What’s more likely to kill you—a bad diet or no friends?
As much as your diet determines your health, the close connections in a man’s life can be a better determiner of longevity.
To be a man is to suffer alone. The NPR Podcast, Guys, We Have A Problem: How American Masculinity Creates Lonely Men, hits the nail on the head with a closer look at this concept. Think about it…even if you have a partner, how many friends do you have that you could call at 2 AM? How many would call you? Most of us find that the older we get, the number of close friends starts to decline. Does this sound familiar?
Ever since we left for the factories 200 years ago, we became disconnected from our families and friends. Performance and achievements became the measure of our worth. The slow separation from our emotional support was so gradual and pervasive that we didn’t even realize we were left out in the emotional cold.
When all your peers are too busy, tired or committed to connect, you resign to a life of quiet desperation. Who can blame you when you are raised in a culture of isolation?
This morning I spoke to a bright and caring woman. She had a question that I hear all too often. “How do I get my partner to go to one of your events or free groups?” We chuckled that women are often the protagonists. As she explained, her boyfriend is a good man. He loves her, and she loves him. She just sees how he has no friends and she feels his loneliness.
Women get it. Our mothers and wives understand that we need close friends, and they are concerned. We might not realize or want to admit that life becomes black and white without friends.
After resistance, denial or just being unaware, I got sober to the fact that I had no friends. In school I had close friends—I knew what it was like. I admitted that I was bored and lonely. Just hanging out with guys didn’t seem like the solution to me. I assumed that we would hang, but not connect.
But without any experience, I decided to go out on a limb and start a men’s group. I knew they existed, but for years I brushed them off as a new age trend. My naiveté led me to think and say that only losers need a men’s group to make friends. I had a list of reasons (or excuses) why it wouldn’t work.
One summer night in Scottsdale, AZ, I found myself sitting in a room with nine other men. I wanted to leave, but that is a hard thing to do when you are hosting.
As each man spoke, I relaxed a little more. I began to see myself in each man. I felt how they were as lonely as I was—and to my surprise I realized that these men weren’t losers. My compassion for them became compassion for myself. That night was the start of a journey spanning decades. My mission at first was to develop real friends, and now it has evolved into bringing that possibility to other men.
In working with over a thousand men, I began to realize that if we slow down to experience what we are feeling emotionally and physically, we open up to be vulnerable. Taking this risk to reach out for connection leads to a significant change and transformation of our lives.
Today I have a close group of brothers in my North Idaho town, and a network of close friends who share my vision to bring men’s groups to other men.
I encouraged the woman I spoke to this morning to share with her partner how much it would mean to HER if he tried our Retreat or the local group. Facts rarely convince us. It’s someone who cares that can move us to action. This woman felt the pain her boyfriend was not feeling or admitting to.
I know how cut off we can be, and I know that it often takes someone else to wake us up. I told her that her boyfriend could call me directly. This is my passion, and it is personal. I want her partner to experience the benefits of close friends.
A Way Out
Today, men have many options. At EVRYMAN.com we work hard to support men in joining a good men’s group, or help forming one of their own. As I explained to my caller, for some men it’s safer or easier to come to one of our trainings than to first try a group. A training is only 48 hours. It’s with other men who have no experience. They are safe, fun, and men tell us that the training exceeded their expectations. This was pre-COVID, but we are looking forward to resuming in person trainings/retreats as soon as possible. Until then we have a plethora of events, trainings, and groups online where men can flourish.
It was difficult for me to imagine what being in a group or a training with other men could be like. Now I realize given who I was and my life experience, I had no way to appreciate what the impact could be. Take that leap of faith. It’s never too late to make a positive change in your life. Your friends are waiting.
What are your concerns about a training or group with other men?
Let me know your thoughts. Reach out; I will gladly answer any questions.
*This quote comes from my good friend Aaron Blaine an ex-Army Special Forces commando. He told his men, if you don’t ask for help you won’t make it. He saw how this applied in combat and back home. In this article, he speaks eloquently about how he has made it because of a men’s group.