10 MONTROSE VOICE / MAY 16, 1986
MAN TO MAN
Secrets Among Men
By Dr. Ken Druck with
James C. Simmons
(This third of a five-part series describes
the benefits of male friendships.)
Most heterosexual men (and even many
gay men) feel more comfortable drawing
their closest friends from women rather
than other men. We fall back on our wives,
lovers, mothers, sisters and daughters. We
decide early on that women make better
Many men know from experience that
women are generally better listeners than
other men. They are more understanding,
less competitive and less judgemental.
Men feel safer talking to a woman about
their fears and uncertainties than to
another man. We preceive women as more
loving and trustworthy than other men.
"So who needs other men?" we tell ourselves. "Why take a chance?" Most of us
don't. And on those rare occasions when
we do risk opening up with another man,
more often than not we are disappointed
with the response. Male friendships have
proven a discouraging investment for
many men. And yet today we know more
about why this has occurred than ever
Consequently, we are in a better position to reverse this trend and enjoy satisfying friendships with other men.
Any man who has ever had a "real
friend" knows the power of friendship to
enrich our lives. Having a male friend
enpowers us in several important ways.
d We Validate Our
Experiences As A Man
Once we open our world to another man,
we learn that we are not alone in our fears,
insecurities, uncertainties and desires.
Nothing is "wrong" with us, as we might
have secretly suspected. Through a friendship with another man, we affirm much
that is good and strong in us as men.
Frank and honest exchanges of experiences allow us to gain a fresh and clear perspective on ourselves.
□ We Lessen Our
Taught that only women can help us
satisfy our emotional needs in relationships, heterosexual men (and some gay
men) have disqualified other men as intimate companions. We go in quest of
female companionship and tum our backs
on other men. We grow closer and more
dependent on women, neglecting friendships with men, thus creating an imbalance in our lives. We end up emotionally
lopsided, relating only to women.
And then we start demanding that our
women act more like "one of the boys."
When what we really want is interaction
with males, we should get together with
other men. Instead we fall into the trap of
the popular song and ask, "Why can't a
woman be more like a man?"
Friendships with other men put a balance back into our lives and strengthen
marriages between heterosexuals because
there is less emotional clinging to the
women in our lives.
d We Develop Our Skills
Men who achieve intimacy with other men
enjoy a sense of acceptance by their peers.
We become more certain of who we are. We
develop more self-esteem.
This provides a strong foundation from
which we can build relationships with others. Having established ourselves as a
man among men, we build confidence and
free ourselves to trust others in close relationships.
a Friends Protect Us
Against Life's Stresses
Modem medical research confirms the
truth in the Beatles' song: We really do get
by with a little help from our friends. Studies have shown that men with at least
one close friend in whom they could confide about themselves and their problems
had, in effect, a buffer against such crises
as the loss of a mate or job, a chronic
illness and the psychological stresses of
In terms of their morale and health,
these men have a significant edge over
men who lack a close confidant.
a Friends Minimize
Feelings of loneliness are lessened when
we have friends. We can create new families of friends to replace those we lost or
who live thousands of miles away. And
good social supports help us balance needs
which might otherwise yield an overde-
pendence upon our mates and families.
d Our Male Friends
A tight circle of male friends also provides
a host of additional benefits: support in
times of emergency, companions to share
good times and fun in our leisure hours, a
source of information, money and profes
sional expertise in areas other than our
□ Friends Reaffirm Our
Sense Of Being Alive
And, finally, friends help us experience
what it means to be alive. Too many men
today rely upon activities to do that for
them, taking up everything from hang-
gliding to chasing after sexual partners to
give them the rush of energy they identify
with "being alive." But neither diversion
nor the accumulation of wealth gives us a
true sense of life. We experience that richness only through intimate relationships
"Just recall the great feeling of physical
energy you get when you meet a new
friend," writes Eugene Kennedy, a psychologist at Loyola University in Chicago. "It is one of the natural highs of life
to discover that there is a human being
who responds to me and I to him. Friendship breaks through a person's shell so
that he can taste and experience life more
d Holding Back
What are the ways we men hold ourselves
back from deeper and more meaningful
friendships? We make excuses! I have
listed some of the most common excuses
we use. How many of them are in your
"I called him last time. It's his tun-
now!" How many times have we used this
excuse not to initiate contact? We act as
though taking turns is the only way to
ensure equality in a friendship.
"If he really cares about the friendship,
he would have called me by now." This is a
variation on the first excuse and just as
feeble. Insisting that a friend does not care
because he has not called is, more often
than not, an erroneous assumption.
"My mate won't let me." We pass the
responsibilities on to our mates and blame
them for our failure to get together. We
play the role of the henpecked husband
and use our mates to make excuses.
"I don't have the time." This is the
favorite excuse of the man who uses perpetual busyness to void intimacy with his
"Jack owns his own company. Why
would a man like that be interested in
being friends with a mere salesman like
me?" There are hundreds of variations on
this excuse. "Married men don't get along
well with single men." Or: "I've seen the
way Bob is on the golf course, and I don't
think I could ever be friends with him." All
these excuses have one thing in common.
They embody prejudices we employ to dismiss or disqualify ourselves and other
men serious contention as friends and
"How can I be friends after what that
bastard did to me?" We hold grudges. We
give up important friendships, often over
single incidents. We get angry with a
friend who has hurt us. Instead of talking
the matter over with him in an attempt to
resolve the difficulty, we simply terminate
the friendship and shut our former friend
out of our lives forever.
Men too often play it safe with their
male friends by putting large areas of
their personal lives off limits to discussion. Go through the following list and
check off those topics you would feel comfortable discussing with your best male
my religious beliefs
problems I'm having at home
my feelings about growing older
my sexual fantasies
Mb drinking problem
my fear of rejection
my anger with him
an affair, his or mine
sexual problems, such as impotence
my feelings toward my parents
problems at work
Add up the number of areas you would
permit yourself to discuss with your
friends. If your total is less than 10, you
may be approaching your friendship too
conservatively for true intimancy to
develop. Do not be afraid to take that
chance and open up with another man
about your own experiences and problems.
You will probably be surprised at how
receptive your friend will be to such an
d The Credo Of A Best
I will work and play to make our friendship all that it can be while acknowledging all that it is.
I will be emotionally honest, even when
saying how I feel causes a rift.
I will cheer my friend's success, recognizing the occasional feelings of jealousy,
competitiveness and fear in myself.
I will take an active role in defining our
friendship by stating what I want and listening to what my friend wants.
I will accept my friend as he is, recognizing occasional judgements I may make
and negative attitudes I may harbor
I will live by the mutually agreed-upon
Limits of our friendship, propose changes
where I feel they are necessary and negotiate disagreements in good faith.
I will give unselfishly of myself without
expecting a return on my love. What
comes back to me is a bonus.
I will be tolerant and forgiving. Since
none of us is perfect, I have no right to
expect our friendship will be perfect
And finally, I will always remember
Ralph Waldo Emerson's words of wisdom:
"The only way to have a friend is to be
Excerpted form the book "The Secrets
Men Keep" by the authors above. Copyright by the authors above. Published by
Doubleday and Co. Inc. Reprinted by permission News American Syndicate.