An article in Time caught my attention last week. The headline reads “Men Are More Satisfied By ‘Bromances’ Than Their Romantic Relationships”. We read about a study that finds that every man surveyed has a friend he’s closer with than with his girlfriend. All but one of the men surveyed have cuddled with their bromantic partner and every single man surveyed had engaged in ‘no boundaries’ activities, like swapping secrets and even sharing a bed. They talk about feeling more comfortable sharing worries with their bromantic partner than with their girlfriends. They’d even rather move in with their bromantic partners than their girlfriends! The bottom line is they find these relationships to be more emotionally fulfilling than romantic relationships.
The study in question focuses on young, mainly white men, in college, studying a sports-related subject. Can the attitudes and experiences of this group of men be extrapolated to apply to the male population as a whole? No, of course not. This study tells us what’s typical of young men, more than likely all with incredibly similar values and cultures, there’s simply not enough data to know whether this applies to men more generally. It might, it might not, either way, it’s still interesting to consider.
The first issue that jumps out to me is that these men are of college age, that’s usually somewhere between 18 and 22. It begs the question, how comparable is a relationship between college students in their late teens or early twenties to a marriage of 30 years? This is, of course, speculative, but there’s every chance that the sports-mad college students of this study don’t yet have the confidence to be emotionally vulnerable with their romantic partners, simply because they’re young. They likely have priorities other than building romantic relationships, not because they’re men but because they’re students.
Let’s look into the phenomenon. Bromance isn’t a new concept. It’s a new word to make close male friendships, and mutual emotional support, seem more palatable in a society with increasingly prescriptive ideals of what masculinity is, and how men ought to present themselves. And on balance, we think it’s great!
Men can be a bit guilty of not taking care of their emotional health. To many men, being masculine means never being afraid, never being upset, never being vulnerable. It’s not healthy, men’s mental health is suffering because of it. Let’s never forget that suicide is one of the leading causes of death in men under 50.
Men opening up, discussing their worries and finding emotional support amongst men and building friendships is essentially healthy behaviour. There are plenty of topics that we would expect a woman to discuss with her friends as well as her romantic partner, and there are topics we wouldn’t be surprised to hear she discusses with her friends and NOT her partner. Is this a cause for concern? Of course not. Relying on your romantic partner for all your emotional support is unhealthy and unrealistic, regardless of gender.
Investing your time in a men’s group can be a great step to reconnect with yourself and other men – outside your usual circles. Sebastian’s new mindfulness-based men’s group starts on Wednesday 16th May at 8pm in Central Hong Kong. Read more …