In a recent article by The New York Times, it was revealed that studies have shown male friendships to be harder to maintain than female ones. The effects of friendship on quality and length of life were also studied. Researchers discovered that while family relationships had little to no influence over length of life, positive friendships had the power to increase life expectancy by 22 percent. Apparently, male friendships are more difficult to maintain, therefore making it more difficult for men to reap the benefits of long-term friendship.
Male friendships harder to make and maintain
It’s not just research confirming that male friendships are harder to make and maintain, anecdotal evidence from men confirms it, too. Many believe our culture doesn’t put a large emphasis on developing male friendships compared to female ones.
What the research says
Studies have discovered a strange tradeoff of men compared to women: in order for men to have deeper, stronger marriages and relationships with their children, they reduce or cut ties with all other social avenues–which are friendships. Relationships that they do build are often work-related in nature and not deeply psychological. Compared to girls, boys are often taught that male friendships develop out of similar activities (sports, work, etc.) instead of psychological or emotional needs.
Expectations of each gender
Female friendships are often stereotyped and characterized by women grouping together, gossiping about their lives, going out, and sharing every detail of their lives. The stark contrast of this stereotype against what male friendships are supposed to look like is shocking. Society looks down on emotionally open men and men that discuss their feelings–does “boys don’t cry” sound familiar? But to build a strong friendship, two people have to be emotionally connected, but there’s a stigma attached to that if you’re a man. This leads to a difficulty for men to develop life-long, beneficial friendships that will help and support them throughout life.
To combat this, it would be helpful for teachers and parents to actually encourage boys to open up, be honest, and try to connect with others on an emotionally developed level. Young men shouldn’t feel pressured to shove their feelings down and stay “strong” instead of building beneficial friendships that have the power to elongate their lifespans. Emotional intelligence and communication is key in keeping someone mentally fit.