Making and Keeping Man Friendships

by Brett & Kate McKay on October 28, 2008 · 32 comments

in Friendship, Relationships & Family

Image from varones

Several weeks ago we posted an article about the history and nature of man friendships. Several readers added comments in which they lamented the difficulty in both making and keeping man friendships, a sentiment I fully sympathize with. Once you’re out of college, and especially if you get married and move, it becomes rather hard to make new friends and maintain the bond with your old pals. I struggle with this problem myself, and so while I won’t claim to be an expert with all the answers, I have spent some time talking with other men and brainstorming ideas for how men can make and keep solid man friendships.

How to Find Some New Bros

Join an organization. Part of the difficulty today’s men face with making new friends is the isolated nature of their social lives. There’s work and home, and not much else. Joining an organization is quite possibly the best way to create a new social circle for yourself.

Some men say that they’d like to join an organization but that they simply do not have the time for it the way their grandfather or father did. But the problem is not a lack of time, but how that time is being utilized. We don’t work that many more hours than our dads did, so there must be other reasons we feel so harried in our daily lives. Take an inventory of what you’re really spending your time on. You might say that you’re spending that time with your family, but how many of those “quality time” hours consist of you simply watching TV or surfing the net? Are you running around to an insane number of your kids’ activities? Everyone wants their kids to be able to follow their interests, but dad needs to have interests too. Does Johnny really need play football, baseball, and soccer? By organizing your schedule more efficiently and cutting down on extraneous time-suckers, every man can have time to be part of an organization. Plus, having healthy man friendships and interests outside your family will make you a saner, more well-rounded man, and thus a better husband and father.

Ideas of Organizations to Join

Image from Mig_R

Fraternal Organizations. They’re not just for your grandpa. They can bring great fulfillment and satisfying man friendships into your life. Fraternal organizations are the perfect conduit for friendship-making because they provide all the ingredients needed for brotherly bonding: common ideals, a sense of tradition and responsibility, and a focus on service. There are several great fraternal organizations out there to look into, but it’s hard to argue with the Masons being the best place to start.

Churches/Religious Organizations. Like fraternal orders, churches are a fruitful place to make man friendships as they are a place where you can find gents with the same values and goals as you. Many churches have groups that are for men only and are designed for both fellowship and spiritual growth.

Sports Leagues. If you love sports, instead of spending your weekend alone watching them on TV, join an intramural league and get back on the field. From flag football to ultimate frisbee, your town is sure to have clubs that meet for some good old fashioned man competition. Joining up will whip you into shape, feed your man spirit, and give you the kind of bond with other men that can only be found on the playing field.

Toastmasters. Toastmasters solves two fundamental problems in the life of modern man: a lack of friends and a deficiency in the art of public speaking. Not only will you learn to be a better orator, you’ll also meet lots of other men to befriend.


Image from varones

Book Clubs. For some reason (read: Oprah), book clubs have become associated with women, bearing one’s soul, and Kleenex. But there’s nothing sissy about books; discussing great literature was a pastime of many of the great men in history. Benjamin Franklin, for example, started a group called the Junto in which men vigorously discussed books. Talking about the ideas and themes of great books will quickly let you get to know the thoughts and philosophies of other guys. Many libraries offer male-only book clubs that read books men like. If you library doesn’t, why not start one at your house?

Other Ways to Make New Friends

Work. You spend more time with people at work than you do at home. And there are probably some dudes at work that you get along with swimmingly. Instead of keeping them in the “work” friend category, convert them into “friend” friends. Go for some drinks after work. Invite them over to your house to watch the game on Saturday. If you’re married, go out for dinner with him and his spouse. The same thing applies if you’re in school. Don’t be afraid to make a “school” friend, one of your bros.

Meet your neighbors. In today’s society, most people keep to themselves. You can live in a neighborhood for 10 years and not know who your neighbors are. It’s pretty sad. But your future best bud might be living right next door to you. So don’t be a stranger. Get out and meet your neighbors. A great way to meet your neighbors is by hosting a party or attending neighborhood events like block parties. If you’re feeling particularly brave, just go up and introduce yourself.

Television is full of neighbors who turned out to be best buds. Kramer and Seinfeld. Tim Taylor and Wilson. Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble. Growing up, my dad had several friends in our neighborhood. They’d go jogging together and help each other build fences or remodel their homes.

Maintaining Your Friendships

Image from Bcash67

Once you have made friends, whether they are recent acquaintances or buds from first grade, you have to put in some work to keep the bonds alive. In the 19th century, men built their friendships around intense emotional bonds. These days guys like to center their friendships on activities. Here are some activity ideas to keep you in touch with your bros.

Set a common goal. Men experience the greatest bond when they are working together towards a common purpose, when they become a band of brothers. The same is true whether you’re storming Omaha Beach or simply living the suburban life. So set a goal to attain with your friend or a group of friends. Decide to run a marathon or compete in a triathlon, quit smoking, or lose weight. You and your friend can help keep one another honest; make sure to set up a system to ensure accountability. For example, if you’re training for a race, make it a rule that you must email each other your run times every day. Whether you live in the same town or across the country, establishing a mutual goal will force you to stay in touch and have regular contact, while at the same time helping one another become better and stronger men.

Create a competition. Competition in life can drive people apart; a friendly competition among men can bring them together. Create a competition with your friends and set a friendly wager; something a bit embarrassing for the loser is always fun and will keep the group motivated. This can be something trivial like a beard growing contest or something serious like abstaining from porn or drinking. The competition will ensure you regularly check in on each other and have something to talk about (even if it’s trash talking).

Take a Mancation. You may sometimes need to get outside your normal life and take time to focus on reconnecting with your manliness and your man friends. Mancations are occasions for pure, uninterrupted male bonding. Mancations can be as short as a weekend or as long as a week. The destination can be anywhere, but it should involve manly activities. The best mancation is of course camping. The great outdoors and a roaring campfire is the ideal setting for renewing man friendships. The key to the mancation is to make them an immutable tradition. Set a time and make it an annual happening. You can plan the other things in your life around that non-negotiable date.

Guys night out. The concept of a “guys night out” has become something of a clich√©, often portrayed in movies and television shows and frequently accompanied by unhappy wives angry at their existence. And it is true, some guys abuse the “guys night out.” They make time for their buds when they haven’t spent quality time with the Mrs. Or they go gallivanting around, leaving important jobs around the house undone. Your wife and her needs should always come first. If you haven’t spent time with her, then you shouldn’t be out partying with the boys. At the same time, if you and she have spent ample time together, then guys night out is quite appropriate. Encourage her to have a girls night out as well. Each of you having healthy friendships will improve the quality of your marriage.

Poker night is always a good standby for a guys’ night out. I’ve had some great times with cards in hand, shooting the breeze with my buds. Attending a sporting event or concert is another great guys night out.

Keeping in Touch with Your Buds

Any relationship, including the man friendship, needs communication to survive. Most guys aren’t big on having heart to hearts. Spending regular time together, even without much talking can be enough. But if you move to different locales, you’ll have to make some kind of effort to stay in touch. Guys generally don’t enjoy talking on the phone, and we usually aren’t big email writers either. But there is a long-standing, centuries old man tradition that has kept man friends connected over whole lifetimes: letter writing.

History is full of great men who maintained their friendships through written letters. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were the best of friends despite differing political affiliations. However, in the election of 1800 they were political opponents. Jefferson beat Adams in the election, and the men’s friendship hit the rocks. They didn’t patch things up until 1812. After they got back on good terms they started a correspondence that lasted 14 years and 158 letters. The bond they developed through this exchange of letters was so strong that Adams, unaware that his dear friend had passed away only hours earlier, made “Jefferson lives,” his dying words.

Snail mail may have fallen out of favor with most of society, but I think it’s key in maintaining healthy man friendships. Sure email is easy, but it’s also easily ignored. We let it sit there and in a few days it has disappeared to another page and out of our brains. Letter-writing is something altogether different: something real, something tangible leaves your hands and physically plants itself in the life of your friend. There it is, a part of you, sitting on their kitchen counter. People can’t throw stuff like that away. It may get buried, but it will keep popping up and will stay on your friend’s brain, burrowing there until they respond. A letter practically requires an answer. So I strongly urge men to start writing letters to their friends. Commit to writing your friend once a month; it will keep alive your bond no matter where life takes the both of you.

Got any other suggestions on making new friends and maintaning current friendships? Share ‘em with us. Drop a line in the comment box.

{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Alfred Webster October 28, 2008 at 11:25 pm

“Wishing to be friends is quick work, but friendship is a slow ripening fruit.”
-Aristotle

2 bob October 29, 2008 at 12:43 am

I second the idea of a “mancation”(we simply called it man trip, grunt optional). One of the best memories I have with my two best friends is the summer before we all went separate ways to various colleges.
We decided to drive out to the middle of nowhere and camp for 3 days. It was the closest thing to a coming of age, rite of passage that I’ve had. Through a series of poor decisions(taking my Volvo over my friends truck or Jeep) my oil pan got a hole in it by the various things rattling through the undercarriage of my car from the well worn dirt “roads”.
The coolest thing was that since we were out in the middle of nowhere, out of cell phone or AAA range, we had to deal with the situation ourselves. That was when I discovered one of the large principles of manhood: You’re presented with a tough situation, people are depending on you have to make your way out of it, so you find a way to make it happen.
Make the opportunity to go camping with your friends, fathers and sons. You won’t regret it and you’ll never forget it.

3 Justin October 29, 2008 at 1:14 am

Great post, as usual Brett. I wonder if you would ever consider writing a post on humor in man friendships sometime. It’s usually a big chunk of the foundation of friendships, so I think it’s an important topic. But it’s usually also highly individual, and therefore difficult to write about.

Either way, I thought I’d throw it out there and see if it inspires you.

Thanks for your blog, Brett. It’s consistently well thought-out and well written, and I think it fills a huge need in our generation.

4 Klemanius October 29, 2008 at 3:09 am

Thank you so much for this site!
Ive spent the last few days going through all the diverse topics and they have really got me thinking. Ive had a lot of trouble getting from the ‘school’ friends to the ‘friends’ friends stage. I have a few school friends and perhaps 1 close friend at the moment. Keeping in touch with old friends can also be an issue, and I have only 1 man friend from primary school, and none from early high school. Emails and messenger work fine but I agree with what you said about writing letters, and will endeavor to do write in future. With leavers coming up the “mancation” seems very appealing, especially as my friends and I are a bit light in the cash department.

5 Cameron October 29, 2008 at 5:49 am

it seems that my new year’s resolution every year is to be better about keeping in touch with my friends. i know i’m horrible at it, but at least i recognize that fact right? even still, i appreciate the idea of writing letters. i’ll have to implement that one.

i used to think that if people were my friends then it didn’t matter if i went two years without talking to them. in some cases that might work, but for a friendship to grow and to thrive, as has been stated, it must be nutured. this is truly one of my many flaws that i need to correct.

thanks for the post.

6 Nick October 29, 2008 at 7:25 am

When I first moved to my current town, I was surprised at the friendliness of my neighbors. Now, after a little under 4 years, we are all great friends. Whether we’re drinking beer in the driveway on a Friday night, or getting together for an impromtu Sunday dinner, I have found these friendships to be wonderful and very good for my existence here.

Also, one of the BEST things I have done this year is join up with the ice hockey team that guys at my wife’s office were putting together. Not only has it helped me meet new guys in town, I have made some new friends, I get great exercise and I won’t stand alone at her company parties now that I know a handfull of guys there. Also, my wife has met new girlfriends and coworkers by talking to player’s wives in the stands during the game.

I am looking into a fraternal organization though.

7 Matt Maestas October 29, 2008 at 7:29 am

Brett,

I highly recommend the mancation. I’m glad I’m not the only one who used the term. When I proposed to my wife me taking a mancation at the beginning of last summer she laughingly scoffed a bit, yet yielded and I was able to spend a week hiking the Appalachian trail, camping and Canoeing with a good friend of mine and we are planning a return trip next fall. Good, good times!

8 Robert Sanchez October 29, 2008 at 8:34 am

Great post. One good way to maintain a strong Man Friendship is making the sacrifice to be there at important times and then having the will-power to stay in the background when appropriate. I recently had the privilege of spending my birthday with my closest friend, his wife and their family as they had their first child. I made sure I was always in the background, taking the camera or making sure everyone found their way to the right room at the hospital. Just being there has made us even closer, even though we didn’t have a chance to speak in all the rush and excitement. I had the chance to make his memorable day run smoothly.

I also am planning to climb Kilimanjaro with another close friend as a fundraiser for Climb for Sight. We are on opposite coasts and rarely get a chance to see each other. The fundraiser is giving us a reason to talk on the phone, send emails and write letters and also giving us a common goal. As someone who hates the phone, it really takes a strong reason to make the extra effort. I highly recommend adventure fundraising as a way to bond.

9 Ariston Collander October 29, 2008 at 9:13 am

I’ve found several friends in the Masonic Lodge where I live. As a Mason I have the opportunity to speak with a diverse group of gentleman, people whom I would have never thought about striking up a conversation in the past. This common bond we share makes for a great started to a lasting friendship.
Of my three greatest male friends I have at the moment, one is from high school, one is from work, and one is from a common hobby. All three I enjoy talking with and sharing thoughts and activities. At some point going on a mancation with these guys would be a great experience!

10 Captian Columbus October 29, 2008 at 9:19 am

I have to agree that the isolation of the individual and the decline of cooperative/community actions is turning people (but particularly men) into selfish, miserable, weenies. There is nothing so manly as donning a funny hat and engaging in some good-time esoteric ritualism in the pursuit of convivial fun and purposeful recreation. It inspires prudence, temperance, and exalts ideals above individuals. If I invite a man to join my club and he tells me “I’m not a joiner”, he might as well be saying “I’m a selfish weasel” or “I never had to share anything growing up”, or “I don’t like being beholden to anyone other than myself.” While I have a religious objection to the Masonic fraternity, I would generally encourage any man to seek out and join a fraternal club or organization. The funny hats and secret handshakes might seem silly, but they point to deeper mysteries and truths regarding the human condition that consumerism would rather you ignore.

11 cory huff October 29, 2008 at 10:27 am

I recently reconnected with an old friend. We were really close at one time, then during college we grew apart. We actually had a DTR style discussion a couple weeks ago, and we were both amazed how stupid we both were for not reaching out earlier. We both felt like the other didn’t like us, and like there was no effort to maintain that friendship.

SOOOOO glad we did it…even if it was kinda girly.

12 Santa October 29, 2008 at 10:32 am

The older you get, the harder it is to make friends. I enjoyed reading this post. I’m glad I have kept in touch with a few very close friends, but it is very hard for me to open my circle and make new friends because I suffer from a disease which has had me sick and confined to my home… I guess I would add the suggestion of using the internet as a way to make new friends. There are thousands of online forums, and sites that can connect you with people who share your interests.

13 Shehan October 29, 2008 at 11:46 am

Great article! I always harp on the photos. This time, I have no complaints. Thanks! This blog rocks, I recommend it to all my friends. But it never hurts to critique it. Great idea for story. Agape, Filia, Eros… It seems TAoM has covered all the greek forms of love. Bravo!

14 Avi October 29, 2008 at 1:05 pm

I am a bit of a romantic and so I wonder about the two buds concept. I refuse to give up the idea that a man can have a best friend or a brother with whome he can live with or apart from for large lengths of time. But, in my experience, friendships always have time limits and one must not over do it or you lose them. There seems to be a limit on how long you can live together, spend time together, talk with, etc. Is this always the case?

15 Andrew October 29, 2008 at 2:07 pm

I’ve found some great man friendships through the Knights of Columbus. The Knights of Columbus is a fraternal organization for Catholic men that promotes Charity, Unity, Fraternity and Patriotism. Its a great way to get to know men who share the faith. As a young man, I’ve found some great role models among the older guys. It has also been a great joy to intoduce my greatest role model, my father, into the Knights a couple of weeks ago.

16 Chris October 29, 2008 at 2:18 pm

I joined meetup.com (it’s free) and searched for groups in my area. I found singles groups and poker-playing groups, Hiking and Biking groups, dining out and sports groups. In less than a month, I had 20 new buds! And if there’s not a group that caters to your interests in your area, ya might wanna try and start one. Ya might find that somebody else out there has an interest in Extreme Gardening.

17 Grant October 29, 2008 at 2:50 pm

Great post. My wife has a dozen close friends that she spends time with. It seems that women are better at keeping in touch with each other and emotionally investing in the lives of their friends. I think the dynamic of developing and keeping meaningful male friendships can be more challenging just because of the way men are wired (independent minded, often more competitive than caring in many ways, etc…).

All this to say that I am in the process of starting a Men’s Bible Study. I think the collective study of scripture and spiritual exploration can really break down emotional walls and help men bond in very meaningful ways. I don’t mean in a Stuart Smalley sense either with everyone wearing pastel sweaters, but a few dudes having a couple of beers and talking about their lives and their walk with the Lord… Good stuff!

18 Scott H. October 29, 2008 at 3:15 pm

Men’s groups centered around a church are fantastic ways to bond, and often include a wide variety of age ranges and experiences. Good stuff.

I smoke a cigar or two each week and have found this “hobby” of sorts to be an almost effortless way to become friends with men. Most *good* cigar shops have a smoking lounge area with couches or club chairs and whatnot. Find one of these. Guys gather there and hang out: smoking cigars, talking about sports, debating politics, and generally doing the sorts of things that men used to do in men’s clubs of a century ago. It’s almost always a welcoming environment: I see the same faces week after week, but also newcomers who are introduced into the group. Tends to be a pretty manly group.

19 Reid October 29, 2008 at 3:51 pm

For what it is worth, I have found Freemasonry to be a pretty manly pursuit, if you find a good Lodge to join. And trust me, it is not the nefarious group that some would like everyone to believe.

20 D.J. Griffin October 30, 2008 at 5:36 am

One thing that has always brought me and my male friends together is music. Several of us play instruments (to varying degrees of success) and about once a month, we’ll meet up at someones house, have a few beers and swap songs. Even if someone doesn’t play an instrument, the more voices there are to sing the better. It never fails to be a great time.

21 Rod Homor November 2, 2008 at 3:47 pm

I am lucky because I have always had friends who are interesting, inspiring, and successful. They make me want to be a better Human Being, and I want to spend time with them to learn, see what they are doing, and just hang out and have fun laughing.

Not everyone can say this, but my friends from high school and I STILL get together regularly. We truly care about each other, and are more or less active cheerleaders in the others’ lives.

We have a Supper Club that meets two to three times a year, and we get together at a new restaurant each time, explore a new section of the city, a new menu, and just catch up.

I have been blessed to know such wonderful, talented, interesting, successful, caring, and inspiring folks.

22 shawn November 2, 2008 at 10:26 pm

thanks! I just graduated and was having a hard time keeping in touch with my friends. I thank you guys for the post and the site!

23 Mohan November 13, 2008 at 9:24 am

I am looking a honest, simple,goodlookng and careable friends so we can share our filling.

24 Alex November 16, 2008 at 9:58 am

Just a note: For Catholics, the Masons are out, due to centuries of issues between the two. However, a great group to join (for Catholics out there) is the Knights of Columbus–combining fraternity, religion, and charitable work.

25 Tony November 22, 2008 at 11:51 am

totally agree – this is really important and such an overlooked part of the lives of guys. While I’m a big fan of facebook and the blogosphere, sometimes I wonder if all of these “virtual relationships” are slowing us down from finding some new bros in our own neighborhood.

26 Julian December 5, 2009 at 3:31 pm

Friendship is one of the most important things in life. And in my view, anything important is worth studying about. These are all great tips, and one should see what one can incorporate into one’s life to enhance friendships. Philosophy is rather scant on the topic of friendship, although the Greek philosophers had some to say. But importantly, they said that friendship can only truly exist between virtuous people or those in common pursuit of virtue.
I used to be bad keeping in touch with friends, believing that bonds would be fine no matter how much time lapses, but the essay “The Decay of Friendship” by Samuel Johnson changed my mind. Read it here: http://grammar.about.com/od/classicessays/a/friendjohnson.htm
On another note, yes, although joining the Masons might be beneficial in regards to initiating and fostering friendships, one has to see whether their ideals coincide with what your beliefs are. From a Catholic perspective, the Church is emphatic on its irreconcilability with Masonic membership, and that what Mason’s claim regarding indifference to any religion is false. There is no compatibility. See here: http://catholiceducation.org/articles/religion/re0161.html
Knights of Columbus would be an excellent option for Catholics, since deepest friendships are based on common values and goals, and respect for a person’s character.

27 Harlen April 22, 2010 at 5:19 pm

As a Freemason, I can say that the fraternity has provided me with some wonderful friendships. It also makes moving easier because almost every town has a lodge. No two lodges are the same and so I recommend shopping around a little. But wherever you go, you’ll find a group of honest hardworking men interested in art, science, literature and the well being of their community.

28 Matt Hotze October 23, 2012 at 8:03 pm

This is a great post. I love the thoughts here on how to create and maintain man friendships. These types of relationships are often neglected, especially after college. Thanks.

29 Mark Wiz February 1, 2013 at 7:26 pm

Great article! Two other places to make great friends:
volunteering — I volunteered for years at an auto museum and met one of my best buds there.
gym — guys talk in the locker room, sauna, pool, etc. with surprising openness. You can start a conversation with something as inane as the weather, but I’ve found guys really open up with a compliment. If a guy’s obviously taking his gym routine seriously, tell him you admire his dedication. Man, guys light up with recognition of effort. I’ve also noticed guys with complex tats like compliments about them. You may think that’s invasive, but these guys got inked to be seen and admired. Sometimes there are cool stories behind them. The same, however, may not apply to piercings! ;-)

30 Richardson April 23, 2013 at 8:11 pm

This is a great post and a great site. I think that man friendships are very importent. I have a few dudes I hang with and we have a pretty cool and open friendship. Always down to make a new friend. I have thought about the masons, and I will look into that soon. Meetup is great too.

31 Jonathan September 16, 2013 at 12:18 am

Friends you can talk to are hard to find nowadays. I enjoyed reading this!

32 Dan December 20, 2013 at 3:48 pm

To expand on the Masonic aspect, the Masons truly are a great place to start. There are plenty of other groups that you can join that require you to obtain your 3rd Masonic Degree before continuing, and all have their value for different growth in Masonry. Whether you enjoy helping kids, donating blood, or being involved in plays, there’s SOMETHING in Masonry for EVERYONE. And we do welcome Catholics to join the Craft.

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