geared toward men. A rod-and-gun club, an outing club, whatever. Choose an activity where you will keep interacting with the same circle of men over time (example: skeet competitions at the rod-and-gun club, or bicycling events with the outing club), and let the mechanism of shared experiences and interests work its magic. Even if the other men seem very different from you in terms of personalities and values, the simple factor of going through experiences together will create bonds and make it easier to trust and communicate with each other.

Alternatively, consider doing recreational things with individuals from your workplace. You probably already have a degree of familiarity with some co-workers; it's not that difficult to create a deeper friendship over time by sharing time off work as well.

Of course, the main impediment to deeper friendships with co-workers in the workplace is that a lot of men prefer to compartmentalize. That is, men prefer to draw a line between the workplace and their personal life. And there is always the fear that a personal friendship with a co-worker could somehow lead to a conflict of interest in the workplace. As a result, in my experience women are more likely than men to take their workplace relationships and turn them into personal friendships as well.

 "let the mechanism of shared experiences and interests work its magic"

You hit it on the head; that's how friendship may (as even that is not guaranteed) happen. An afternoon a week; you mean one of two days then, Saturday or Sunday. That's a tall order for the middle-aged man with kids to ferry around and an aging parent(s) to take care of (and a house, grounds, etc). That means more work is shifted to the missus, which becomes a marriage stressor.

even wonder, would I want to hang with a guy who has the time to do that?

You hit it on the head; that's how friendship may (as even that is not guaranteed) happen. An afternoon a week; you mean one of two days then, Saturday or Sunday. That's a tall order for the middle-aged man with kids to ferry around and an aging parent(s) to take care of (and a house, grounds, etc). That means more work is shifted to the missus, which becomes a marriage stressor.

even wonder, would I want to hang with a guy who has the time to do that?

Well, that's sort of the point of the thread in general: Studies say that it's healthier for men to have male friends and "guy time."

Of course, each individual man has to prioritize things as he sees fit. If you prioritize family (immediate and extended) to the point that there's simply no time for male friends, then that's your choice.

Other folks will prioritize things differently. They'll make time for a poker game with their buddies or spend an afternoon bicycling with a bicycling club they learned about on a bulletin board at the local bike shop. And they'll tell their wife to suck it up and accept the fact that their "guy time" may stress their marriage a bit; or they'll slough off some of the care for their parent(s) on to someone else or they'll let the house and grounds get a little shabby. Again, it's just a question of where you set your priorities. Each man has to make that choice individually.

Either way, I figure that it's good to read these articles about the need for male friends and have a discussion about it. Even if you can't fit it in male friends right now, perhaps you can make it a priority at another period of your life, now that you're aware of how the issue affects men.

Awareness is the first step. Then you set your priorities as you see best for your own life and act on them accordingly.


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