Men have fewer friends these days, which can hurt their well-being. Here are expert tips for fostering those relationships.
When we got married, my husband had a “bachelor party” that consisted of five guys going out to dinner together. There was no heavy drinking or roasting the groom or naked women jumping out of a cake. Just guys sitting around talking about life.
This group has been meeting regularly ever since, taking turns hosting brunch so they can chat for hours, sharing the joys and struggles of their lives. They call themselves the “Men of Merit” or “MOMs”—and they have been there for each other, through thick and thin, for over 30 years now.
Having an intimate group of friends like that seems to be a rare thing for men these days. In fact, according to a recent American Survey report, men have fewer social ties overall than they used to, with only 27% of men in 2021 saying they had at least six close friends compared to 55% in 1990. This suggests men may be suffering a “friendship recession” that is likely affecting their health and happiness.
The reasons for this are complex. But it’s worth it for men to forge friendships with other men. Research suggests that having men friends in early adulthood is important to men and can help buffer them against stress. Intimate friendships with men, sometimes called “bromances,” can be even more fulfilling than romantic relationships with women, perhaps because men feel more understood by other men and assume men friends will be more loyal and willing to help in time of need.
How can you make that kind of friendship happen? The key, say experts, is to find the right activity with other men—and then to be brave in opening up. “[Men] start off talking about their cars first, and then the conversation goes into their relationships,” says Daniel Ellenberg, a relationship expert and leadership trainer. “Finding common interests is a good jumping-off point for men.”