Although it definitely resonates with me, I’d never heard of the term ‘male friendship recession‘ until recently. Now I’m seeing it everywhere. And it turns out that it’s been around for at least a couple of years.
I had assumed that my own relative lack of close friends was due to having moved country twice in the last decade. And as I’ve got older, making new friends has just become less easy. Or I’ve put less effort into it. Whatever – the fact is that my circle of male friends that I hang out with has got smaller and smaller over time. But I’m far from alone in this.
Google the term and you’ll find plenty of articles and videos about it. Just today in the UK, the Independent has published an article by a wife with the headline, My husband never sees his friends – he’s part of the ‘friendship recession’. The author talks about how “friendless husbands seem to be a thing” and claims that “99.9 per cent of the time he leaves it up to me to fill up the social diary.”
The article quotes Oxford University Professor of Evolutionary Psychology Robin Dunbar, who says that men’s social networks tend to be “club-like, based around activity rather than conversation.” Research has found that about 27% of men have no close friends at all, and Dunbar comments that “males generally are socially very lazy.” He also says that while some 85% of women say they have a female best friend, they also “almost universally” claim that “males are useless for giving them emotional support.”
That last one is a pretty extreme statement. There is no doubt some truth in it, and hopefully men’s groups are one way in which that is being addressed and at least some men are becoming more emotionally literate. I know that for me being in a group has radically changed how I think, feel and communicate. So much so that I trained in group facilitation and have now started running a group myself.
So, yes, there is an emotional literacy deficit, particularly among older men. Are you experiencing it? If so, how does it manifest? And what, if anything, are you doing anything about it?