When I start a new coaching engagement with a male client, I’ll ask them: “Who is your best male friend?” In most cases there is a long pause before they offer up a name: Joe, John, Tom, etc. Then I’ll ask: “When was the last time you saw Joe, John or Tom?” The answers might surprise you: 6 months, a year ago, maybe 3 years ago.
If the friend lives in a different city or state, I’ll ask: “When was the last time you called him?” You can almost feel and pain and guilt when they answer: “Last year on his birthday”, or “I really don’t remember when.”
The state of male-male friendships in a state of funk, and that’s not good.
There are many reasons why men neglect building and keeping friendships with other men: distraction, work and career pressure, family demands. Our lives are filled with all kinds of activities that keep us from investing in relationships with other guys.
Sure, we might meet some guys for a Saturday round of golf or a Wednesday evening game of hoops, but the conversation is probably limited to humorous trash talking. This isn’t the place to be vulnerable, to share what’s really going on in your life.
I just returned from my annual men’s golf retreat (6 years in a row) on the Carolina coast. We were eight guys, all in our 50s, who came together for three days of golf and fellowship. Our objective was to have a good time and to get to know each other better.
We started the mornings with a devotion and then we shared what was going on in our lives: the good, the bad and the ugly. We all listened while the other one shared: sometimes it was about the cancer that a spouse was battling; a child that was making bad decisions; the pain of divorce or the joy of becoming a grandfather. We’d give feedback, wise counsel, encouragement or maybe just a hug.
It was amazing how deep we went and how open and transparent everyone was. We knew we were in a safe place, that our issues and struggles would be held in confidence.
Our conversations continued in walks on the beach, at dinner and into the night. No one needed alcohol to get comfortable and open up. That came by it self, through the friendships that we had developed over many years.
Men need male friendships, more than we realize. It doesn’t have to be a large group of guys, but they need to be solid relationships. Guys you can count on and that can count on you. Guys you trust and are willing to invest in; friends that will hold you accountable.
Having two teenage boys of my own, I know that it’s important that my sons see that their dad has some good male friends. I can role model for them what it means to be a good friend to another man.
If you are a married woman, I would encourage you to support your husband in this area. Ask him about his best friend(s) and tell him that it is important for him to develop these relationships. It is important that he goes through life with some good buddies.
If you are a guy reading this blog, I’d encourage you to think about your best friend(s) and what you can do to rekindle the relationship if it has become dormant, or how you might further develop the relationship to a male friend. You have to be intentional and proactive. Call him and get something on the calendar. Be willing to share, be vulnerable and be challenged. And then ask a few tough questions of your own… and then be ready to listen.