Home > relationships > Lonely men in lonely America

Lonely men in lonely America

February 10, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

You want a social life, with friends.
A passionate love life and as well
To work hard every day. What’s true
Is of these three you may have two.

A poem by Kenneth Koch quoted in America Land of Loners by Daniel Akst

Are Americans and straight American men in particular more lonely than ever?  That is the premise of Akst. Akst is saying that if we go outside of our families, many of us have very few people with whom we can talk about the deeper heart issues.

I have lived very little in America over the past twenty-five years but when I have–many middle aged men seem to have few close friends–maybe one in a lot of cases or even none.  Akst cites John Cacioppo who says the problem is  that the friendships we have “are more harried and less meaningful.”  Few would argue that I think!

Akst talks about the “problem” of man dates–how wrong is that!

I tend to agree with Akst that men need a friend outside of our wives.  He writes,

“Your BFF nowadays—at least until the divorce—is supposed to be your spouse, a plausible idea in this age of assortative mating, except that
spouses and friends fill different needs, and cultivating some close extramarital friendships might even take some of the pressure off at home. Yet the married men I know seem overwhelmingly dependent on their wives for emotional connection, even as their wives take pleasure in friends to whom they don’t happen to be wed

Again, it seems that his observation is correct–about many men being dependent on their wives.  I learned last year about the problems that occur  a lack of differentiation exists in families and since then have noticed this quite often. I suspect it is a misunderstanding of the “one flesh” idea but maybe is also a result of dependent men.  What, never me darling?

If Akst is correct “Friendships, after all, entail mutual regard, respect for others, a certain amount of agreeableness, and a willingness to rise above the ties of kinship in order to knit society into a web of trust and reciprocation.”  Respect is a biggie for a lot of men (myself intended) and a lack of or a fear that we may encounter a lack of respect may keep men from forming deeper friendships. No wonder that we have so much anger and depression–we don’t want to talk about it–see my post on Terrence Real’s book, I don’t want to talk about it.

What to do about this problem?  Begin to be part of the solution.  Refuse to withdraw from the outside world to our tv sets.  Engage with other men.  Yes, it will cost us but the reward will be great.  I am grateful for men in my life who pursue a friendship with me.  May I do the same with others.


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