Male Loneliness: Why Aren’t Today’s Men Making Friends?

Friendships are a cornerstone of a fulfilling life, yet many men find making and maintaining close friends particularly challenging as they age. The “friendship recession” is real, and it’s not just about having fewer friends; it’s about the quality and depth of those relationships.

Whether you’re fresh out of college or noticing your circle has shrunk over the years of your career, understanding the dynamics of male bonding can transform your social life and stave off the pain of loneliness. In this article, we will cover practical tips to foster meaningful male friendships and insights on navigating the complexities of friendship in modern American life.

Why are friendships important?

Men are more likely to reach their goals when they have close friends who serve as accountability partners. Having a best friend who genuinely holds you accountable is invaluable, as it encourages consistency, perseverance, and focus.

These friends provide honest feedback, celebrate successes, and offer constructive criticism, all of which are essential for personal growth. The mutual encouragement and shared commitment to each other’s progress fosters resilience and determination, ultimately leading to greater achievement and fulfillment.

Humans are social beings. We are meant to be in a community and support each other. When disengaged from community, most people will struggle with depression and anxiety.

In his book Buddy System: Understanding Male Friendships, Geoffrey Greif emphasizes that while men often face societal pressures that discourage emotional vulnerability, friendships are crucial for emotional health and personal fulfillment.

Today’s men are isolated.

A recent report from the Survey Center on American Life revealed that American men have fewer close friendships in today’s world than in the past. In 1990, 3% of men reported having no close friends. In 2021, the number alarmingly jumped to 15%.

Studies show that this decline in friendships is having a negative effect on men’s mental health and overall well-being. There are lots of reasons for this decline like the rise of anxiety and shyness, less engagement, social media, prioritizing work and personal goals, psychological issues, and frequent moves.

In a viral video, “I Have No Friends” Mark Gaisford expresses this phenomenon perfectly. Gaisford opens up about his own struggles, highlighting the stigma associated with admitting loneliness, noting that many men fear appearing weak or inadequate.

Gaisford’s candid account sheds light on the widespread nature of this issue, encouraging viewers to reflect on their own social connections and the importance of reaching out for support.

Challenges of Making Friends as an Adult Male

Navigating the social sphere as an adult male can be uniquely challenging. Many men find that their circles diminish significantly after they leave the structured environments of school or university. Work and family commitments often take priority, leaving little room for personal socialization.

Additionally, societal expectations about masculinity can discourage men from pursuing relationships. Here are a few reasons why men struggle to make impactful connections in today’s world:

Difficulty in Finding Close Male Friends

One of the biggest hurdles adult men face is finding opportunities to connect with other men on a deeper level. After graduation, the readily available pool of peers diminishes, and many find themselves unsure of where to meet new friends who share similar interests. Research suggests that many men struggle with this in silence, unsure of how to bridge the gap between acquaintance and close friend.

Ways Men Socialize

Men usually socialize differently than women, typically engaging in side-by-side activities rather than face-to-face interactions. They bond while doing things together, such as fishing, watching sports, sitting at a bar, or golfing.

Conversations happen naturally during these shared activities. This means that typically more time and organization are needed for a male outing. Leaving the family or home responsibilities to go golfing or play basketball often causes frustration with children and spouses, adding to the man’s hesitancy to pursue friendships.

Influence of Traditional Masculinity

Older generations of men often associate deep one-on-one interactions with homosexuality or femininity. To avoid these implications, men often socialized in larger groups with more playful and mildly aggressive joking. This created a sense of brotherhood characterized by physical proximity without sexual connotations. This stigma makes intimate, one-on-one friendships difficult for some men.

Lack of Purposeful Gatherings

Unlike women, men rarely have face-to-face conversations purely for social reasons. Conversation often occurs for a specific purpose, like a business acquisition or to solve a problem. These are generalizations for sure, but they tend to bear out.

My wife talks to her sister daily, for no reason at all. I only speak to my brothers when one of us needs to discuss a pertinent matter. Many men don’t acknowledge the need for purely social interactions.

Strategies for Making Friends

Establishing new friendships requires deliberate effort and a change of approach. Fortunately, there are several strategies men can employ to increase their social circles and foster meaningful relationships. Brett McKay, the founder of the popular website The Art of Manliness, offers practical advice on developing and nurturing men’s friendships.

He, among other experts, suggests that men should actively seek out opportunities to connect with others through shared activities, such as joining clubs, sports, or volunteering. Here are a few practical places and ways to start making new friends quickly.

1. Join a supportive group.

One effective way to meet new people is by joining communities specifically aimed at men. Start by checking local community centers, churches, and libraries, as they often host or know of men’s groups. Meetup.com is another excellent resource, allowing you to search for men’s groups based on your interests, whether you’re focused on fitness, hobbies, or personal development.

Additionally, social media platforms like Facebook often have local groups where you can connect with others looking for the same type of camaraderie. The ManKind Project, Wild at Heart, Men’s Groups, and Heads Up Guys are online platforms that help men find support groups that fit their needs.

Don’t hesitate to ask friends or coworkers if they know of any groups, as word of mouth can be a powerful tool in finding the right fit for you.

2. Participate in organized events.

Another viable option for making friends is to get involved in local events or activities that align with your interests. Whether it’s a sports league, a book club, a church group, an outdoor group, or a creative group, engaging in organized activities can provide natural opportunities to meet like-minded individuals.

Not only do these settings offer the chance to enjoy a shared interest, but they also allow you to interact in a relaxed, pressure-free environment. Community service or volunteering is also an excellent way to meet like-minded guys. Sign up for a community clean-up day.

Join the volunteer firefighters in your community, or sign up for a church mission trip. Run for city council. Volunteer to serve on the school board, or pair up with another dad to coach your kiddo’s soccer team. The opportunities are endless if you’re willing to look.

3. Change your approach.

Forming strong male bonds requires more than just shared activities; it involves vulnerability and trust. Below are a few tips to help deepen connections with male friends:

Be Open and Honest: Sharing personal experiences and challenges can foster a deeper connection. Being vulnerable opens the door to mutual trust and understanding. You likely won’t be ostracized for it. Instead, your openness will encourage others to do the same.

Consistency is Key: Regular interactions strengthen relationships. Setting up recurring activities, like weekly sports games or monthly dinner outings, can ensure ongoing contact.

Prioritize Support: Showing genuine interest and support in the lives of your friends strengthens bonds. From celebrating their successes to offering a listening ear during tough times, being a supportive friend is invaluable.

Create Traditions: Establishing traditions like annual trips or special events can create unique shared memories and reinforce friendships.

Making friends as an adult male, though challenging, is certainly feasible with the right approach and mindset. By embracing vulnerability, being proactive in participation, and fostering environments that encourage male bonding, men can build and maintain meaningful relationships that enhance their lives and well-being.

4. Be confident!

Confidence plays a pivotal role in initiating and nurturing friendships. Unfortunately, many men feel uncertain about how to approach making new friends, especially as they age. The key is to remember that confidence is not about boastfulness or being overly assertive; it’s about being comfortable in your own skin and showing genuine interest in others.

Be yourself: Authenticity attracts people. Pretending to be someone you’re not can lead to friendships that feel unfulfilling and insubstantial.

Take initiative: Don’t wait for others to come to you. Be the first to suggest hanging out or starting a conversation.

Stay open: While you may have a clear idea of what you want in a friend, staying open to different types of people can enrich your life in unexpected ways.

5. Seek understanding and empathy.

Understanding and empathy are the cornerstones of any strong relationship. They allow us to connect on a deeper level, which is essential for building lasting friendships. Actively listening to others’ experiences and showing genuine concern for their feelings goes a long way in establishing trust. When others feel seen and heard, they are more likely to open up and develop a close bond. Consider:

Ask meaningful questions: This encourages a deeper understanding of a person’s life and experiences.

Be encouraging: Friends appreciate knowing they have someone on whom they can rely and someone who believes in them.

Addressing Specific Scenarios in Making Friends

Friendship dynamics can vary greatly depending on the context. Whether you’re moving to a new city, searching for friends post-college, or trying to revamp your social life, each scenario holds unique challenges and opportunities.

In a New City: Moving to a new place can be isolating, but it also presents a blank slate for forming new friendships. This is a chance to explore local clubs, workshops, or online communities like Meetup, Nextdoor, and Skout to find like-minded individuals. Join a gym. Spend time in the park or take an art or dance class.

Post-College Friendships: Keeping in touch with college buddies, while actively seeking new ones, is the ideal balance. Explore alumni groups or professional networking events where friendships can also advance career goals. If you move into marriage, look for couples that you both enjoy hanging out with. Finding friends that you can spend time with as a couple decreases the tension of one of you leaving to hang with friends.

Rekindling or Deepening Existing Relationships: Over time, life’s responsibilities can cause friendships to wane. Reaching out to an old friend can feel awkward, but sending a simple message to catch up over coffee or proposing a meet-up to reminisce about old times can reignite those bonds. Be proactive in scheduling regular activities, such as movie nights or hiking trips, to keep the friendship active and engaging.

Each of these scenarios requires a different approach, but the common thread is the courage to step out of your comfort zone and the willingness to invest time and emotional energy into others.

Resources for Dealing With Male Loneliness

Male loneliness has become an increasingly significant issue in modern society, exacerbated by changes in social dynamics and cultural expectations. In his book We Need to Hang Out: A Memoir of Making Friends, Billy Baker explores the pervasive loneliness that many men experience.

Baker’s journey reveals that, despite societal perceptions of masculinity that often discourage vulnerability and emotional openness, the need for deep, meaningful connections is universal. His narrative underscores how men often struggle to maintain friendships as they age, leading to a sense of isolation that can have profound effects on their mental health and overall well-being.

Psychologist Marc Schulz, who co-authored The Good Life: Lessons from the World’s Longest Scientific Study of Happiness, also highlights the critical role of relationships in fostering happiness and health. Schulz’s research, drawn from the Harvard Study of Adult Development, shows that men who cultivate strong social bonds are not only happier but also healthier.

Conversely, those who experience loneliness are more susceptible to mental and physical health issues. Schulz emphasizes that societal norms often prevent men from forming and maintaining these crucial relationships, advocating for a cultural shift that encourages men to seek out and prioritize meaningful connections.

Final Thoughts on Men Making Friends

Making friends as we age can seem daunting, but it’s a worthwhile journey! The benefits of fulfilling male friendships flow over into the rest of your life. Bouncing ideas off of men you respect makes you a better husband, leader at work, and father. Today’s social landscape might look different from our younger years, but the fundamentals of friendship remain the same: shared interests, mutual respect, and consistent effort.

Reach out to old pals, bond with new ones over a hobby, or join a community group. Every step towards building friendships is a step away from loneliness and towards a fuller, more connected life. Remember, the key is to stay open, be yourself, and keep reaching out. The friendships you cultivate now can turn out to be the most rewarding of your life!

About Author
About Author

Ryan is a professional travel and relationship writer, originally out of Arkansas. Educated as a health and physical education teacher, he sold all his possessions, uprooted, and went on sabbatical in 2020 to go exploring! He's spent the last four years traveling the world, living and working in more than forty countries. At his side, is his wife of 19 years and fellow travel writer, Abby. Aside from being a sports fanatic and Jesus lover, he's uncle extraordinaire to 14 of the greatest creations on Earth. His passion is sharing cultural finds and encouraging men to experience a more fulfilling life by loving, serving, and understanding their partners better. Ryan is often published on Adventures From Scratch where he shares his relationship advice and family adventure tips, and on Let's Roam, where he details his travel experiences. You can find more from Ryan on he and his wife's YouTube Channel- LostAmongLocals.

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