Thoughts on Intimate Friendship

Women gather

Free to chat of impotent husbands

And not quite forgotten lovers,

Sharing dreams with old or new friends

And confiding desperation,

Baring souls and unburdening hearts,

Then leave relaxed and laughing,

Promising to lunch again soon,

Freed from the pain of no one knowing.

 

Men gather

Free to boast of the money they’ve made

Or will take soon—or the women,

Displaying how strong and controlled they are

And unafraid of competition,

Sharing triumphs and hiding themselves,

Then leave with a handshake and “See you around,”

Bleeding silently within themselves,

Bearing the pain of no one knowing.  (Poet James Kavanaugh)

 

So many men think they have friends but they don’t really. Why is it that men cannot or will not have intimate friends?

It’s not something we address in our churches these days. Oh there are men’s retreats and ministries that call us to become “real men.” They talk about community but they don’t teach us how to be friends with other men. Yes they will talk about women as the beauty or “the other” but the theme of friendship is conspicuous by its absence.

I’ll listen to men talk about their jobs and hobbies but often it sounds like a competition for power and status.

Is there one man that you totally trust and honestly confide in?

The fear of self-disclosure is pervasive in our society. So our “work friend” or “golf buddy,” and so forth characterize our “friendships.”

If we honestly think about it most of us are more self-disclosing to women than other men. So we look to women to be interpreters of our friendships and interior lives.

Ask yourself, “Did your father have a difficult time disclosing himself emotionally and being vulnerable with you?”

We are men that seem to handle our lives with an activity and achievement style, we handle others with a style of dominance and submission, and we handle our minds with a style that prizes logic and cool level headedness. None of these characteristics is particularly conducive to nurturing the capacities for intimacy and friendship.