Male friendships

Laura Lothrop

How a lack of emotional connection affects men

 

Meaningful human interaction stems directly from friendship.

Without friendship, people’s lives lack joy, trust, transparency and the ability to be vulnerable. To be honest and experience true intimacy and value, individuals need outlets where they can be open about their worries and struggles.

However, this is something that most men do not have within their friendships.

Unspoken expectations placed on men inhibit them from being sensitive and accessible in the area of expressing their feelings, which ruins meaningful relationships and hinders full disclosure and trust.

We rarely see men openly talking about their emotions because it is seen as a trait only acceptable and associated with women.

Perhaps men are simply more reserved in their private affairs, but it’s not because they don’t want to talk about their feelings. Men suppress their feelings because society tells them that their emotions are strange and weak if expressed, even amongst their friends.

I asked three guys at Seattle Pacific University to talk about the friendships they have, what they value within friendships, what they expect out of them, and how vulnerable they are comfortable being with their male friends.

Nate Salima, a junior at SPU, said that close friendships are close because of the effort individuals make to stay in contact, regardless of circumstances.

Jacob Calton, another junior, said that a friend is someone that works to understand how you give and receive love, actually putting in the effort to know and understand how you work.

Jermaine Broetje, a sophomore, defines close friendships as being in a trustworthy union with people that know how to speak their mind and listen well.

All three men appraised friendships for having value and significance in their lives.

I proceeded to ask all three about their willingness to share, open up and even cry in front of their male friends.

Listening to Salima, I learned that he does feel comfortable going to his friends about hard topics, but that his mom and girlfriend Allie would always be the first people he went to for counsel.

So does Salima feel like he could talk to his male friends about his feelings?

“I feel like they’d be open to it but it’s just kind of weird I guess; I don’t know why, its just not what you do.”

Salima added that, “From my experience, guys will share big things that happen, like a relative passing, but the day to day things, like ‘I’m not feeling as good today’ are not necessary to share. With bigger things, I feel like we got each others backs and we can talk about it, for sure.”

Broetje says that he is comfortable discussing his emotions with friends but that not a lot of people truly know him because they don’t ask the deeper questions.

“Everybody seems too scared to ask nowadays. Conversation isn’t as present. Even in a place like [SPU] where you think you feel so many people around you, you still at times don’t.”

Broetje continued that he enjoys getting into those deep, meaningful conversations with people, because that is where intimacy and growth happens.

Calton values deep, intimate relationships with his friends, and had a lot to say about how being closed off and unable to be emotional, hinders him from becoming close with people.

He cites the problem of emotional inaccessibility as originating from societal pressures men to be stoic and cool. “There are some friends [of mine] that play so much into this societal role of masculinity, this role of being a stoic and strong, emotionless, faultless man, and I find myself not getting close to guys that have that mentality.”

If men were free to speak about their emotions and thoughts, in all sorts of setting, and if we, as a society, made this normal and welcomed by men, then wouldn’t we see a better mutual understanding of men across all scopes and areas within relationships?

Wouldn’t real issues within human interaction actually have the spaces to be solved and sorted if men didn’t have to worry about being called weak or outlandish?

Men and women should not have to talk about their emotions all the time, or ever, if they don’t want to. But men should be equally able to speak freely about their feelings with peers, family and friends, without being judged, or seen as weak.