I used to be the life of the party and hoarded friends like wine corks. I don’t know when or why I acquiesced on solitude, but today I prefer plants and my own company over others. And it was long before a pandemic afforded me the excuse for social exile. As I age, I also find myself lonelier and more disagreeable, at my own peril. I often want to socialize, but on my terms.
I told Siri I was lonely, and she apologized. So that was nice.
I made my teen best friend in seconds when we were both walking our dogs after school. It was as seamless then as clicking “add friend” on social media is today. Except we had real-world depth and would go on to create years of delinquent memories. When I see someone walking a dog today, I only talk to the dog.
If you find yourself struggling with loneliness, you’re not alone…but you still are. For males, it’s now a crisis and hits our mental health and well-being hard. Loneliness is correlated with longevity. It’s a risk factor for health problems such as cardiovascular disease and stroke. My last boss was so toxic and lonely that he’d schedule two to three pointless work meetings per day to gain human interaction. Fortunately, the forced socializing extended his life long enough to be fired.
Isn’t Monday Night Football a Friend?
It’s often tough for males to reach out to other males for friendship for fear of how it might be seen. We’d rather take a Razor scooter to the ankle 30 straight times than feel shamed for appearing needy or lacking an already existing base of friends. Guys are supposed to be independent and self-sufficient as if we don’t need anyone, while also not appearing as a loner. But putting ourselves out there creates a private vulnerability.
Men often give up relationships in lieu of financial pursuits. Research suggests that focusing on the accumulation of wealth and material goods results in less overall happiness and satisfaction in relationships.1 In our defense, chasing money is less scary than chasing male strangers.
But relationships with other people have more of an impact on our physical health and longevity than do our genes. Science says so.2 A life of satisfying relationships can extend longevity by up to 22 percent. Moreover, research supports loneliness as a risk factor comparable to smoking, obesity, and high blood pressure.3
Party of One, Drinks for Two
These are the culprits for our aversion to making new friends and manly kumbaya:
- Low trust
- Lack of time
- Fear of rejection
- Being too picky
One study found that the most important factors were “low trust,” followed by “lack of time” and “introversion.”4 Untold numbers of men have ditched their homies to be homey.
The next time someone asks you for directions, give them directions to your house. “See you in 20 minutes, new best friend.”
The upside of being a writer is that I can accrue “friends” I’ll never know or meet, but they’re out there…somewhere. Authoring is like virtually extending myself without the teeth, handshakes, and cover charges.
Sometimes I’ll meet a fellow man and think he’d be cool to hang out with. But how do you swoon another grown man without getting scissor kicked? Such advances could be misconstrued as sociopathic. I, too, question the motives of affable men. Are they trying to sell me a timeshare or skincare regimen? What if they’re a realtor, or worse: a “life coach”?
I’ve recently made male friends, but they don’t feel like my buddies of yore. Either their big houses make me question my own career endeavor, or they’re breeders with kids, or I scheme reasons not to like them. Plus, it’s easier to spend hours on social media seeking validation from fake friends.
The primary facet keeping adults in general from making new friends is effort. In lieu of putting a kegerator and “free Super Bowl tickets” sign in your driveway, there are other ways to meet and befriend fellow men.
5 Ways to Make New Male Friends: Effort + Momentum = A New Friend
- Making friends as an adult requires the same key facet as making friends as a child: Find something in common and go from there. “I see you’ve created a tiny human. I, too, have done this.” Or “Nice cobra tattoo. Check out my mermaid riding a dolphin.” Despite the awkwardness, be the one to reach out and suggest an activity—whether inviting coworkers to a happy hour or hitting Top Golf with high-school or college pals.
- Reconnect with old friends. The quickest way to make “new” friends is to rejoin former ones. They know you best after all. There’s nothing like reconnecting with old friends with whom you share life legacy and who know you used to drink Natty Light in your Camaro mullet.
- In absence of a cache of former friends, you can [shudder] make new ones. Maybe it’s the guy who spots you on the bench press at the gym, a coworker, a church men’s group, or a Pikachu Expedition Club. The gym is where I met many friends until COVID and switching to spin biking in place at home to Apple TV.
- Join social media groups related to your hobbies or areas of interest. I recently joined online hydrofoil, SUP, and NorCal snowshoeing groups to join outings. I haven’t attended any yet, but everything starts with intent, all while reminding myself that effort minus momentum equals no new friends.
- And if your life partner is your only friend, invite another couple out for a hike or over for dinner. But don’t be a silent fourth wheel.
What I’ve learned in talking with other men is that once I open the “vulnerability kimono” and mention how tough it is to befriend other guys, they universally agree. In fact, I’ve yet to encounter another man who doesn’t struggle with it. It’s a wonder I haven’t started a men’s friendship bracelet kiosk in the mall.
If you need a new man friend, I’ll be the Chandler to your Joey. But I’m not going axe-throwing or joining your football pool.
Mineo, Liz – “Harvard study, almost 80 years old, has proved that embracing community helps us live longer, and be happier,” The Harvard Gazette, April 11, 2017
Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T. B., Baker, M., Harris, T., & Stephenson, D. (2015). Loneliness and social isolation as risk factors for mortality: a meta-analytic review. Perspectives on psychological science : a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, 10(2), 227–237.
Apostolou, M., & Keramari, D. (2021). Why friendships end: An evolutionary examination. Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences. Advance online publication.