I remember watching with great anticipation, waiting, wondering, if the person in the “hot seat” would be able to choose the right answer. It seemed so obvious didn’t it? Inevitably after getting a few of the easy questions right the contestant on “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” would get stumped. What to do? In many cases the answer was to “phone a friend”. A precious ‘Lifeline’ the game show offered to assist the contestant in finding the right answer. I would often think to myself at that point, “who would I phone”. This situation came up recently as I was thinking of the the issues facing middle aged men today. It relates to the topic of today’s blog on men who are starving for friendship. I don’t mean the kind that you play on a softball team with or occasionally see at the gym. I mean the kind that you share your deep and scary life issues with. The kind you tell that you and your wife are having serious marital problems, or that you are about to go bankrupt and don’t know what to do.
As we get older the excuses pile up. “My wife and I are going out tonight”, “Can’t tonight, I’ve got the kids”, “Oh sorry, a work thing popped up and I won’t be able to make it”. Or the all too familiar, “Sorry, I am just exhausted right now, can we reschedule?”. While all of these are valid excuses, they cannot and should not be reasons for why we don’t regularly engage in meaningful activities and dialogue with other male friends.
In an article in the Boston Globe, reporter Billy Baker talks about his own story of coming to realize his lack of friends. He goes on to share that lack of social connection has implications on your health, including increased risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and strokes. Another study cited by Baker notes that those in social isolation were more likely to pass away prematurely than their more social brethren.
So, basically we know this is serious business. Many of you are thinking, “yeah but how am I supposed to fit this into my already busy schedule”. The answer, “I don’t know”. What I do know is that this is as important as you want it to be. It might mean saying no to something that you have been doing to fit this in. It might mean having a conversation with your significant other about prioritizing this in your life. It might even mean having some alone time to yourself to figure out what you would actually want to talk about.
To help you I have come up with a few tips to get you started…
- Schedule it in. Dr. Richard S. Schwartz, a Cambridge psychiatrist, wrote the book “The Lonely American: Drifting apart in the 21st Century” says that the best way for men to maintain friendships is with built in regularity. Find a day of the week or maybe every other week that works and stick with it as much as possible. (Could be meeting at 7pm every other Thursday, or each Saturday morning for breakfast)
- Include an activity. Studies have also showed that for men to feel comfortable and eager to connect it is best to include an activity. Whether it is eating breakfast or playing golf, or grabbing a drink at the local pub.
- Do it now. The longer you think to think about this the more likely you are to come up with a reason not to or just forget it altogether.
- You are not the only one. This last tip is to serve as an encouragement. The data being gathered on studies in this area suggest that a large percentage of the population is dealing with this. I want to encourage you to not be afraid of what others will think about you as you look for more meaningful connections. Chances are they are in the same boat.
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- Brad Thiessen