Transparency Item: The Perspectives section of the Graphic is comprised of articles based on opinion. This is the opinion and perspective of the writer.
One of the most frequent tropes I have heard about male friendships is that they are surface-level compared to the friendships women have with each other. While I initially never questioned this, as I have gotten older I have begun to wonder whether this is really the case and, if so, why that is.
One of the primary reasonings behind this idea is that men generally are not as emotionally mature as women are. This can manifest in them being less likely to confide in their friends.
Women, on the other hand, share personal challenges and troubles more freely, according to a 2021 survey conducted by the Institute for Family Studies. Vulnerability is a key component in forging closeness. The reluctance to do so can be a significant barrier to fostering a deep friendship.
For instance, when a female friend of mine is going through a breakup, I will be told every detail about the unraveling of their relationship. My boyfriend, conversely, rarely seems to know any information about his friends’ breakups besides the fact that it actually happened.
While that seems very bizarre to me, he does not think anything of it. His reasoning is that if his friends do not bring it up then they must not want to talk about it. This logic seems par for the course for many men.
The issue of a lack of male vulnerability harkens back to the cultural pressure surrounding toxic masculinity and the stigmas that are associated with sensitivity. Historically perceived as weak and frail, vulnerability has been acceptable in women but not in men, according to Mission Harbor Behavioral Health.
Additionally, male friendships have often been stigmatized as an indicator of homosexuality between said men, according to an article in the American Psychological Association. This stigma seems to be more prevalent amongst male friendships than female friendships.
So in some ways, women have been predestined to forge tight-knit friendships in a way that is not feasible for a lot of men. As a result, one of the more common friendship types for men is activity-based friendships, according to Institute for Family Studies.
These do not hold as much stability as friendships based on emotional connection, according to the Institute for Family Studies. Furthermore, since these friendships revolve around an activity, like golfing for example, if one of the people in the friendship is unable to continue the activity the primary source of connection is gone.
While women certainly can, and often do, create friendships based off of similar interests or activities, emotional intimacy is paramount, according to Psychology Today. However, it is not always advantageous to have all friendships be intensely intimate.
Due to the nature of male friendships being more transactional and based around a shared activity, the relationships are sturdier. Many men can go extended periods of time without interacting with their friend and still consider them to be a close confidant, according to Psychology Today.
Female friendships, on the other hand, are more dependent on frequent communication and can be fractured by perceived negative motives or uneven amounts of disclosed details on one’s life, according to Psychology Today.
This is not to say that one way is better than the other, but given the data collected by Psychology Today, it seems undeniable that male friendships appear to be low stakes and low rewards, as opposed to female friendships that require more emotional investment for a higher caliber of support.
That being said, it becomes much easier for men to perceive themselves as having many close friends due to the barrier of entry being so low. Women are more likely to be thoughtful and particular in what level of closeness they categorize each friend, according to a different Psychology Today article.
This also gives context to the frequency of men who prefer to confide in their female friends or romantic partners as opposed to their friends of the same gender, according to Psych Central. I believe this suggests that on some level men perceive emotional intimacy, whether platonic or romantic, as being more easily achieved with women.
I would imagine a lot of this assumption is based on the societal perception of men and women. Despite no significant findings existing to suggest women are more compassionate than men, the idea still persists in culture to this day, according to Greater Good Magazine.
While it’s challenging to say with any certainty which gender grouping produces better friendships, it seems clear that women incorporate emotional connection more successfully than men. However, emotional connection leads to a different expectation of effort that may be, in my opinion, more time-consuming than men are willing to give.
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